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When My Travel Budget Got Blown

Apr 10, 2024

Travel is fun.  Budgeting is not.  So, why am I writing a blog post about travel budgeting, and when my last travel budget got blown?

Well, because I think it's amusing to share, and it might help others if they encounter a similar situation.

Each year my mother, daughter and I go on a "girl's trip".  It started when my daughter was 18 months' old and I really wanted to start travelling again.  My husband was travelling a lot for work, so I decided to do some travelling too.

Even before I knew much about managing money, I always had a savings account for travel.  I never wanted a credit card, but ended up having to get one for my first big solo trip as a 19 year old.  I didn't want to come home with a huge credit card bill, so I put money on my credit card and used it like a debit card (nowadays those sorts of debit cards actually exist!).

Mind you, I ended up with credit card debt later on, but it wasn't because of travel.  That's a story for another day...

When it came to travel I preferred to spend my money on experiences other than eating out.  I'm not a big foodie.  I do like nice food, but my tastes are pretty basic - a Margherita pizza, or simple pasta with a nice tomato sauce.  Or, a simple salad.  

So, I arrive in a place and head straight for the supermarket.  I also love seeing what is available to the locals - the options, the ingredients, and what is locally made.

Making your own food is a great way to save money, plus I feel like I'm experiencing more of the authentic culture :-)

This has worked well for me for decades, and then came our recent girls trip to Noumea.

 I had been warned that it was expensive, but I didn't expect so many things to be so expensive.  On our first night we did eat out, because we had arrived too late to go to the supermarket.  A pizza was $45, and a glass of wine was $25! 

Buying groceries was still cheaper than eating out, but basics added up quickly.  My mother and I had to change more Aussie dollars at the bank to make sure we had enough for bus fares!

We also decided not to hire a car (partly because of the cost, but mainly because of fuel tax protests that left gas stations closed).  So, the bus was our main form of transport (our legs could only carry us so far), and I still carried my 28kg daughter around a bit when her legs got tired.

About 3 days into the trip and we had nearly spent all our cash for the 7 days.  We had to re-group and re-assess our budget and activities.

It's amazing how clear you become on your priorities when you have to be!

And you know what?  Our holiday was richer for the experience - we banded together and made our own fun and enjoyed the extra walking.  Even when more protests disrupted the bus service and we had to walk an extra kilometer to the beach we were headed to.  It meant we got to really see and enjoy the countryside, and have more stories for the travel diary.

What I did learn was to really make sure that when an ex-local tells you that a place is expensive, to ask more questions to get specifics, and do more research!