Our full-time travels for the past six months have taken us to Australia, the Balkans (with a detour to Rome) and the Netherlands – and we are drastically under budget from a year ago, with an average spending of just $53 per day . We took what we learned from budgeting for our year-long, round the world (RTW) trip and have made a few adjustments that are clearly reflected in our six-month travel budget review. First, we’ve slowed our speed of travel substantially with longer stays – clocking our longest stay during our travels at 10 weeks in one place. Second, we’ve added Housesitting into the mix. While housesitting in Melbourne, Australia and Nijmegen, Netherlands, we completely eliminated our housing cost (in exchange for taking care of pets!).
During our RTW trip, we targeted spending $100 on average for daily living expenses – and came in under, spending an average of only $89 per day. We still use that figure as a general measurement for our spending, but are mostly concerned with overall averages. We also keep track of other expenses – flights, insurance, technology and other admin fees – but exclude those from our daily limits and tally them as in a separate report. Tracking our dollars has become a habit – a good habit, we believe – that allows us to more clearly see where we spend our money.
Six-Month Travel Budget for Daily Expenses
Lodging – $3,158.50 Total | $17.25 Daily Average
Housesitting is an entirely different way of traveling. In exchange for looking after someone’s home and (usually) caring for their pets, we get a free place to stay. No money is exchanged, as it’s mutually beneficial for both parties. The traveler stays in a home free of charge and the home/pet owners get a caregiver without cost. Since the unique situation lends itself to immersing into the community, we like to look for longer stays to really make it worth it.
While housesitting has accounted for 17 weeks of our travels for the past six months, we still had 75 nights in which we paid for accommodations. If we average the cost of paid accommodations only over those 75 nights, it comes out to $42/night, which is almost exactly what we averaged on our RTW trip.
The exchange of pet sitting for free accommodations has allowed us a bit more freedom in where we decide to travel and the types of lodging we secure. Staying near the center of Rome ($68/night) to meet up with family and in a modern B&B in Nijmegen ($86/night) were easily averaged out over the past six months with the housesitting piece in place.
We spent 52 nights in the Balkans – and averaged $31/night in accommodations. We used Airbnb exclusively for our stays in the region, which included Croatia (Zagreb, Rovinj, Zadar, Split) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (Sarajevo).
Food – $2,996.25 Total | $16.37 Daily Average
If there has been one consistency in all of our world travels, it is our daily average spent on food. In the past six months, however, it has dipped slightly from our standard $20 per day to $16.37. We attribute the drop to staying in one place for a longer time. We can buy in bulk.
Eating out – especially in countries like Australia and the Netherlands – can be expensive, so most of our meals in those places were home cooked. We (and by ‘we’ I mean Sarah) made a diligent effort to find and use recipes that allowed us to sample the local cuisine. Pumpkin soup in Melbourne and stamppot in Nijmegen were two of our favorites.
In the Balkans, however, food is significantly less expensive. We were able to eat out at nice, sit-down restaurants for about $30 total – including wine. Take-away options of local specialties (like burek, cevapi and kebabs) were about $3 each.
We found affordable places to eat amazing food in Rome as well. A heaping portion of the pasta of the day cost about $6.50 and a decent portion of pizza-by-the-slice cost about $3. But, the big winner in Rome is gelato, where two scoops cost less than $2!
Drinks – $1,847.75 Total | $10.24 Daily Average
For us, having a few drinks is a social event. It’s more about interaction than intoxication. We tend to be fans of local craft brew over mass-produced beers, which ups our price in most regions. A pint of local beer in Australia can cost as much as $12 – but we still managed to create mini-pub crawls in Fitzroy, the CBD and Brunswick. In the Netherlands, it is significantly less, but not exactly cheap. In the Balkans, craft beer is more difficult to find, but when we do, it’s not much more than any other beer on tap and costs about $3.
Transportation – $1,026.50 Total | $5.60 Daily Average
Our transportation category includes everything that isn’t a flight. We never rent cars, generally steer away from taxis and actually prefer walking or biking whenever it is feasible. Tickets for mass transit – buses and trains – are mostly what make up the costs for our transportation. Although, occasionally, we use airport shuttles when early flights or lack of alternate transportation requires it.
In Melbourne, we stayed in a suburb, but well-connected trains swiftly ushered us into the city and surrounding areas for about $2.50 a ride. We thought we wouldn’t be able to visit Hobart without a car, but found it to be quite easy (and affordable!) with the local bus system.
