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- Set your budget for flights, accommodation and other transport as well as spending
For the first time since I started my monthly trips, I booked my first budget long haul last year to Canada. Up to then, it had been the £100 holiday European breaks, which I love, although it was time to think bigger and further. I’d had the idea of a budget long haul in mind for a while now but was waiting for the right time (and of course price).
Firstly, I’d recommend signing up to weekly or regular emails such as from Travelzoo, Skyscanner and Jack’s Flight Club – which is where I found out about the flights to Canada. They often send emails about airline sales, city guides or flights to destinations a lot cheaper than usual. Generally, I take a look but don’t act on them, even so, it’s better to be in the know than be missing out altogether. Also, these offers and/or prices only last for a few days or weeks so you need to act quickly to bag those prices.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be possible to do a long haul for £100, however, I thought a reasonable budget would be £500 (or thereabouts). I booked return flights to Toronto from Dublin, flights to and from Dublin, accommodation and Greyhound buses across Canada for £543. Slightly over budget but I think a 10% leeway is acceptable. Also at certain times of the year, you’d pay that just for the return flights.
Next was getting the time off. I had some extra holiday I carried over from last year which worked out perfectly taking 5 days off work as I left and returned on a Saturday so really taking a week off you get 9 days factoring in the weekends. Also, most transatlantic flights return overnight so I actually arrived back on a Sunday.
Another way I’ve managed to keep costs down is to visit a few cities and I booked a couple of overnight buses so saving on accommodation costs and also maximised my time in each place. I’d used Greyhound before and they offer a reliable service, comfy leather seats, wifi and charging points. I used Busbud to book these since they are an official seller for Greyhound. Also, I could pay in pounds and was actually cheaper than buying directly through the Greyhound site.
The way to make it work is to plan out where you want to be day by day and where you need to be on certain days (such as for flights). From there, you can work our the methods and cost of transport between cities and accommodation prices for those dates.
Once the ‘fixed’ costs are sorted (flights, accommodation, transport), the next part is what you’re going to do whilst in each place. What I would do first is write down everything you want to see and then where they are located in relation to each other. Additionally, if these attractions are free or paid and how long you’ll spend at each. It may be that several are just for sightseeing and are in walking distance of one another. I factored in £500 for the week for this but I actually underspent in the end at about £350.
It’s good to set a budget for each day (for food, attractions etc.) and not be rushed for time. It’s best to have some contingency time and of course, money in case plans change So it’s always good to make sure that although you should plan each day, that it’s not set in stone. If you have more than one day in each place, allow for that contingency time on the second or third day in case there isn’t enough time on the first day. Additionally, any time consuming or budget consuming attractions or sights should be spread across the days so you’re not taking too much on each day and gives some flexibility.
Naturally, factor in eating. Food is a huge part of the day and something I’d say you can’t plan as well. Often you don’t know what you’ll want or where you’ll be when you’re hungry. Although I’m not a big fan of breakfast, it is really important. Being on the go all day is exhausting so making sure you’re properly fuelled is really important. I’ve often found myself in situations where I’m either parched or famished from not properly eating first thing and throughout the day. I would say that, especially for lunches, go to the supermarket the night before or morning of and grab some snacks and things for lunch or stop somewhere for a meal during the day.
There is only so much you can plan until you actually go so don’t overthink it too much just take it all as it comes once there. Overall, I think I proved that it is possible to travel long haul on a budget. I hope it’s the first of more to come. One thing to remember though is to make sure you ACTUALLY pack your travel plans and notes. I had to get my flatmate to take pictures of the pages in my black book and send to me since I forgot them.