Blog

Wind and Whim’s 2018 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe

You may be wondering what it costs to travel the world full-time. I think you will be surprised to learn that it can be less costly than you think.

When Steve and I first toyed with the idea of traveling the world full-time we thought it might be a pipe dream. Our main concern was that it would be unaffordable. Then we researched world travel costs and found that many people are living a nomadic life and are generous enough to share information about their costs.

Seeing how affordable travel can be was the difference between having a dream and having a goal. Three and a half years later our goal became a reality.

Now we are happy to share our full-time travel costs in the hope that it will help others take the first step toward turning their dreams into reality.

The author’s daughters at a wedding reception
Leaving our daughters, Stephanie and Laura, was the hardest part.
The Budget

We originally set our budget at $3,000 per month. We then tacked on an additional $4,000 a year for general expenses such as supplies, travel insurance, and virtual mailbox service. This put our original budget at $40,000 per year ($36,000 + $4,000).

This budget included an average cost of $1,000 per month for lodging. After our experience with our Paris apartment, which you can read about in “5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals,” we upped the lodging budget to $1,500 per month. This put our monthly budget at $3,500 and our annual budget at $46,000 ($42,000 + $4,000).

All costs are in U.S. dollars. It is important to note that we are only including expenses that relate directly to travel. The following items are not included:
Stateside medical insurance
Routine medications
Base cost of our cell phone plan
Storage of our possessions in the U.S.
Gifts

It is also important to note that we do not have many of the expenses of daily life that we had when we lived in the U.S.  We sold our home and our cars, so we don’t have insurance, maintenance, or property tax expenses. We have no mortgage, rent, or car payments. For the most part, we are spending the money we would have been living on in the U.S. on travel.

The French Pavilion at Versailles
Mow the lawn or visit the French Pavilion at Versailles?
The Reality: Costs by Category

CategoryCost
Food$11,500
Lodging
11,100
Transportation8,000

Activities4,000
Supplies1,800
Medical1,000
Office Related700
Telephone300
Other500
Total$38,900

Our 2018 travels included a fifteen-day Transatlantic cruise with five ports of call and stays in fifteen foreign cities over eight months. As you can see, we spent $38,900 (just under $4,900 per month) during these eight months. Annualized this comes to $58,300. This was $12,300 higher than our annual budget of $46,000.

This is where I should write about how bad we feel for going over budget and vow to do better. But we don’t feel bad.  If we were putting our finances in jeopardy we would be expressing remorse. Steve and I are working closely with a financial advisor and he’s not worried, so neither are we. We made some conscious choices to spend more in certain cases, and we made a few mistakes. The bottom line is we reached our level of comfort and it costs $58,300 per year.

Our style of travel was higher than backpacker level and definitely under luxury level. I would classify it as three-star. Our lodgings were clean and comfortable, often stylish, and almost always had a kitchen and a separate bedroom. Most of them had a clothes washer. Our meals were either cooked at home or eaten in mid-level restaurants.

That being said, I believe a couple could travel for a year on $40,000. However, it would not be three-star all the time and would not include a Transatlantic cruise.

Five people in silly costumes walking on a boardwalk
You can see sights like this one in Sitges, Spain for free.
What These Expenses Include

Lodging – The cost of the cabin for the cruise is not included here.  The entire base cost of the cruise is included in transportation because we chose this method to get to Europe in lieu of flying.

Transportation – This includes all costs to get to each destination and fly back to the U.S. in November. It also includes the cost to travel within each city and the cost of a rental car for two weeks in Byala, Bulgaria.

Supplies – The largest cost here was a MacBook Air and accessories for $1,000. It is included as a travel cost because we would not have bought it if we weren’t traveling since we had a perfectly good desktop computer at home. This category also includes $350 for shoes and hiking boots. You can’t put a price tag on foot comfort. Clothing, in general, is not included, but if something was purchased specifically because we were traveling it is included. We also spent $54 to mail several items home from Strasbourg. According to other nomads, it is not uncommon to take too much when you start out.

Medical – This entire cost was for annual Medjet travel insurance coverage. This provides evacuation services in case of serious illness along with other protections. You can read a little about Medjet’s services in ”12 Trustworthy Travel Services and Apps” or visit their website. Vaccinations and medications needed for travel would be included here but we did not need any for this trip.

Office Related – The largest cost here was $199 for our annual virtual mailbox subscription through Traveling Mailbox Continue reading “Wind and Whim’s 2018 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe”

Don’t Be Afraid of Multilingualism

Traveling to countries where English is not the primary language has made me rethink my attitude about multilingualism.

It would annoy me when businesses offered a Spanish option on their phone menu. I was even more annoyed when they asked me to press one for English. I felt like many Americans. Why should I have to press anything? English is our language. If people want to live here, they should speak English.

