1YoT: How Are We Doing This Part 5 – Entertainment, Misc Expenses, and Final Thoughts

Our last two How Are We Doing This posts detailed our expenses by region and country. We even broke these expenses into categories: travel, lodging, food, etc. The two aspects we did not break down in those posts, however, were entertainment and miscellaneous expenses.

Comparing entertainment expenses is difficult due to preferences of what we did and didn’t do. For example, we went to three museums in New York City (the Met, MoMA, and the 9/11 museum), spending a total of $108 to enter all three. Because of this, we elected not to go inside any museums in Amsterdam, and we also didn’t go to the Louvre or Orsay in Paris (we’d been to these museums before, so this wasn’t as huge a sacrifice as it sounds).

Does the above make entertainment in New York City more expensive than Amsterdam or Paris? Of course not. It simply reflects what we did and didn’t do. This was pretty much how our trip was: a fine line between doing too much (spending too much money) and not doing enough (missing out). Overall we think we did pretty well.

Hey, you know what might be interesting? Listing the things we did versus the things we passed on. That should give an idea of how frugal we were/weren’t for the different destinations on our trip.

Note that the chart below only includes activities that cost money; Inna and I did a whole bunch of free activities in addition to the not-free ones listed below. We also visited the lobbies and outsides of certain buildings while saving money by not paying to go inside (Wrigley Field, Vienna State Opera House, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, Burj Khalifa, and more), but because the outsides/lobbies were free, they are not listed below, while the insides are listed under what we skipped.

Location

What We Did

What We Skipped

USA/CANADA

The West Coast
  • Driving through a redwood
  • Seattle Underground Tour
  • Dueling Piano Bar
  • Inside Winchester Mystery House
  • Inside the Museum of Flight
  • The Everett Factory
  • Up the Space Needle
  • Inside the Museum of Pop Culture
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass
  • Sounders Game
  • Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Rocky Mountains and Black Hills
  • Hot Springs
  • Paddle boat at Glacier
  • St Ignatius Mission
  • Crazy Horse
  • Wind Cave tour
  • Sturgis motorcycle rodeo
  • Mt Rushmore entry
The Midwest, the Rust Belt, and the Mid-Atlantic
  • Top of the Willis Tower
  • iO show
  • Fallingwater
  • Poe Museum
  • Jamestown
  • Inside the Art Institute of Chicago
  • Cubs game
  • Monticello
New England
  • Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island
  • The Met
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • 9/11 Museum
  • Top of the Rock
  • Fenway mini-tour
  • Paul Revere’s home
  • Niagara Falls boat tour
  • Broadway show
  • Inside the Guggenheim
  • Yankees game
  • Red Sox game
  • CN Tower Observation Deck

WESTERN EUROPE

France
  • Versailles
  • Mont Saint-Michel
  • Normandy Beach
  • Up the Eiffel Tower
  • The Louvre
  • The Orsay
  • Inside the Pompidou
  • Inside Saint Chapelle
  • Normandy Beach tour
  • Bayeux Tapestry
Italy
  • Two Towers of Bologna
  • Galleria dell’Accademia (David statue)
  • Uffizi
  • Great Synagogue of Florence
  • Ravenna Cathedrals
  • Ferrera
  • Milan Cathedral
  • Up the Duomo
  • Da Vinci Museum
  • Escher exhibit
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie (Last Supper)
Ireland
  • Newgrange
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Aran Islands
  • Dun Aonghasa
  • Ring of Kerry tour
  • Cork City Gaol
  • Guinness factory
  • Bushmills tour
  • Inside King John’s Castle
  • Skellig Michael
  • Blarney Stone
  • Massages
Netherlands
  • Amsterdam city tour
  • Anne Frank House
  • Inside the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum
  • Canal boat tour

OCEANIA

Australia
  • Featherdale
  • Melbourne Design Expo
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Daintree National Park
  • Blue Mountains
  • Twelve Apostles / Great Ocean Road
  • Puffing Billy Railway
  • Riding the Melbourne Star
  • Banksy exhibition
New Zealand
  • Glowworm caves
  • Rotorua Maori tour
  • Hobbiton
  • Milford Sound
  • Adventure sports

