Wind and Whim’s 2023 Full-Time Travel Costs

It’s time to review what Steve and I spent on travel in 2023. We had a busy year that included two trips back to the U.S., a two-week trip to Athens with Stephanie and Laura, and a 15-day transatlantic cruise.

We visited 32 cities and towns and spent time on three continents. All our moving around came at a cost, and we were significantly over budget.

Keep reading to see how we spent our money, which locations were a bargain, which were budget busters, and how much over budget we were.

Our 2023 Budget

ItemBudget Per DayAnnual Budget
Daily travel expenses$150$54,700
General expenses$8$3,000
Totals$158$57,700

As you can see, our travel budget for the year is $57,700. This includes $150 per day for traveling ($54,800 for the year) and $3,000 for general expenses such as evacuation insurance, supplies, and website costs.

I was lazy in the fall of 2022 and never broke this down by category as in previous years, so there is no comparison to the budget for each category in the table below.

Our 2023 Costs by Category

We budgeted $57,700 and spent $64,600, ending the year $6,900 over budget. Our cost per day was $177.

CategoryCost
Accommodations$28,900
Food18,300
Transportation9,700
Activities3,600
Insurance1,400
Medical200
Office Related300
Supplies500
Telephone600
Website800
Other300
Total$64,600
Budget$57,700
Over budget$6,900
Cost per day$177

A FEW NOTES ABOUT THIS DATA

* All costs are in U.S. dollars
* All costs are for two people unless noted
* It only includes expenses directly related to travel

The following items are not included:
* Stateside medical insurance
* Routine prescriptions 
* Storage of our possessions in the U.S.
* Clothing (unless purchased for a specific reason like ski wear)

We were over budget because we moved around too much. We took twenty short trips (with an average stay of 6.5 nights). Many of these were side trips from places where we were staying long-term, which doubled our accommodation costs during that time.

Our style of travel is higher than backpacker level and lower than luxury level. I would classify it as three-star. If you are considering full-time or long-term travel, you can do it for much less. Check out the Ways to Travel for Less section below for helpful tips.

Our 2023 Costs by Location

Below is a table of our costs by location. I have listed the countries from the lowest to the highest cost per day and included all the cities we visited in each country.

CountryCitiesTotal CostDaysCost per Day
MoroccoTangier, Tetouan, Chefchaouen, Rabat, Marrakesh, Casablanca$4,90058$84
MontenegroPodgorica, Kotor$5,00050$100
AlbaniaTirana, Durres, Shkoder, Theth$4,20034$123
North MacedoniaSkopje$3,50028$125
RomaniaBucharest, Sinaia, Brasov$6,10040$153
CroatiaDubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Pula, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Rijeka, Opatija$10,80070$154
USA (March)Jacksonville, Marathon, Orlando$6,50028$232
Greece*Athens, Aegina$4,00014$286
ItalyRome, Venice$4,80015$320
Transatlantic CruiseRome to New York City$4,60015$307
USANew York City, Jacksonville, Asheville$6,80013$523
General Costs$3,300365$9
Totals$64,500365$177

*The cost for Greece is for four people and does not include $4,800 for accommodations and transportation paid in 2022. The total for this trip was $8,800 ($628 per day for four people, $314 per day for two people).

The least expensive countries (Morocco, Montenegro, Albania, and North Macedonia) were great places to cut costs. However, except for Skopje, North Macedonia, we found the cities in these countries limited in tourist attractions compared to the more expensive cities.

The cities in expensive countries (The U.S., Italy, and Greece) generally offer many sightseeing options, but they come at a price.

Countries like Romania and Croatia, which fall in the middle, can keep costs down while offering plenty to see and do.

Six-Year Comparison

Here’s a look back since we started traveling full-time in 2018:

YearAnnual CostDays in YearCost per Day
2018*$58,400365$160
2019$52,900365$145
2020$41,700366$114
2021$42,300365$116
2022$64,500365$177
2023$64,500365$177

*The 2018 cost is an annualized number based on what we spent for eight months of travel.

As you can see, we are all over the place, with 2020 and 2021 being low because of the pandemic. Interestingly, our average daily cost over the past six years was $148.

You can see details for all the past years here:
2018 – Europe
2019 – Latin America
2020 – Europe
2021 – Hungary
2022 – Europe, Asia, and Africa

Ways to Travel for Less

There are many ways to travel for less and still have a fantastic trip.

Cut accommodation costs – Airbnb is a good option. Other economical options include housesitting, hostels, and staying with friends and relatives.

Travel slowly – This keeps transportation costs down and allows you to take advantage of discounts on Airbnb for long-term stays. It also gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a place.

Use public transportation whenever possible – It isn’t glamorous and can sometimes be uncomfortably crowded, but in many places, it is a quick, convenient, and inexpensive way to get around.

Plan side trips wisely – Limit the number of side trips you take, consider day trips when possible, or tack a short trip on the end of a longer one to avoid paying accommodation costs at two places at once.

Consider traveling in the shoulder season or the off-season – you should see lower prices and fewer tourists.

Visit less expensive places – If you don’t want to do all-budget travel, you can balance expensive places with less costly places.

Price of Travel is a website that quantifies the cost of travel at the backpacker level for over 200 cities. Even if you plan to travel at a higher level, the listings are a good way to compare the relative costs of different destinations.

You can estimate the cost of a trip on websites like Budget Your Trip. On Budget Your Trip’s site, you can choose the city, the level of travel (budget, mid-range, or luxury), and the currency. The results include the average daily cost and the cost for one or two people for one week, two weeks, or a month.

I find it odd that when showing the cost for two people, the author doubled the cost for one person, since hotel costs for one and two people are virtually the same. Also, keep in mind that the estimates do not include the cost of traveling to and from the destination.

More 2023 Posts

Read about my favorite travel moments from 2023 in “Memorable Moments From a Year of Full-Time Travel (2023).”

You can also learn about a few of the lesser-known places we visited and loved in:
“Sinaia, Romania: A Great Addition to Your Bucharest Trip”
“What is Skopje Really Like? An Honest Review”
“Why You’ll Fall in Love with Opatija, Croatia”
“A Venetian Surprise in Shkoder, Albania”

Until Next Time

I hope you found this post informative. If there is other data you would like to see, please let me know in the comments section.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured image by Jizhidexiaohailang 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.

The Truth About Staying in Airbnbs

A sure sign of success is when your competitors gear their ads toward disparaging you. In the summer of 2022, the vacation rental company VRBO released a series of ads stressing that with VRBO, you and your family get the whole house to yourself. The campaign was called “Only Your People.” Here is one of the ads:

I find it odd that VRBO would spend money on this slam against Airbnb (although it is never mentioned by name). Anyone who has used Airbnb knows they offer many rentals where you get the whole place to yourself, and they offer top-end homes like the ones shown in the VRBO ads. You can also filter your search for self-check-in properties if you are strongly opposed to talking with someone who isn’t “your people.”

But hey, it’s their money.

Hilton Hotels also got a dig at Airbnb (again without naming names) with an ad showing a family arriving at a spooky house on the requisite dark and stormy night. As they approach the front door, the dad says, “Huh, it looked different online.” As they enter the house, they are met with a list of ridiculous rules. The family screams after a creepy doll says gesundheit when the daughter sneezes. But all ends well when they check into a Hilton hotel. You, the viewer, are then reminded that it matters where you stay. Check it out on CNN.

Airbnb has faced quite a bit of criticism lately, some of it deserved. They have been accused of driving up rents and forcing residents out of neighborhoods. People on Facebook threads are quick to mention high cleaning costs and hosts who impose too many rules.

Having stayed in over 40 Airbnbs during the past five years, Steve and I remain strong supporters of the company. As full-time travelers who keep a sharp eye on the budget, here is the truth about staying in Airbnbs as we see it.

All money is in USD

The Best Things About Airbnb

The Cost

Even if the other reasons in this list didn’t apply, we would still use Airbnb because hotels can’t come close to providing what an Airbnb rental does for the money.

With Airbnb, we can rent apartments with separate bedrooms, full kitchens, and clothes washers. Since we often stay in one place for four weeks, these things are important.

In the past year, we’ve had seven four-week-long stays with an average nightly cost of less than $60. These included stays in Greece, Morocco, Croatia, and Romania.

Comforts of Home

Even if you find a hotel with kitchen facilities, they will likely be limited. Our Airbnbs have a full kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, an oven, a microwave, and a stovetop. We often have a dishwasher.

While it is hit or miss when it comes to cooking supplies, most hosts do a good job of anticipating their guests’ needs. When we need a tool that isn’t available, we can find it inexpensively at a local store.

Our Airbnbs have entire living rooms, not just a few chairs set to the side, and separate bedrooms.

A modern living room and a view of a pool from above
Two of our best Airbnbs: Medellin, Colombia, and San Jose, Costa Rica

Great for Groups

Airbnb is especially great for groups since it is easier and cheaper to find a listing with several bedrooms than it is to find a large hotel suite. Even when Steve and I travel with our two daughters, we prefer it so they can each have a bedroom.

Good Quality Accommodations

Airbnb started as a place to get a room in someone’s home. The offerings have grown to include many elegant and modern listings. Even on a tight budget, the choices are pretty nice.

We have never had an uncomfortable bed, but we have had some less-than-comfortable sofas. Now we check the photos to ensure the sofa isn’t too simple; no futons or armless seats for us.

Helpful Hosts

Overall, our hosts have been superb. They have provided what they advertised and made themselves available to answer questions and address issues.

When we arrived in Pula, Croatia, for a 28-day stay, the host showed us around the apartment. I noticed there wasn’t a clothes washer, even though it was on the listing. I pointed this out, and the host asked if it was important to us. He said there was a laundromat around the corner. I told him that doesn’t work for us as we have very few clothes and do laundry often, and we don’t wish to spend time sitting in a laundromat. He understood, and the next day a washer was in place.

This turned out to be an honest mistake. The host had several listings and apparently copied the information from another listing.

We recently booked an apartment in Tirana, Albania. It didn’t have a microwave, so before we booked, we asked the host if he could provide one. He said yes.

We don’t bother our host for minor things like a dirty air conditioning filter or a hair-clogged drain, and we have had excellent responses when there has been a bigger problem.

