Bargain Travel: Budgeting vs Bargains

Reproduced (and tidied) from my TripAdvisor Post.  In this post I take a quick look at how to snare bargain to let you travel within a budget.

Budget vs Bargain

I budget my travel, that is, I define how much things are expected to cost, then compare that to what the actual costs are. No different to household budgeting or basic accounting. It all starts with research.

Research helps you identify “bargains” and in turn knowing what’s a bargain and what’s the normal prices will help you build a “Budget”!

Say I get promo e-mails from 2-3 flight cost trackers/aggregators and they repeated (week on week etc) tell me that tickets to Asia are available from $500. I know it costs me around $250 more to get to one of the airports these tickets would depart from. So the total of $750 becomes my initial “budget” for flights.

I may do some research on Trivago or HotelsCombined to find what accommodation prices are like in my destination country. Generally I would say that I nominate a budget for this based on guesses and experience. So for Malaysia I know (with appropriate advance booking) I can stay in a comfortable room with ensuite for $50-$100/night right in the heart of KL. If I’m challenging myself I’ll set the budget low, it makes me work harder to find the deal.

Finally I get a quote on proper travel insurance so I know most of my pre-departure costs.

This goes into a spreadsheet (Google Docs is handy for this) and I’ll enter in the actual costs as I book things. If new costs comes up (like side-trips) I add them in.

F1 Trip 2015
Description Estimate Actual
Flights (CBR-KUL) Return $ 750.00 $626.11
Flights (KUL-JHB) Return $100.00 $56.00
Flights (KUL-PNG) Return $100.00 $44.00
F1 Ticket $250.00 $99.00
Accommodation (**-** Mar) KL $ 200.00 $123.98
Accommodation (**-** Mar) JB $200.00 $153.73
Accommodation (**-** Mar) KL $200.00 $275.20
Accommodation (**-** Apr) PN $200.00 $72.36
Travel Insurance $100.00 TBA
Totals $2100 $1450.38

As you can see it’s primitive. But it lets me add up things along the way. That’s how I know I’ve got my 14 days away covered for AUD1500.


When arriving at the destination there’s other things to pay for too. A transit card (if available), a local SIM card, any destination specific packages. For example I may buy a transit package to/from an event I’m attending. For stuff like the F1 (which I’m attending) there’s usually a deal available locally that is much cheaper than sourcing in advance.

Most of these things can be researched pretty well too. You can find information on Local SIMs through the destination forums on TripAdvisor, or Google.

Don’t expect people on the forums to tell you everything, just ask about providers and experiences with providers. Then check out their website, can you recharge online using an international credit card? What data packs are available? etc etc. Know roughly what to ask for when you arrive at the Kiosk at the airport to buy the thing. Know roughly what it should cost.

So further down my spreadsheet I have a section for these costs.

Then there food and living expenses – I don’t budget these but there’s no reason you can’t. I expect to have around $100/day in costs – some days more some days less, it’s a holiday after all 🙂