In 2017 and 2018, my boyfriend and I spent nearly a year backpacking around the world. We quit our jobs to make our dream trip a reality — and now we’re sharing the true cost of our around the world trip. Read on for a detailed breakdown of our expenses, including our daily budget!
It all began with an innocent idea: What if we traveled for a bit?
My boyfriend Guil and I were living in Miami at the time, but I had finally convinced him to hop on board my dream of moving to New York City. The move would uproot our lives. We’d have to leave behind our steady jobs and say goodbye to the beautiful apartment we lived in. The cars would stay behind, too, as would most of our belongings.
We soon realized the move would give us an opportunity. That is, the opportunity to travel around the world.
I was 23 at the time and Guil 25. We had no major life commitments other than our current jobs. No kids. No pets. No mortgage. We both felt that this may be the only time in our lives that we’d be able to do something totally outside the norm.
What if we traveled for a bit before moving to New York?
How Our Around The World Backpacking Trip Came To Be
Over the following year, that idea blossomed into a full-blown backpacking trip around the world. On September 14, 2017, Guil and I left on a one-way ticket to Paris. We spent the next 10 months visiting 22 countries across three continents, and I can now say it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
One of the very first questions we had to answer when we began planning our trip was, “How much does an around the world trip cost?”
| READ MORE: Curious about my around the world trip itinerary? Get inspired to create your own!
Truth is, our generation is more likely to live paycheck to paycheck than to keep a lump sum of money in the bank, and I was no different at the time. I imagine that many people may see a trip around the world as unattainable, but I’m here to tell you exactly how we made it happen.
For the first time since returning home, I’m fully disclosing the financials behind our around the world backpacking trip. I hope I can inspire you to begin planning your own grand adventure!
What’s The True Cost Of An Around The World Backpacking Trip?
The moment of truth … cue the drum roll please!
My 10-month backpacking trip around the world cost $18,559 per person.
This number breaks down to an average of $62 per day per person. That average includes all lodging, food, entertainment, transportation and miscellaneous costs like shopping, spread out over a 10-month period of time.
Surprisingly, both Guil and I spent more money on food than anything else, probably because we’re big on eating well (and often) and rarely shared meals (an easy way to keep costs down). Our second highest expense was transportation, including transcontinental flights and moving from city to city, followed by accommodation.
See a full breakdown of our around the world trip costs below, rounded to the nearest dollar:
- ACCOMMODATION: $3,555
- Hotels, hostels and Airbnb. We often booked a private room in hostels or a private room in someone’s home through Airbnb, as the cost of splitting a room between two was the same or less than sharing a room with others. We were able to stay with friends or family once or twice in each continent.
- TRANSPORTATON: $4,344
- Long transcontinental flights, plus any flights taken within a country. It also covered trains, boats and buses.
- IN-CITY TRANSPORTATION: $860
- Local transportation and taxis/ride-sharing services taken within a city. We would generally walk most places, as long as the destination was under a mile and a half away.
- FOOD: $5,150
- Dining out in restaurants and groceries. We rarely cooked our own meals, and we usually ate three meals a day, with the occasional coffee and snack break in between (especially in Europe).
- ENTERTAINMENT/ACTVITIES: $2,148
- Everything from grabbing a drink at a bar to a sightseeing tour or excursion. We didn’t party much on the trip as we preferred to save our money for other experiences. We also liked getting up early to enjoy the day in full!
- TRAVEL INSURANCE: $784
- A year’s worth of travel insurance.
- MISCELLANEOUS: $1,718
- Shopping, pre-trip vaccines, pharmacy trips, visas and other extra costs.
Guil and I could’ve kept our backpacking trip budget a lot lower, but there were times in which we splurged on a nice meal or hotel. This is all to say that there are people who have traveled around the world for much less.
TO PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE
In NYC, I paid $1,125 in rent every month, which comes out to $11,250 over 10 months, the duration of my trip. When I factor in utilities, phone bills, metro passes, groceries, dining out, travel and entertainment, my monthly costs are much higher than the $1,855 I spent per month on my trip. In other words, I’ve found that traveling around the world can be a lot cheaper than living and working in a big metropolitan city in the U.S.
How To Form a Round-The-World Trip Budget
Properly budgeting for a long-term trip can seem like a daunting task. If it wasn’t for Guil’s exceptional organizational skills and spreadsheet obsession, my trip probably wouldn’t have lasted half as long.
To give you a bit of background on our financial planning, Guil and I had initially settled on a backpacking budget of $15,000 to spend over a six-month period. Our original plan was to split the six months between Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.
How did we come up with this figure?
We found this number by researching what we thought our average daily cost would be. Then we multiplied that number by the amount of time we wanted to spend abroad.
On average, most round-the-world travel guides suggest a baseline budget of $50 per day. Since Guil and I weren’t sure if we’d be willing to share rooms with dozens of strangers in hostels and sacrifice a private bathroom, we shot a bit higher.
We settled on an estimated average daily budget of $80. This budget would include every single expense, though, not just daily purchases. Long-haul flights like the one we took from Miami to Paris would be averaged out among the entirety of the trip.
Soon after starting our trip, though, we realized we were keeping our daily budget well below $80.
That’s when we decided to prolong our trip from six to 10 months. We were able to not only keep our expenses low enough to make our trip last longer, but we also had the opportunity to return to the U.S. for two weeks to work as brand ambassadors for a gig that fueled a good portion of our time in Asia.
The Importance Of Tracking Your Backpacking Budget
Tracking your expenses on a daily basis is the best way to keep yourself accountable with your overall backpacking budget.
When traveling for such a long time, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. If you get carried away and don’t check your budget for a full week, you may end up spending two week’s worth of money in seven days without even realizing it. A small slip up like this could cut your trip short.