Diverse Choices

Do you fancy a stay on a sailboat? Or perhaps a tree house is more your style. While hotel rooms may vary a little, there is only so much a hotel can do to make its offerings unique. Airbnb is full of variety.

Marina
The marina where we stayed on a sailboat for two weeks

Good Cancelation Policy

When we started using Airbnb in 2018, any stays of 28 days or more were non-cancelable. Since that is what we generally booked, we accepted this risk as part of traveling. The only time this was a problem was when Steve was laid up with a broken pelvis, and we couldn’t visit Kyiv. I let the host know, and he credited back part of our stay as he was able to rebook it.

Lately, we’ve noticed that most long-term stays allow cancelations, usually up to one month before the start of the reservation.

The Not-So-Great Things

Now that I’ve finished singing the praises of Airbnb, let’s talk about the not-so-great things.

Search Time

Steve and I spend hours researching every Airbnb we book. When we first started renting Airbnbs, we didn’t know what to look for, and we ended up in some less-than-ideal ones.  Over time, we have learned what to look for. And our methods keep evolving.

For example, when we booked a pleasant-looking apartment in a new building in Istanbul, we were pleased to find it was in a block of other new buildings. We were not so pleased that everything else, in every direction, was a slum. And this was after we had been traveling for more than four years. After that experience, we began using Google Maps street view to check out the neighborhood.

I would love to see Airbnb add a comparison feature to decrease guests’ search time.

Two views of Istanbul
Photo on left: our building next to the Cher Hotel; Photo on right: our view

Learn more about our rough start and how to find the best Airbnbs in “5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals.”

Disappointing Showers

If you can’t live without long, hot showers, Airbnbs may not be your best bet. We’ve found the shower quality to be lacking.

Our first Airbnb was in Barcelona. It had a small shower stall and, even worse, a small water heater. After a short while, the water would turn cold, and you had to turn it off and let the water reheat. This had to be done several times during one shower.

But the worst was when I slipped and hit the faucet after the water had reheated. I got a blast of scalding hot water, and because the stall was so small, I couldn’t step aside.

We’ve had a few Airbnbs with a limited amount of hot water and one in which the water never got more than lukewarm, even after the host sent someone over to check on it. We suspect he was not a plumber.

Our first Athens Airbnb required us to turn on the water heater half an hour before showering. The second Athens Airbnb was the one we stayed in with our daughters. None of us were happy that the shower hose was hand-held. We did manage to tie it to the towel bar but don’t understand why it wasn’t attached to the wall.

When we get a good shower, we savor it. Ironically, one of our worst Airbnbs (in Paris) had the best shower and the only one we’ve ever had in which we could set the water temperature.

Hosts’ Lack of Attention to Details

The Airbnbs we’ve rented have consistently been clean on the surface. The furniture is dusted. The floors are washed. The bathrooms and kitchens are clean, and the bedding and towels are fresh. Unfortunately, many hosts fail to take cleaning a step further.

We aren’t clean freaks, but we do have standards. We often have to scrub pots and pans, clean ovens, wipe out silverware drawers, clean air conditioning and air vent filters, and clean hair from shower drains. We rarely find a vacuum that has been emptied after the last user.

The worst was a wooden cutting board that someone had put away wet. It had mushrooms growing on it. The host was with us when we found it, and she was surprised and embarrassed. She replaced it the same day.

I don’t think hosts are purposely ignoring these things. I think it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind. But frankly, you’d be surprised at the number of people who put dirty pans in cabinets.

Four photos of Airbnb problems
Just a few of the things that our hosts should have addressed before we arrived

Hosts Not Being Proactive

Along with failing to check on hidden items, hosts often fail to fix little things or wait to fix them after we check in. In one apartment, the outlet cover and wires were hanging off the wall in plain view, but it wasn’t fixed until we pointed it out to the host.

The Airbnb we rented in Casablanca had electronic exterior shutters. The one over the bedroom window was broken, and there was only a sheer drape over the window. This wasn’t a privacy problem since we were on a high floor and no one could see in, but it meant the room wasn’t dark at night.

It didn’t bother us, but one day the host messaged us asking if he could send someone over to install an opaque curtain in the bedroom. We said sure, and a young man showed up with a curtain he installed in front of the sheer. This one was sheer, too, not opaque, so it didn’t do much to block light.

It would also be appreciated if hosts would replace burned-out light bulbs and dead remote batteries before guests arrive and leave a few spare bulbs and batteries in case the guests need them during their stay.

Lack of Consistency in Lodgings

With hotels, you pretty much know what to expect, especially if you book with a chain. With Airbnb, there is no telling what you will find. Luckily, we’ve never seen anything frightening or embarrassing, but our Airbnb in Rabat, Morocco, did have some serious issues with the electricity that required several visits by the handyman.

We stayed in a few places that were cluttered with the host’s belongings. One place had a loft above part of the living room, which would have been cool, but the ceiling wasn’t high enough for you to stand up in it. Minor, but still weird, one apartment had picture frames without any pictures in them.

The Wifi is Usually Sub-Par

We haven’t spent much time using hotel wifi, but the wifi in Airbnbs is often undependable. I don’t know how much of this is because of the hosts’ choice of service and how much is because of the services available in that location, but outages are not uncommon.

The other issue is security. Every single one we have used has weak security. Because of this, we use ExpressVPN.

The Average Price is Meaningless

When you search for a place to stay, you can set your filters, including your price range. At the top of this page, you will see the average price of Airbnbs for your time frame and location. There is one big problem with this.

One host in Jacksonville had 89 properties listed. The most expensive 15 had an average price of over $100,000 per month. The highest was $716,000 for one month! None of these were worth what was being asked.

If Airbnb is going to allow these outrageous prices to be listed, they should at least show us the mean price, as these outliers are skewing the average.

Common Airbnb Complaints

I found a video by Retirement Travelers talking about why they quit using Airbnb. They bring up a lot of good points, and given their travel style, it makes sense that hotels are a better option. Check it out here:

Here is my take on some of the issues John and Bev discussed in their video:

Higher Prices on Short-Term Stays

I totally agree with this. We have gotten fantastic deals on long-term Airbnb stays, but for shorter stays, we haven’t seen the savings. Even so, if the price of an Airbnb for a short stay is similar to that of a hotel, we compare the benefits and drawbacks of each.

High Cleaning Fees

John and Bev mention that some cleaning fees seem high. I have also seen this complaint on Facebook several times. Does it matter? All I am interested in is what I will be paying in total.

No Loyalty Program

I agree. It would be wonderful if Airbnb showed appreciation to their frequent users like hotel chains often do.

Scary Elevators or No Elevators

Absolutely. We’ve stayed in multiple buildings with tiny, old elevators. I refused to get into the one in our building in Paris. Sometimes there is no elevator. This is one of the factors we weigh when choosing a place.

In fairness, we have also stayed in hotels and B&Bs that didn’t have elevators. Our room in the last hotel on our Dales Way adventure was on the third floor. We had the pleasure of lugging our suitcases up the stairs after having just completed an eight-day, 81-mile walk.

Bugs

In all our Airbnb stays, we only had one bug problem. That was in Rabat, Morocco, where the roach traps were a clue. We should have walked away from that place, as it had many issues, not just bugs, but the pickings in the city were pretty slim, so we toughed it out. Our review was pretty brutal, though.

A Chore List for Guests

I’ve seen this complaint on Facebook as well. Maybe it is common where John and Bev traveled, but we have never experienced this in European countries, Morocco, Turkey, or the U.S. The most we’ve seen regarding rules are the expected: no smoking inside, no parties, quiet hours, and a request to turn off the air conditioning or heat when you leave the lodging. No one has ever asked us to do chores, although we make it a point to leave the place as good or better than we found it.

The Final Price is Hidden

This has been fixed. Now, if you toggle “display total price,” you will see the total cost before taxes on the first page of listings. Very seldom have we had taxes on our choices.

Disappointment with the Place

Like John and Bev, we’ve had some disappointing Airbnbs. Also, like them, we partially blame ourselves.

The few bad ones we’ve had were mostly when we were new to Airbnb and were easily seduced by pretty photos or a low price. We’d like to think that we have gotten better at analyzing the listings, but even our best efforts failed us in Morocco.

Even so, there is no substitute for doing your homework when deciding on an Airbnb.

If your choice turns out to be horrible, you have the option of walking away. It is important to do it quickly, first by letting your host know about the problems. If the host doesn’t solve them, get Airbnb involved asap.

In Summary

Airbnb can be a wonderful way to be comfortable and save money when traveling, especially long-term. But it has drawbacks, including how long it takes to sort through the listings. For us, it continues to be a great option for long-term stays. We hope that will continue in the future.

Until Next Time

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Just drop a note in the comments section below. If you found this information helpful, please consider sharing this post using the share buttons at the top.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured photo by Chris Robert 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.

Wind and Whim’s 2022 Full-Time Travel Costs

It’s that time of year again! I get to put my accountant hat on and share our full-time travel costs with you.

I started sharing our travel costs in 2019 when I wrote about what it cost for our first eight months of full-time travel in 2018. I did this because I wanted to show how affordable full-time travel can be.

We have now completed 2022, and this is the fifth annual cost post I have written. You can see the previous years’ posts here:

2018
2019
2020
2021

A Quick Recap

We visited:
30 cities
8 countries
3 continents

We slept in 36 beds

We took:
8 flights
12 train trips
8 bus trips

We spent $64,500
which is $177 per day

Our 2022 Costs by Category

CategoryCostBudgetOver (Under) Budget
Lodging$31,800
$18,300$13,500
Food$15,700
$14,400$1,300
Transportation
$8,800
$9,600($800)
Activities$2,600$5,100($2,500)
Currency Exchange$7000$700
Insurance$3,000
$4,500
($1,500)
Medical0
$200($200)
Office Related$400
$300$100
Telephone$400
$500
($100)
Website$400$500($100)
Supplies$400$200$200
Visas$1000$100
Other$200$100$100
Totals$64,500$53,700$10,800
Cost per day$177$147$30

As you can see from this table, we were considerably over budget. We also spent more in 2022 than any year so far. There were two reasons for this.

The first reason was that we had a lease in Budapest for the first half of the year. This was required to get a residence permit to stay in Hungary while we waited for the pandemic to end. Once travel returned to normal, we were able to visit several cities, but each trip meant double accommodation expenses.

