How To Estimate a Big Trip Budget: Before and After Costs

Trip preparation (The “Before” part) and money for your return home after the Big Trip (The “After” part) has it’s own part of the estimating budget for a Big Trip because a) you’ll need some stuff for your trip and b)you don’t want to return home to Mom and Dad’s basement. Or maybe you do, but anyway these costs can add up to a good percentage of the budget. And of course, good to plan for when estimating your budget This article covers step three of my three step process of how I estimate my Big Trip budgets and answer that question, “How much does a Big Trip cost?” See the intro article, estimating costs per day article, and transportation costs article to set the stage for this article: Considering Before and After costs.

  1. Estimating Cost per Day
  2. Researching and Estimating Transportation Costs
  3. Considering Before and After Costs

So let’s start with the fun ones (Yay! You’re taking your trip!)

The Before Costs

  • As many plane tickets as you feel comfortable buying before you leave. I caution against setting up too many flights before you leave. There’s the beauty of time on a Big Trip and you may want to stay a little longer in one place and a little shorter in another. Looking back on the Middle East Trip 2009 Big Trip, I really wish I would have traded Spain for more time in Turkey (to be fair to Spain, it was my third time there), but I had bought my home journey ticket from Madrid and booked out of Istanbul to Barcelona.
  • Trip Insurance: Of course you need it. Don’t tell yourself you don’t. If you’re taking any tour, they require it anyway and don’t saddle your loved ones with a helicopter bill that was needed to airlift your body out of Venezuela because you took a fancy herb and jumped out off of a hotel balcony. If you are under 35, I recommend going to and buying that trip insurance for the best price. Mind you, I’ve never had to file a claim, so please refer to other reviews of trip insurance on customer service once something has happened.
  • Vaccinations. These shots and pills ran me $700 for India. Now that I have the bulk take
  • Passport and Visas. Really, you can’t leave home without these and then can run into a big chunk of the Before budget. If you have time, don’t use the visa or passport services, they don’t save that much time for their cost.
  • A good backpack. I’ve always used a Gregory. These can run $200+
  • A good camera. A note on this, I have a Nikon D5000 ($700 plus lens) right now and it’s wonderful, but a money pit. On my last trips I used a Canon IS 5X ($350) point and shoot and got excellent quality pictures half the price.
  • Good shoes. For flip-flops I recommend Chacos ($50+) and for hiking shoes I recommend Merrils ($100+).

See my other article on packing for a comprehensive list of equipment. The above items are a good place to start as they take up the majority of the costs.  Of course, now that I’m abroad, this is all too much and I could do with about half of what I brought. For my Middle East 2009 trip, I bought some give away dressy clothes for cheap in the US because we had theater tickets darling and I couldn’t go in khakis. Friends old and new were the beneficiaries of these clothes when I made my way to Egypt.

The “After” Costs

I think these “After” costs are often ignored by travelers, the costs for getting back into your life once you come home and actually having to begin your life again (post Big Trip, it’s actually a very different life indeed). Also, if you, like me, have student loans and cell phone bills, these still gots to gets paid while you’re away and return and should be factored into the estimated budget.

So let’s think of these shall we?

  • Getting from the airport to home. I always budget for a taxi or shared ride because it seems on this leg of the journey; I am unable to handle public transportation. Also, my home base is in God’s country and it’s quite process to get home from my main International airport.
  • Lodging: Rent, or a security deposit and rent, if you don’t have an apartment. And some flowers for your nice friends who will host you until you find one. I’ll extol the many virtues of my parents here and thank them for the graciousness to live rent free between trips when I wasn’t working.
  • Gas, insurance, and car costs to get you around in the US, if you are settling there. Public transportation costs if you live in a more eco-aware country.
  • Food and entertainment. You’ll want to go out and share all your travel stories with your friends. And I like to print a photo book and DVD as soon as possible (you know by now I am a travel dork, so does this surprise you?)
  • If you still have your job, excellent, if not, factor in costs to obtain a new one.


And here’s a summary of everything we’ve estimated in these three articles using my Middle East Big Trip 2009 as the example. And I’ll say, I didn’t track everything in that trip spending, but this came very close to what I actually spent in total.


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