When we reveal that we’ve been traveling full-time for two years, it piques people’s interest. After we indulge them with details of all the places we’ve been, they muster up the courage to ask, “How can you afford it?” As Americans who are well-past our 20s, but still have a long road ahead until joining the 55+ crowd, we understand the inquiry. Attempting to compute a two-year travel budget can be mind-boggling. We can almost see the wheels turning in their heads as they try to sort out whether we are super-rich, trust fund babies or freeloading, homeless hippies. We are neither, but our standard answer – “we saved” – does little to convince them.
However, simply saving money isn’t the entire answer. We can’t afford to travel only because we saved; we can afford to travel because of how we spend while we travel. We are extremely budget conscious and keep track of every cent we spend. People assume this detracts from our travels, but traveling on a budget doesn’t equate to foregoing experiences or comforts; it just means adjusting previous habits to only spending money on the truly worthy. Sure, we don’t tick off every single item on the typical tourist’s must-do checklist and we aren’t staying in luxury hotels, but those aren’t the experiences or comforts we seek when we travel. We look for a balance – and the longer we travel, the better we are at finding it.
In our first year, we set a budget goal of spending an average of $100 a day on daily expenditures (lodging, food, drinks, local transportation and entertainment) for both of us combined. At the end of our first year, we came in under budget with a daily expenditures average of $89 a day. In our second year of traveling we cut that amount in half.
Skeptical? We aren’t shy. We’re sharing the details of our two-year travel budget spreadsheets to show just how much we spent on each category, including our cost-saving measures and tips on how to stretch any travel budget.
Things to Note:
- The amount spent and daily averages are the total costs for two adults combined.
- Our Year 1, ‘Round the World trip was 388 days. Year 2 was a Leap Year and, thus, 366 days.
- Our Two-Year Travel Budget does not include costs associated with running our travel blog, insurance, ATM fees or the drastically reduced amount we pay for flights. So, keep in mind that while these are our daily living costs accrued during travel, they are not all-encompassing of the cost of travel.
- Our Two-Year Travel Budget is not broken down by country.
- Year 1 Countries Visited: Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Switzerland, Slovenia, Hungary, Ireland, England
- Year 2 Countries Visited: United States, Australia, Croatia, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Netherlands, Iceland, Costa Rica
- For more detailed information, go to Our Travels page.
Two-Year Travel Budget Breakdown
What we’ve spent to travel twice around the globe to 28 countries in 754 days.
Lodging – Total: $19,883.75 | $26.25/daily average
- Year 1: $16,113/year | $41.50/daily average
- Year 2: $3,770/year | $10.25/daily average
In our first year of travel, we circled the globe heading west. Our longest stay in one place was 32 days, but on average we only spent 8.5 days in each city. We used Airbnb as our go-to source for accommodations, which is less expensive than hotels, but overall, lodging still ranked as our biggest expense in our first year of travel. (Use this link to join Airbnb and save money on your first stay!)
In our second year of travel, we became a bit savvier. We slowed our travel immensely. More importantly, we were introduced to housesitting through Trusted Housesitters. In exchange for looking after homes and pets, we got a free place to stay. In the past year, we’ve spent 32 weeks housesitting – that’s 225 days of free accommodations (and some pretty awesome pups to look after!).
Housesitting has been our biggest cost-saving measure in our travels.
In addition, during our whirlwind tour of seven states in the U.S., we were hosted by family and friends (and occasionally slept in airports), which accounted for another 52 days of cost-free lodging. In between our housesits, we still use Airbnb, which is much more cost effective than staying in hotels.
Bonus for the Budget: Traveling as a couple greatly reduces our lodging fees. It should also be noted that accommodations cost less when traveling in the off- or shoulder-season, which just so happens to be our preferred time to visit places.
Food – Total: $14,639.55 | $19.50/daily average
- Year 1: $8,302/year | $21/daily average
- Year 2: $6,337/year | $17/daily average
We pride ourselves on being able to eat fairly well for cheap – it helps that I (Sarah) like to cook and is another reason why choosing Airbnb apartments with kitchens over hotel rooms works in our favor. Often, the experience of shopping for local products at the market and cooking at home far exceeds that of going to a restaurant for the same meal. Cost of food varies by country; therefore, in more expensive countries, like French Polynesia and New Zealand, we ate at home more and when in more affordable countries, like Cambodia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, we were able to splurge without really splurging.
We’ve become accustomed to packing picnic lunches on-the-go when exploring cities, often finding more picturesque spots to dine than could be found at expensive cafes. When we do eat out, it is either local fast-food (I can’t even begin to count the number of kebabs we’ve consumed in the last two years!) or a local specialty (whether it be a specific menu item or place). Very rarely do we eat “Western” food while traveling because it tends to cost more and we prefer to save those cravings for when we actually visit home.
Bonus for the Budget: Slower travel lends itself to spending less on food. Not only could we purchase items in bulk for less, we had time on our side to research meal deals and spread out our dining out experiences.
