So I have this idea to create a daily budget calculator for Travellerspoint. We can use this in a few places on the site, in the Planner, in the Travel Guide and in the Accommodation area.
We already have very solid data on the average prices for accommodation for each city from our accommodation listings covering everything from campsites and hostels right up to the swankiest hotels. We could tailor the budget to the actual dates you would need to travel which I think is extra nice.
It's the rest of the information needed that is where it gets trickier. I'm thinking this could make for a good community project. There could be a list of a dozen or so standard expenses (1L water, 1 coffee, 1 loaf of bread, a daily transport pass, etc) that anyone could fill out and submit for addition. If there are multiple submissions, then we can merge them for more accuracy. Also a few other details which might affect the budget like whether the tap water is safe or whether everything can be reached on foot.
Since people are very different in how they want to budget their travels there will probably need to be a series of sliders for people to choose what level of accommodation they want to stay in, how many sights they want to see, how many meals they'd eat out, etc.
With enough information at our disposal, we could actually get it to the point where someone could create a trip in their Planner and we could immediately provide an estimate budget for that trip! At that point I think it would really turn the Planner into quite an amazing tool (not that it isn't already ).
I'm keen to hear any thoughts!
I think this is a really neat idea!
I'm a bit uncertain about the granularity of bottles of water and loafs of bread. Those are good indicators of cost of living when you're actually settling down somewhere, but I don't know how relevant they are for travellers. I'd buy bottles of water constantly in Thailand, but never in the Netherlands (and if I did, there'd be a massive difference between buying them in a supermarket, or at a convenience store / gas station).
Might be more useful to just ask "As a budget/regular/luxury traveller, I'd spend X per day on food/accommodation/transport/activities/other." (I think even splitting "food" up as breakfast/lunch/dinner would be too much granularity, since eating habits vary wildly per person; but might be useful as additional data, for those willing to spend more time filling in that data? And then I guess you could do a near-infinite drilldown to water/bread for those who like filling in such details? But start at the top level, making it really easy for people to contribute overview data that'll be useful enough to start giving out estimates.
Good to check, too, if everyone has roughly the same idea on what's mean with terms like "budget traveller"; to me, in Australia/New Zealand such a person stays in hostels, and cooks their own meals using supermarket food; but in Thailand would eat out on the street. If there's disagreement on that, then it might be good to specify a profile of such a person before people start entering data...
Yeah, the granularity is a tricky one because it varies.
A general question might be good - maybe with then the option to specify how you came to that amount.
So for Melbourne I might enter
Then, a breakdown option appears asking for items and costs. I might enter
Item: Breakfast out - $10
Item: Snack - $3
Item: Lunch (sandwiches) - $5
Item: Dinner out - $15
This kind of option would be flexible enough to provide different options for different places.
I guess that's always the tossup though. Is it better to have a consistent metric across countries (ie.. price of 1L water)? Or is it better to have a flexible one that may be more accurate but could also vary wildly based on people's preferences?
Another option would be to decide the national amount and then use government Per Diem rates to calculate how much it varies between the cities.
For example, in Australia we might decide the daily budget is $150.
According to the US department of state the maximum per diem rate for "other" in Australia is $298. Their amount for Melbourne is $401. Based on this, we could say that our daily budget for Melbourne is $201. We could improve on that by using up-to-the-minute accommodation rates.
Although there is no breakdown to how this is calculated, it's much more scalable, because we'd only need to calculate the daily budget for the national average rather than for each individual city.
Perhaps we can then get people to submit their own daily budgets as a way of testing our accuracy or just as useful samples for people to understand what's going on.
I'm not sure how those government rates are set, but it looks similar to some setup they have here in Norway which is really based on travelling for work and staying at nice hotels and eating every meal out in a decent establishment. Basically, the kind of thing people tend to do when travelling on someone else's dime
I like the idea of saying I'd spend xx on food, xx on accommodation, activities and so on. We're talking about in our own home cities then, or while travelling, or I guess both, provided you had travelled recently? The sum of all that data must start to give some relatively decent averages based on traveller type.
Yeah, the per diems would be a lot higher than most travellers would allow for. But I would expect the relative costs per city are not that different. If they figure Melbourne is 25% more expensive than the country average then we could maybe use that ratio in our own calculations?
I would forgo trying to estimate what it might cost in any one place. There are just way too many variables & would need constant updating to take account of inflation etc.
Instead, I propose a tool to give anyone a way to calculate a trip based on what they consider a reasonable or maximum amount to be. Letting them do their research ( using TP naturally ) places to see if their daily amount matches their expectations & adjust the amount up or down.
That's half the fun of it for me - doing the research.
TP should give advice on where to get info but not about actual prices.
I would limit the tool to Accommodation. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. Snacks & alcohol. Toiletries..
Daily travel. Sundries.
Each heading could have sub headings with suggestions & space for an amount. Even a calendar so each day could be accounted for. With subtotals & totals & currency conversions maybe.
I envisage a separate area for Flights & travel from place to place.
[ Edit: Edited on 11-Sep-2014, at 03:03 by hasbeen ]
My feeling is that a blended approach to this would work best - with an initial rough estimate, followed by fine tuning options for people who really want to get specific. For a lot of people, just a rough estimate would be enough. Obviously, something like this is indicative only.
With that in mind, here's a mockup I've worked on. Would appreciate all your thoughts.
As far as getting the data to make this work - my idea is that an interested person would enter 5 sample budgets for a city with typical items in each of them. Those would form the starting point for the top slider. Below that, if you wanted to be more specific you could change each amount to suit yourself. Maybe you'll save on accommodation, but spend big on sights or food for example.
On the Mock-Up...
I think what you are saying is that you expect me to move the five bottom sliders & the sum of those would alter the top slider. Not sure what use the top slider would be in that case. (Note - Accommodation screen has only three budgets. Top slider has more )
This is how I would expect the Mock_Up to work if it was to be presented to me without instructions.
I would be looking for a place to enter a city or place - Melbourne say.
I would then want to Move the top slider as it is, well, at the top.
I would then expect the system to move the Accommodation slider to reflect the top sliders position & place selected ( based on TPs Accommodation data )
I am not sure if I would expect the system to move the other sliders. If they were to move by the system, I would expect that to be a recommendation. If they were to remain at zero, I would expect to slide them myself.
Having manually moved the sliders I don't see why the top slider should move
Not sure if any of that makes sense but I keep going around different scenarios.
It would work like you expected above. You would move the top slider first (to where you feel you might fit). It would immediately provide a price on the right. For the really rough estimates, this might be enough.
The bottom sliders would adjust based on how you moved the top one. If you wanted to fine tune it to suit your own personality, then you could adjust the bottom sliders as well. Hopefully by looking at the sample items included in that budget you could also decide if that's close to your travel style or not.
Maybe I shouldn't show those bottom sliders at all initially, and instead show a pie graph of how the cost is divided up. Then there could be a link provided to refine. After clicking that the sliders could show.
I feel that budgeting is such a personal thing that it would be best to give suggestions but no amounts. Limit TP to giving amounts for Accommodation based on the three categories in the Accommodation section. Maybe even a link there directly to the page for that locations budget in the Accommodation section.
I don't like the pie graph idea. Sliders look nice.
How about including a page with your basic headings & lots of other suggestions that can be selected with tick marks. Your mock up would generate from the clients selection. That could serve the dual purpose of reminder & budget.