A Happy Surprise

Then Steve and I spent eight months in Europe, and much to our surprise English was everywhere. From large cities like Barcelona and Paris to the Bulgarian towns of Plovdiv and Byala, many people, particularly those in tourist and service industries, spoke English.

It was a good thing too, because being able to communicate in the language of each country we visited would have required us to learn six different languages.

Even though English was virtually everywhere, we made sure to learn and use basic words like hello, please, and thank you.

What surprised us the most was how well many Uber drivers spoke English. I’m not talking about basics here. Many were able to hold intelligent conversations about politics and travel in English. This made me wonder how many people in the U.S. can converse intelligently in a foreign language.

So I Googled it.

According to this article from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 25% of Americans can speak a foreign language compared to 66% of residents of the European Union.

Unnecessary Advice

Standard travel advice is to learn to say “hello” and “do you speak English?” in the language of the country you are visiting. If the person replies that he does, you can switch to English.

We found this quite unnecessary. Apparently, we look American. Quite often, clerks and waiters would begin speaking English to us before we even said hello. Almost every restaurant we visited either had English on the menu or a separate menu in English. These were often handed to us before we said a word.

Thankfulness

One place where we really appreciated an English option was with SIM cards. These have been the bane of our existence, with sometimes sporadic coverage and confusion on our part on how to make outgoing calls. Although one company that claimed to offer English phone support, but chose to tell us this option in very quickly spoken Spanish, did nothing but add to our frustration. Even with the easy to work with companies, we still struggled a little, but is anything related to phone plans ever easy?

Other times we were grateful to see or hear English were in museums, grocery stores, and pharmacies. We were especially thankful for the strangers who stepped in to help us communicate, often without being asked.

The Tables Have Turned

Our second year of travel has taken us to Latin America, where English as a second language is far less common. Even in tourist areas, we have had to rely on Google Translate to communicate.

Since we plan to spend ten months in Latin America, I have started learning Spanish through Rosetta Stone. It’s slow going, but also great to be able to communicate on a very rudimentary level in the local language.

Food for Thought

The fact that English is so prevalent in European counties makes me wonder what those of us in the U.S. are afraid of. From what I can see, being multilingual and offering services and menus in multiple languages hasn’t hurt our European friends at all. The more people you can communicate with, the richer your life will be.

I do think if someone chooses to live in a foreign country he should make every effort to learn the local language. But a little help along the way benefits those learning English. And don’t forget, not everyone who is in the U.S. and doesn’t speak English is planning to stay. Some are tourists like us!

For more about our experiences with foreign languages check out our post “Too Many Languages: Challenges of Nomad Life.”

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured photo – Steve and me with English language students in Strasbourg, France.

12 Trustworthy Travel Services and Apps

There are many tools that make travel easier and more affordable. Although we aren’t getting paid to publicize them, we want to share our favorite travel services and apps with you. (All money is in U.S. Dollars unless otherwise stated).

Accommodations
1. Airbnb

Since we started traveling full-time in April 2018, we have used Airbnb for most of our lodging. We got off to a rough start and were about to give up on it. Instead, we learned to make it work for us. Read about what we learned from our experiences in “5 Tips For Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals.

Our monthly budget for accommodations is $1,500. We can usually find an apartment with a separate bedroom, a kitchen, and WiFi for less than this. At $50 per night, this is the bargain of the century. In some cities, we have to go over budget to find an acceptable place. This is offset by savings in cities with lower accommodation costs.

Many hosts offer discounts for stays of more than 7 days and even deeper discounts for stays of 28 days or longer. We find the site easy to use and have had good support.

Find the perfect place to stay with Airbnb.

2. Booking.com

We prefer hotels for short stays and side trips since we only need a place to sleep. For this, we use Booking.com and are pleased with them.

They also offer apartment options similar to Airbnb. Conversely, in 2018  Airbnb expanded its hotel options, although we have not booked a hotel through them yet. A little competition is a beautiful thing!

Booking.com has a loyalty program they call the genius program. It kicks in automatically after you have booked five reservations. The program gives you 10% off future bookings with participating properties and other perks like free airport transfers and late check-out. The discount percent increases as you book more.

Book a great accommodation at Booking.com and be the genius you always knew you were.

Transportation
3. Uber

We can’t say enough good things about Uber. Although we are big fans of public transportation, it isn’t always an option. With Uber, we get door-to-door service, all done electronically. No payments to deal with at the end of the trip, no fumbling for tip money, no worries about being ripped off.

With hundreds of Uber trips under our belt, we’ve only had one billing problem. It was an overcharge due to a technical problem in the browser. By using the app’s help option, we were able to get a refund quickly. And in case you didn’t know, Uber’s app will also let you schedule a ride for a later time.

Uber isn’t available in every city or country, but we wish it was.

Communication
4. Local SIM Cards

Our cell phone provider is AT&T. They have an international option that allows unlimited use for $10 per day, charged only if you use it at least once in 24 hours. This would cost us $600 per month if we both used our phones every day.

