This is more "inside baseball" but I continue to be surprised by the amount of interest in the subject. Today, the exploration focuses on the financial cost.
I think I shocked a potential sponsor recently when I listed out some of the costs. To be honest, laying it out that way shocked me a bit, and I was and am already familiar with the financial costs. Those costs are not insignificant, though there are ways to reduce some of them. Some, however, are worth the cost and worth putting even more money into. That choice lies with each individual. Also, remember that in planning, always plan for your worst case cost, so that you are covered no matter what.
Gear is were many focus, and with cause. More on that later, including "good" gear so that you don't find yourself trying to pull a wheeled suitcase across the sand (yes, I really saw someone doing that) or showing up to go outside the wire in short skirt and high heels (know a PAO this happened to, understand the reporter was not happy at being told to change). You can easily spend as much as you want here, but choose wisely where to invest. Thanks to MilitaryLuggage.com, my travel gear is covered.
There is also travel (getting to where you officially become an embed and travel with the military); insurance (go good on what you get); armor (separate from gear and again go good); medical (prep and execution); and, a few other things.
For the potential sponsor who I think I scared, I broke my costs down as follows: Essential, Critical, Nice-to-Have. I already have much of what I need, though there are always things I would like to upgrade or get to make life easier and do more while there.
The essential for this trip are insurance, armor, transportation, and medical.
Good insurance is essential, and often hard to find. I have two providers I can tap, and if I had the funds I would get both to be safe. That said, just getting one policy and having it cover me for a bit is likely to be about $5,500. For combat insurance, you have the base policy, plus monthly premiums based on where you are. Usually, if you are somewhere relatively safe, such as here in the U.S., there is no additional premium. When you are out and about where bullets may fly, there is a monthly charge that will vary depending on the company but you can pretty well count on it being more than $100 a month.
Good armor is mandatory for anyone with sense. While I can and will use the armor I had for Iraq, it is older and there have been a lot of changes (for the better) in armor and armor design. To be honest, I want something as close as possible to what the troops have, for a variety of practical reasons. One of which is that if something happens, I want the medic to focus on treating me, not in figuring out how to deal with my armor. Also, armor has an expiration date, and I don't want to test mine. So, I've found a good solution, and while I can get a deal on part of it, I am not going to cut corners on things like the chicken plates. So, armor, helmet, and some other assorted and related gear (eye pro, prescription eye-pro, etc.) are getting a budget of $3,500. Yes, I hope to do better on that, but anything saved on one part will go into other parts.
Transportation is necessary, and not just airfare. You have to get yourself to the theatre, or very close. This means airfare, hotel, food, etc. Airfare can vary widely, and I know someone who in exploring airfares found that they could be several thousand dollars to get to the AOR, or close enough to join up. That can be just one way too. Add in locations that love to charge premium prices for hotels, taxis, etc., and it can add up real quick. While you can find deals and work arounds, plan for things not going well, and in this case I would love to have at least $4k banked for such.
Medical is not your insurance, it is what you need to do before you go. I've already been a human pincushion, so what I've had to shell out for is one more Hep shot that the health department said I needed. I had to go with them as my travel doc, a former AF flight surgeon and travel doc, has gone to work for a local factory and apparently is no longer available to the public. Grumble. So, I'm covered on things from yellow fever to rabies. What I need now is a dental check, both to find anything that is wrong/could go wrong and get it fixed if/as needed, and to get a new set of dental X-rays (yes, for ID and for reconstruction as needed). I also need to get anti-malarials for my time abroad, a sufficient supply of vitamins and Over-The-Counter items, and a sufficient supply of any prescriptions other than the anti-malarials. I'm budgeting $800 for this, though I suspect that it could run more given some fluctuating prices on some items.
These are items that would let me do much more on the embed, but it can be done without them. They are the things on which I will concentrate after the essential items are taken care of to my satisfaction.
Helmet Camera: I've got my eye on a weatherproof HD video camera with solid state memory that will fit on a rail on my helmet. Thanks to some price drops, I am budgeting $1,000 for this now, and betting I can work a deal to get the gear for less. Note that the price includes not just the basic system, but extra batteries, memory cards, and the items that will let me continuously record/operate for an extended period of time. The camera itself is not bad, but the rest adds up.
New Camera: I can and will use my current camera, but Canon has a new model out that will take very good photos in very low light, and will also take broadcast/cinema-quality HD video. If they can use it for a movie, it will play anywhere. Only problem is, the body alone is about $7k. That said, it eliminates the need for a separate large broadcast-quality video camera. Sigh. I can (and do) dream...
New Computer: I can and will use what I have, but I also have "created" my dream machine for video and related work. It is solid state, rugged/ruggedized, fast, huge storage, good battery life, configured for video and photography editing, and otherwise very high end. It also has a high price, as in about $4k. Again, I can dream.
These are mostly smaller things, like pouches and special gloves I covet, but can also include things like night vision gear for me and my camera. Nice to have, but not essential or critical. I do have a list, oh yes I do. But, they can wait as you can easily spend a huge amount on the nice to haves. You can find a mix of my nice-to-haves with some critical items at my Amazon wish list.
An embed can cost as much as you want it to, and as much as you let it. If you get stuck somewhere in transit outside military channels it can and does add up quickly. How and where you chose to put your money depends on you. Frankly, I know (and know of) people who have made diffent choices (or cut cormers, showing up without armor for example). Having the basic gear, this is how I am chosing to go on costs. For me, good armor and good insurance are essential and I am willing to invest the money in them. Your mileage will vary. However, this gives you a good idea of some of the costs (excluding basic gear).