RTW budget: A six-month trip recap

what it costs to travel around the world nzmuse rtw

I can’t lie. I was putting off crunching the numbers for this post for a long time.

So, let’s get right to it!

Before we even left home, about $9477 had already gone into the trip (flights, insurance, Eurail passes, gear etc).

ASIA

For a little over a month in Asia, we spent about $3034, averaging $82 a day. I’d consider that a mid-level comfortable budget – we certainly didn’t deny ourselves anything (especially when it came to food and drink – it was our honeymoon, after all) but we didn’t stay in ritzy places or do anything super extravagant. We travelled by land – buses, trains – and took some taxis as well as hiring scooters. See also: individual country spending breakdowns for Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

EUROPE

For three months in Europe (with a week in the UK) we spent about $10,959 for a daily average of $117. I would consider this a comfortable backpacking budget. We were more conscious of our spending, but we ate well, slept reasonably comfortably, and spent probably about $1000, off the top of my head, on experiences (renting a BMW, canyoning, etc). We splurged more on food in Italy and Greece than in other places, and volunteered for food and board for a few weeks. Generally, we found hostels not good value as a couple and only ended up staying in dorms a handful of times – cheap hotels were our usual MO and we couchsurfed a few times.

USA

Alas, I don’t have exact data on our US spending as our iPhone crapped out right before the end of our trip. I do remember that we been averaging about $110 a day, so I’ll go with that and extrapolate that for the whole six weeks. That brings us to roughly $4840. Except for a few pricey nights on the east coast (Boston, WTF?), we mainly stayed in $40-50 motels or with incredibly generous and welcoming blog friends. We ate a TON of (good, cheap) Mexican food, BBQ, and at tiny diners. Can I just say: North America is the only region where even we had to admit portion defeat? Thank you for providing such excellent value for money. I would call this a frugal mid-level budget; we travelled in relative luxury, an American sedan (practically a truck by NZ standards) , splurged on Disneyland and hiring a motorbike.

I also need to add on a few more transport costs to that: $751 on internal flights abroad (Hanoi-Bangkok, Edinburgh-Brussels, Rome-Paris) and $1968 for our one-way car rental in the US.

If we exclude the personal shopping we did in the US (which I didn’t really track closely and isn’t really relevant to this tally), that adds up to just over:

$31,000

I should note, of course, that this would be a little higher, as exchange rates in real life are rarely as favourable as those listed on xe.com, but it’s not a biggie. The NZ dollar was strong last year – one reason we travelled in 2013 – but it’ll never stand up to the USD, euro or the pound.

Could you do it for less? Of course. Especially if you come from a country with a stronger currency (which I’m guessing is the majority of you). This was about extracting maximum enjoyment, not spending as little as possible. Otherwise we could have chosen to visit only cheap countries, camp (which I did consider, but campgrounds tend to be so out of the way and – like hostels – aren’t necessarily all that cheap), subsist only on bread and fruit, travelled more slowly (thus lowering our daily averages, though perhaps not our overall spend) and so on. I decided reasonably early on in the trip that I’d rather hustle harder to earn more and enjoy our travels than to focus on saving every dollar possible in order to make what we had last.

So this is about in line with what I’d expected, even if it is a slightly painful sum to swallow. If you exclude our initial outlay – flights, insurance, gear, etc – our daily costs on the road are essentially on par with what we’d spend just living our normal lives in NZ (and could even be lower if we stuck to cheap countries and splurged less). There’s only one thing I have any regrets about, and it’s paying to go on the London Eye. Aside from that, I feel it was all money well spent.

37 thoughts on “RTW budget: A six-month trip recap

  1. How interesting. We’re hoping to go to Europe for six months, but will be more extravagant than you guys, in terms of not planning on working for food and board, and staying in cheaper hotels (or private hostel rooms) instead of backpacker type accommodation. We also plan on hiring a car for travel, and eating out a lot, so I’m budgeting around $250 a day – or just over $40k. A daunting amount, but worth it for travelling the way we prefer.

  2. You’ve got me dreaming a bit about a RTW trip now! That seems like a pretty decent budget and amount to spend for such a great experience.

  3. This is the part that gets me: “Our daily costs on the road are essentially on par with what we’d spend just living our normal lives in NZ.” It reminds me too that the block-from-the-beach studio I rented in Waikiki cost less per day than does my shared NYC apartment. Which is to say, there’s something nice about jobs that can be done anywhere

  4. I would say Asia is much cheaper. We traveled there for more than 6 months and we never spent more than $30 a day, sometimes even $15-$20. When I got back to Europe after living and travelling across China, I was shocked with the prices there – way too high!

    1. We definitely wouldn’t be able to do $15-20 in Asia, not unless we stayed in hostels. Cheap hotels were about NZ$12-20 a night so it was a no brainer to pay a little more for comfort! Asia was our splurge region precisely because everything is so cheap, hence I say we had a mid-level budget. We spent a butt ton on delicious food and drinks and a couple of expensive excursions, plus that includes visas and long distance land transport. We also travelled somewhat quickly (not a whirlwind pace but certainly not slow travel in the vein of six months). Slower days were usually around $30-50. As I say, you can always travel cheaper.

