My boyfriend Stoytcho and I traveled around the world, across 5 continents and 28 countries (not counting layovers) for 380 days. “Wow, amazing! How did you plan it?” people say. Or, those more to the pointed among you ask, “How much did that cost?” The short answer to you is: not as much as I thought it would.
The Budgeting Process
Budgeting a year of travel around the world is a big project, but when planning something like this the goal is to get a rough estimate of the cost and wherever possible, take the higher cost. It’s better to over-budget than to under-budget. In my case, I used the benchmark of living in the U.S. for a year, which was around $30,000. The U.S. has an advantage of being one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in, so it had a built in overbudgeting factor. Then again, we would be spending money on planes and trains and general transit that I wouldn’t normally in a year, so I left that $30 K number where it was. I then separate out the individual things we would need to budget for: food, lodging, travel, fun (experiences, souvenirs), and miscellaneous (which ended up being mostly medical and personal hygiene expenses).
Food = $105 per person per week Lodging = $105 per person per week
Partly based on personal experiences in prior travel, partly based on internet research, and partly because I watched a ton of Rachel Ray’s $30 a Day travel food show as a kid and thought “holy crap, $30 buys you a ridiculous amount of nice food”, I set the food budget to $15 a day per person. I did the same for lodging, mostly based on prior experience traveling in Australia, figuring that was the more expensive end for hostel beds. This made $105 per week per person for each of these categories.
Travel = $200 per person per week
For the travel budget, I priced out the cost of our most expensive trips (these were big flights/trips like the one from Chile to New Zealand and the Trans-Siberian trip from Ulan-Ude to Moscow), then guessed at the number smaller hops we would have to make and their average cost to get ~$200 per person per week.
Personal Hygiene and Medical = $20 per person per week
Personal hygiene and medical costs I totally just fudged – maybe $20 a week? That’s enough to buy over the counter anti-diarrheal and cold medication here in the U.S., as well as personal hygiene products (sunblock, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc.). That also leaves enough for any potential rare but costly medical expense (I got $200 X-rays in Peru after a fall). While we had a year of travel insurance that cost an insane $1,700 per person, we never used it once because it turns out submitting reimbursement forms while traveling is really hard. (Who knows how to say “fax machine” in Bahasa Indonesia? Oh, and where did those receipts go again?) It was good peace of mind, though, so get it if you want that.
Another thing it note is that this is where a lot of our pre-trip costs ended up, including the aforementioned travel insurance and all of our travel vaccinations, which included but were not limited to: Yellow Fever, Japanese Encephalitis Virus, Influenza, and Hepatitis B. This is also the bucket where I tossed the cost of 3 weeks of malarone, our fairly pricey anti-malarial.
Fun = $100 per person per week
That left the fun budget, which I also spitballed and listed as $50 a week, because that was $100 for two people and that seemed like a reasonable amount to be spending on experiences and souvenirs – mostly experiences, because the thought of carrying anything else in our backpacks quickly became a recurring nightmare (although we still managed to pick up an irrational amount of STUFF, including but not limited to: machine parts, rocks, brochures from a bajillion places, business cards, and a sad paper snow man from the street in Ecuador. Don’t ask.)
Communication = $20 per person per week
There was also this category of “communication” that I had intended to account for SIM cards abroad and estimated at $20 per person per week, but then it turns out Stoytcho’s T-Mobile plan worked EVERYWHERE we went except for Vietnam, where a 2-week 4G-included SIM cost about $15. So just save yourself the trouble and get on T-Mobile’s phone plan to scrap this category for yourself.
With these 6 categories, our total spend came out to a neat $500 per person per week, meaning a total of $28,000 per person for the 56 weeks (a year and some change, just to be safe).
So…how did we do?
After traveling for 54 weeks through 28 countries (31 if you count layovers), we had total spend of…$25,286.50, or $468.27 per person per week! How’s that for some on-spot budgeting? Tune in next time to find out how we traveled around the world on less than it takes to live in the U.S. for a year*!
*Ok, living costs in the U.S. vary pretty significantly, but I’d argue this is true of the average cost of living in the U.S. It’s probably less than what you’re spending right now, and you could live abroad for far cheaper than we did. I’ll detail how in the next post.
Read on to Part 2: The Spend.