What It Costs to Travel for One Year

Before we left (and all throughout our trip), we got the same question:

"How much does it cost to travel for a year?"

Some people dance around it asking us questions about our jobs back home or whether we're working from the road.  

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy

The truth is, we don't mind answering. 

Personally, I think it's weird that money is such a taboo subject, but I get that I'm more honest than most about how much I make and spend.  I think it's the best way we can learn from each other and get better with how we relate to and manage money.

We saved for two years for our trip and left with just over $75,000.  We intended to use $50,000 for the trip ($25,000 each) and set aside another $25,000 to have a nest egg to return to.  

Given that we sold everything we owned (except for some clothes and our dog), we knew we'd need savings to draw on as we rent a new apartment in Denver and buy extravagant luxuries like a bed and health insurance.

So how well did we do sticking to our budget?

Pretty damn well.

With only a couple of weeks left, we've spent a grand total of $47,493.17.  

That amount covered everything from flights to travel insurance to gear to stitches when Nate had a surf accident in South Africa.  

Red dunes in Namibia, Africa

Red dunes in Namibia, Africa

With a budget of $50,000 spread across a full year, we allotted ourselves $135 to spend each day.  Now at the end of the trip, we're slightly over that, averaging $139.28 daily.  

The good news? We also made some money this year.  

Back in Chicago, Nate worked as a voice over actor, and one of his radio spots got renewed in April, so he recorded a new commercial from a studio in Lima, Peru.  That half hour of work earned us about $7,000 in extra income.  

I also ran my side business, tipsycooks, from abroad with an instructor that lived and worked in Chicago.  That earned us another $1,000 of pocket money.  

So despite going slightly over our daily average, we more than made up for it in this additional work.  By our calculations (and we do a lot of them to make sure we're staying on budget), we'll come home with $28,900.  That's $3,900 more than we anticipated, and we'll definitely need it as neither Nate nor I intend to return to regular 9-5 jobs, instead opting to try our hand at working for ourselves and running our own businesses in Colorado.

Rice terraces in Bali, Indonesia

Rice terraces in Bali, Indonesia

Our Spending Breakdown

The reason why I know exactly how much we've spent this year is because I track every expense with an easy-to-use app called Trail Wallet.  

So here are our total expenses broken down by category for the year thus far:

Trip Expenses by Category

Accommodations: $16,589.66

Average night of accommodations: $48.65

Our campsite at the beach in South Africa

Our campsite at the beach in South Africa

This category covered every bed, floor and campsite for the year.  We stayed everywhere from a campsite at an elephant park in South Africa ($20/night) to a luxury boutique hotel in downtown Hong Kong ($400/night but free with points).  It also covered some bigger ticket items like our 28-day Mediterranean cruise where our total included accommodations, food and activities.

Food and Drinking: $12,040.26

This total always surprises me, and I have to remind myself that we're food people.  We'd almost always opt for an interesting meal over a museum or art gallery, so it makes sense that this number is as high as it is.  

TOURS & ENTERTAINMENT: $8,715.95

This included everything from half-day food tours to our four-day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu.  This category also includes entertainment expenses like books, our monthly Spotify subscription and movies.

TRANSPORTATION: $6,837.15

  •      Flights: $2,323
  •      Rental Cars: $1,510

This total covers every flight, train ticket, bus ride and rental car.  Our total flight costs were low largely due to Nate's travel hacking abilities.  He ended up getting us first-class flights from South America to Africa, Africa to Europe, Europe to Southeast Asia and Japan home all using frequent flyer points.  

MEDICAL: $1,383.75

Our actual medical expenses, which covered things like bandaids and Ibuprofen, were only $183.75, but we added in our travel insurance policies.  We were lucky never to have to need them, but they're essential for anyone undertaking a long trip like this.  While we did have some medical issues like the hospital visit and stitches for Nate when he had a surf accident in South Africa ($1.25 total) and my leeches in Vietnam (free), they were blissfully not serious or expensive.

HOME EXPENSES: $1,145.30

We gave up our lease when we left the U.S., so we were lucky not to have any mortgages or rent racking up while we were gone.  That said, we did have to cover things like car insurance, new brakes for my car (which my sister drove while we were gone) and dog food.  

Visas: $843.30

Many of the countries we visited didn't require a visa or had low fees, but places like Bolivia and Vietnam did.  We paid $160 and $135 each respectively to enter those countries.

GEAR: $782.69

While we packed well, we did ditch some gear that wasn't working, and we picked up some new items along the way.  For example, seeing that we were ahead of our budget toward the end of our trip, we added Japan to our itinerary.  The only hitch was that Japan in January is cold, so we had to pick up new items like down jackets along the way.

Souvenirs: $304.11

Having friends and family members visit us meant that we could buy a few souvenirs along the way and send them home midway through the trip.  Otherwise, I don't think we would have spent very much knowing we'd have to carry it all on our backs the full year.


Average Daily Cost by Continent

Average Daily Spending By Country

Some important things to note when looking at these averages by country:

  • We spent just one night in Swaziland camping in a national park, so there wasn't really enough data there.  
  • Our average daily expense in Spain ($200.35) is much more realistic for Europe.  In Italy we traded work for accommodation for a full month, so that brought down our expenses.  
  • Our higher Peru average was due to our four-day Inca Trail hike ($650/person)
  • To combat higher prices for accommodations in Africa (many of the game parks offered luxury,  safari-style bungalows), we camped and ate a lot of grocery-store-bought meals in the car.  
  • In Asia we cashed in more points as redemption rates were better and stayed in more hotels and luxury guesthouses, so our accommodations were largely swankier in that leg of the trip.

What do you guys think?  Did we overspend, or were you surprised by how little a yearlong trip around the world costs?