Travel has always been a part of Laurie and Bryan’s life as a couple. From week-long getaways while they were dating to a month-long trip in Central America, the two balanced a life of paying for school and daily expenses with the ever-antsy travel bug.
They recently returned from a year-long, around-the-world trip that took them to Africa, a small part of Europe, the Middle East, India and Nepal. Along the way, they learned a thing or two about traveling on a budget …
In this interview, Laurie shares their story of budget-conscious travel and how they’re helping travelers save money.
1. Tell me about your travel style. How did you and Bryan become budget-conscious travelers?
Well, if you enjoy long–term travel, it kind of requires that you become budget conscious in order to make your trip last longer.
We enjoy traveling with the locals on public buses and staying away from resort-style accommodations (although a splurge every now and then is always nice). In many cases traveling on a budget doesn’t hinder your experience, but actually enhances it. We’ve met some of the most generous and friendly people while on the longest and most difficult bus rides. We’ve met all types of people, most of whom are very proud and excited to show off their homes. We’ve really gotten to experience the countries we visited in this manner, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. While we’re budget conscious, we try to remember that in many developing countries a dollar means a lot more to the locals than it might to us. We negotiate for fair prices but will try to tip generously if the service was good.
When we’re tired and drained, we’ll splurge on nice accommodations for a couple nights and that will help inspire us to hit the road again.
2. As you were traveling, which places did you find to be most expensive and which were most affordable?
Israel was the most expensive country, probably more so than Western Europe. Food can be very expensive there so we cooked a lot of meals. We found an affordable hostel in Jerusalem, but outside of the city, prices for hostels and hotels got a lot steeper. Public buses are great in Israel, but again, you have to pay for it.
India and Nepal are the cheapest (and some of the most enjoyable) places to travel. Syria is also an amazing place, and much cheaper than many other countries in the Middle East. If you’re concerned about your budget, those are the places to head to first.
3. When you were traveling on a budget, were there any unexpected expenses or surprises that you had not anticipated?
Yes, there often are, and the best advice is to remain flexible. Sometimes all of the hotels are full and sometimes the bus never comes, and these situations often lead to a situation where you need to spend more money.
We had to get our India visa while we were in Israel. Unfortunately there were some unexpected delays in the processing and we had to wait longer than we had planned. Because Israel is such an expensive country, that delay cost us a lot of money, but we were able to really see a side of Israel we would otherwise have missed.
Also in Senegal, when we were headed to Mali, there happened to be a transportation strike. There were no buses or public cars running anywhere. Because our time was running out, we hired a private car to get us to the border, and it ended up costing a lot more than the bus would have. Ultimately it was worth it because the transportation strike lasted almost a week.
4. What advice would you give to other travelers who have a very set budget for their trip?
Be flexible. Unexpected expenses come up. If one place is more expensive or less enjoyable than you’d expected, be willing to move on. Likewise, be willing to stay a little longer in places that are cheaper or consider places that might be off the typical tourist trail. These places often have a lot to offer. If you find yourself in a place where you are way under budget, use that to your advantage to save up for unexpected costs.
Also, in most places in the world, making reservations will land you a higher price than you would get if you just show up. By not sticking to a set plan you’ll not only save money, but have a more exciting and adventurous trip.
5. Since returning home from your around-the-world trip, you’ve created a budget management website for other travelers to utilize. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
While we were traveling we tried to monitor our expenses in a spreadsheet. We couldn’t find any online tools to help us plan and track our budget so we decided to set up Budget Your Trip.
Budget Your Trip lets travelers search for travel costs by city, country and budget type. These estimates are generated from real-world expenses provided by fellow travelers, so costs are up-to-date and reflective of what people are actually spending.
Once they’ve registered, travelers can plan their personal travel budgets. The costs are broken down into categories (accommodation, food, etc.) and displayed in tables and charts.
During and after a trip, users can track their expenses to see how much they’re spending and if they’re staying on budget. Graphs and tables break down costs by geographic location, category and day. These tools help users understand where their money went and perhaps how they might better budget in the future.
6. What travel plans do you and Bryan have in the coming months? Is cost playing a factor in where you will be going?
We’ve been wanting to do the Trans-Siberian railway for a while. Right now we’re saving our money and figuring out what will be next for us, but there will definitely be travel in the future.