Crunching the Numbers: A RTW Budget

There are some pretty wild and crazy stories out there on how to travel the world for next to nothing. Of course, my opinion on this is that you’re only going to hear about those that made the experience successful and found a way to fund their travels.

But that approach is not for me. I’m a planner. And for all those that asked how much something like this might cost, I’ll lay it all out for you point blank, dollar for dollar. So here’s the assumptions:

  1. We’ll be on the road for ~180 days from mid-September to mid-March.
  2. We’ll spend 5.5 weeks in Europe, 5.5 weeks in Africa, 10 weeks in Southeast Asia, and 5.5 weeks in Australia / New Zealand.
  3. We’ll mostly stay in hostels, but will occasionally rent apartments or hotel rooms when we are looking for a change of pace or some privacy.
  4. We’ll try to shop at grocery stores and cook in hostel kitchens as often as we can, unless there are street food options or restaurants that are easy on the pocket book.
  5. We’ll travel overland within regions and reserve flying to major distances (i.e. Europe to Eastern Africa, Southern Africa to Southeast Asia, etc…)
  6. All costs described below cover 2 people as several expenses are shared.

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Pre-Trip

  • Major Flights – we’ll wrap the cost of major flights into the pre-trip category because they cannot really be tied to any specific destinations and we’re booking these far in advance. We don’t have all the routing figured out just yet, but here’s how it breaks down so far:
    • Los Angeles to London – $1,089
    • Istanbul to Dar es Salaam – $949
    • Johannesburg to Bangkok – $754
    • Kuala Lumpur to Sydney – $600 (estimated)
    • Cairns to Christchurch – $400 (estimated)
    • Auckland to Chicago – $1800 (estimated)
    • Our Cost: $5,592.

  • Other Major Transportation – we’ll also have various trains, planes, and automobiles that we may take from destination to destination outside of the major flights described above. We’ve also considered getting a Eurail pass, but have decided against it based on the price and our likely train routes. It’s really hard to put down an accurate number without a completely detailed route, but here’s my best estimated guess:
    • Europe – $1,400
    • Africa – $1,000
    • Southeast Asia – $800
    • Australia / New Zealand – $1,600
    • Our Cost: $4,800.

  • Travel / Medical Insurance – we would both be paying for medical insurance even if we weren’t traveling. Since we have the option of keeping our insurance during our trip there is no need for separate travel insurance (although travel insurance does have additional benefits that may apply to others). Our Cost: $900.
  • Vaccinations – we both had pretty good coverage for vaccinations that we needed which helped to reduce the costs. Of course, that was offset when I was slammed for $300 for Malaria pills. Our Cost: $700.
  • Equipment – cost of equipment for this kind of trip could vary wildly from next to nothing to several thousand. Unfortunately, we made some big purchases that puts us towards the high-end.
    • Macbook Air – we knew we wanted to bring a laptop, but didn’t want our main work computers in case anything were to happen. So I purchased this Air and if it makes through the trip safe and sound it will function as a backup work computer for me. Our Cost: $850.
    • Sony RX100 Point and Shoot – I had an entry-level SLR lying around that hasn’t gotten much use that I decided to sell. We didn’t want the extra weight and were looking for the convenience of a point and shoot. Selling that put an extra $250 in my pocket and I put it towards a top of the line point and shoot. This thing seriously takes some great pictures. Our Cost: $500.
    • Sony Action Cam – this was sort of an impulse buy, but I got a great price through Amazon Warehouse Deals. The video quality is not bad and the price point certainly beats the comparable line from GoPro. Our Cost: $150.
    • Various Clothing and Shoes – We both bought a variety of new clothing items to pack along. Some were a little more necessary (a rain coat) and some just a nice to have (ExOfficio underwear – these are the best underwear you could ever buy). Our Cost: $1,200.
    • Other Gear – there’s a variety of other specialized gear we purchased that can be seen in our full packing list. Things like headlamps, a tripod, travel locks, a clothesline, sleep sacks, and a gamut of other gadgets. Our Cost: $800.