  5. Wow I would love to get that much traveling done in a year! I see in Europe you did some couch surfing? What was that experience like? I would be really nervous to do something like that.

    1. Freaking amazing. In Iceland our host’s kid gave up his room for us http://nzmuse.com/2013/09/song-ice-fire/ and in Berlin our host drove us around parts of the city we hadn’t been able to see yet, and also dropped us off/picked us up at the bus stop. We met up with lots of Couchsurfers throughout Asia who basically acted as our tour guides, we couchsurfed once in Bangkok (not the greatest as our host was sick and wouldn’t turn on the AC so it was unbearably hot in there) and again in Toronto (we didn’t get to hang with our hosts there much but we had brunch together on our last day).

  6. Just out of curiosity, how much of your accommodations were paid vs free? Or what proportion? We’ve never tried couchsurfing so it’s either been hotel or travel to places where we could stay with family and friends, but I’m curious about whether it might suit us to try. I am a bit antisocial though ;) so having private space without having to consider socializing with a host after a day of travel and sightseeing might still be my first choice.

  7. This sounds dreamy~ traveling around the world for 6 months. I’m not as adventurous as you guys. I’d probably be home sick if I’m out for that long. But I think I can handle 2-3 months, not that I’m planning anything like that. Great overall cost recap.

  8. Have you added up what it costs to rent a home to live in, eat all your meals, travel (to and from work and weekend stuff), etc while NOT traveling?

    I think that would be an interesting comparison.

    31k sounds like a lot, but really – you had to sleep, eat, travel ANYWAY. What’s the difference in the cost?

    1. Like I said, our daily costs on the road (ie approx $100 a day / $3000 a month) are on par with what we would spend to live at home – and that number is even less in cheaper countries. Of course, once you count in things like transport (flights etc) that number increases significantly, so the $30k total is a LOT higher than what we’d spend in a normal six months.

  9. I think it’s awesome that you were able to travel for so long and I think you did well with your spending! One day hopefully I will be able to travel for 6 months!!

  10. Very impressed with your Europe budget, especially given the destinations you hit while there! I think that whenever we make it there, we’ll definitely need to look into HelpXing and the like to help keep our costs down. I’m always willing to bend (or flat out break) the budget for good food and I know there won’t be any shortage of that in Europe (but sadly not at the basement prices found here in Asia!). We’ll need to find as many ways to cut costs there as we can!

    1. Depends on your tastes obviously but IMO the good thing is the best food is in the Mediterranean countries, which tend to be cheaper overall than the more northerly European countries :)

  11. I love the idea of a 6 month trip like this. Right now, if we tried to do it, we’d have to add in the opportunity costs of lost wages…it’d just be too big a hit to justify. But once we’re early retired, I think something like this is in our plans.

    Agreed on hostels: they make sense when going solo, but for two people the cost is often higher than a hotel.

    1. That’s one of the benefits of being young and working in a not-particularly-lucrative industry :) We weren’t giving up a TON of income to do this, though of course that also made saving for the trip tougher. If you’re earning big money, it makes sense to milk that and then take time to travel later.

  12. Thanks for posting this! I found it very reassuring – I went away last year for three months and spent approx. $150 per day (including flights from Australia to Europe to America and home again, eurail, travel insurance, etc), which I didn’t think was too excessive, but my parents thought was ridiculous! Considering I didn’t starve myself or stay in grotty places, and splurged a few times on things like Disneyland, plus managed to visit 15 countries… So your breakdown eased my mind a little :)

  13. That sounds reasonable. You also went to a lot more places than we did.. we tended to go to a city for at least a week or two.. sometimes a month or two..

    We spent about $20,000 each so $40,000 in total for a year of traveling.

    1. Moving faster definitely costs more, transport adds up – the longest we spent in one city was about a week. If we were travelling for a year we’d definitely go at a slower pace. Plus your currency is stronger – was around 85c vs $1 when we were in Canada.

  14. Fascinating! I was wondering when you would do a post like this. :) I like that yours is a little different from the others I’ve read where the travelers usually do budget travel and do it slowly. It is definitely possible to do this itinerary more cheaply, but it’s more important that you traveled the way you wanted to.

    1. Our whole approach was different from most. I knew I wanted to spend as long as we were legally allowed to in Europe (3 months). I thought about how long we could afford to be in the US, and how long realistically we could happily sustain a road trip type of existence. I thought about how long we could probably handle being in Asia. And I was right on both those counts – six weeks each was about perfect for America and Asia. We could have stayed in Asia for way longer and for next to nothing but it’s just too different for us (even though I was born in Asia) and too dang HOT. Basically it was about the destinations, those were non-negotiable – rather than ‘how can I travel for as long as possible?’ – we wanted this to be a long trip, but not an opended one.

  15. Thanks for posting this! Although we travel on a bit more of budget (staying in hostels, cooking almost all our meals, etc) its always really interesting to see how much other people are spending/ where there money goes. Sounds like you guys had a great trip!

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