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Indonesia
  • Bali temple and island tour
  • Coffee tasting
  • Ubud monkey forest
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Borobudur
  • Yogjakarta Palace
  • Massages
  • Prambanan
Malaysia
  • Butterfly Gardens
  • Batu Caves
  • KL Observation Tower
  • Massages
  • Bird Park
Vietnam
  • Cu Chi Tunnels
  • War Remnants Museum
  • Dalat Cable Car
  • Crazy House
  • Scuba diving
  • Public pool
  • Hoi An historic center
  • My Son
  • My Lai
  • Hue Imperial City
  • Paradise Cave (Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park)
  • Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)
  • Various temples in Hanoi
  • Military History Museum
  • Ha Long Bay cruise
  • Massages
  • Vinpearl
  • Mekong Delta
  • Red River Delta
  • Saba
Cambodia
  • Angkor Wat
  • Countryside tour
  • Scuba diving
  • Koh Rong boat tour
  • S21 and the Killing Fields
  • Grand Palace
Thailand
  • Grand Palace
  • Numerous wats
  • Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
  • Ayutthaya
  • Sukhothai
  • Elephant Nature Sanctuary
  • Golden Triangle
  • White Temple
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling
  • Massages
  • Crossing into Myanmar/Laos
  • River Kwai bridge

INDIA/NEPAL

India
  • Kochi city tour
  • Chinese fishing nets
  • Backwater tour
  • Elephanta Caves
  • Udaipur Palace
  • Jodhpur city tour
  • Mehrangarh Fort
  • Umaid Bhawan Palace
  • Jaipur city tour
  • Amber Palace
  • Monkeys/camels/cobra
  • Jaipur City Palace
  • Jantar Mantar
  • Tiger safari (Ranthambore National Park)
  • Taj Mahal
  • Agra Fort
  • Varanasi sunrise boat tour
  • Mumbai city tour
  • Camel safari
  • Albert Hall Museum
  • Varanasi city tour
Nepal
  • Jeep safari, canoe trip, elephant reserve, and crocodile breeding ground (Chitwan National Park)
  • Massages
  • Lumbini
  • Elephant safari
  • Trekking the Himalayas
  • Mt Everest

EASTERN/CENTRAL EUROPE

Ukraine
  • Odessa city tour
  • Catacombs
  • Odessa State Opera House
  • Kiev city tour
  • Lavra Church
  • St Sophia Cathedral
  • Museum of the Great War
  • Chernobyl tour
  • Tunnel of Love
  • Various museums in Lviv
Poland
  • Krakow city tour
  • Jewish Quarter tour
  • Jewish cemeteries
  • Wieliczka Salt Mines
  • St Mary’s Basilica
  • Rynek Exhibition
  • Inside Oskar Schindler’s Factory
  • Auschwitz
  • Tatra Mountains
  • Trail of the Eagle’s Nest
Slovakia
  • Bratislava city tour
  • Countryside castles
  • UFO bridge restaurant
Austria
  • Vienna city tour
  • Concert at the Vienna State Opera House
  • Schonbrunn Palace
  • Riding the Giant Ferris Wheel and other rides at Prater
Hungary
  • Budapest city tour
  • Jewish Quarter tour
  • Dohany Street Synagogue
  • Szechenyi thermal baths
  • House of Terror
  • Inside Gellert’s thermal baths
Croatia
  • Zagreb city tour
  • Museum of Broken Relationships
  • Scuba diving
  • Pula Arena
  • Various museums in Zagreb
  • Inside the Venetian fortress
  • Plitvice Lakes National Park
Slovenia
  • Triglav National Park
  • Bled Castle
Czech Republic
  • Prague city tour
  • Jewish Quarter passes
  • Prague castle
  • Pickup soccer
  • Karlovy Vary
  • Rozhledna Diana
  • Cesky Krumlov castle
  • Cesky Krumlov ghost tour
  • Terezin Concentration Camp
  • Sedlec Ossuary
  • St Barbara’s Church
  • Church of the Assumption of Our Lady and Saint John the Baptist
  • Massages
  • Classical/contemporary music performance
  • Up the Petrin lookout tower
  • Prague ghost tour
  • Thermal baths
  • Silver mine museums
  • Trips to Salzburg/ Wroclaw/Dresden

HONG KONG AND DUBAI

Hong Kong
  • Peak Tram / Victoria Peak
  • Tian Tan Buddha / Po Lin Monastery
  • Massages
  • Ngong Ping 360
Dubai
  • Palm Jumeirah monorail / Atlantis hotel
  • Burj Al Arab
  • Jumeirah Mosque
  • Grand Mosque
  • Al Bastakiya
  • Burj Khalifa Observation Deck
  • Inside the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Personally, I think we did pretty good, seeing most of what we wanted without skipping too much. The items we were most upset to miss? The Art Institute of Chicago, The Last Supper, Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Great Ocean Road, Milford Sound, Vinpearl, the River Kwai bridge, Schonbrunn, riding the Giant Ferris Wheel, and Plitvice Lakes National Park. Eleven items in total, not bad for a year of travel (less than one per month!), especially not bad when you consider how much we did.