In the Balkans, we used long-haul buses to get from Zagreb to Rovinj, Rovinj to Zadar, Zadar to Split and from Podgorica to Sarajevo – which weren’t necessarily expensive, but weren’t dirt cheap either and cost anywhere between $15 to $30 per ticket.
Mass transit in the Netherlands is brilliant. A single transportation card is used for buses and trains throughout the entire country – and when using the card rather than paying cash, it activates discounted rates. The bus from where we stayed in the village of Beek-Ubbergen to the city of Nijmegen was $2 per ride and the train to Amsterdam was about $20.
Entertainment – $279 Total | $1.52 Daily Average
Our entertainment costs are at an all-time low, but that isn’t all that surprising to us. Not only are we excelling at seeking out affordable alternatives to pricy tours, we are inherently easily entertained (which bodes well for us!). In Melbourne, we took advantage of many of the city’s free offerings and cut out the expensive tours that we first were certain we would partake in. Entertainment is also affordable in Croatia, where dipping our toes in the Adriatic Sea and watching sunsets didn’t cost a kuna. Our day touring Istria, which was a highlight of our time there, was provided by the tourist board, but we did pay entrance fees to Krka National Park ($14 each).
We were in Rome to meet up with family, and we were glad to find that sightseeing in Rome was much more affordable than expected ($13.25 Forum/Coliseum combo pass and $22 for entry to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel – both of which were full-day activities). The extent of our entertainment budget in Sarajevo was spent on an afternoon exploring the abandoned Olympic bobsled track. During our two-month stay in the Netherlands, we were committed to updating our blog, which didn’t leave much time for entertainment. When we did tear ourselves away from our devices, we explored the beautiful nature surrounding the village, Beek-Ubbergen, with our dog– a cost-free activity.
Miscellaneous – $431 Total | $2.35 Daily Average
Our miscellaneous fees are random fees that don’t fit into any other category. For example: Pay-for-Toilets, postage and clothing items. But, honestly, the biggest cost in this category was the $225 we spent for Wi-Fi in Australia. (It should have gone into our Technology column, but got pushed into this category by mistake.)
Total Six-Month Travel Budget for Daily Expenses– $9,766 Total | $53 Daily Average
With the combination of free accommodations through housesitting and our decreased spending on entertainment, our overall daily average for daily expenses has plummeted. Now that we have completed our main administrative objectives, we anticipate venturing out a little more. Our future travels are taking us to Iceland for a short trip and then on to Costa Rica for a five month housesitting gig – and we are excited to explore both places!
Expanded six-month travel budget
Intentionally excluded from our daily expenses in our six-month travel budget are the following categories: Flights, Insurance, Money Exchange Fees and Technology.
We exclude the cost of flights because we fly stand-by. Kris worked with a major airline and was able to take early retirement with flight benefits – meaning we fly for free or for very nominal fees. What we pay for flights is hardly helpful for someone who doesn’t have these benefits. Travel Insurance is such a big variable. Not everyone buys it and costs can vary by the country in which the traveler is a citizen. Money exchange fees are a cost of travel, but still a fee I’m reluctant to accept; I simply don’t like to see them in my daily averages. Our Technology fees are the price we pay to be travel bloggers, which doesn’t affect most travelers, so we eliminated them from the daily average as well.
All that being said, since people are often curious as what these items cost us, we have listed what we have spent on each category in the last six months.
Flights – $1,374 Total | $62.50 Average per Flight per Person
We have taken 11 flights in the last six months (including an epic travel day of 4 flights lasting 40 hours): Ohio to Los Angeles – Los Angeles to Melbourne – Melbourne to Hobart – Hobart to Melbourne – Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur – Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt – Frankfurt to Zagreb – Split to Rome – Rome to Podgorica – Sarajevo to Munich – Munich to Amsterdam.
Insurance – $3,252
In the last six months, we switched from basic insurance to upgraded (read as: costly) coverage and then back to basic travel insurance. We paid for our current travel insurance for one year in advance, covering us through November (which means this cost will be zero in our next six-month report, yet we will be covered!).
Money Exchange Fees – $167.50
Paying international transaction fees to my own bank annoys me. We have two credit cards that don’t charge international fees, but cash is still king around the world. At markets and even at some supermarkets, foreign credit cards are not accepted, so having cash is a must!
Technology – $540
Programs, help desk memberships, updates and upkeep all get lumped into this category. So far, we’ve managed to keep our costs relatively low.
Grand Total of our six-month travel budget: $15,100
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We want to know: What do you think of our six-month travel budget? Would you have spent more or less? In which categories? Tell us in the comments!