Jeremy and I quit our jobs to travel the world. I know that sounds really glamorous and adventurous, but the truth is we both left jobs we really loved and that provided us with a very comfortable life in one of the greatest cities in the world, New York City. Even so, we felt like something was missing, but we weren’t exactly sure what that was. All we knew was that we were ready for a change. And I don’t mean rearranging the living room furniture kind of change…we were craving a drastic change that would force us to step outside our comfort zones and ultimately challenge us in ways we could never imagine.
Although this decision was by far the best decision we’ve ever made, it wasn’t an easy one, and it certainly wasn’t made on a whim. To the contrary, our decision required lots of forethought and planning and many sacrifices had to be made along the way. One of the biggest decisions we had to make early on was how much money we were willing to spend on this once in a lifetime adventure. How do you even begin trying to figure out something like this? How do you develop a budget? How much did you end up spending? These are some of the most popular (and practical) questions we’ve received since returning home from our travels. And if you’re contemplating taking a trip like this, no matter how big or small, and wondering how much you need to save up, we hope this information is helpful. Being that I’m a CPA and my line of work for the last several years involved managing my wealthy clients’ day to day finances, I was naturally the self-appointed CFO of the trip and kept diligent records of every penny we spent, from Day 1 to Day 245.
Our plan was simple. I came up with an overall budget for the trip based on what we had available in our savings account. But we didn’t plan to spend 100% of our savings because we still needed to cover a few fixed expenses while we were away (like our cell phone bills and Jeremy’s medical school loans), and of course we needed a little something leftover once we got to Atlanta to cover things like buying a car and to pay for our monthly living expenses while we searched for new jobs.
After coming up with an overall budget, I then put us on a strict daily budget of $150 per day for the two of us, which would include all of our accommodation, meals, local transportation, activities and any other miscellaneous spending like souvenirs, toiletries and laundry. I arrived at this daily budget by tirelessly researching and reading through every online blog I could find and choosing what seemed like a “middle of the road” budget for backpackers, i.e. it can be done for much cheaper if you really want to slum it, or it can cost you a lot more if you place a high value on certain comforts and conveniences. (We mixed it up and stayed everywhere from a van to a 4 star resort on the beach).
When coming up with a daily budget, I also considered our desired travel destinations. For example, Southeast Asia is much cheaper than Europe. And it depends if you’re planning to travel during peak or non-peak seasons. Our initial plan was to travel in Europe for 3 months (during peak summer months…i.e. very expensive), Nepal for 1 month (during peak season…still relatively cheap), and then South East Asia for 2 months (again during peak season…but still very cheap).
So essentially, our trip was driven by a daily budget of $75 per person per day including everything except for our One-Way Travel expenses. These expenses were tracked in a separate budget that I came up with for purchasing our one-way travel tickets such as planes, trains, buses, car rentals if we were driving, boats, ferries etc. For this, I set aside $10,000 for the two of us. This number will vary greatly depending on how long you plan to travel for and the number of locations you plan to visit. It also depends on where you will be traveling. For example, Bora Bora was supposed to be our last stop, but the one-way flights blew our budget out of the water, so we ended up deciding on Hawaii instead. I know…poor us.
In total, we traveled for 8 months to 27 countries and 70+ cities, and $10,000 seemed to do the trick for 2 people.
Now that I’ve gone through all the minutiae, let’s get down to brass tacks:
Our overall budget for the trip was $150/day + $10,000 of one-way travel expenses. We initially budgeted to spend about 6 months abroad, so we arrived at a grand total of $37,000.
Now in our case, we decided to extend our travels by an additional 2 months mid-way through our trip, as we were invited to a friend’s wedding in Hong Kong, and we had enough in our savings to make it happen. So our new budget came to a total of $46,750 (150/day x 245 days + 10,000 one-way expenses).
At the end of the trip, we exceeded our expectations and ended up only spending an average of $140/day for the entire trip. And we were only slightly over budget on our one-way travel expenses spending approximately $10,600.
So the total cost of our entire trip came out to $45,000.
Now, many people might be thinking, how crazy are they to spend so frivolously on a “vacation” when those funds could go somewhere so much more useful like a retirement account, house down payment, home improvements, or a new car?
But the truth is, money is just money. And the greatest value money can have depends on the person and what that person values. Jeremy and I have always had similar outlooks when it comes to money…we work very hard for it and we save even harder. We don’t do traditional birthday gifts, anniversary gifts or even Christmas gifts. We choose to value experiences over things – and as we know, experiences can be PRICELESS. So any chance we get, we try to take advantage of that. And in this particular case, we finally went “all in” on a once in a lifetime trip around the world and we don’t regret one minute or a single penny of it! We will have these memories for a lifetime.
Just in case you’re interested or find this information useful in planning your own trip, here is a breakdown of our overall spending for our entire trip (all 245 days of it):
Activities/Entertainment – $12,500 *Our 3 biggest activities included a 20-day trek in Nepal, a 1-week all-inclusive trip to Tibet and Mount Everest and a 1-week all inclusive trip to Malaysian Borneo for a chance to scuba dive what many consider the #1 Best Dive Site in the world.
Accommodation – $8,900
Food/Drinks – $8,500
Local transportation – $2,000
Toiletries – $250
Laundry – $100
Miscellaneous – $2,150 *Includes 4 sets of custom made clothes, souvenirs, medicine etc.
One-way travel tickets – $10,600
And finally, if you’d like to know what were the most expensive and cheapest countries we visited, here’s our Top Five.
*Prices are the average for 2 people per day
Top 5 Most Expensive Countries
1. Tibet / Mount Everest – $341
2. Netherlands – $254
3. Iceland – $242
4. Switzerland – $228
5. Hong Kong – $192
Top 5 Cheapest Countries
1. Poland – $81
2. Philippines – $90
3. Montenegro – $96
4. Cambodia – $106
5. Laos – $106
If you have any questions on the specifics of anything we’ve shared, please let us know. We’re happy to help!