Budgeting for Touring - CycleBlaze

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Budgeting for Touring

Brent Irvine

I got to thinking, and during that thinking moment, I got to wondering how people determine, manage or organize their tour spending. Do you add up travel to/from, accommodations, food and other, then work toward saving that amount? Or that amount plus a cushion? Or do you throw care to the wind and pay whatever the tally once you get home? Or struggle with the big debt you incurred while away?

And finally, what are your clever ideas to reasonably stretch things a bit further? Work extra overtime? Work during the tour? Day trade while pedaling?

Curious I am.

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4 weeks ago
Larry MitchellTo Brent Irvine

That daily number has changed quite a bit over the years as has our method of cycling.  Currently we are definite credit card type cyclists and have gotten to the point where a month’s travel is roughly $6000.  How we get there is actually connected to our budgeting practices for the last 8 years since retirement.  I have also taken on a small part time job that I can do on-line which makes enough for one month of travel.  As I’m also now drawing Social Security that also gets thrown into the travel budget as my retirement is enough to cover normal expenses, etc.

The biggest factor, though, occurred 20 years ago when we got rid of our mortgage after quite a few years or living frugally in order to rid ourselves of that debt.

We could save money on our travels by reducing certain things but we seemed to have found a balance that works well for us.  Our last trip’s biggest expense was the rental van for a month, housing was normal, food normal, and the plane tickets were based on miles so no expense there.  I also do all my own bike maintenance and by assisting my local trike dealer with trike builds, I get a substantial discount for most bike related purchases.

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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Brent Irvine

We don’t think about budgeting too much, other than to be reasonably prudent in our selection of lodgings and so on.  We’re fortunate to both have decent pensions and social security of course, but our big trick was to just sell our home.  It’s cheaper being on the road in mostly smaller towns in Western Europe than maintaining our place in an American city.

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4 weeks ago
Jean-Marc StrydomTo Scott Anderson

Hi Scott.  We had the same approach as you.  We sold our house, invested the proceeds and hit the road.  For seven years (to the day- 1 March 2016 until 1 March 2023) we were homeless.   For most of the time it made financial sense but after COVID we noticed that every time we returned to South Africa to catch up with the family,  short term rental prices had increased.   So after doing the maths,  we bought a small bolt-hole, much smaller than our old house but much cheaper to maintain.  By down sizing, and keeping most of the proceeds of the sale of our previous house invested, we have been able to keep cycle touring in the same way as when we were homeless. 

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4 weeks ago
Rachel and Patrick HugensTo Brent Irvine

We cycled toured as ultra budget (Patrick in India on $5 a day a long time ago) to then being a mid level budget....realizing that in places like India just a few more $$ gets you much more. For the mid level tour, we budgeted $25/pp/per day, knowing that some days we would probably spend almost nothing and other days go over budget. And an extra amount for special tours like safaris. And now with retirement, we have a house/cat sitter while gone. We are fortunate to have had two good professions with the ability to save and we each got our same jobs back 3 times.

Our house we bought within the budget that we could live on one income using the other to pay off the house quickly and the potential that Patrick could remodel. Our strategy before retirement is to live frugally, as we can see what our money will do in travelling... we have one car, bike commuted to work, no cable TV or netflix type options, finally got a cellphone because it became cheaper than a landline...but only one phone. 

It's about looking at money differently...do I really want that new shirt when I don't really need it...and knowing what that would buy me while touring.

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3 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo Brent Irvine

I retired with a decent amount of savings, some guaranteed income, the knowledge of additional income from Social Security in a few years, and a paid off mortgage.  I felt like I had carte blanche to tour whenever and wherever I wanted. 

Ten years, multiple home repair projects, and other unexpected expenses later, budgetary concerns have definitely become a factor.  In addition to recent family obligations, the household budget doesn't allow for flying off to other parts of the world, months-long tours in my own country, or a lot of other extravagances. 

It's a good thing that I'm kind of a tightwad when it comes to spending while on a bike tour.  It's also a good thing that I actually like cooking my own food better than eating in restaurants, and I like camping better than staying in motels.  (For some reason, I sleep better in a tent too.)

Despite everything I just wrote, I'm not poor.  Bike touring is a vacation.  I don't stress over the cost of an occasional night in an inner-city hotel or a couple of $7.00 beers at a local brewery.  Still, that credit card has to be paid when I get home, and after 10 years of blissful retirement, I have no intention of going back to work.  Hence, the shorter, more local tours I've been doing.     

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3 weeks ago
Keith AdamsTo Brent Irvine

With the exception of the part about expensive home repairs and other costly and unexpected items, Greg Garceau has written my story as well.  We've been exceedingly fortunate financially (particularly when compared to most of the world's population, and even a large majority of our fellow citizens of the U.S.) so, though we don't feel "rich" as in having essentially limitless resources, we have the latitude and freedom to indulge ourselves to a moderate extent.