The cost of all the entertainment we did was just under $5800, or 12% of our budget. Is that high or low? I honestly don’t know.

One thing we should note is that the above total includes twenty-three scuba dives. Inna is an avid diver and one of her dreams was to travel and dive all over the world. Twenty-three times across six countries on three continents seems pretty good to me, especially since Inna loved every minute of every dive she went on.

In total, Inna’s dives cost $1242. If you consider that most people won’t dive twenty-three times, then a lot of this money could saved. In fact, the money saved would have been roughly equal to the cost of the eleven items we were most upset to skip.

What does this mean? Despite us being frugal, our budget allowed us to do everything we were most interested in at the destinations we visited. We chose to sacrifice some of these things so Inna could dive, and this was a sacrifice we were happy to make, because, as I said before, Inna loves diving.

If you are interested, here is a breakdown of where Inna dove:

number of dives

And here’s a breakdown of how expensive her dives were:

cost per dive

Once again, Southeast Asia was incredibly cheap. Southeast Asia also has some of the best dive sites in the world, making diving here a win-win.

Diving in Southeast Asia was so cheap that for one set of dives, Inna paid extra and obtained her advanced certification. The cost of the certification is not included in the above chart however, as we viewed this as a personal investment, not a travel expense. This was actually one of only four expenses we had in the last year that was not included in our expense budget, the other three being investments, cell phone bills, and gifts for friends’ weddings.

So, $5800 on entertainment, $1242 of which were on Inna’s dives. But what else drove this cost up? Here are the rest of our most expensive entertainment choices, everything that totaled $50 or more:

entertainment expenses

There are several things to note in this chart. First off, Ha Long Bay was a huge expense, but in addition to touring the site, this expense includes transportation to and from Hanoi, six meals, and two nights of lodging. In our overall budget analyses, we proportioned the Ha Long Bay expense into these sections, but since the whole expense was a splurge, we included it in its entirety on this chart.

Moving on from Ha Long Bay, we had twenty-one total massages on our year of travel, all for only $389. That’s less than $19 per massage! This was primarily due to Southeast Asia, where massages were super-cheap; we got fifteen of our twenty-one massages in the less than three months we were here.

The above is also true for Inna’s mani-pedis; she received four in total, three in Southeast Asia and one in the United States. The United States mani-pedi was more expensive than the three Southeast Asian ones combined.

Lastly, we should note the activities that only one of us did, as these expenses would be more, often double, if we both had done it. These expenses include: snorkeling (Inna dove instead), mani-pedis (I’m a guy, so…), Chernobyl (Inna was there when it happened, and she says she’s been radiated enough), and a couple sites in Jaipur and Prague. Chernobyl in particular is notable because had Inna gone the expense would have doubled, and that would’ve made it the fourth largest entertainment expense on our trip, this despite the site being in Ukraine, the cheapest country we visited.

Alright, this marks the end of our budget breakdown, but before we finish, here is one final chart that may be of interest:

total cost pie chart

Above is our total budget, proportioned by category. This chart brings us to the final section of this post: how you can do what we did for less. Looking at the above chart, our largest expenses were travel, lodging, and food. Despite this, Inna and I did a pretty good job keeping our travel expenses down, a very good job considering the places we visited. Similarly, minus France and one day in Austria, Inna and I cooked a lot, more than most people would probably do on a trip like this.

One thing we could have done to save travel money was take a more cost-efficient route. As mentioned our previous post, Inna and I traveled to avoid winter and monsoon season, and we spent an extra $1000 doing so. What I didn’t mention was that if we had left Los Angeles in April instead of July, we could have traveled the most cost-efficient route and avoided winter and monsoon season. This would have saved us $1000.

Unlike food and travel, there is a lot that could be saved on lodging, specifically three cost-savings tactics that we sometimes used but could have done more. First up: take advantage of four-week 50%-off Airbnb discounts. We did this in Prague and it was such a great deal; we saved tons of money, didn’t have to rush, and got to feel at home. And as an added bonus, four-week lodgings means four weeks that you don’t have to carry your luggage/suitcase/travel backpack around, something your body will definitely appreciate, especially towards the end of your trip.