The second reason was that we booked two transatlantic flights and five accommodations for 2023 in 2022. This totaled $10,100, almost the total we were over budget. While there is always a little overlap at year end, this year we booked flights and accommodations through mid-April of 2023 as we are planning to spend March in the U.S. and then return to Athens, Greece, with our daughters in April.

Both of these situations are unusual for us. I expect our 2023 costs to be lower since we no longer have a lease and have paid for several large items in advance.

A Few Notes About This Data

* all costs are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise stated
* all costs are for two people
* only expenses directly related to travel are included

The following items are not included:
* stateside medical insurance
* routine prescriptions
* our base telephone service through Hushed
* storage of our possessions in the U.S.
* clothing (unless purchased for a specific reason like ski wear)

Budget Variances

Where We Were Over Budget

There were three categories in which we were significantly over budget: lodging, food, and currency exchange.

Lodging costs of $31,800 were an astounding $13,500 over budget. Here is the breakdown:

Lodging TypeCostNumber of NightsCost per Night
Long-term lease$7,000195$36
Airbnb$8,400127$66
Hotels$10,60097$109
Prepaid for 2023$5,600
Supplies$200
Totals$31,800

The number of nights is greater than 365 because we had a long-term lease for half the year and also had hotel costs for many of those nights.

As you can see, the long-term lease was the most cost effective. We averaged $66 per night on Airbnb rentals, which is a good deal, while hotel stays averaged $109 per night. Obviously, renting through Airbnb or a similar service is the way to go.

Food cost us $15,700 for the year, which was $1,300 higher than budgeted. We stayed in more hotels which meant more restaurant meals. We also saw some effects of inflation.

Currency exchange costs were an astounding $700. $500 of this was a loss on the value of our Budapest apartment security deposit. The deposit was worth $2,200 in May 2021 but only worth $1,700 by July 2022 because the euro decreased in value compared to the dollar during that time. The remaining $200 was fees associated with withdrawing cash.

Where We Were Under Budget

There were also three categories in which we were notably under budget: transportation, activities, and insurance.

Transportation costs of $8,800 were under budget by $800. Here is the breakdown for our 2022 transportation costs:

MethodCostNumber of tripsAverage cost/trip for two
Flights$2,5008
$313
Trains (long distance)$70012
$58
Buses (long distance)$1008$13
Local$1,000
Totals for 2022$4,300

We spent an additional $4,500 for 2023 flights, which brought the transportation total to $8,800.

Our activity costs were $2,600, which was $2,500 under budget. Here is the breakdown:

ActivityCost
Admission Fees$1,200
Hot-air Balloon$500
Guided tours$300
All other activities$600
Total$2,600

Admission fees of $1,200 got both of us into 39 museums and other tourist attractions for an average cost per person per attraction of $15.

We took two guided tours: a day trip to Mt. Olympus and a two-day trip to Meteora, Greece.

Insurance costs were $3,000, which was $1,500 under budget. We paid $1,100 for Medjet evacuation insurance and $1,900 for SafetyWing travel medical insurance.

We were required to have medical insurance while in Budapest and chose SafetyWing. We budgeted it for the entire year but stopped it when we left Budapest. We are self-insuring for medical care incurred outside the U.S. because, in most places, it is considerably less expensive than in the U.S.

SafetyWing allows you to reinstate coverage at any time.

How We Travel

We travel at a three-star level. No hostels for us, but no five-star resorts either. We can save money by staying in most places for a month, which allows us to take advantage of deeper discounts on Airbnb rentals and spend less on transportation.

We eat more meals at home than in restaurants, but our budget allows us to eat in restaurants when the mood strikes.

We rely on public transportation to get around cities and prefer trains and buses over airplanes when moving between cities.

Cost by Location

LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
Budapest, Hungary$14,400155*$93
Aquaworld Resort$4003$133
Szeged, Hungary$9005$180
Vienna, Austria$1,6006$267
Visegrad, Hungary$700
4$175
Prague, Czech Republic$2,30010$230
Austria and Slovenia$2,90012$242
United Kingdom$5,40017$318
Turkish Coast$8,00045$178
Cappadocia, Turkey$1,7006$283
Istanbul, Turkey$4,00027$148
Thessaloniki, Greece$3,30028$118
Meteora, Greece$400
1
$400
Athens, Greece$3,60028$129
Tangier, Morocco$2,60018$144
General Costs$2,200365$6
2023 Expenses$10,100365$28
Totals$64,500365$177
Budget$53,700365$147

* The days spent in Budapest are net of the days we spent in other locations while still having a lease in Budapest.

The Most Expensive Locations

Meteora, Greece at $400/day – this overnight trip was part of a tour to see the monasteries that are built atop 1,000-1,800 foot or 300-500 meter high rock pillars. The tour itself was $300, which included transportation from Thessaloniki, hotel accommodations for one night, and two four-hour tours. We also spent $100 on food, entry fees, and attire, as women are required to wear a skirt that covers their knees, even if they are also wearing pants.

Two monasteries in Meteora, Greece
Two of the Meteora monasteries atop rock pillars

We booked this trip through Meteora.com. Even though it was expensive, we were happy with the tour company.

The United Kingdom at $318/day – we spent 17 days in the U.K., 6 in Manchester, and 11 while walking the Dales Way. It is no secret that the U.K. is outrageously expensive, but what really made this trip costly was that we booked the walk through a tour company. We spent $4,200 on our Dales Way walk, including transportation and meals that weren’t included in the tour package.

Cappadocia, Turkey at $283/day – this was a six-day trip, the highlight of which was a sunrise hot-air balloon ride for $500. Find out more about visiting Cappadocia in our post, “18 Things to Know Before Visiting Cappadocia.”

Vienna, Austria at $267/day – like the U.K., cities in western Europe tend to be pricey.

The Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria
Vienna and its attractions aren’t cheap, but they are incredible

Four cities in Austria and Slovenia at $242/day – this twelve-day trip included four cities, Vienna and Salzburg, Austria, and Bled and Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Bled Island in Slovenia
Bled Island and the scenery around Lake Bled must be seen to be believed

Prague at $230/day – we spent ten days in Prague. Check out “12 Of The Most Interesting Things to Do in Prague.”

The Least Expensive Locations

Budapest, Hungary at $93/day — the fact that we had a long-term lease combined with a lower cost of living than in many European cities made Budapest a bargain.

Thessaloniki, Greece at $118/day – a month in this northern Greek city was a bargain. While there isn’t as much to do as there is in Athens, we enjoyed the relative quiet of this city after the intensity of Istanbul.

The White Tower in Thessaloniki, Greece
The White Tower on the waterfront

Athens, Greece at $129/day – Like Thessaloniki, Athens is a cost-effective European city. We saved money by eating at home since the restaurants in our neighborhood were particularly pricey. We decided to save the food money for when we return to Athens with our daughters in April of 2023.

Aquaworld Resort Budapest, Hungary at $133/day – Our last visit to one of our favorite places was a great bargain. Our three-night stay included our room, half-board, and access to the thermal baths, the waterpark, and the spa facilities.

Aquaworld Budapest
You get a lot of bang for your buck at Aquaworld

You can find out more about Aquaworld here and in our post, “Aquaworld Budapest: Tons of Fun in Hungary.”

Comparison to Previous Years

Here’s a look back since we started traveling full-time in 2018:

YearAnnualized CostDays in YearCost per Day
2018$58,400365$160
2019$52,900365$145
2020$41,700366$114
2021$42,300365$116
2022$64,500365$177

Our daily cost for 2022 was the highest so far and can easily be lowered in 2023.

I believe that the $145 cost per day for 2019 is the most representative of what our type of travel should cost for two people. There were no big expenses in 2019 as there was in 2018 (a two-week Transatlantic cruise) or 2022, and no impact by the pandemic as we had in 2020 and 2021.

What 2022 Taught Us

In 2022, we strayed from our basic tenets: travel slowly by spending about one month in each place and use Airbnbs more than hotels.

However, given what we all dealt with during the pandemic, I’m not going to sweat the decisions we made in 2022.

You can read about our whirlwind year in “Memorable Moments From a Year of Full-Time Travel (2022).”

Until Next Time

I hope you found this post informative. If there is other data you would like to see, please let me know in the comments section. Or just leave a comment to say “hi.”

Happy traveling,
Linda

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.

Wind and Whim’s 2021 Full-Time Travel Costs: Hungary

Are you wondering how much it costs to travel the world full-time? Then you are in luck. It’s that time of year when I summarize and share our full-time travel costs for the previous year.

Because of the pandemic, we spent all of 2021 in Hungary. Even though our 2021 full-time travel costs are not representative of our usual travel costs, I decided to share them in the interest of continuity, just as I did for 2020.

A Little Background

My husband Steve and I are from Jacksonville, Florida. We are retired and travel full-time. We began in 2018. You can see a list of the cities and countries we have visited here. Before the pandemic, we would usually spend four weeks in each location.

How Did We End Up in Hungary?

We began 2020 with a ski trip to Bansko, Bulgaria. Not only was the skiing disappointing, but instead of staying one month, we were there for nine weeks while Steve recovered from a serious skiing accident. You can read about that experience in “Hospitalized in Bulgaria.”

You may also enjoy “Bansko, Bulgaria: Not the Trip We’d Hoped For” and “The Pros and Cons of Skiing in Bansko, Bulgaria.”

Steve was able to travel by mid-March. The pandemic was in its early stages, and we had to decide whether to stay in Europe or return to the U.S. We decided to stay in Europe since the long trip back to the U.S. would have been difficult for Steve. We headed to Budapest, the next destination on our itinerary. We’ve been here ever since.

SSDY (Same Stuff, Different Year)

By the end of 2020, we were hoping the pandemic would end in the early part of 2021, and we could all return to normal. Well, things didn’t quite work out that way. As the pandemic held tight, we renewed our residence permits for another year. This allows us to stay in Hungary until July 2022.

Hungary shut down all but essential services from November 2020 through April 2021. Being locked down for the first four months of 2021 meant lower food, transportation, and activity costs. Once the country opened up and we were vaccinated, we made up for lost time by exploring Hungary.

Are We Glad We Stayed in Europe?

As we wait for the world to open, I often think about our decision to stay in Budapest instead of returning to the U.S. at the start of the pandemic. Both Steve and I have repeatedly said that if we are going to be “stuck,” it’s a great place to be stuck.

