home | europe | canada | australia | guides | travel 101 | bakpak girl | about

10 Tips for Budgeting your trip to the USA...and sticking to it


It's tough to budget your first trip to the States. There's food, accommodation, day tours, multi-day trips, public transport, coach passes, gear, entertainment and travel insurance - just to name a few. Here's a list of ten tips to help you get started.


1. Start with the basics
Once you choose your destination(s), browse through Bakpak's destination, transport and hostel pages to get a ballpark figure on how much you'll need each day for food, drink and accommodation. More difficult is working out what you're likely to spend on transport as this is an irregular expense. On a multi-country trip across the States, a coach pass removes this headache. Elsewhere try to guess how often you'll be moving on, find out the cost of an average-length journey (say, six or seven hours) and add that to your weekly budget. Sticking to a weekly budget is more realistic and less stressful than setting yourself a daily limit.

2. Add on the fun stuff
Of course, travelling isn't just about eating and sleeping. Naturally you'll have a few lazy moments when all you feel like doing is reading in a park, but most days you'll be visiting some landmark, church or museum so allow for three or four entrance fees a week. And travel is all about new experiences, so once a fortnight, or maybe once a week, set aside an extra chunk of change for that great city walking tour or nihgt on the town.

3. Put something aside for emergencies
Travel wouldn't be as fun if everything went to plan, so you need to keep some money aside for unexpected expenses (you meet your soul mate and head in a new direction that requires pricey visas). Something is always going to crop up, so keep a contingency fund available to stop curveballs ruining your trip.

4. Get insurance!
It seems like a large and possibly unnecessary expense when you're at the planning stage - a couple of hundred dollars that you could spend elsewhere. But if you lose your passport, your camera gets stolen or worst case scenario, you fall ill or get injured, you'll be glad you paid that fee in advance - it could save you thousands in the long run. And, if you want to partake in any adventure sports like rafting or bungy jumps, then you will definitely want insurance. Get a travel insurance quote

5. Don't get carried away with gimmicks
Pre-trip shopping is a lot of fun; a great way to build up the excitement. But there are things that are essential - a good backpack, sturdy walking shoes, a lightweight sleeping sheet - and there are things that are not. Try to avoid falling for all those gimmicky travel goodies that first-time backpackers weigh themselves down with. Do you really need a rucksack liner? And a rucksack carrier? How about a liner for the carrier? When you're shopping ask yourself a couple of questions. Could you possibly do without it? And is there a way you could improvise? Garbage bags work as waterproof liners, a sewn-up double sheet makes a perfect lightweight sleeping bag and you can build your own first aid kit with a Tupperware and some pharmacy essentials, much cheaper than buying a readymade kit.

6. Go Local
Once you get to your destination you need to take steps to stick to your budget. One way to cut back is to shun imported beers and foodstuffs from home. Sampling food isn't only a crucial way to experience the local culture; it's also a guaranteed money saver. Seek out one-off cafes, markets and street stalls for cheap eats and steer clear of Irish pubs abroad - always the priciest place to get drunk!

7. Don't be afraid of haggling
People often think that haggling is a pursuit reserved for travels in developing nations, but there are certain instances where bartering is recommended in any country. Markets are the obvious choice, but don't be afraid to haggle for guided tours and accommodation - especially if it's low season, you plan to stay a few nights or you arrive late in the day when a room would otherwise go to waste. The worst that can happen is that they'll say no!

8. Linger longer and keep journeys short
Long train and bus rides can really drain your funds so try to stay longer in each town and cut down the journey times where you can. Obviously if you have limited time and a wealth of destinations on the wish list, this is tricky, but consider exploring two or three places in depth rather than flying through a dozen or more; your wallet will thank you for it!

9. Shop around or go it alone
Guided tours might cut out some stress, but they are always going to be more costly than independent travel. If you do join a guided tour, shop around and don't be afraid to barter, they'll often be willing to lower their prices. You'll always pay over the odds if you join an organised tour though, so look into going it alone. Check out tour company itineraries so that you know what excursions are on offer, then look into public transport options - you'll probably knock 50% of the fee if you opt out of a guided tour. And if you do join a tour, never book it from your home country. You'll save a fortune booking locally.

10. Treat yourself!
Keeping tabs on your cash is essential, but don't get carried away with budgeting or you could ruin your trip. This might be a once in a lifetime journey and you don't want to get home wishing you'd visited more places or tried more activities. Make sure that you treat yourself every so often, whether it's with a private, ensuite hostel room, a pricey adrenaline sport or a fancy dinner.

Free Bakpak USA Guide

Subscribe to Bakpak Dave's Newsletter

Most Popular Rail Passes

Feedback Form