Total Pre-Trip Costs for 2 People: $15,492
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At-Home

If you’re planning on leaving the country for good you’re at-home costs will be zero. But for us, we’ll be coming back so there are several costs involved with just keeping everything at home safe and sound.

  • Mortgage & Assessments – due to the timing of when we’re leaving and planning to returning there is only 5 full months where it would be possible to rent out our condo. On top of that, our association has it in the by-laws that a unit cannot be rented for less than 6 months. So instead, we’ll leave the place behind and eat the cost of payments. Our Cost: $8,532.
  • Utilities – not all of our utilities can be cancelled while we are away, but they will definitely cost less than they do right now. Heat will be running through the winter, fixed electrical costs will come through, and there is a small fee to suspend service with Comcast. Our Cost: $480.
  • Storage – I’ll just throw this potential expense out there even if it doesn’t apply to us. If we were able to rent out the condo we’d likely have some sort of storage cost to put all of our junk for the duration of our trip. This looked to be around $120 / month when I was researching costs. Our Cost: $0.
  • Re-Entry Funds – re-entering the workforce could be a painful process depending on how potential employers view our little career gap. The good news is that Kristin already has her plans set up for her return and my line of work is in such high demand I don’t have a lot of worries about landing a project within a few weeks. Either way, we both have some buffer to allow us to eat and sleep under a dry roof once we get back to the states in case things don’t go as planned. Our Cost: $6,000.
  • Virtual Mailbox Service – we signed up for a virtual mailbox service that accepts our mail and scans it, allowing us to check mail online. The biggest reason I did this was that I’m expecting several checks in the mail and this service will deposit these checks for me. This will also allow us to make sure we can handle any unexpected important items that might come through. Our Cost: $150.
  • Car Insurance – having a lapse in car insurance can make it much more difficult to shop around when you need it again. I spoke to my insurer and they offer deep discounts on a car that is in storage so both Kristin and I will be on that policy. Our Cost: $82.

Total At-Home Costs for 2 People: $15,244

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In-Country

In-country costs will cover all day to day costs while we are traveling. This includes lodging, food, local transportation, activities, and visas. There’s a variety of different ways to estimate how much these expenses could add up to be. Here’s a few options that I explored:

  1. Find a place that you would like to stay. Multiply the cost of lodging by 3 to estimate your total daily cost.

    Example A: a hostel bed costs $30 in Paris. Total daily cost in Paris would be estimated at $90.
    Example B: a hotel bed for 2 people costs $150 in Paris. Total daily cost in Paris (per Person) would be estimated at $225 ($150 / 2 people * 3).

    This approach assumes that if you are going to spend more money on lodging you’ll likely be more extravagant on other things such as taking organized tours are eating out at more expensive restaurants.

  2. Using the TripBase calculator. This tool will allow you to enter nearly every major travel destination and provide a cost estimate on a budget, mid-range, and luxury budget.
  3. Take a look at some actual costs from other travelers. Here’s a few good ones that I’ve found: BootsnAll, A Little Adrift, Never Ending Voyage, and Go Backpacking

So armed with this information, I’m making some broad and rough estimates for our travel. Why so broad? Because the point of creating a budget is to be directionally correct in order to drive decision making. 90% accuracy is just as good as 99% accuracy in my book. So here are the numbers (which I’ve posted before):

  1. Western Europe – $90 / day * 2 people * 14 days = $2,520.
  2. Eastern Europe – $60 / day * 2 people * 21 days = $2,520.
  3. Eastern and Southern Africa – $60 /day * 2 people * 35 days = $4,200.
  4. Southeast Asia – $40 / day * 2 people * 70 days = $5,600.
  5. Australia and New Zealand – $80 / day * 2 people * 42 days = $6,720.

Total In-Country Costs for 2 People: $21,560

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So those are the numbers. I hope to have a checkpoint at each of these major regions to see how accurate this budget really is. But as it stands 2 weeks prior to our departure –

Total budget for 2 people, for 6 months in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia and New Zealand = $52,296

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