In my last post on how Inna and I are doing our year of travel, I promised some numbers once we were far enough on our journey. Well, I’m writing this from Cairns, on our last day in Australia before heading to Indonesia. Australia is actually the last western world country we are visiting, and it is also the last expensive country on our trip.
So, with our expensive destinations complete, now seems like a good time to detail some numbers on our year of travel so far.
Truth is, these travels (147 days to be exact) have cost a decent amount. Inna and I travel cheap but even cheap adds up, especially with all we’ve done and all there is to do in the world. Simply put, we’re ~40% through our year of travel and have spent ~52% of our budget. Obviously, if we keep this up our money won’t last, and that’s why we’re visiting nothing but inexpensive countries from here on out. Here’s hoping our money will last (our projected budget, which we have done a pretty good job staying on, says it will).
So without further ado, here’re our expenses for the western world portion of our year of travel. Our budget will be broken down by both country and destination:
NOTE: all quoted prices are for two people, both Inna and myself.
Here’s a breakdown of how many nights we spent in each country. This’ll give the following graphs added context.
Here’s the same breakdown, but per destination.
First up, lets look at what generally is the largest single expense while traveling, the cost of the actual travel:
The main thing to note here is something I mentioned in my previous post: the importance of not renting a car. Other than one day in Australia, New Zealand is the only country we rented a car in, and we spent more on travel here than anywhere else.
I should note that the above graph includes intracontinental flights but not intercontinental ones. This is why Hong Kong appears so inexpensive, there are no flights associated with it (we flew intercontinental both into and out of Hong Kong). It is also why Australia is more expensive, as intracontinental flights are more expensive in Oceania than they are in Europe.
Lastly, our transportation expenses in the Netherlands were surprisingly expensive, I think mainly because 1) we didn’t get as good of a Ryanair deal on our flight to Amsterdam, 2) we took the train, not Flixbus, from Amsterdam to Eindhoven and back (the great deal Flixbus trip left at 7am, getting up that early was not worth the money we would have saved), and 3) public transportation in the Netherlands is expensive!
Here are the prices of the four intercontinental flights we’ve taken so far. These are big expenses, so it was very important to keep them down. I’d say we did great for Europe to East Asia and East Asia to Oceania, okay from Oceania to Southeast Asia, and not so great from North America to Europe. Reasons for this:
- North America to Europe we bought way in advance, when prices weren’t their best. We also bought travel insurance for this flight since we bought it so far in advance.
- Europe to East Asia we found a great deal out of Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most affordable airports for intercontinental flights. In fact, the deal we found was so good it was one of the reasons we decided to jump forward to the Oceania portion of our trip.
- East Asia to Oceania we flew on an intercontinental low budget airline, something that is common in Asia but not in Europe or the Americas. This helped us save a lot.
- Oceania to Southeast Asia we flew another low budget airline, but because we flew out of Cairns and not a major city like Sydney or Melbourne, the tickets were more expensive than they otherwise could have been.
Another significant travel expense is lodging. Lodging is especially significant for us because we are traveling for an entire year, which means we have 364 nights we need somewhere to stay.
As I mentioned in my previous post, in the western world we mostly stayed at Airbnbs, as they are more affordable than hotels and private room hostels (they are also way more fun!). We also camped in the US and New Zealand to cut down our lodging costs even further, and stayed with friends and family when we could.
The above graph shows that we saved significantly by camping in the US, but only marginally by camping in New Zealand. The main reason for this: we had to buy gear in New Zealand, whereas we already owned gear in the US. Another item of note is Italy, which appears so cheap because we spent about half our time staying with family. And finally, Switzerland, Ireland, and the Netherlands were expensive! This is why we didn’t stay in two of these three countries for long.
