Planning & Gear

1 – Pre-departure expenditures

 1.1 – EQUIPMENT All these items were purchased before setting off. 

• Digital Camera: $279 $0. I’m cheating here because I already have a 4 mega pixel, Kodak Easyshare with a 256MB memory card. Okay, I gave in and bought the Nikon Coolpix II and I love it. It is worth every penny. Superslim, lightweight and great zoom and shutter response.

• Backpack: $240. I went for the Gregory Deva 60 women’s pack. In all of my research, every traveler said to buy the best pack that you can afford. I tried mine on a few times over the course of two months and had it custom fit to accommodate my weakness for Soul food, Italian pasta and American beer.

• Sleep Sac: $88. I splurged here and I went with the Marmot super lightweight sleep sac. A lot of travelers say a sleep sheet is enough in most places because there are sheets and blankets anywhere. However, at 32 years old, I know that I would feel more comfortable knowing where the sheets I am sleeping in have been. Plus this thing packs down into a large Ziploc bag! I’ll also need it for the two week trip down Baja.

• Clothes: $10. I already have most of what I will need. I’m taking 2 dry fit shirts that I already own, 2 Capri pants and lots of underwear! I’m taking a long-sleeve t-shirt, a couple of short-sleeve t-shirts, pajama bottoms, bras, shorts and one pair of zip off convertible pants which look pretty ridiculous to me (this was the $10). I’m also defying backpacker wisdom and taking a pair of jeans. I am taking my new balance 991 tennis shoes and my UVA flip flops.

• Day bag: $7. I went with a Wal-mart mini-messenger style bag in black. A friend of mine said it would be less bulky and more stylish if I wanted to have it with me out and about especially at night. Also, I liked the idea of having the messenger-style bag so I could keep everything in front of me, versus it being out of site behind me.

• Medicine kit: $20. Antibiotics, Anti-diarrhea, Neosporin, band-aids and aspirin. I am also taking a few sleeping gels and some Deet mosquito repellent. If I need anything else: uhm yo, somebody call a doctor.

• Toiletries: $10. Travel-size shampoo/body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, wet-wipes and toilet paper, etc.

• Misc: $200. Headlamp, rechargeable batteries and charger, nylon cord, camp utensils. I already have a headlamp but begrudgingly got a new one that has batteries compatible with the charger I am taking for my digital camera and mp3 player. I also anticipate purchasing a life vest and cheapie snorkel gear for the Baja peninsula trip. I snorkeled in Africa and loved it, but am not a strong swimmer so I wear a life vest which makes my mother feel better. So, all in all, around $600 in equipment, I could probably have bought a cheaper pack and saved $100 and sewn together two sheets to make a sleep sheet and saved $80, but I decided to forgo the $700 digital camera I was looking at and the $300 I-pod and get the best gear I could afford.

 1.2 – VACCINATIONS ($45)

First, the State Department and your local Health Department will be able to let you know what you need for whatever countries/regions you are traveling to. I also checked in with my doctor 6 months and 3 months and 1 month before I was leaving to get prescriptions for anti-malarials, antibiotics and a general “all clear”. In my case, I had been out of the country within the last 10 years and to a region with a fairly high number of required shots. I still had a copy of my international shot record (the Yellow Card) tucked into my passport and I only needed a re-up on Hepatitis A (two shots) and a Tetanus booster (let me warn you this is the one that will make your arm sore for days!). Second, the prices of vaccinations can vary widely according to your health plan, policy coverage, etc. I was fortunate in that my co-pay has covered everything so far. I spent about $45 on shots and check-ups.

 1.3 – TRAVEL INSURANCE ($200)

I was admittedly lazy here and looked at a total of two options. Everyone whose blog I follow, recommended World Nomads and so I’ll purchase my policy through them a week or so before I leave. The basic coverage is pretty cheap and you can get riders for all sorts of adventure activity or protection for high priced gear. Coverage looks to be about $200 for a 3-month basic policy for a US citizen.

Bottom line: all together, the pre-departure expenditures were around $900 U.S.

2 – Daily budget

I am what you could call a mid-budgeted backpacker. I plan to use budget hotels, home stays and hostels and I will eat where the locals eat as often as possible to both reduce the cost and to enhance the experience. I do not have a desire to carry anything more than I have to, so souvenirs will be kept to a minimum if purchased at all. I will splurge for the occasional treat such as a tour of the Mayan ruins, a soccer match in Mexico or a snorkeling trip in Costa Rica. And don’t let me stumble into a cooking class! I don’t anticipate ever declining a night out dinning and drinking if I meet the right people. So, to make it short, while I am trying to travel on a shoestring, I also will spend a bit extra and cut the trip short in order to maintain my comfort and health. A 22 year-old, budget-backpacker could possibly do it for a bit less money, but to quote Hector “you’ve got to keep in mind that traveling is a leisure activity rather than an endurance test.”

*I have unabashedly pilfered this formatting and sentiment from Hector. 

3 – Research

3.1 – BOOKS ($300)

I spent a small fortune on books and literature, both to do adequate research and to keep me focused and excited about the trip. I am a voracious reader and these are a mix of fiction, biography and travel guides. Keep in mind these were purchased over about 18 months, so you could obviously avoid this expense altogether if you spent a few lazy Sundays in your favorite mega-bookstore. Some books that I recommend:

  • A Woman’s Passion for Travel
  • First Time Around the World
  • Hidden Baja
  • Hold the Enlightenment
  • It’s Not About the Tapas
  • Last Flight Out
  • Lonely Planet: Central America
  • No Touch Monkey
  • Rough Guide: Mexico
  • Travels With Myself & Another
  • The Sex Lives of Cannibals
  • The Thong Also Rises
  • The Unsavvy Traveler
  • The World Awaits
  • Vagabonding


There is so much information available on-line that you could literally plan your entire trip without ever leaving the house. Below are my favorite travelogues and content sites:


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