If you've ever gone on a trip (specifically outside of the US), you have googled your destination. And, more often than not, you've also googled the average price of accommodation, the average price of food, entertainment and booze. You probably have a Word doc, spreadsheet or notebook full of your financial expectations for that trip.
F*ck your Word doc. F*ck your spreadsheet. F*ck your notebook. Your trip is not something you can google. It's solely yours, and it cannot be matched or equated to a single number. So, stop stressing over your budget. At the end of the day, your budget should just be a list of what you have saved up. It needs to be flexible because your trip — no matter how much planning you do — will be unpredictable. You can't limit your experiences to the rigid confines of a strict spending plan. How will you enjoy yourself if you don't live a little?
I understand it's helpful to have a general idea of what you're going to spend while abroad, but come on. It's common sense. If you're going to France, you're going to spend more than if you're in Thailand. If you're in a major city, you're going to spend more than if you're in a village or small town.
In terms of accommodations, if you want to have a hot shower every night or morning, you'll have to add a few dollars/pounds/euros/baht to your budget. In addition to that, you'll need to add some more funds for a half-decent WiFi connection, room service or concierge services, air conditioning and heat and general comfort. Don't sacrifice your comfort and happiness all for the sake of saving a buck.
In terms of transportation, you're going to get ripped off as a tourist. Face it. Accept it. It's par for the course. Consider the extra few bucks a tax for not speaking the language. You'll also have to account for getting lost on your way to your hotel and have to double back. Realize that while it may be cheaper to take public transportation, after a long flight (and with a 30-pound bag on your back), you're not going to want to take it. Jump in a taxi and, as they say, "treat yo' self."
If you've spent the money to get to where you're going, enjoy it. Live on the edge (at least, financially). There are things you just don't think about until you get to your destination. Things like postcards, stamps, cheesy souvenirs, bottled water, SIM cards and phone chargers will all accumulate on your bill, and they likely weren't budgeted beforehand. There will be nights when you're too drunk to budget. And, with that, there will be mornings when you're too hungover to budget. Let yourself live.
Travel websites like to classify travelers into groups. There are the backpackers, the flashpackers, the party animals and the sightseers. All of that is bullsh*t. I've been traveling for the last 15 months, and I don't fit neatly into any one of those categories.
I don't care about a comfortable bed, and I can tolerate a few cockroaches, but I unequivocally need WiFi and a nice view. I'm willing to spend more on beer than I am on food. I won't spend a dime on classic tourist attractions, but will gladly throw a few dollars at a street performer. I spend money on eyebrow waxes, Brazilians and pedicures. I splurge on books, but would never splurge on a swimming pool. Does that make me a backpacker? A flashpacker? High-maintenance? Low-maintenance?
What's more, you can't account for the nights you get a free lift home, or the night you spend with some random person in their hotel room or apartment. You can't account for the meals or drinks you run out on, or that are bought for you by a stranger across the bar. You can't account for the detours you take. You can't account for circumstances that might cut your trip short, or extend it. You might lose your passport. You might get robbed. You might get arrested. You might fall in love and stay forever. I doubt your "miscellaneous" budget category accounts for any of that.
So, when you try to anticipate what's going to happen on your next trip, and you try to save and budget your money, remember that it's a trip. It's an experience. Yes, budgets are necessary. Money doesn't grow on trees. But you have to get what you want out of it. And, rest assured, Google can't tell you how much that will cost.