Guil would note down all of our daily purchases on his “Notes” app on his iPhone. We’d then keep track of these daily expenses as well as larger ones in a spreadsheet for each country we visited.
As long our daily budget was under a certain amount, we knew we could continue traveling freely.
Why You Should Set A Return Fund
One point I can’t stress enough is setting aside a return fund.
Your return fund is the money you’ll use to settle back into society once you return home.
Having a financial cushion while searching for a new job can help relieve a lot of stress — especially since you’ll already be dealing with a huge life change, including reverse culture shock, when you return home. (To be honest, you’ll probably also be grieving over the end of your trip, just like I was.)
I personally saved an extra $10,000 for my return home to cover the cost of moving to NYC and getting a new apartment.
In total, I initially saved up $25,000 for this trip. (I made an extra $4,200 working a brand ambassador gig in Miami after we traveled to South America and before jetting off to Asia).
How To Save Enough Money For An Around The World Trip?
There are several ways to save money for a big around the world trip, some being more obvious than others.
It certainly wasn’t easy for me to save $25,000 in my mid-20s. It took about two years for me to reach my goal.
Guil and I both implemented all of these measures to ensure we were putting away money every single month.
Get a roommate. Guil and I moved in together after just 8 months because we knew it’d save us both a lot of money on rent. Sure, choosing to live together after such a short period of time put a bit of pressure on our relationship, but it was worth it in the end.
Look for a higher paying job. When I began planning our around the world backpacking trip I realized that my $25,000 salary wasn’t going to cut it. I quickly began looking for another job and was fortunate enough to nearly double my salary in a similar role at a different company.
Work brand ambassador gigs. Working as a brand ambassador is one of the best ways to make extra income for travel. Guil and I got paid $250 to $350 per day for working the Miami Open tennis tournament. We’d literally take “vacation days” off our 9-to-5 jobs to work the tournament because the money was that good. If you work the whole two-week event, you can make up to $4,900.
Stop dining out. Dining out is one of my favorite hobbies, but to save up for this trip, Guil and I put an end to pretty much all of our extracurricular activities. We began cooking most of our meals at home.
Bring a flask to bars. It sounds silly, but drinks are expensive. In a place like Miami where much of my social life revolved around going out to bars, bringing my own flask saved me a lot of money.
Reevaluate your fixed expenses. Do you really need that pricey gym membership or can you get by working out outside? Reevaluating your monthly expenses can help you save a few extra hundred bucks.
Sell your stuff. Take a look at all the extra stuff lying around your house or apartment. Can you sell any of it? Old clothes, technology and furniture can all be sold online or on apps like OfferUp.
Find a side hustle. Do you have any freelanceable skills? As a writer, I’m able to offer my copywriting and editing services online. Or you can get even more creative: When Guil noticed that the truck drivers at the logistics facility he worked at were spending hundreds of dollars to wash their vehicles, he made them a better offer. He spent a number of weekends washing trucks to make some extra cash.
Forgo birthday and Christmas gifts. Ask friends and family to donate to your around the world trip fund instead!
| READ MORE: Looking for more ways to save money for travel? Here are 25 ways to boost your travel fund.
Factors That Impact Your Around The World Trip Cost
As I previously mentioned, I could’ve kept my trip cost lower if I didn’t splurge on a nice hotel every now and then, or if I cooked more of my own meals. Factors like location, mode of transportation and pace of travel also have a major impact on the overall cost of an around the world trip.
Keep these in mind when planning your own trip:
Location: Your average daily costs will highly depend on how expensive the country you’re visiting is, as well as how your currency weighs up against it. Backpacking through Europe, for example, was a lot more expensive than backpacking in Southeast Asia.
Mode of transportation: In most places, flying is the most expensive mode of travel. This is especially true in South America. We took a lot of long, grueling bus journeys over land in South America, all in the name of saving a few extra bucks. We became very familiar with overnight buses. Also, keeping transcontinental flights to a minimum is key. The more continent hopping you do, the more expensive the trip will be.
Pace of travel: The slower you travel, the less expensive your trip will be. Why? Because moving from one city or country to another involves transportation costs. When you’re staying in one place for a longer period of time, you can also cut costs down by buying your own groceries and experiencing the city at a slower pace, therefore spreading out activity costs.
Type of accommodation: Staying in a shared hostel room is a lot cheaper than getting a private hotel room. If traveling solo, staying in a hostel is the best budget-friendly option. If traveling with one or more people, Airbnb might be the best bang for your buck. Guil and I often found that booking a room in someone’s apartment via Airbnb was the same price as staying in a hostel, but at least we’d get our own bathroom. This was also a great way to interact with locals!
Eating habits: Making your own meals rather than dining out can be a huge money saver. Most Airbnb and hostels have a kitchen for your use. I personally preferred eating at restaurants for most of my meals since one of my favorite ways to get to know a country is through its local cuisine. One way of cutting down costs at restaurants is to split a meal with your travel buddy. When it’s time for a cafe break, split that drink, too.
Booking tours versus sightseeing on your own: One of the easiest ways to spend a lot of money on an around the world trip is to book excursions through a tour operator. While certain activities like getting a scuba diving certification in Koh Tao need to be done through a reputable company, there are many others (like visiting Machu Picchu) that can be done without a tour. It just takes a bit of research.
Day of travel: Weekday travel is generally less expensive than weekend travel. Planning travels between cities and countries accordingly can save you a lot of money.
Are You Ready To Plan Your Own Trip Around The World?
Traveling around the world was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. It’s changed my life in every way possible, given me the courage to chase after my dreams and helped me blossom into a career that I’m truly passionate about.
I hope this article inspires you to take your dream trip. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions!
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