Instead, we buy local SIM cards. A quick online search tells us which providers are available in our location and what prepaid plans they offer.

Plans can be as short as one day or as long as one month. After we pick a provider and a plan, we go to the store and have them insert and register our cards. Be aware that this requires an unlocked phone and ID.

Our average cost for a SIM card good for one month is $20. This includes data, SMS, and local calls.

We use our AT&T international plan when calling U.S. businesses since local SIM cards charge per minute for international calls. Even if the cost per minute is inexpensive, you can quickly go over the $10 cost of using AT&T, especially if you are put on hold or transferred a lot.

5. WhatsApp Messenger

For personal calls to the U.S., we use WhatsApp. It’s a free service owned by Facebook that you can use to send text messages and make voice and video calls.

Mail Service
6. Traveling Mailbox

One service we would be hard-pressed to do without is our mailbox service. Without it, the best option would be to have mail sent to our daughter. She would then have to open it, scan it, forward items we need hard copies of, and deposit any checks we receive. Traveling Mailbox does all of this.

They notify us via email when we receive mail. We then log in to see our mail and tell them what we want them to do with it. They will forward mail anywhere in the world and deposit checks for you. Both of these have small fees attached.

There are several virtual mailbox providers, but when we researched them in the Spring of 2018, this was the best for our purposes. We have used them since then and couldn’t be happier with their service. This service costs us $199 per year and is worth it.

Let Traveling Mailbox make your life easier.

Travel Insurance
7. Medjet Travel Insurance

Medjet is an air medical transport and travel security membership program with two tiers of coverage:

Medjet Assist will transport you to a home-country hospital of your choice if you have a medical emergency while traveling. The insurance also covers the transfer of mortal remains.

Medjet Horizon covers the above situations and adds guidance and evacuation services in cases of terrorism, natural disaster, political threat, pandemic, and violent crime. They also provide crisis response services if you are a victim of a crime such as kidnapping or extortion, or if you disappear. You can purchase coverage for one trip or a full year.

Medjet offers a discount for AARP members. Our cost after the AARP discount for a full year of coverage with Medjet Horizon is $1,078 for both of us.

Explore your Medjet options here.

Learn why you should have evacuation insurance.

Medical Insurance
8. Safety Wing

Steve and I decided to self-insure for medical care. Even so, we discovered that our U.S.-based policies reimbursed us for most of our costs. You can read more in “Medical Care on the Road: Challenges of Nomad Life. “

When we applied for residence permits in Hungary in order to wait out the pandemic, we needed proof of medical coverage. My U.S policy was accepted. However, Steve had turned 65 in January and went on Medicare, which does not cover you outside of the U.S. To meet this requirement, we chose Safety Wing.

Safety Wing is travel medical insurance you can use when you are outside of your home country. They bill every four weeks, and you can stop and start it as needed. Steve’s coverage is $138 every four weeks.

If you are under 40 years old, Safety Wing will only cost $10 per week.

Learn how Safety Wing can protect you when you travel.

On-The-Go Apps
9. Currency Converter

We use the free My Currency Converter & Rates app by jRustonApps B.V., but a quick look at the App Store shows that there are many to choose from.

This is indispensable when grocery shopping and eating out. You can quickly see that your 80,000 pesos meal in Colombia only costs you $20.70.

10. Google Translate

We always learn some basic phrases in the local language, but sometimes we have to resort to an online translator. As with the currency converter, there are many apps to choose from.

We like that Google Translate allows you to type, speak, or take a photo to get a translation. The photo option is helpful for translating cooking instructions.

Read about some of our experiences with foreign languages in “Too Many Languages: Challenges of Nomad Life.”

11. Google Maps

When you are traveling in a new city, you need a map. Our go-to is Google Maps. We had some problems using it in Europe in 2018. Sometimes it would reroute us, sending us in circles. The lack of street signs in some European cities added to the problem. Since 2019 we have used it in Latin American and Central Europe, and it has worked well.

Even though we have Google Maps, we still carry a paper map.

Bank Cards
12. Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

This card is on many lists as one of the top cards for worldwide travel. While I can’t compare it to other cards, we have been happy with this card. It has a great sign-up bonus, no foreign transaction fees, and offers double points on all travel and restaurant spending. There is a $95 annual fee, but if you use this card for most of your purchases, you will get much more back in rewards. I love that reward points used for travel or pay yourself back are worth 25% more.

Find the perfect Chase credit card for you.

See which travel credit cards are recommended by Nerd Wallet.

The Chase Sapphire card is our primary card, but we also carry a MasterCard and debit cards from two different banks. We never carry all the cards in one place in case of loss or theft.

I hope you found this list helpful. Steve and I would love to hear about your favorite travel services and apps.

Come wander the world with us,
Linda

Featured photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash.com

Subscribe to Blog via Email

If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive notifications of new posts by email, please sign up here.