RTW budget: A six-month trip recap for two people

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!

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

And then we come to the actual costs incurred on the trip:


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.


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.


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.

Read more: How we travelled the world without going into debt

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:

NZ $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.

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

  • Reply Fig @ Figuring Money Out January 14, 2014 at 11:08

    Love this! i find travel costs can vary widely depending on the style of travel a person enjoys. I’m more of a hostel/backpacker chick so I go cheap. I’m hoping to do a full RTW trip on day!

  • Reply Amanda @ Gourmanda January 14, 2014 at 11:17

    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.

    • Reply eemusings January 14, 2014 at 11:46

      We actually stayed in very few hostels. Cheap hotels in most places were same price or cheaper than two dorm beds (and don’t even talk to me about private hostel rooms, they are almost always a ripoff – more than an equivalent budget double room at a hotel, although you wouldn’t get kitchen access in a hotel). https://nzmuse.com/2013/08/do-hostels-really-save-you-money/

  • Reply Linda January 14, 2014 at 11:47

    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.

  • Reply Debt Blag January 14, 2014 at 13:41

    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

  • Reply Agness January 14, 2014 at 15:09

    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!

    • Reply eemusings January 14, 2014 at 15:29

      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.

  • Reply Michelle January 14, 2014 at 15:37

    I love seeing the breakdown on costs. I tend to stay in hostels, but I think that what you spent for 2 people is very reasonable!

  • Reply Dear Debt January 14, 2014 at 16:51

    So interesting to see the breakdown. I think for 2 people and not depriving yourself, it’s not bad at all. You guys had an adventure of a life time!

  • Reply Liz January 14, 2014 at 16:56

    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.

    • Reply eemusings January 14, 2014 at 17:43

      Freaking amazing. In Iceland our host’s kid gave up his room for us https://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).

  • Reply Bethaney - Flashpacker Family January 14, 2014 at 17:23

    We travel about 6 months a year and it’s always cheaper than staying at home in NZ. We spend something like $100-150 a day NZD for a family of three.

  • Reply Revanche January 15, 2014 at 01:06

    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.

    • Reply eemusings January 15, 2014 at 09:19

      Hmm good question! 100% paid in Asia. Probably about 2/3 paid in Europe. And probably about 2/3 paid in North America as well.

  • Reply Michelle's Finance Journal January 15, 2014 at 03:42

    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.

  • Reply Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter January 15, 2014 at 03:44

    Wow! That’s a lot of money on travelling. It looks like you were gone for almost 5 months, am I right? But hey, you had the money and it looks like you had an amazing trip. You will never forget your travels!

    • Reply eemusings January 15, 2014 at 09:17

      Six months almost to the day.

  • Reply Kylee January 15, 2014 at 04:41

    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?

    • Reply eemusings January 15, 2014 at 09:16

      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.

  • Reply CashCowCouple.com January 15, 2014 at 08:37

    So interesting to read this because we really want to plan extended travel right now. We keep kicking the can down the road and I’m worried it will never happen!

  • Reply Janine January 15, 2014 at 10:29

    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!!

  • Reply Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) January 15, 2014 at 17:57

    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!

    • Reply eemusings January 15, 2014 at 23:18

      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 🙂

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach January 16, 2014 at 05:05

    Thanks for the recap! I’m not sure I could ever personally do a 6 month trip like you guys did, but it’s nice to see aprox. how much it would cost based on how you “lived” in each country.

  • Reply Done by Forty January 16, 2014 at 08:48

    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.

    • Reply eemusings January 16, 2014 at 11:02

      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.

  • Reply Annabel January 16, 2014 at 15:13

    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 🙂

    • Reply eemusings January 17, 2014 at 16:27

      If your daily nut includes your flights and all that kind of stuff, that doesn’t sound too bad!

  • Reply save. spend. splurge. January 18, 2014 at 08:51

    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.

    • Reply eemusings January 18, 2014 at 09:47

      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.

  • Reply Deia @ Nomad Wallet January 18, 2014 at 10:14

    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.

    • Reply eemusings January 18, 2014 at 10:53

      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.

  • Reply This Life On Purpose January 18, 2014 at 11:46

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Are those figures in NZ dollars? Just for my perspective, it probably converts to less in Canadian funds.

    • Reply eemusings January 18, 2014 at 12:48

      Yes, NZD. It’ll be less in Canadian and slightly less again in USD.

  • Reply Christine January 18, 2014 at 15:23

    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!

  • Reply Newlyweds on a Budget January 21, 2014 at 13:43

    that is pretty good to me! you guys got to go to a lot of places

  • Reply Carnival of Personal Finance January 28, 2014 at 00:03

    […] from NZ Muse presents RTW budget: A six month recap, and says, “What we spent to travel the world for six […]

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