In Budapest we can live less expensively than in the U.S. and don’t need a car. If we had returned to Jacksonville, we would have had to rent a car and probably would have ended up buying one when it became apparent we would be staying a while. And when it is time to resume our travels, we are already where we want to be. No Transatlantic flights required.

Four-photo collage of Budapest sites

It’s easy to fall in love with this beautiful city on the Danube (clockwise from upper left: the Chain Bridge, Fishermans Bastion, Vaci Street, Szechenyi Baths)

As hard as this pandemic has been on everyone, I think Steve and I will look back to our time in Budapest fondly.

Here are some posts about this beautiful city:
“The Beauty of Budapest in 50 Photos”
“The Funky Side of Budapest”
“20 Quick and Cool Things to See and Do in Budapest”
“Budapest’s Marvelous Margaret Island”

So let’s get to it. What did we budget, and what did we spend?

Money Stuff

Our 2021 Costs by Category

Here it is: we budgeted $47,900 for travel and spent $42,300. Our cost per day was $116.

CategoryCostBudgetOver (Under) Budget
Lodging$18,700$16,800
$1,900
Food$13,000$14,400($1,400)
Insurance$3,200$2,700$500
Transportation
$2,900$6,000($3,100)
Activities$1,000$5,500($4,500)
Visas$9000$900
Medical$700$1,200($500)
Office Related$600$300$300
Telephone$500
$500
0
Website$500$300$200
Other$300$200$100
Total$42,300$47,900
($5,600)

Don’t let these numbers scare you. Our style of travel is higher than backpacker level and lower than luxury level. I would classify it as three-star. If you are considering full-time or long-term travel, you can do it for much less. There are tools and posts that can give you more insight into the cost of travel in the Ways to Travel for Less section.

A Few Notes About This Data

* all costs are in U.S. dollars
* all costs are for two people
* it only includes expenses directly related to travel

The following items are not included:
* stateside medical insurance
* routine prescriptions
* base cost of our AT&T cell phone plan
* storage of our possessions in the U.S.
* clothing (unless purchased for a specific reason like ski wear)

Budget Variances

Where We Were Over Budget

Lodging – by $1,900. We were able to stay under our $1,400 per month budget for our accommodations in Budapest. We ate up that savings and then some by spending $2,900 on hotel stays during our side trips (more on that below) and $1,400 for a place for our daughters to stay while visiting us for two weeks since the four of us would have been crowded in our apartment.

Elegant living room in Budapest

The living room of our daughters’ Airbnb

Insurance – by $500. This includes any insurance we purchase related to travel.

There are two items in this category: our annual evacuation policy from Medjet and travel health insurance from SafetyWing.

The Medjet policy costs us $1,100 per year.

We added SafetyWing Nomad Insurance for Steve in 2021 since he had turned 65 and had to go on Medicare. That meant that he no longer had coverage outside of the U.S. as he did with his Florida Blue policy. A condition of our residence permits is that we have medical insurance that will cover us in Hungary.

Our budget was $1,600 for this. The total cost was $2,100 because we added a policy for me at the end of 2021 in anticipation of losing my Florida Blue coverage since I am turning 65 early in 2022.

The good news is if you are younger than us, you will pay less for SafetyWing. Coverage for people under forty is only $42 for four weeks as of this writing.

You can learn more about the ins and outs of medical care while traveling in “Medical Care on the Road.”

Visas – by $900. We did not budget for this. When we applied for our first residence permit in 2020, we did it ourselves. It was stressful and required three trips to the government office, where we sat for hours and hours. This time we hired a firm to expedite the process. We used nVisa and were very happy with them. We were in and out of the office within an hour. Were we happy spending an unplanned $900? No. But in this case, it was worth it to save our sanity.

Office Related Items– by $300. $150 was for a printer for our daughter so she can scan mail for us. $90 was for the mailing of items like new credit cards. The remaining $60 was for miscellaneous copies, photos, and supplies.

Website – by $200. I have added two tools that are helpful while working on this website. They were not budgeted but are worth the additional expense. They are the premium version of Grammarly, which catches all sorts of errors and makes helpful suggestions ($140 per year), and the premium version of Rank Math Pro for SEO guidance ($59 per year). Both of these have a free version.

Other – over by $100. This includes things like currency exchange charges and laundry. Both are items we avoid whenever possible.

Where We Were Under Budget

Food – under by $1,400 since we ate at home for the first half of the year.

Transportation – under by $3,100. Being unable to travel the first half of the year saved us tons. The $2,900 spent on transportation includes $1,800 for our daughters’ round trip flights from Orlando, $1,000 on bus, train, and metro tickets and $100 for lounge access when our daughters’ flight was delayed twelve hours.

Activities – under by $4,500. Again, because of the lockdown.

Medical – under budget by $500. This is the hardest category to budget. We estimated costs of $1,200.

Our actual costs were $1,600:
$1,300 on annual medical plans for both of us with FirstMed, a private health care provider with English-speaking staff and $300 for Covid testing for our daughters’ visit.

These were offset by reimbursements of $900 from Florida Blue for some of our 2020 overseas expenses, resulting in a net expense of $700.

The FirstMed plan covers primary and specialty visits, annual exams including a dental exam and an eye exam, and some vaccines. When it became apparent we would be here long-term, it made sense to get the plan. It is definitely less costly than paying for each visit.

If you need medical care in Budapest, we recommend FirstMed. They offer all their services in one location. Our doctors have been excellent, and communication has been flawless.

Side Trips And A Family Visit

Side trips can be a lot of fun, especially after you’ve been cooped up. But they can be budget busters, too.

This table shows our daily cost while in Budapest, on side trips to five Hungarian towns, and during our daughters’ visit:

LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
Budapest$31,700329$96
Aquaworld Resort$1,7009$189
Hévíz$5002$250
Veszprém and Székesfehérvár$1,1005$220
Eger and Lillafüred$1,6006$267
Daughters’ Visit$5,70014$407
Totals$42,300365$116
Budget$47,900365$131

As you can see, we spent more than twice as much per day on side trips than we did while in Budapest.

These trips put us over budget for lodging since we were paying rent in Budapest and also paying for hotel stays. We also chose more luxurious hotel rooms than we usually do.

Once we were vaccinated, we quickly discovered a love of the thermal baths prevalent in Hungary. We visited Aquaworld Resort Budapest in July and enjoyed it so much we went back three more times. You can read about this awesome resort in “Aquaworld Budapest: Tons of Fun in Hungary.”

We also took side trips to several Hungarian towns where we enjoyed sightseeing, more thermal baths, luxurious lodgings, and fantastic food. You can read about one of those trips in “Eger and Egerszalók: A Great Hungarian Getaway.”

We loved exploring Bory Castle, an art-filled private home turned museum in Székesfehérvár.

Bory Castle in Székesfehérvár, Hungary

Bory Castle in Székesfehérvár, Hungary

In December, we had the pleasure of spending two weeks with our daughters, Stephanie and Laura. We hadn’t seen them in two years, so every moment together was special.

Our time with our daughters included a two-night stay at Aquaworld, a visit to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths, and a lot of good food. The dining highlight was an Advent brunch at Lang Bistro and Grill in the Budapest Hilton Hotel.

People in the Szechenyi Baths

Steve and our daughter, Stephanie, in the Szechenyi Baths on a winter day

Comparison to Previous Years

Here is a look back on our expenses since we started traveling full-time in 2018.

YearAnnualized CostDays in YearCost per Day
2018$58,400365$160
2019$52,900365$145
2020$41,700366$114
2021$42,300365$116

We spent the most per day in 2018 because of a 15-day cruise and a pricey three-day trip to London for four people. Our inexperience led to some costly choices as well.

I feel that the $145 we spent per day for 2019 is the most representative of what we should expect when we are not in a pandemic.

2020 and 2021 daily costs were low at $114 and $116, respectively. As hard as shut-downs and pandemics are, there is no denying they are kind to the wallet.

Click here for more information on our 2018, 2019, and 2020 travel costs.

How We Travel

Lodging – We rely on Airbnb to provide us with temporary homes at affordable prices. After a few less-than-lovely accommodations in 2018, we upped our lodging budget from $1,000 per month to $1,400 per month. You can read about our rough start with Airbnb and how we learned to find wonderful accommodations in “5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals.”

We stayed in two apartments in 2021. Both were clean, comfortable, and stylish. Both had a kitchen, two bedrooms, a dishwasher, and a clothes washer.

The first was an Airbnb that we renewed monthly. For less than $1,000 per month, we had a living room, kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, and one and a half baths. It also had more storage space than any apartment we have ever stayed in.

Large, sunny living room in apartment

The living room of our first apartment of 2021. Every room was spacious.

We had to move in the spring because we needed a long-term rental in order to get residence permits. We moved smack dab into the center of the city. This apartment costs a bit more because of its desirable locations but is still under our $1,400 per month budget.

Eclectic living room

Our home until July 2022.

And you can’t beat the views from our 8th-floor windows.

Sunset view and daytime view over Budapest

We love our sunset and city views

You can see that you get a lot of bang for your buck in Budapest. Of course, you can spend less and still get a clean, comfortable, and safe place to stay.

Food – I’ll be frank, we eat well. Once we were free to visit restaurants, we ate about a quarter of our lunches and dinners out.

Collage of four restaurant dishes in Budapest

Clockwise from upper left: recovery breakfast at Circusz, fajitas at Tereza, appetizer at Okay Italia, and stuffed cabbage at Kiskakukk

Transportation – We take advantage of public transportation whenever we can. In four years of travel, we have only needed to rent a car outside of the U.S. for two weeks. We have found it easy to get around without a car, especially in Europe.

Insurance – The only travel-related insurance we always have is evacuation insurance from Medjet. Getting other insurance depends on the specific situation, such as when it is required to get a visa.

Ways to Travel for Less

There are many ways to travel for less than we do and still have an amazing trip.

Cut accommodation costs – Airbnb is a good option. Even more economical options include housesitting, hostels, and staying with friends and relatives. Couchsurfing is often mentioned when discussing budget travel, but the leading player, Couchsurfing.com, is going through some growing pains. You can read about that here.

Travel slowly – This keeps the transportation costs down and allows you to take advantage of discounts on Airbnb for long-term stays. It also gives you a chance to immerse yourself in a place.

