Monday, March 22, 2010

1 Mailbag Monday: March 22, 2010

Your trip budgeting plan of having a separate slush fund sounds like a good idea. How did you decide what gets put in the slush fund versus your daily budget?
-Mike I., St. Paul, MN USA

We used our slush fund to pay for any big expenditure outside of meals, lodging, and general sightseeing that would skew our daily budget. For instance roundtrip train tickets between Moscow and Saint Petersburg were rather costly. But we didn't want that high expense to make us feel like we couldn't do anything else on the day we bought them because the purchase instantly put us over our daily budget.

The meal/lodging/sightseeing rule was not a hard and fast one, however. For instance, we spent a good deal of money on a buffet Thanksgiving Dinner in Ho Chi Minh City. Because it was a special circumstance we put it in our slush fund so the guilt of obliterating our daily budget didn't keep us from turkey. Of course the slush fund wasn't bottomless--we knew that at the end of our trip, in South Africa, we definitely wanted to go on safari. So we constantly were questioning, is this big ticket item worth it, or should we save it for something else? At the beginning of your trip you need to decide how much you want to spend total and set aside maybe 20%-25% into the slush fund. That way you can keep the high ticket objects from discouraging your attempt to hit a reasonable amount of money spent every day.

I've been reading your adventures all around the world during these months and now that I'm planning a trip in Argentina and Chile I'd like to ask you: how's the bus from Mendoza (Argentina) to Santiago (Chile)? I will do it on the other way (chile-arg) but I'm trying to understand how long it is and if it's worth doing it.. I'm going there on July (that isn't the best season because of winter, I guess..) and I'd like not to be stopped in Santiago for days and days of course I know that it's impossible to be sure of it now, but do you have some information? when you were there, did you know of people stopped for more than 2 days?
-Paola, Milan, Italy

We actually took the bus from Mendoza to Valparaiso, not Santiago, but the route is mostly the same and a similar distance.

The pros: The route is breathtakingly beautiful! Having a slow ascent like that is such a dramatic way to see the Andes. It was crazy to have mild temperatures in Mendoza, and then step off the bus into heaps of snow to cross the border in the middle of the mountain range. It's also a much cheaper option than flying, and you can avoid departure/entrance fees at customs by going by land.

The cons: We traveled in early September--so the end of their winter--and on the first day our bus was canceled because the route was impassable. They actually turned the bus around a few hours into the trip! It was no problem getting our tickets transferred to the next day's bus, but there was no guaranteeing that bus would be a go either. It's a risky option if you have time constraints because there is really no alternative route the bus can take if the road through the Andes is snowed over. July could be more unpredictable than September. Also, the buses only travel during the day due to the nature of the roads. It makes for great sightseeing, but it's an eight hour ride so it does take up a whole day of your itinerary.

We absolutely loved taking this bus ride, but if time is a big concern for this trip, you might want to consider flying instead.

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1 comment:

  1. Planning a budget for a trip is an essential and vital thing in travel. The budget should be made regarding the expenses and saving in the trip that will make your trip easier and comfortable.


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