You could say that we did our tour thinking and planning and saving during our working lives, knowing that we'd want that money later when it was time to go play.  My wife has a decent pension, I have the money I put into my 401K over a 33+ year career, and we have IRAs which our financial advisor assures us are more than ample to live the sort of life we outlined to him when we began working with him 25 years ago.  In other words, we did our planning and saving early and continuously, and are now reaping the benefits.

Our house is paid for, as are our current cars, and in a few years we'll probably start drawing Social Security but we're in no rush.  Since the monthly amount we'll get increases dramatically the longer we wait, we're content to do that. 

When touring, or in fact when I/we are on vacation in general, I/we don't worry too much about the costs.  Again, I recognize my great good fortune in being in a position where I have that luxury.  However, I also don't tend to do protracted trips to exotic locales, I don't go in for luxury or particularly costly "extras", and mostly don't fly to get to my tour locations so that cost isn't a factor.

We'll take a "bucket list" trip next year (not a bicycle tour, though), in celebration of 40 years of married life.  That's one we'll have to work out how to pay for but it won't put us in the poor house.  It was in the plan, way back when, and is therefore already accounted for .

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3 weeks ago
George HallTo Brent Irvine

Here's a few thoughts based on my own experiences with long tours;

  1. If you tour with someone who is splitting costs with you, then many of your expenses are only half.  This is a huge cost savings.
  2. I find it less expensive, and more convenient, to travel to the start of a tour using a one-way vehicle rental.  That way you get yourself, your panniers, and your bicycle all to the start point for the cost of the vehicle rental.  Otherwise you might be paying to ship yourself by plane and your bike via bikeflights or such services.  And, of course, the economics of traveling via 1-way vehicle rental are especially good if there are 2 of you splitting the expense.
  3. You don't always save money by camping.  Usually you do, but camping isn't free and it's not that unusual to have to pay $40 or more for a camping site.  Oftentimes a motel will have a free breakfast, so factor that into the equation.   It takes me an extra hour or even 2 when camping to set things up and then break camp the following morning; this is time and energy that could have been used cycling - and this extra time adds up such that the tour may require an extra night or 2, and each night costs money.  The point is that camping isn't always the money-saver that folks assume.  And, of course, if you are splitting the cost of a motel room with another, and then getting free breakfast for each of you, the economics are even better.
  4. Eating in restaurants is expensive, especially if you do this a couple of times each day - certainly this is an added expense as compared to most folks  normal lifestyle.  You can save a lot of money by limiting yourself to only 1 restaurant meal per day - or some days none at all.  Eating nutritious meals can be challenging while on cycle tour - a touring cyclist burns so much energy that she/he is constantly famished - so I do like to eat one "real meal" in a restaurant each day, and then forage for food in whatever convenience stores or small town groceries are nearby. 
  5. Assuming you are old enough (age 62, I think?), be certain you buy a Golden Age passport for national parks.  Mine has paid for itself at least 10 times over.  They are honored in national parks, of course, but also a lot of state parks offer discounts with these.  The price has gone from $10 when I got mine to$80 now, but you will recover that money soon enough. 

I'll finish with this bit of unrequested advice; life is short, and even if you have the money you may not always have the health to undertake a bicycle tour.   In the blink of an eye we're all going to be knocking on the door of our final moments, and at that time money concerns will seem like a trivial matter.  Find a way to undertake the tour now while you are healthy, and in your final moments you can smile the contented smile of a man with no regrets.   

Gee whiz, my meds have really kicked in this morning. I better switch to decaf coffee now, peace out...

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3 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezTo Brent Irvine

Well to do is an opinion. It depends on your daily lifestyle. We spent the majority of our working years as school bus drivers, certainly not an occupation that  provides a lavish living. It does provide summers and vacations off! We lived modestly all school year, and then lived like royalty while touring in the summer. 

Accumulated modest choices allow for more extravagant decisions down the line. There's a nod here to my ten year old van, and a ziplock bag doubling as a wallet. I have to tell a bit of a story there. Some years back, I took to putting my wallet in a ziplock bag during wet weather when touring. That gradually evolved to using just the bag, no wallet, while touring. Then I didn't transfer things back to my wallet upon my return. Now I proudly (defiantly?) pull out my ziplock bag/wallet. My daughter is quite embarrassed and has bought me a number of small, lightweight, cute, and functional wallets that I don't use. I'm afraid my ziplock wallet is a personal statement now

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3 weeks ago
Wayne EstesTo Brent Irvine

Thanks to DINK status (dual income no kids), I retired early at age 44. I will eventually collect Medicare and Social Security benefits, but my retirement has been 100% self-funded for 19 years and counting. I was quite frugal for the first several years after I retired. I did long bike trips, but tried to camp every night and avoid restaurants.

Over the years my investments have done very well, allowing my budget to increase. I quit camping 10 years ago. That significantly increased the cost of bike tours, but I can afford it and I don't complain about the cost.

My only advice is rather simple-minded. Maximize savings during your working years, and live within your means during the retirement years.

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3 weeks ago