Again, Bologna appears so cheap because for all but one night we stayed with family. Same with Chicago, Niagara/Erie, California, and Washington (we stayed with friends in the latter two destinations). Camping saved us significantly in the first half of our US roadtrip; unfortunately we weren’t able to camp as much on the east coast so we didn’t save a lot there. Also, it appears from this chart that we might not have saved much at all by camping in New Zealand, which is pretty frustrating but oh well. Rennes was surprisingly inexpensive, and I have no explanation for that other than we found an awesome Airbnb. Eindhoven was also inexpensive because our Airbnb was new and marked down because it didn’t have any reviews (it’s risky staying in an un-reviewed Airbnb, but we could tell from its profile that this one was legit).
Before we get into this chart, I should note the cities where we didn’t stay at Airbnbs. We stayed in hostels in Dublin, Killarney, and Queenstown, each one because we couldn’t find a nice Airbnb in our price range. We also stayed in a guest house in Hong Kong (outside of the US, the term ‘guest house’ refers to lodging that is like a hostel but for slightly older crowds) because we aren’t 100% confident about staying in Airbnbs in non-western countries. We also stayed at hotels in East Wyoming and our first night in Paris, the former because we were planning to camp but got caught in a rainstorm, and the latter because we wanted to try something different after staying at Airbnbs throughout out US/Canada roadtrip (despite staying at a nice hotel, we found that we like Airbnb more).
From the above graph we can see that Airbnbs in France and Italy (minus Milan) are cheaper than the rest of Western Europe, with Basel and Amsterdam unsurprisingly being the most expensive. Washington DC, New York City, and Boston were also expensive, this despite us staying in a crappy, less expensive Airbnb in DC (one of only two Airbnbs we didn’t like) and staying outside city center in New York City and Boston (we stayed in Brooklyn and Jamaica Lake). Hong Kong was another cheap but not so great place we stayed at; I didn’t mind it but Inna wasn’t a fan, so we probably won’t do that again.
Up next, food.
The upper graph shows the average amount we spent on food per day in each country, and the lower graph shows the percentage of our food costs that were from dining out versus cooking and eating in (orange is dining out, blue is eating in). It should be immediately apparent that the more we dine out (France, Hong Kong), the higher our average meal cost is.
Here we see some strikingly low food expenses at several US destinations. This is because we primarily camped in these locations, meaning we ate camping food that we bought in bulk. Also, at several US destinations (California, Chicago, Washington DC), our friends bought us meals (thanks friends!), which lowered our expenses dramatically. Finally, our meals in Dublin were cheap because we ate at our hostel; we even took advantage of a free dinner they offered (it was actually pretty good!).
Unfortunately, I don’t have the eat out vs dine in breakdown for our individual US destinations, but I do have it for the rest of our trip. As you can see Toronto, Paris, and Limerick were expensive because we didn’t cook in these cities at all. But for the most part, the more expensive a place was (Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand) the more we tried to cook.
Entertainment is where Inna and I save the most. As I mentioned in my previous post, we try hard to keep costs down here, and thankfully we are mostly able to, since we enjoy so many free things, like museums, beaches, architecture, exploring cities…
Switzerland is so expensive, we literally spent nothing on entertainment in the entire country. We almost did the same in the Netherlands as well. In all but the US, Ireland, and Australia, I would say our entertainment costs are amazingly low.
As I’m sure you can see, we spent significantly more on entertainment in Cairns than at any other destination. The reason for this is Cairns is the access point to the Great Barrier Reef, a major splurge point on our trip.
The Great Barrier Reef is exactly the type of place Inna and I are avoiding on this trip. On this trip, we are focusing on destinations where entertainment is cheap/free, not on destinations where we have to splurge to have a fun experience. This is why we excluded several major travel destinations from our trip, including Africa, the South Pacific, Norway, Japan, etc.
The Great Barrier Reef, however, was different. First off, we were already in Australia, and Australia is difficult to get to from the US. Secondly, Inna loves scuba diving and hadn’t done so at all up to this point on our trip. The third (and most important) reason we visited the Great Barrier Reef on this trip: the reef is dying. According to the Australian Research Council, only 7% of the Great Barrier Reef remains unaffected by rising water temperatures, while more than half is severely bleached, the reef’s final state before it becomes fully dead. Because of this, Inna and I knew we had to see the reef while we had the chance.