There are two catches to lodging like this. One, these discounts can be hard or even impossible to find. Two, lodging like this means spending a long time in one place, meaning you need to be sure wherever you’re staying is worth it. The Airbnb needs to be nice, and city should be relaxing, have a lot to do, and have even more day or overnight trips away. Prague was this, and other candidate cities would include:

  • USA/Canada: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle
  • Europe: Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Munich, Vienna, Krakow, Budapest, Istanbul, Florence
  • The Middle East: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv
  • Asia: Bangkok, Taipei, Tokyo
  • Oceania: Melbourne, Queenstown

A second way to save money on lodging, again using Airbnb, is to stay at new listings. New listings are usually marked down because the owners need reviews, and you can take advantage of these discounts. The catch here is that you’ll be at greater risk of staying at a bad place, but you can usually tell whether a place is good or not from the listing itself, especially once you have experience with Airbnb.

The third way to save on lodging is with shared dorm hostels. Inna and I found that Airbnbs were generally about as much as a private room for two in a hostel, meaning two beds in a shared room would be less. Same goes for shared-room hostels versus hotels in Southeast Asia (not India though, we didn’t see any hostels there). The catch with this is two-fold: one, lack of privacy and increased risk of noise, and two, you’ll meet other travelers instead of locals.

So where else can you spend less than we did? With entertainment, we already showed what we spent our money on, and while we weren’t super-stingy, we definitely would not have wanted to spent (and see) less.

Neither Inna nor I spent too much on alcohol, clothing, or souvenirs, so there isn’t much to be saved there. Same with health and insurance: if you get sick you get sick, so no saving money there. I also would not recommend going to Southeast Asia or India without insurance, although Inna and I did save money by not buying travel insurance in the western world. The one exception: our New Zealand roadtrip; whenever we drive (or do any risky activity) overseas, we make sure to have travel insurance.

A significant portion (more than $1000) of our health and insurance costs were for vaccinations, boosters, and preventative medication for typhoid, polio, malaria, and hepatitis A/B. All these were recommended for India and a couple were recommended for Southeast Asia as well.

I should note here that our hep A/B vaccination was significantly more expensive than the rest of the medicine/boosters we took; it was actually more than twice as expensive as everything else combined. Thankfully, this vaccination lasts a lifetime, so Inna and I won’t have to pay for it again.

By this point, we’ve covered all but one section in our budget: miscellaneous. And there is definitely money to be saved here. For example, between a crate, a thunderjacket, medication, vet consults, boarding in Chicago, and flying back home, we spent $800 to bring Leia with us on our roadtrip. This is money that anyone not traveling with a dog would not spend.

Lastly, Inna and I also lost several things while traveling, had some stuff stolen, and even missed one flight. The total to replace all these things was around $1000, and anyone traveling more carefully than we did would not have this expense, at least not as much (to be fair, Inna and I were careful; its just that over the course of a year, things are bound to happen).

So in all, we could have saved:

  • $1000 by diving less,
  • $1000 by traveling a more cost-efficient route
  • $1000 by being even more careful than we were
  • $800 by not traveling with a dog,
  • and, to keep things simple, we’ll say $200 on entertainment.

But we’re not done. We also could have saved money by not visiting the expensive places we visited. For example, replacing Oceania with Western Europe (or an equivalently priced region) would have saved us $1500, and Western Europe isn’t even that cheap. Even within Europe, replacing the expensive countries we visited (Switzerland, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands) with more reasonably priced destinations (like Italy) saves us another $1000. Replacing these countries with Central or Eastern European countries would have saved us even more.

The amount we could have saved on lodging is difficult to estimate, but even if we only saved $6 per day, that translates to $2000 saved.

Finally, if you are already hep A/B vaccinated, you can knock $1000 from our budget.

Add all that up and you get $9500, bringing our total from $49900 to $40400. And guess what? Those were pretty much the upper and lower bounds we found when researching how much other couples spent on their year of travel.

Guess what else? $40000-$50000 is the same price as two new cars (or, if you’re single, $20000-$25000 is the same price as one new car). So instead of buying your next car, make your current one last five more years, save the funds, and voila! You’ll have money for your own year of travel. This is pretty much how we did it.

We should also add that, as mentioned in our first post on this subject, we have the Capital One Venture Card. Rewards from that card saved us $2635 on our year of travel, all for a lowly $60 annual fee.

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