The Prep – Part II (Budgeting)

So you’ve decided where you want to go. You have a list of possible flights to take from various sources. But how much money do you need to save for this trip?! This post will mainly discuss budgeting and money saving tips, cuz lets face it, you’re probably not rich if you’re taking the time to do research on flights. So for those who can’t book first class tickets on the whim, read on!

A Quick Guide to Flying from Border Towns

As I’ve mentioned in my previous post, there can be potential savings from flying from an American border town. For the Vancouverites that means taking a trip to Seattle/Bellingham. Chris Myden writes a comprehensive guide on whether this is worth it or not. Here are the main points

  • the monetary cost of transportation and parking must be factored in. Most people flying from YVR can get there cheap VIA friend or Canada Line. For those planning to drive down there, you should factor in gas and more importantly, parking fees which can add up quickly for longer trips
  • an alternative is busing down with Bolt Bus, which offers one way bus rides from Vancouver’s Central station (near Science World station) for as low as $1 (on promo). Likely you will pay <$10/way to get to Bellingham and ~$15/way to get to Seattle. Trips to Bellingham are around 2hours, Seattle just under 4hours. The exact time depends on how nice the customs officer is.
  • For those taking the Bolt Bus to SEA, the bus stops right by the tram station. Take this all the way to Seatac for <$3. The trip takes about 30-40mins

The last bullet brings me to my next point. It takes a significant amount of time to transit between cities so if time is of the essence for you, then these might not be the best options. As a final note, Bolt Bus offers free wifi in the US side. Although it was quite spotty the last time I rode it.

Transportation Within the Destination

This is speaking more in the context of backpacking, where you’d be moving from one place to another within your destination. This is where your research will pay off. More often than not, non flying options will be cheaper. Public transit if possible is always very affordable and usually fairly easy to grasp. Renting a car or scooter give you complete freedom if you are comfortable driving in a foreign country. For longer trips consider charter buses, minivans/jeepneys/tuk-tuks, ferries or trains. Again these are almost always going to be cheaper than flying. For most long distance travels you can just ask your hotel/hostel about the details and book tickets through them. Make sure you have an idea on how much things should cost so you don’t get ripped off. However you are looking to move a large distance that cannot be traversed by land, (ex: flying from one island country to another), or if time is tight, then flying is your best bet. Again, booking early if possible is the best way to save money. In my recent trip to the Philippines and Malaysia, I flew predominantly with Cebu Pacific and Air Asia. Here is a list of discount airlines in Asia. Some things to keep in mind when flying discount airlines:

This is what you ride around in while in the Philippines!
  • They will charge for anything and everything. This includes meals, comfort kits and check in (Air Asia charges 10 ringet). Its a small sacrifice to pay to save money since most of these flights are short anyways
  • Bring your own food. Unless you’re inclined to buy from them
  • Baggage fees are usually not included and must be purchased on top of your ticket price. Buy it as you’re purchasing your ticket since they charge more at the counter

Local transportation like jeepneys, tuk-tuks and cyclones have a system of their own. Ask a local you can trust about how to use these and you’ll be rewarded with a unique experience travelling with/like the locals.

To get to Banaue, we took a 8 hour charter bus, and two jeepneys. This is what the inside looks like. Very cozy indeed. Jeepneys have their designated routes labeled in the front and the driver charges you accordingly. Great experience and locals are always eager to help.

OCD Level Budgeting

So for those who know me, I can be very anal or meticulous with my planning depending on your perspective. Once you have an itinerary set, start organizing your expenses on paper. For my trip this summer, I am using Excel to catalog each expense and approximating the cost to get a rough idea of how much the whole trip will cost me. The advantage to this is that you know exactly what you’ve paid for and how much more you have to save before take-off. Writing things down also reduces your margin of error, like say, forgetting to book a flight or not budgeting enough for you elephant excursion in Chiang Mai!

This is a glimpse at my budgeting notes for this summer’s Asia trip

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