Use public transportation whenever possible – It isn’t glamorous and can sometimes be uncomfortably crowded, but in many places, it is a quick, convenient, and inexpensive way to get around.

Visit less expensive places – The two links below can help you find the places that will help stretch your dollar (or euro, or peso, or whatever). If you don’t want to do all-budget travel, you can balance expensive places like France and the Galapagos Islands with less costly places like Romania and Croatia, as we have.

Plan side trips wisely – You can limit the number of side trips you take, consider day trips when possible, or tack a short trip on the end of a longer one to avoid paying lodging costs at two places at once.

Budgeting Resources

Here is a website that can show you what you can expect to spend while visiting various countries and cities. Budget Your Trip lets you choose your destination, trip duration, and travel style.

My Funky Travel has a detailed post titled “Backpacking Costs in Different Countries.” It lists countries from the cheapest to the most expensive, and many countries have more detailed information available.

So What Does It Cost to Travel Full-Time for One Year?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. To complicate matters, travelers now have to deal with Covid testing and the possibility of a quarantine. And I would caution that having medical coverage while traveling is important, particularly for those who can’t afford to pay out of pocket.

Here are two blog posts in which travelers share their full-time travel costs:

Earth Trekkers discusses their costs for their 13-month trip in “How Much Does It Cost to Travel Around the World?”

Shannon at A Little Adrift did an impressive job of detailing her costs for full-time travel in “How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World for a Year? (2022 ).”

Here is an excerpt from her post:

“Generally, $20,000 is the baseline cost for a trip around the world for one person for one year. This estimation falls in line with popular recommendations that budget travelers can spend an average of $50 a day on the road, and allows additional budget for flights and vaccines.”


So there you have it. Could you do it for less? Probably. It all depends on how you plan and what you are willing to sacrifice.

There are some far-out suggestions on how to save money while traveling, such as sneaking into hostels (NO!) and eating other people’s leftovers (EEW!). It also means there isn’t as much room for errors and unexpected problems.

What’s In Store for Us in 2022?

Life seems to be slowly returning to normal. Like everyone else, we are anxious to get moving again. Once our lease is up in July, we hope to resume our original travel routine of spending four weeks in each location. Where will that be? We have no idea.

Until then, we will take side trips while keeping a home base in Budapest. One possibility is a trip to Vienna, which is just two and a half hours away by train. Another possibility is Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. It is also two and a half hours away by train. There are several more towns in Hungary to explore, too.

Until Next Time

I hope that this has been helpful. If you have any questions about full-time travel costs or what it’s like to travel full-time, please don’t hesitate to ask.

If you are a frequent or full-time traveler, Steve and I would love to hear how the pandemic has affected your travel plans and your travel expenses.

Stay safe and healthy,
Linda

Featured image by FotoEmotions on Pixabay.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.

5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals

In this post, I will share some of our Airbnb experiences and the lessons we learned from them. If you are in a hurry, you can scroll to the last section, All Five Tips, in the table of contents (below).

If you use Airbnb, you probably do what we do: read the reviews and study the photos and maps. Unfortunately, this isn’t always enough to ensure you’ll find the best Airbnb for your needs.

Below are five additional things we do when searching for an Airbnb and the stories of how we came to adopt them. Hopefully, they can help you have the best Airbnb experiences possible too.

All money is in U.S. dollars.

A Bumpy Start

Steve and I began our full-time travels in 2018. That year we traveled for eight months and stayed in seventeen accommodations, including twelve Airbnbs. More than five years later, we still rely on Airbnb for longer stays. However, it was not without some bumps in the beginning.

One host misrepresented his apartment, leaving us with a curtain instead of a bathroom door. Another host canceled our reservation eleven days before our arrival. But possibly the strangest thing was the solid block of ice in the freezer in our rental in Croatia.

Lesson #1 – An Instant Book Snafu

We got off to a less-than-promising start when we booked an apartment in Barcelona a year before we began our travels. We decided on one and pushed the instant book key. Then we posted this milestone to Facebook.

The next day, we got a message from Manuel, the host, saying the price was wrong. He didn’t name a new price but asked us to make an offer. We said no and asked him to cancel the reservation.

We didn’t want to cancel it because, at that time, if you canceled an Airbnb reservation of 28 days or more (long-term in Airbnb land), you were liable for the first month’s fee. But Manuel wouldn’t budge.

After waiting several days for Manuel to cancel the reservation, I called Airbnb. They said the best thing was for us to cancel, and there would be no penalty.

With that taken care of, we were able to book another apartment in Barcelona for $500 more than the first one. It had two bedrooms, a kitchen, a small balcony, and a washing machine. We were surprised to find that the washing machine was on the rooftop patio.

A small living room with a sofa, a table with two chairs, and a refrigerator
Our apartment in Barcelona was safe and clean but nothing special. And yes, the refrigerator was in the living room.

Lesson #1 – Do not instant book. You can turn this option off in the filters.

We now communicate with the host before booking. We verify the dates and price and ask questions about the accommodation.

Two chairs and a small table with a stuffed hedgehog on a balcony
Hedgie loved watching the action from our tiny balcony in Barcelona.
Lesson # 2 – Don’t Book for Too Long

We were excited to find a studio in Paris for $1,000 per month. From the description, we knew it was small, and we knew that this was very inexpensive for Paris. We planned to spend two months there, so we grabbed this baby.

The minute we walked in, we knew that there was no way we could spend two months there. The whole place was about 100 square feet or 9.3 square meters. In addition, two things in the posting were misleading.

First, there was a picture of a Murphy bed with shelving on either side. There was a Murphy bed but no shelving because there wasn’t room for any.

Second, there was a review stating that the bathroom didn’t have a door, with a reply from the host saying there was a door. Unless door has a different meaning in France, this was a lie. There was only a curtain separating the bathroom/kitchen area from the living/sleeping area. And it didn’t even go all the way across.

Because of these two issues, the host agreed to let us out of the second month without penalty.

Area with a shower door, toilet, small sink, and towel warmer
The bathroom area in our Paris apartment – note the tiny sink above the toilet. It did have an amazing shower, though.
A foldable table and chair set in front of a shower stall and toilet
This foldable table and chair became my early morning workplace while Steve slept.

Lesson #2 – We never book a place for more than one month. We can tolerate most places for that long.

Lesson #2B – Always verify that there is a bathroom door. Only half kidding here.

Lesson #3 – Avoid Hosts Who Have Cancelations

With the second month’s Paris lodging canceled, we decided to spend that month in Strasbourg, France. We had to scramble because it was tourist season, but we found a place. We practiced the first lesson by communicating with the host before booking.

Eleven days before we were scheduled to arrive, she asked for an increase of 54%. We said no. She replied by saying we should cancel the booking. Presumably, she wanted to avoid the penalties Airbnb imposes on hosts when they cancel a booking. We held firm, and she eventually canceled it.

We found another place in Strasbourg that was nearly perfect. It was clean, spacious, and uncluttered. It was a little higher than our budget, but we were happy to pay the difference because the bathroom had an actual door, even if it was a sliding door that tended to open on a whim, requiring a doorstop to guarantee privacy.

Lesson #3 – Do not book with hosts whose comments show that they canceled a reservation unless they have provided a good reason.

We realize emergencies happen. Airbnb gives hosts the option of responding to a cancellation post. If they don’t respond, we can only assume that they did not have a good reason to cancel on a past guest.

Airbnb in Our Future

During this time, we had three more reservations booked through Airbnb, two of them long-term. We felt trapped but knew we had to make the best of it. I am happy to report that all these apartments had good, solid bathroom doors. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t other issues.

Our next stay was three nights in London. We found what appeared to be a lovely two-bedroom flat, but it turned out to be quite dirty. The problems included food left in the sink, odor in the refrigerator, mold in the shower, stains on a curtain, and cooking supplies that belonged in the garbage.

The bottom of a stained curtain
Stains on the curtain of our London rental. Yuck!

I messaged the host to inform him that the apartment wasn’t clean and suggested he might want to see it for himself since he worked only two doors away. He did not respond to this. He did offer to have the cleaning crew come back.

We only had two full days in London, and we didn’t want to spend them waiting for cleaners. Nor did we trust them with our belongings, so we declined.

Because of the condition of the kitchen, we ate all our meals out. Oh, darn! We were amused that his review of us included that “the apartment was returned clean and tidy.” What?

No new lesson here. Sometimes you just chalk it up to experience and move on.

Lesson #4 – Choose Superhosts

In 2018, we spent three nights in Split, Croatia, a small beach town on the Adriatic Sea. This time we rented from a Superhost for the first time. This was our best Airbnb experience up to that point.

Superhosts are Airbnb hosts who have met several requirements, including receiving high scores from guests, having no cancelations by the host except in extreme cases, and having a high rate of response to inquiries.

A man with his head thrown back and a huge smile
How we felt when we discovered superhosts – photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash.com

Lesson #4Rent from Superhosts whenever possible. You may still encounter a problem, but it is less likely.

Even though we put stock in the Superhost label, there were times when we did not choose a Superhost and had a wonderful experience like at Ryan’s place in Jacksonville, Florida. When we rented from Ryan, he was not a Superhost because his listing was too new. He is now.

Smoother Sailing

During the rest of 2018, we stayed in six more Airbnbs, including a sailboat in Lisbon. All but one host was a Superhost. Except for some mild seasickness on the boat, all these stays were comfortable and problem-free.

A white sailboat at dock
Our temporary floating home in Lisbon
A toy hedgehog sitting at a sailboat’s wheel
Hedgie settling into life at sea

A word of warning if you stay on a boat. Check before you book to make sure it has snubbers. These devices prevent the boat from violently jerking while it is docked. The boat we stayed on did not have them. This wasn’t a problem until our last night. The strong winds caused the boat to jerk hard enough that it kept us awake. Luckily we didn’t get seasick, but it was a real threat.

Getting Our Groove

We spent most of 2019 in Latin America and didn’t have any problems with our Airbnb rentals except for renting one that was so close to perfect that it spoiled us for all others. We loved Sara’s Apartment in Medellin. It was spacious and had floor-to-ceiling windows that slid open to a huge balcony with a beautiful view.

Modern living room opened to a balcony in a Medellin Airbnb
The living room and balcony of our Airbnb in Medellin

During 2020 and 2021, we’ve continued to use Airbnb, but for much longer stays because of the pandemic. Like in 2019, they were all very good.