Drinks – Total: $8,220.50 | $11.90/daily average
- Year 1: $4,840/year | $12.50/daily average
- Year 2: $3,380/year | $9.25/daily average
The amount we spend on drinks is something to be less boastful about, yet not something we anticipate changing. It’s only by some miracle that this amount decreased in Year 2, because we certainly didn’t make a conscious effort to cut back. It definitely doesn’t help that we enjoy craft beer, which is always more expensive (yet, only so by small change in countries like Slovenia and Croatia). Our one saving grace is that we don’t have the same picky palate when it comes to wine – as long as it isn’t from a carton, we usually find it enjoyable.
Just as is the case with food, the cost of alcoholic beverages fluctuates by country. In Iceland and Australia, where a pint of beer can be upwards of $10, we had to limit our intake. In Vietnam, where a glass of “fresh beer” only costs a quarter, we sometimes lost count of how many we had consumed.
Bonus for the Budget: In many places around the world, especially in Europe, there are few or no restrictions on public alcohol consumption. Therefore, we could pick up an inexpensive bottle of wine or a few beers from the grocery store and enjoy them in parks, squares or seaside, which saved us from paying the upcharge at a bar.
Local Transportation – Total: $4,475.15 | $5.90/daily average
- Year 1: $3,067/year | $7.90/daily average
- Year 2: $1,407/year | $3.75/daily average
We don’t drive when we travel, which can often be a savings for the budget. To get around we rely on trains, buses, bicycles and our own two feet. As two fairly fit adults, we actually enjoy getting acquainted with a city by walking.
Bonus for the Budget: By traveling slower, we aren’t as rushed to see all the sights in a short time and are, therefore, more willing to walk further between sights. We can also adjust our schedule to avoid peak-travel fares.
Entertainment – Total: $2,359 | $3.10/daily average
- Year 1: $1,633/year | $4/daily average
- Year 2: $725/year | $2/daily average
Oh my. Well, being easily entertained certainly bodes well for us! Whether it’s allowing hours to drift by while people-watching and sipping on a $1 coffee at a café or being absolutely mesmerized by the changing tides, we knew from the get-go that paying for entertainment wasn’t going to be what crushed our budget. We are admittedly not ‘museum people’ and, to be honest, many high-priced sights just aren’t all that interesting to us (like The Sagrada Familia and its $20 entry fee).
We aren’t averse to paying for tours, activities and entry fees and will do so when it is something at the top of our list. We’ve opened our wallet for sporting events, boat rides and viewpoints more than once. However, we are usually entertained at a fraction of the price by extensively researching alternative options, discovering local discounts and figuring out do-it-yourself routes. A wine tour to a well-known estate in Santiago, Chile cost about $100. Instead, we took the public bus to a smaller winery and had a private tour and tasting for less than $15.
Bonus for the Budget: Creating our own self-guided walking tours, taking advantage of free city events and simply enjoying the outdoors work great for our budget. We also look for coupons in city guide books and online to help with the bottom line.
Miscellaneous – Total: $1,664.55 | $2.20/daily average
- Year 1: $450/year | $1.15/daily average
- Year 2: $1,214/year | $3.25/daily average
This is our catch-all category where we toss all the costs that don’t fit elsewhere. In Year 1, it accounted for things like toilet fees and laundry services. The amount inflated in our second year of travel due to the necessity of replacing worn out clothing, restocking toiletries and upgrading other travel gear. During our time in the States, we slipped back into old spending habits and some of our purchases made on a whim translated in no other way than as miscellaneous costs. Also added to Year 2 is $250 for wifi that was essential while in Australia.
Bonus for the Budget: While we did have to replace clothing items, shopping at thrift stores aided in keeping the cost of clothes to a minimum. The latest fashions and brand-name toiletries are a thing of the past!
Two-Year Travel Budget Daily Expenditure Totals:
- Total: $51,242 | $68/per day average
- Year 1: $34,407 | $89/per day average
- Year 2: $16,835 | $46/per day average
We could have easily spent more – and we could have just as easily spent less. We made sacrifices while we were saving; and we continue to make sacrifices as we travel. There isn’t a magic dollar amount that is perfect for full-time travel, but we feel the experiences we’ve had are well-worth the amount we’ve spent. And, as we enter our third year of full-time travel, we are establishing a small income to further our time abroad!
Want more budget info? Click the links to read our previous budget posts:
- A Six Month Travel Budget: The Cost of World Travel
- Round the World Budget: Daily Cost for a Year of Travel
- Total Cost of Traveling the World
- On budget after 9 months of travel
- Southeast Asia (and six month) budget
- Our budget after three months
- Breaking down the budget (six weeks of travel)
Looking for more money-saving travel tips? Read these 31 Ways to Save Money When You Travel!
We want to know: Do you keep track of your travel budget? How much are you comfortable spending on travel? Would you expect to spend more or less than what we have spent? Tell us in the comments!
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