We consider ourselves to be Budget Travelers, but ‘budget’ is an ambiguous word. We know of other travelers who spend less than us and many who track their dollars, but spend a lot more. We set our budget at $100 per day for basic living expenses: accommodations, food, drinks, local transportation, entertainment and miscellaneous fees.
However, there is more included in the total cost of traveling the world. We kept a secondary spreadsheet of major expenses and broke them down into the following categories: flights, administration, technology, and banking. We didn’t set a per day dollar amount to cover these expenses, because these weren’t daily costs. Instead, we set an overall trip budget of $10,000 to cover all major expenses we anticipated for the year.
Since we’ve returned to the States, we tallied our numbers, all of the numbers…and the total amount we spent during the 388 days we traveled the globe came to $44,750 USD (that’s only $22,375 each!).
The total cost of our daily expenditures came to $34,602 (which is just $89 per day!) and we were bang on budget at $10,148 for our major expenses. Here’s the breakdown:
Flights and long haul transportation: $5,898
Thanks to many hard earned flight rewards, our most expensive tickets were for last minute flights from Phu Quoc, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia, at $295 each. Of the 38 flights, two trains and one boat we included in this category, only three flight segments were actually 100% free with flight rewards. However, the average cost of a single ticket was only $77 each. Considering some of the remote destinations we traveled to, the average ticket cost was extremely affordable.
Our Admin category is a hodgepodge of costs, including visas, a few miscellaneous guide books and an astounding amount for travel insurance. Visas were required for only four countries we visited: Argentina ($170 each), Australia ($19 each), Vietnam ($105 each) and Cambodia ($20 each). Travel insurance (through World Nomads) was our biggest cost in this category at $1,978 (total for both of us) for the 388 days. We were quite fortunate that we never had to use it, which I’m simultaneously thankful for and bitter about, as it is the largest ‘unused’ fee in our calculations.
We decided not to purchase any new devices prior to leaving, so this category is mainly comprised of upkeep. The blogging platform we use isn’t free; we pay for WordPress and hosting through Go Daddy ($170). For cloud storage, photo and video editing programs and Word/Excel, we use Microsoft Office 365 for a yearly fee of $108 and then tack on Assure for a 24-hour, online (and in store) help desk at the cost of $150. We also have had mishaps – and one big technical casualty (that I’m still not ready to talk about) set us back a whopping $565. Ouch.
Banking Fees: $473
We refer to banking fees as Evaporating Money – which is our least favorite kind of money. Most ATMs in Europe and Australia didn’t charge fees, but in South America and the islands, $5 was the standard ATM fee. We were often limited to a maximum amount of each withdrawal, making subsequent withdrawals necessary and the fees just added up. In addition to those fees, our bank charged a 3% conversion fee to exchange the currency from our US dollars to that of the country we were in. (In Montevideo, we had to make four consecutive withdrawals to obtain the amount we needed in cash. The ATM fees, plus the exchange fee cost $60.) Exchanging one currency for another was the most difficult Evaporating Money to track. We either paid high fees or had to accept abysmal exchange rates, making it nearly impossible to accurately calculate the money lost in the transaction into US dollars.
Without getting overly detailed, there are a few things to note regarding our budget. We cannot even begin to imagine how our path might have differed without the flight rewards. We have no idea how much it would cost to purchase all 38 flights at full cost, but using Indie, the flights were priced at a range of $7,000 – $15,000 per person. There are also less expensive ways to travel through Southeast Asia, like buses, which we never once opted for.
Also, prior to leaving, we had accumulated the items we needed to travel over time, so much of what we took with us (backpacks, laptop, DSLR camera) was paid for long before we left and, therefore, not calculated into our totals.
We want to know: How do you budget for travel? What is/was your biggest expense? Tell us in the comments!