Lesson #5 – Check Out the Neighborhood

In 2022, we stayed in an Airbnb on the European side of Istanbul for two weeks. The apartment was in a new building and looked pleasant.

We were shocked to discover that while our building was one of several new highrises on one block, the area around that block, in every direction, was a slum. Even so, we never felt unsafe, but it definitely impacted our experience.

Since then, we use Google maps street view to check out the area around the place we are considering.

Lesson #5 – Use Google Maps street view to check out the neighborhood.

After this, we spent two weeks on the Asian side of the city. The prices were cheaper there, and the area around our building was nicer. However, our building, which was only three years old, caught on fire. Luckily it was only on the outside, so no one lost belongings or had damage to the interior.

One More Thing

In 2018, we visited Zagreb, Croatia. We booked a spacious apartment for only $813. It had air conditioning and was clean and comfortable. And again, the bathroom had a good, solid door. The only problem was a solid block of ice in the freezer.

A frozen solid freezer
At least the freezer was cold.

We were shown into the apartment by Mladen, a friend of our host. He did not speak English, and we don’t speak Croatian. Steve set about looking around the apartment. He opened the freezer door and saw the ice. Mladen quickly ran over, signally “no,” and firmly shut the door. OK, so we didn’t have use of the freezer, no big deal.

Shortly after he left, we had a message from our host telling us that we must not use the freezer to cool the apartment, and if the refrigerator breaks, we will be charged for it.

The next day, Steve offered to defrost the freezer. Our host’s response was quite chilly. She told Steve not to touch it. She ended up sending Mladen over to take care of it. It turned out the entire freezer was a block of ice, so this problem had been going on for a while. We don’t understand why it wasn’t taken care of earlier.

Aside from this issue, we had a great stay in this apartment and managed to put this issue behind us when dealing with our host.

One More Thing – Take pictures of any problem areas when you arrive, and discuss the big ones with the host.

We’ve been doing this from the beginning. The other thing we do is take pictures before we move any items so we can put them back where they were before we leave.

Our Main Reasons for Using Airbnb

As of this writing, we have stayed in over 40 Airbnbs. We plan to continue booking through Airbnb because:

  • We can get a comfortable apartment with a full kitchen for much less than a hotel would cost.
  • Most hosts offer discounts for stays of 28 days or longer.
  • The few times we have had issues, Airbnb offered good support.
  • The quality of accommodations on Airbnb is impressive.
  • We find the platform easy to use.
What We Spend

Our original budget (2018) allowed for accommodation costs of $1,000 for four weeks. After our Paris experience, we upped it to $1,400 but averaged $1,200 per 28-night stay until the pandemic.

We got a great deal in San Jose, Costa Rica, in 2019. For $1,200 for four weeks, we had an apartment on the nineteenth floor. It had great views from the floor-to-ceiling windows and an indoor hot tub with a mountain view.

View of a pool from a 19th floor balcony
The view from our San Jose Airbnb

Since the pandemic, the cost has gone up a bit. From October 2022 to September 2023, we stayed in twelve Airbnbs in Greece, Morocco, and the Balkans. Nine of them were for 28 nights, with an average cost of $1,600. That’s only $57 per night!

The three we stayed in for fewer nights averaged $82 per night.

Our Personal Preferences

We are proponents of slow travel who often stay in one city for four weeks or more. As full-time travelers, we are not on vacation but are setting up house in a new place. Therefore, we look for apartments with these things:

  • A well-stocked kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, a stovetop, an oven, and a dishwasher
  • A separate bedroom
  • Comfortable-looking living room furniture
  • A table and chairs where we can take care of business (and write this blog)
  • Good internet
  • A clothes washer (we don’t need a dryer). See “Laundry on the Road” to learn about the challenges of doing laundry while traveling.
All Five Tips

Through trial and error, we learned to make Airbnb work for us, and you can too by using these five rules:

1. Do not instant book. Communicate with the host before booking to verify the dates and price and get answers to any questions or concerns you have.

2. Only book a place for the length of time for which you can tolerate a less-than-ideal situation. For us, it’s one month. For you, it might be different.

3. Avoid hosts who have unexplained cancellations.

4. Rent from Superhosts whenever possible.

5. Use Google Maps street view to check out the neighborhood.

Finally – once you arrive, document any problems and discuss the big ones with your host.

More Information

For even more ways to find the best Airbnbs, check out this article by dreamstays.com. You might also be interested in our post “12 Ways To Be An Amazing Airbnb Host.

Until Next Time

I hope you found this post helpful. As always, Steve and I would love to hear from you. Please share your Airbnb experiences and tips in the comment sections below. And please consider sharing this post using the buttons at the top.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured photo by Deborah Cortelazzi on Unsplash.com

This post was originally published on May 26, 2021.

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.

12 Ways To Be An Amazing Airbnb Host

Steve and I are currently in our twenty-eighth Airbnb since beginning our worldwide travels in April 2018. As of December 31, 2020, we have spent 800 nights in Airbnb apartments. Overall, our experiences have been good. Even so, we have identified twelve things Airbnb hosts can do to take their guests’ experiences from good to great.

Much More Good Than Bad

Airbnb is the most valuable service we use as full-time travelers. It allows us to find roomy apartments at affordable prices. Without it and similar services, we would have to pay more for less (in hotels) or live very simply (in hostels). Neither of these appeal to us.

After some less-than-ideal experiences during our first year of travel (which you can read about in “5 Tips for Finding the Best Airbnb Rentals”), we have learned to quickly identify apartments that meet our needs. Since we typically rent for four weeks, we look for a full kitchen with a range, a full-size refrigerator, a separate bedroom, a clothes washer (a dryer is a plus but not common in many cities), and of course wifi. And after staying in one place with a cheap sofa that sat low on the floor, we make sure the living room looks comfortable. We like to use Superhosts, but that is not a deal-breaker.

Most of our hosts have done a great job of providing a clean and pleasant environment. Many have provided welcome food. One host left the flowers (above) along with chocolate and wine.

Wine is appreciated, but we really appreciate a few bottles of drinking water, especially in places where the tap water isn’t safe to drink. We have found the linens to be clean and in good repair, and there is usually at least one flat-screen TV.

I could go on and on about the pleasure of staying with hosts who care about the quality of their guests’ experience. But this article is about the things hosts can do better. We humbly suggest that Airbnb hosts consider these twelve suggestions to give their guests the best Airbnb experience possible (and ensure their own success).

Things We Wish Every Host Would Provide
1. More Hangers

Our rentals have always had clothes hangers. They have almost always had too few. Six seems to be the number of hangers many hosts feel their guests will need. I can tell you right now; we need more hangers! At least six per person. Preferably more. We carry our own hangers but would prefer not to.

2. And More Than One Mirror
A monkey looking into a mirror
Photo credit Andre Mouton on Unsplash.com

We usually have only one bathroom. Not always fun if you are traveling with another person (if you get my drift). We carry a bottle of Poo~Pourri for this very reason. Even so, we don’t always want to enter that room immediately after the other person has used it.

This can be a problem when we are getting ready to go out and need a mirror. That leads to our second request. A mirror outside of the bathroom. Extra points if it is a full-length mirror.

3. Bathroom Shelves

Because we tend to stay in one place for several weeks, we are sensitive to storage space. Many bathrooms have an under-sink cabinet where we can store toiletries. Most of them also have wall space above the toilet that is usually filled with a cheap picture. How about some shelves there instead, so guests can have their toiletries visible and easily accessible?

White floating shelves in pristine bathroom
Photo credit Andrea Davis on Unsplash.com
4. Extra Bath Towels

Hosts are expected to provide one bath towel for each guest. A few will go the extra mile and provide more. This is usually not a problem. However, if the rental is in a building with a swimming pool or hot tub, it would be nice if the hosts would provide two towels per guest. It isn’t fun to dry off at the pool and then have to dry off from your shower with a damp, chlorine-scented towel.

5. And a Bath Mat

Another thing that is often lacking is a mat to use in front of the shower or tub. Guests don’t want to be drying off with the same towel that was just on the floor.

6. Better Sofas

We usually find the beds in our rentals to be roomy and comfortable. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the sofas. We rarely have one that is really comfortable for stretching out after a busy day of sightseeing. Too often, the sofas are just one step up from a futon.

We realize furniture isn’t cheap, and people host Airbnb’s to make money, not get into Architectural Digest. Even so, you can’t put a price tag on a comfy sofa. One that guests can stretch out on. Like this:

Dark gray L-shaped sofa in a living room.
Photo credit Sven Brandsma on Unsplash.com
7. A Clean Vacuum

Many units have a vacuum for the guests to use. Steve is the vacuum handler in our house, and I can’t remember the last time he used a vacuum without having to empty or unclog it first.

Since most units have hard floors rather than carpet, a broom and a dustpan are preferable to a clogged vacuum.

8. Sharp Knives

Overall, hosts do a very good job of outfitting the kitchen. One thing that seems to be universally ignored is keeping the knives sharp. It’s a little thing that means a lot.

9. Street Maps

Yes, we have Google Maps, but it isn’t foolproof. We appreciate it when a host provides a few up-to-date street maps of the area. We recently stayed in one apartment where they had several copies (like about 20), so we didn’t feel bad about taking one and writing on it.

I know we can buy a paper map, but it is getting harder and harder to find them, and who wants to spend their travel time map shopping?

Things We Wish Every Host Would Do
10. Keep On Top of Minor Maintenance Issues

Most of the places we have stayed have been in good repair. But occasionally, a host will let a little maintenance issue slide.

We have had a very loose kitchen faucet (literally hanging in the sink), a large number of burned-out light bulbs, and a freezer that was one giant block of ice, to name a few. As guests, we don’t want to be put in the position of reminding the host about what needs to be fixed, and we don’t want to have to stay home while it is being repaired. Please take care of these issues before your guests arrive. And if you fail to do so, or something breaks after the guests arrive, please do not make them ask you to fix it more than once.

11. An Annual Deep Clean
Sign reading “This house was clean yesterday - we’re sorry you missed it.”
Photo credit Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash.com

It is a pleasure to stay in a new listing. Everything is freshly painted and color-coordinated. Appliances are out of the box shiny and have the latest bells and whistles. But nothing stays new forever. One thing that seems to be lacking is deep cleaning. Yes, the kitchen and bathroom get wiped down after each guest. The floors get washed, and the bedding and towels laundered.

