Figuring the Figures: Budgeting an RTW Trip

I remember when I first got the idea to travel around the world.  A high school friend of mine had met a couple Australian travelers that were cruising around the world on a single Round The World ticket.  I had no clue what the heck that even meant, but my interest was piqued.  It stayed on the back burner of my brain for the next ten years, and an occasional internet search kept it alive at a simmer.

Taj Mahal by Christine Benson
Taj Mahal by Christine Benson

Once I got more serious about the decision to travel for a year, I realized I had some serious research to do.  No one in my circle of family and friends had ever taken on a trip of this size.  The inspiration was present in the form of blogs, pictures, books and websites, each one tantalizing me to visit their country on display.  But who was there to show me the logistics, like information on what to do with my cat, which ticket to buy, what do I do with my mail, or the big one: how much to budget?

In my desperate search of whether my dream would become a reality I found the same thing over and over again. “Every person and every trip is different, so every budget will be different.”  Yes, but what is realistic???  In very few places could I seem to find concrete evidence of how much cash I needed to make this trip happen.  Now that I am nine months into my travels, I’m determined to help others figure out how much money they need to take a long term trip.

Great Wall of China by Christine Benson
Great Wall of China by Christine Benson

My husband and I saved like crazy with no real goal in mind until we just couldn’t take it anymore and wanted to get on the road.  The next closest milestone for our savings account? US$20,000.  Money had been already set aside for our Round The World tickets, so this chunk would just be for daily expenses and any additional travel between cities, countries, and around town.  We figured that if we could stick to a $60/day budget (for the two of us, mind you!) we could make it three hundred thirty two days, to be exact.

Now, $60/day seemed to be on the low end for two people, so we adjusted our list of countries to include more cheap countries and fewer expensive countries.  Hello Cambodia, goodbye Brazil.  As we have traveled, we have chosen water over liquor and spaghetti over filet more times than I can count.  We try to splurge (and only sometimes!) on experiences instead of merchandise, and our only requirement is that our safety is preserved.

Iguazu Falls by Christine Benson
Iguazu Falls by Christine Benson

We cannot deny the fact that this means we have woken up with cockroaches in our face, eaten peanut butter sandwiches for lunch one week straight, and chosen the free museums over the paid.  But we have also hiked on a glacier in New Zealand, been charged by an elephant on a safari in South Africa, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, explored the jungle in Ecuador, hiked the Great Wall in China, and abseiled 100 meters down into a cave in New Zealand.  I’d like to think our budget still allows us to fit in those awesome experiences.

That being said, roughly nine months into our trip, we have exhausted the funds set aside for our travel and will be using our back-up savings account to last us until we return to the States.  We have made mistakes and lost some leeway due to misplacing or breaking things as we go.  But I don’t think we’re doing too shabby considering where we have been and what we have done.

South Africa by Christine Benson
South Africa by Christine Benson

Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Japan, China, and South Africa.  Not a short list by anyone’s standards!

To give those in the planning stages an idea of how our trip has worked out, here’s the rundown on where our money has gone.

$4,288: Lodging (hostel, hotel, van, castle – wherever we lay our head to rest)
$4,665: Food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between)
$417: Entertainment (movies, shows, and clubbing costs – you can see from the numbers we obviously try to keep this low)
$3,989: Activities (museums, tours, safari, snorkeling, yoga classes, etc.)
$5,153: Transportation (three additional flights plus more buses, trains, ferries, subways, taxis, tuk-tuks, and rickshaws than you can shake a stick at)
$1,389: Miscellaneous (everything from souvenirs and shampoo to books and bathroom access)
$117: Internet (keep in mind we have a computer with us)
$978: Visas (for two Americans, plus adding pages to one passport)
$20,996: Total

 

Great Barrier Reef by Christine Benson

Adding in the significant pre-trip expenses of $11,979 for two six-continent RTW tickets and $630 for vaccinations, our grand total comes to $33,605.  That is one huge chunk of change, but it’s a lot closer to what we spent during nine months at home than I imagined it would be.  Sure, you can travel for nine months on less, and I most certainly have seen people do it on more.  But I won’t let anyone tell me they can’t afford to travel after doing this trip.  You pinch where there’s room and forgo what doesn’t hold worth.  Traveling on a budget, if anything, certainly solidifies where your priorities lie.  So there you have it.  For nine months of travel, countless memories, and experiences we wouldn’t give up for a million dollars, we have spent just over thirty grand.  I’d say it’s a fair trade.

Christine Benson

Christine Benson is originally from Chicago but is currently on a RTW trip with her husband, Mike. She quit her job as a personal trainer in order to fulfill a life long dream to see the world. This trip has only fueled the desire to see more, but at 17 countries it's a good start! You can follow her adventures at Checking Off "Everywhere"

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