It costs more to travel with a hidden disability (or a visible one, for that matter) than it does for a healthy person. No, that’s not fair. But it’s the way the world works.
The biggest thing that us travelers with pain need to budget for is the unexpected. Why? Because the consequences of unplanned but common problems that plague most regular travelers are much harsher for travelers with pain. For example, I can’t sleep on the floor of an airport if the weather shuts the runways down and expect to be physically able to get onto a plane and fly the next day.
I’m lucky–for the most part, I can travel in coach class on planes and trains, so I can budget for the cheapest possible seats when I travel. If you can’t travel with reasonable comfort in duct-tape class, you’ll need to budget for better seats–anything from an extra $75 for the “extra leg room” coach seats to an extra $2000 for business or first class. Ouch!
One way to help make upgrading less agonizing–get a credit card that offers miles on an airline as an incentive, then using that credit card regularly. This isn’t the perfect solution; airlines often make it hard to use miles to upgrade to biz/first class. But it’s something.
If I’m traveling by car for more than two hours, I must be able to recline my seat back more than 45 degrees. That means that in some circumstances I require either a minivan or an SUV. Those are more expensive to rent than subcompact cars.
Many of us TsWP can’t camp, and those of who can camp need more (and more expensive) equipment. A bunk in a hostel often isn’t good enough either. So at a minimum, we need a motel room or a private room in a hostel. I recommend that a traveler with pain in the United States budget $50 per night for lodgings in rural areas, $75 per night in smaller cities, and $100 per night or more for major metro areas.
I also always budget for a room for at least one night longer than I plan to be gone. If I’m leaving North America, I budget for at least 3 extra nights, just in case. Airports close due to inclement weather. Trains and cars break down. Sometimes I’m in too much pain to travel. If something happens, I know I’ve got enough extra money to stay overnight wherever I am. That reduces my stress level, which in turn reduces my pain.
Those of us with dietary restrictions may have to buy special food items either at home or at our destination–where things may be much more expensive than we’re accustomed to. I eat 60%-75% raw foods daily and I don’t/can’t eat fast food of any kind. To offset the I try to either bring food with me or to shop at grocery stores and prepare some of my meals in my room. Still, the way I eat is expensive, even at home. On the road, I have to budget $25-$50 per day for food.
The good news is that by budgeting so generously, I give myself the chance to try local specialties and tasty seasonal items.
Medication & Medical
How much money I set aside for medical expenses depends on where I’m traveling and how long my trip will be. For a weekend getaway to a nearby beach town, frankly I don’t bother budgeting for medical expenses. For a two-week trip to Europe, I set aside some cash ($50-$100, depending on where I’m going and for how long) to replace drugs in case I lose them and to buy OTCs if I need them. Even healthy travelers never know when unfamiliar food’s going to cause a sudden need for antacids or Immodium. My medical insurance covers me for most of the travel I do right now.
If I were going abroad, I’d budget for medical evacuation insurance and possibly supplemental medical insurance for the duration of the trip. These types of short-term insurance policy can cost from $20-$200 per (1-2 week) trip, and are utterly worthwhile. While $150 for a two-three week trip might sound expensive, it’s nothing compared to the $25,000-$50,000 that air ambulance service can cost.
Whether I’ve got my cell phone and laptop or I’m using hotel phones and Internet cafes, communicating from the road costs money. About $10 per day covers all communication needs.
I check my luggage when I fly. That means that I’m taking the risk of having my luggage lost. All travelers run the risk of having their belongings stolen from hotel rooms, car trunks, and airport waiting areas. While I always hope never to need this portion of my emergency budget, I always keep about $100 available to replace lost, broken, and stolen items when I travel. That covers the cost of a cheap replacement outfit or two, new toiletries, even a new cell phone or a disposable camera.
This part of the budget also covers important items that I tend to forget–sun hats, sunglasses, and neck pillows are my most common leave-behinds. I overlap this with my souvenir budget. If I have to replace my things or buy yet another neck pillow at the airport, I don’t buy any souvenirs or gifts.
The Bottom Line
For me, a weekend in Half Moon Bay or Monterey for me and my fiance costs $600-$750, depending on how fancy we go on the food. The emergency fund for the weekend is $200. (Yes, it’s super-expensive on the California Coast.) A week in Hawaii for two runs us about $3500, plus an emergency fund (including extra insurance) of $1250. Two weeks one European city costs about $5000, plus an emergency fund of $1500-$2000.
Your mileage will vary. If you can handle hostels, you can cut your international travel expenses way down. Spending time camping at state and national parks is also a good way to travel cheap. I’ll post about ways to travel with pain on the cheap in the future–I plan to explore the topic in depth in the coming year!