But what about the dust on the woodwork, the calcium deposits on the showerhead, or dirty air conditioning filters? An annual deep cleaning would go a long way towards keeping the unit like new for each guest.

12. Pay Attention to What’s in the Cabinets and Drawers

This is where hosts and their cleaning people drop the ball big time. I can’t tell you how many times we have had to scrub pots and pans or kitchen utensils because a previous guest did not clean them well, and the person who cleaned up after the guest never thought to check on the items in the kitchen cabinets and drawers.

Occasionally an item has been so rusty, moldy, or crusty that we chose to buy our own instead of using it.

Heads up to all hosts and cleaning people. Please keep an eye on the kitchen tools and appliances!

A Quick List

Here are the nine things we would like to see more hosts provide:

More clothes hangers
A mirror outside of the bathroom
Shelves in the bathroom
Extra towels if there is a pool or jacuzzi
A bath mat
A comfy sofa
A clean vacuum
Sharp knives
A few current paper street maps

And here are three things we would like to see every host do:

Take care of small maintenance issues before guests arrive
Do an annual deep clean
Checking the condition of kitchen appliances and tools

Thank You, Airbnb Hosts

Airbnb is a godsend for travelers. We appreciate and commend every host who is providing a safe and comfortable place for his guests.

If you are an Airbnb host and are already doing these things, kudos to you.

For all other hosts, we hope you will give some consideration to these suggestions.

Happy hosting,
Linda

Featured image by Pineapple Supply Co. 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.

Wind and Whim’s 2020 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe

What can I say about the year we just had? No words can adequately express the sorrow of the almost two million lives lost, the lingering health impacts suffered by the long haulers, and the economic and mental costs COVID-19 has wrought.

I will not complain about having to hunker down in Hungary for 9 1/2 months out of the year. Steve and I are fortunate on so many fronts. We are retired, so there was no worry about how to work safely and effectively. We managed to remain healthy, even though it meant much more isolation than we would have liked. Our daughters are adults, so there were no issues with schooling. And we spent our time in Budapest, which is beautiful and affordable.

The Chain Bridge and Pest from the Buda side
The iconic Chain Bridge and the Pest side of Budapest

Even though 2020 is not representative of our usual travel costs, I decided to share them in the interest of continuity.

Man Plans, God Laughs

Ironically, our third year of travel was the first one in which we made an itinerary. We prefer to wing it (hence the name of this blog) but hoped to have our daughters visit us during the year. Therefore, we laid out where we would go so they could choose their destinations and make plans. We all know how that turned out.

After starting the year with a ski trip to Bansko, Bulgaria, we planned to go to Ukraine (including a dark tourism trip to the Chernobyl site), Budapest, Krakow, Prague, the U.K. (including a ten-day walk through Yorkshire and the Lake District), Italy, and a two-week cruise back to the U.S.

Instead, we spent nine weeks in Bansko as Steve recovered from his skiing accident. Then we headed to Budapest, Hungary, as the country and many others went into lockdown. We ended up staying for the entire year.

The Budget

Our budget has two parts:

* a simple three-item budget for every four weeks of travel
* an annual budget for items that span the year, like evacuation insurance

In the past, we scheduled most of our stops in four-week intervals. Our four-week budget is designed to be simple and breaks down like this:

ItemBudget
Lodging$1,500
Food$1,300
Transportation
& Activities
$1,000
Total$3,800

We spent 356 days away from Jacksonville in 2020. That means our four-week budget translates to $48,600 for travel in 2020 (the four-week budget of $3,800 divided by 28 days in four weeks times 356 travel days).

In addition, we have general costs that cover us all year. This includes:

* evacuation insurance through MedJet
* a virtual mailbox service with Traveling Mailbox
* a VPN service through ExpressVPN
* international drivers’ licenses
* travel supplies

The budget for general costs was $2,600.

This makes the total budget for 2020 $51,200.

You may wonder why there are only three categories in the four-week budget. While we incur costs for other items like SIM cards, medical care, or kitchen tools, the amounts tend to be small and hard to predict. We try to stay under the budget for the three categories, which leaves funds to cover the smaller expenses.

You may also wonder why I do not include our expenses when we return to our home city of Jacksonville, Florida. This is because what we spend in Jacksonville isn’t indicative of what a traveler would spend. While we are back in Jacksonville, we are Mom and Dad, not world travelers.

So What Were Our 2020 Travel Cost?

Here are our costs by category:

CategoryCost
Lodging$16,700
Food$12,800
Medical$4,500
Activities$2,300
Transportation$2,000
Telephone$700
Office Related$600
Supplies$400
Other$700
Total$40,700

As you can see, we spent $40,700 traveling this year.

Here is the detail of our actual and budgeted costs and the variances by location:

Location
Actual Cost
BudgetOver (Under) Budget
Bansko, Bulgaria$10,500$8,600

$1,900

Budapest, Hungary$27,800$40,000($12,200)
General Costs$2,400$2,600($200)
Totals$40,700$51,200($10,500)


Travel days358358358
Cost per day$114$143$29

Our budget allows for spending of $143 per day. We spent only $114 per day.

A Few Notes About This Data

* all costs are in U.S. dollars
* all costs are for two people
* it only includes expenses directly related to travel

The following items are not included:
* stateside medical insurance
* visits to doctors in the U.S.
* prescriptions purchased in the U.S.
* base cost of our AT&T cell phone plan
* storage of our possessions in the U.S.
* clothing (unless purchased for a specific reason like ski wear)

Notes On Budget Variances
Where We Were Over Budget

Bansko, Bulgaria – We were over budget by $2,000 in Bansko. These costs are related to Steve’s skiing accident:
* medical expenses not covered by insurance $500
* non-refundable Kyiv, Ukraine expenses $900
* taxis to and from hospital $200
* daily charge for AT&T SIM card usage $100
* ski supplies $200

A mountain peak seen from a city street
A peak of the Pirin Mountains in Bansko that is used for skiing
Where We Were Under Budget

Budapest, Hungary – we were under budget by an astounding $12,000 for the 9 1/2 months we spent in Budapest in 2020.

We saved $3,000 on accommodations. You can get some great deals when there is little demand.

We saved $4,000 on food. We did not find the food prices in Budapest to be a bargain, but the fact that restaurants were closed for half of the time we were here kept more $$$ in our pockets.

We saved an incredible $9,000 on transportation and activity costs. We usually move to a new city every four weeks. Because we remained in one city for so long and museums and attractions, like restaurants, were closed for half the time, we saw huge savings.

Some of the money we saved was spent on medical costs to the tune of $3,000.

* $1,500 of this for prescriptions filled here
* $1,200 for private medical insurance for one year at FirstMed.

We purchased medical insurance when it became obvious that we would be here a while. For $50 per month per person, it gives us numerous medical services at no extra cost.

Our Budapest costs include two side trips: the first to Szentendre and Visegrád for two nights and the second to Balatonfüred for three nights. The cost for these two trips totaled $1,000.

Sun reflecting off a lake
The beautiful Lake Balaton on an October morning
A Look at Our Spending Per Day

Our budget allows for spending of $143 per day. We spent only $114 per day. Here are our 2020 daily costs by location:

LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
Bansko, Bulgaria$10,50063$167
Budapest, Hungary$27,800295$94
General Expenses$2,400358$7
Totals$40,700358$114
Budget$51,200358$143
How We Travel

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 always had a kitchen and a separate bedroom. Most of them had a clothes washer.

Stylish kitchen
The kitchen in our first Budapest apartment

Our meals were either cooked at home or eaten in mid-level restaurants.

Comparison to Past Years

Since the number of days we travel (as opposed to being in Jacksonville) varies, the best way to compare the years is by annualizing the cost. I do this by taking the actual daily cost while traveling and multiplying it by the number of days in the year.

YearCost per DayDays in YearAnnualized Cost
2018$160365$58,400
2019$145365$52,900
2020$114366$41,700

Click here for more information on our 2018 and 2019 travel costs.

You can learn more about the ins and outs of full-time travel, including more information on costs, in our post 12 Full-Time Travel Questions Answered.

Looking Forward

We plan to stay in Budapest for the immediate future. We are allowed to remain in Hungary until mid-July 2021. Hopefully, the pandemic will be under control by then, and we can move on. If not, we will probably apply to extend our residence permit.

Thanks for reading. We would love to know what you think!

Stay safe and healthy,
Linda

Featured image by Ursula Schneider on Pixabay.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.

Wind and Whim’s 2019 Full-Time Travel Costs: Latin America

With our second year of full-time travel under our belts, it is time for a recap. This post details our Latin America travel costs from February through November of 2019.

When Steve and I first toyed with the idea of traveling the world full-time I was very grateful to Never Ending Voyage and A Little Adrift along with other bloggers who generously shared their travel costs on their blogs.  It is my hope that seeing how affordable and attainable full-time travel can be will inspire you.

Why We Picked Latin America

After returning to Florida in December 2018 we assumed we would spend 2019 continuing to explore various cities in Europe. Then we watched the stock market take a nosedive during the month of December to finish the worst year in ten years.

Knowing that many parts of Europe and the U.K. can be expensive I checked out Price of Travel for an alternative. You can see their list of 137 cities ranked by how costly they are to visit.

The first half is dominated by cities in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. The bottom half contains cities primarily in Western Europe, the U.K., Australia, and the U.S. and Canada.

We decided that Latin America would be a fiscally responsible choice for 2019.

Since our travel philosophy is to go with the flow (hence the name Wind and Whim) we did not detail the locations or related costs. We knew we would start in San Juan, Costa Rica then visit Panama City. After that, it was anyone’s guess.

The Budget

We traveled internationally for eight months (243 days) in 2018 and spent $38,900. This averaged to $160 per day. You can read the details in this article.

We decided on a budget of $45,600 for 2019. This came out to $148 per day for the 309 days we were traveling.

We have been scheduling our stops in four-week intervals for the most part. Our basic four-week budget breaks down like this:

ItemBudget
Lodging$1,500
Food$1,300
Transportation
& Activities
$1,000
Total$3,800

In addition, we have annual costs like evacuation insurance, vaccinations, and international drivers licenses. You can see the total budget in the next table.

So What Did 10 Months Cost?