If we remove our Great Barrier Reef expenses from the above chart, it becomes much more legible, as shown in the chart below.
Here you can see the other places we sort-of splurged: New York City (where we would have spent even more had we not gotten into MoMA for free) and Galway, our base camp for exploring the Irish west coast. We also spent a decent amount on entertainment while camping in New Zealand, and this warrants further discussion because it is probably the most illustrative aspect of how we are saving on entertainment on our trip.
All of our entertainment expenses in New Zealand were unplanned. We incurred these expenses because of the Kaikoura earthquake, which disrupted our plans. Inna and I had a whole itinerary of no/low cost sightseeing in New Zealand, but because of the earthquake we were delayed in getting to them. However, instead of waiting and doing nothing during the delay, we decided to explore other parts of the country, parts we had previously written off because they were more expensive.
Where I’m going with this is: minus the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve planned our trip so that we are visiting places where entertainment is free/cheap. Thankfully, there is so much to do in this world, a year of travel can easily be filled with free/inexpensive entertainment, and the splurge sites (minus the Great Barrier Reef) will always be there. As long as an earthquake (or similar) doesn’t disrupt us, we’re confident we’ll be able to keep to our plan for the rest of our trip.
Our final graph details what can be the most worrisome part of budgeting: miscellaneous expenses. As anyone who’s traveled (or done any budgeting) can attest, additional expenses always come up. Our money would go so much further if these didn’t exist, but we live in the real world, where they do. And so, here are the miscellaneous expenses we’ve incurred on our trip so far.
Yikes! This is a lot. But don’t let it discourage you, the majority of these can be avoided if they are dealbreakers for you. For example:
- We didn’t have to take Leia on our road trip, we chose to despite the added expense. We even had her undergo an additional vet treatment so she can join us in Europe if we want.
- Hep A/B vaccinations are crazy expensive, but they are really only necessary for India, so this expense can be avoided by simply not going to India. Also, Hep A/B vaccinations last a lifetime, so we simply looked at it as an investment, something we won’t have to pay for while traveling in the future.
- Alcohol expenses can easily be avoided, just don’t drink alcohol. Inna and I however are not those people, especially in some of the places we’ve visited on this trip (Ireland, Boston, the Pacific Northwest, I could go on and on…).
- Pampering expenses are also easily avoided, although after weeks of camping it is hard to turn down a good massage…
- Supplies and health expenses (medicine, hygiene, etc) are unavoidable, but they thankfully aren’t too expensive and are items we buy even when we aren’t traveling.
- Our main camera expense was replacing our misplaced (or maybe stolen) GoPro, other than that we’re mainly using cameras we already had.
- Speaking of misplaced/stolen items, over $1000 of our miscellaneous expenses consist of replacing lost/stolen/broken/worn out items (we had almost $500 worth of supplies stolen from our car in Vancouver). Most of this can be avoided if you’re more careful than Inna and I have been. As for worn out items (mainly clothes, which explains that category), these items wear out whether traveling or not, although traveling does cause them to wear out faster.
- Finally, for insurance, we actually haven’t had travel insurance for most of our trip. We have health insurance back home and for most of the western world, its cheaper to simply go to the doctor without insurance (a non-scheduled no insurance doctor visit in Sydney cost us less than $50, and that includes fulfilling the prescription) than it is to buy travel insurance. However, we do buy insurance for our riskier travels, which on this trip has included driving in New Zealand and diving the Great Barrier Reef. We will also buy travel insurance for all of India and Southeast Asia, so this expense will be going up.
I should also note that a major expense, new laptops for Inna and myself, are not included in our budget because we were overdue for new computers anyways. Similarly, non-travel related expenses we’ve had while traveling (mainly cell phone bills, online subscriptions, and gifts for friends whose weddings we are missing) were not included. The above expenses are solely what it cost us to travel for five months through the western world. We hope it was informative and answered some questions, and maybe even sparked some ideas for new travels of your own!