Destinations Magazine

Your Liquid Diet Will Ruin Your Travel Budget

By Livingthedreamrtw @livingdreamrtw
Anchor Beer in Singapore One of the recurring topics we mention on this blog is that of how to stay within your travel budget when on the road.  From the topics necessary to research and save for your trip, how to score hotel deals at, accounting for spending aspects you may end up going over your budget in, all the way to sharing our budgets for our previous adventures, the number of ways we can discuss it is almost endless.  Travel budget is even is a major chunk of our first book, The Long-Term Traveler's Guide, and it is all for a good reason; plan the wrong budget and your trip could take a drastic turn very quickly! 
But while most budget planning topics are manageable, one specific item you'll encounter every single day of your trip is often overlooked: your liquid diet.  Forget to account for this one and you will have fallen into the same trap as most every traveler out there, and likely be out a fair bit of money over the course of your journey.
Why is Liquid Intake So Important?
Jeremy and Angie Drinking in Barcelona, Spain
When we say the phrase "liquid intake" your mind likely jumps to alcohol.  But for a large number of travelers alcohol intake is not even a worry - they just don't do it.   Those who do often have a bit of money allocated to a casual night out with new friends and think nothing of it past that. But the concept of budgeting for your liquid intake is far more than just alcohol consumption.  It is everything.  Your liquid intake also covers your morning coffee, a few water bottles, soda, and just about anything else you would get at a convenience store or bar outside of your major meals.  As small as it seems, these daily purchases add up; and the longer your trip the more your travel budget will vanish.
But to truly get across the idea of daily liquid intake, we must give an example from our own travels.
When we travel, I'll often have a soda or bottled water with my meal.  Our daily food budget is typically high enough that will cover this cost.  But no matter how much I plan, or how many trips we go on, I always neglect the fact that I'll want a glass of wine with a dinner now and again.  Double that now that Angie and I are married, and even more so if we are in a famous wine region.  Angie needs a morning coffee, and I am guilty of getting an energy drink or soda in the morning to get me going too.  No matter what we do, our liquid budget is always an impressive figure when we look on it in retrospect.  Compare that to our initial food budget and we always seem to go over by the same amount time and time again.
After talking with other travelers, we found out that we are not alone.  Forgetting your liquid diet is a global phenomena that every traveler deals with at one time or another.
Doesn't a Food Budget Cover It?
Angie With Impromptu Snack at La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain
It would be a perfect world to say that your planned food costs would cover your liquid intake, but that is the trap that many of us fall into when planning a budget.  You look at average meal costs in a country, multiply it from 2.5 to 3.5 to cover all meals and a snack and you're done.  But there are far more opportunities for this cost to rise drastically.
Consider a few of the following examples of liquids you may consume separate from what you would have in a meal: 
  • Coffee - 1 to 2 per day - $1 to $4 per cup
  • Water - 1 to 4 bottles per day - $0.10 to $1.50 per bottle
  • Soda - 1 to 4 cans per day - $0.20 to $1.25 per can, or up to $2.50 per bottle
  • Energy Drinks - 1 can per day - $1.00 to $4.00 per can
  • Beer - 1-4 glasses per day - $1.50 to $7 per glass
  • Wine - 1-2 glasses per day - $2.0 to $10 per glass
While you wouldn't obviously be consuming all of these in any given day, think of a few of the combinations for your scenario outside of what you would have during the course of a meal.
Perhaps one day in Europe you'll have 3 bottles of water, a can of soda, and a beer.   That could be upwards of $8-$10 added onto your daily budget.   Average that over a 2 month trip around Europe and you could be spending another $500 that you didn't normally account for.  If you're running low on cash, you're now short a few more days of travel because of it.
Or you could be traveling around China and have 2 large bottles of water, an energy drink, and a soda.  That could run you $3-$4 on top of your daily food budget.  Over a month, that's another $120 that could have gone for two or three more days of travel as well.
We could go on with these types of examples, but you probably are seeing the point.
In my own travels a good example that comes to mind was my energy shot addiction in Thailand that added $0.50 to $1.50 to my budget every single morning.  Over six weeks that was around $50 out of my fund that could have otherwise covered a weeks worth of meals.  A similar thing happened in Egypt with bottled water (it was August) and just about everywhere else I've traveled to.  It goes onto the list of universal truths for travelers.
Plan Ahead to Account for It!
Coconut Drink in Thailand
While the simple thought of cutting out all of your non-water intake from your upcoming trip is popular, it is one we cannot seriously recommend. Getting rid of bottled water, caffeine, and the occasional alcoholic beverage is difficult even for those who are not addicted.  Sure, you can refill your bottled water in Europe or North America with little concern or even get included beverages at breakfast at Premier Inn and other hotels in an effort to cut cost. No matter how noble your quest to remove all caffeine from your diet is, if you are hooked now while working in an office, expect to be hooked when you travel and are active every single day from dawn until dusk. 
But rather than cutting out these from your daily routine, plan ahead!  It may not be possible to save more money to travel, but by allocating a few extra dollars per day to cover your liquid budget you'll have a more realistic idea of what your trip spending will be.  You may have to cut your dream long-term itinerary down a few days to cover, but it is better to have this realization now than you will on the road and are forced with the decision of what to cut on the fly.
After all, that daily $2 coffee adds up, and $730 over the course of a year is a lot of money when you take a moment to consider it.  Change that daily coffee to a more expensive beer and your travel budget is going to be hurting after a few months when it is not accounted for.
Don't make the mistake, keep your liquid diet in mind when budgeting and indulge with no regrets while on the road!  Your wallet will surely thank you for it later.
Your Liquid Diet Will Ruin Your Travel Budget

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