Here are the cities we visited with the actual and budgeted costs:

LocationActual CostBudgetOver (Under)
San Jose,
Costa Rica
$4,200$3,500$700
Panama City,
Panama
$2,900$3,500($600)
Cartagena,
Colombia
$3,700$3,800($100)
Galapagos Is.,
Ecuador
$5,500$5,000$500
Quito,
Ecuador
$2,400$3,100($700)
Cuenca,
Ecuador
$2,800$3,800($1,000)
Various Cities,
Peru
$6,100$3,800$2,300
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
$7,200$7,700($500)
Cordoba,
Argentina
$3,100$3,800($700)
Medellin,
Colombia
$4,000$3,800$200
Flight back to U.S.
$100$400($300)
General
Expenses
$2,900$3,400($500)
Totals$44,900$45,600($700)

As you can see we came in $700 under budget at $44,900. This is just over $145 per day.

General Expenses are items that cover the year or aren’t related to a specific place. This includes things like:
Evacuation insurance from MedJet  $1,100
Vaccinations $600
Supplies $500
Virtual mailbox subscription $200

Here is a breakdown of our costs by category:

CategoryCost
Lodging
$15,400
Food$13,600
Transportation$8,800
Activities$3,400
Supplies$500
Medical$2,200
Office Related$200
Telephone$500
Other$300
Total$44,900


We not only spent less per day than in 2018, but we stayed in budget!

A few notes about this analysis:

* All costs are in U.S. dollars.
* All costs are for two people.
* It only includes expenses directly related to travel.

The following items are not included:
* Stateside medical insurance
* Routine medications and visits to doctors
* Base cost of our AT&T cell phone plan
* Storage of our possessions in the U.S.

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.

A modern living room opened to a balcony
Our fantastic apartment in Medellin had two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and a huge balcony. It was only $1,350 for four weeks.
Cost By Location
LocationTotal CostDaysCost per Day
San Jose,
Costa Rica
$4,20028
$150


Panama City,
Panama
$2,900

28$104
Cartagena,
Colombia
$3,70028$132
Galapagos
Islands,
Ecuador
$5,50028$196
Quito,
Ecuador
$2,40028$86
Cuenca,
Ecuador
$2,80027$104
Peru Tour$6,10029$210
Buenos Aires,
Argentina
$7,20056$129
Cordoba,
Argentina
$3,10028$111
Medellin,
Colombia
$4,00028$143
Flight to U.S.*$100
1$100

Subtotals
$42,000309$136
General
Expenses

$2,900309$9
Totals$44,900
309$145

* The flight back to the U.S. was inexpensive because we used points from our Chase credit card. The full cost was $600 including baggage costs.

Notes On Budget Variances

We were over budget in:

San Juan, Costa Rica – because of two side trips We took two side trips to beaches while we were San Juan. One was to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean Coast and the other to Jaco on the Pacific Coast. We enjoyed the change of pace at both of them. The total cost for 6 days was $1,600 or $267 per day.

A sloth with a baby hanging from a branch
Mama and baby sloth hanging out at our hotel in Puerto Viejo.
Man and woman throwing shaka sign
With my instructor in Puerto Viejo for my very first surf lesson.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – because of a side trip While visiting the islands we spent most of our time in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz. In order to see more of the famed wildlife, we spent a few days in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island.

The water taxi trip to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno was a bit of a nightmare. The captain was trying to avoid an approaching storm. In spite of his best efforts about half of the 40 people on the boat got seasick. Fortunately, the trip back to Santa Cruz Island was much smoother. Even so, the experience made us decide not to visit any more islands.

In spite of the rocky boat ride, we enjoyed our three days in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno which included two hikes to secluded beaches and a few cool experiences in town.

A woman and a sea lion on a beach
A morning hike led us to La Loberia where it was just us and the sea lions.

These 3 days cost $688 or $229 per day

It is well known that visiting the Galápagos Islands is expensive so we budgeted extra for it. We spent four weeks there and feel that it was far too long. You can read about our experiences in “Is A Land-Based Galapagos Trip Right for You?

Peru Tour – because of  a bus tour, a visit to Machu Picchu, and the flight from Cuenca to Lima

Our four weeks in Peru cost $6,100, $600 more than our four weeks in the Galapagos. The reason for this was that we started in Lima, spent 19 days visiting various towns in Peru, and went to Machu Picchu.

At $900, our flight from Cuenca to Lima was the most expensive we have had since we started traveling. From there we took a Peru Hop tour bus which went from Lima to Cusco, a distance of 685 miles or 1,100 km.

The Peru Hop tour lets you chose among several routes and spend as little or as much time as you want in each city. We spent 18 days in a total of 5 cities before heading to Machu Picchu.

The tour took us to several towns we would never have visited on our own including Paracas and Huacachina, an oasis town that introduced us to dune surfing.

A small lake surrounded by palm trees and sand dunes
We had never seen anything like the oasis town of Huacachina, Peru.

Even though we ended up spending sixteen hours in a decrepit little town in Peru because of a protest I would recommend Peru Hop. You can read about our experience with the protest, which included using the worst restroom we have ever seen in “Stranded on the Road in Peru.

Peru Hop and Machu Picchu Costs
ItemCost
Flight to Lima$900
Peru Hop bus$400
Train to Machu
Picchu Town
$300
Machu Picchu tour$300
Accommodations
$1,400
Food$1,000
Total$4,300

The remaining time in Peru was spent in Lima and averaged $160 per day.

We were under budget in:

Panama City, Panama – because of a great deal on lodging  The cost was lower here because we got a great deal on an apartment in a new complex. We paid only $700 for four weeks in a one-bedroom apartment with a washer and dryer in a golf community.

The downside was that it was about 15 minutes from the city and we had to take a taxi everywhere even the grocery store.

Sunrise over a golf course
Sunrise over Panama City and the Panama Canal as seen from our balcony.

Quito, Ecuador – because of illness Both Steve and I felt a little ill not long after we arrived in Quito. At first, we thought it was altitude sickness, but when it lingered for more than a week we determined it was intestinal. I love being under budget, but not for this reason.

Cuenca, Ecuador -because of an inexpensive apartment, low transportation costs, and low activity costs

Since we went to Cuenca from Ecuador the flight was inexpensive ($100). From what we saw, flights within a country were inexpensive, while flights between countries were not.

We found the town to be very walkable. Tours, taxis, and food were all inexpensive. Cuenca is a popular place for U.S. citizens to retire, partly because the cost of living is low.

Buenos Aires – a two-month stay meant lower transportation costs

Both lodging and food were considerably less expensive than you might expect in a city that is nicknamed the Paris of South America. There wasn’t anything in Buenos Aires that we considered expensive.

Our time in Buenos Aires we took a side trip to Iguazu Falls. At $400 per day, this was our most expensive side trip because it involved flying from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu. Even so, it was well worth it.

Crowds of people on a boardwalk at Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Our side trip to Iguazu Falls was definitely worth it.

Cordoba, Argentina – because of low food, transportation, and activity costs

The first reason our expenses were low in Cordoba was that we ate most of our dinners at home because almost all the restaurants closed from late afternoon until 8:00 or 9:00 pm. The second reason is that we went to Cordoba from Buenos Aires so the cost to fly was low. And the third reason was that our activity costs were low because quite frankly there wasn’t a lot to do in Cordoba.

While in Cordoba we took a five-day side trip to the small towns of La Cumbrecita and Villa General Belgrano. The daily cost was only $130 and included 3 days at a spa.

Was It Worth It?

Absolutely!

Latin America was not at the top of our list before December 2018, and in the beginning, we didn’t love it. But we stuck with it and fell in love with several places including Buenos Aires and Medellin.

Machu Picchu was an experience of a lifetime and worth the effort and expense to get there. It is truly a magical place.

Even the places we didn’t love so much had many positives and I am glad to have experienced them.

We came home with many happy memories and a few scary ones. Best of all, we met so many friendly and inspiring people along the way.

Further Reading

You can see what we spent during our first 8 months of full-time travel in Europe in 2018 in “Wind and Whim’s 2018 Full-Time Travel Costs: Europe.

Also check out “Our Top 10 Latin American Travel Experiences.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured image by Jason Leung 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.

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 nomadic lives 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 to help others take the first step toward turning their dreams into reality.

All costs are in U.S. dollars.

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

We initially 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. Our monthly budget became $3,500, and our annual budget became $46,000 ($42,000 + $4,000).

It is important to note that we are only including expenses directly related 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 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 is $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 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 for 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 ”13 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 and $34 for scanning overage charges. You can learn about this service at here. We spent $125 for additional internet service on the ship. This was necessary since we were in the process of selling our house in the U.S. Website hosting for one year was $71, our annual AAA membership was $66, and a Rosetta Stone subscription was $55. The remainder was for printing, postage, notary service, and office supplies.

Telephone  – This was for the purchase of SIM cards and any additional charges we incurred using our AT&T international day plan. It does not include our base cost for AT&T since this is not directly related to travel.

Other items  – We spent $200 for laundry for those times when we did not have a washer in our apartment, $200 in currency exchange costs due to the dollar being weaker than the Euro, and $100 in money lost to theft.

Where We Went Over Budget

Three items contributed to this overage: The cruise, our short trip to London, and moving around too much during the second half of our eight months abroad.

In deciding to take a two-week cruise from the U.S. to Europe to begin our adventure, we made the conscious choice to spend the extra money. Even though the cost of $4,300 for fifteen days was more than double our budget, we are glad we did it.

We opted for a cabin with a balcony and probably would not do that again. A couple of cruise company-sponsored tours also added to our cost. Now we are confident enough to explore on our own. We thoroughly enjoyed our time on the ship and plan to do other one-way cruises.

Two young women in traditional dress in Seville, Spain
Young women in Seville, Spain, one of our ports of call

In July, our daughter Laura and her friend Ashley visited us as part of a two-week tour of several European cities. We decided to take a short trip to London with them. The three-night trip was fantastic, and we look forward to seeing more of London. It was also extremely expensive. This short trip ended up costing $700 per day for a total of $2,100. This included $230 to reissue our Chunnel tickets because we missed the check in time. Ouch!

Huge statue of Jeff Goldblum in front of the Tower Bridge in London
Jeff Goldblum and the Tower Bridge in London

Staying in Airbnb apartments for twenty-eight days or more provides deep discounts. We visited fifteen cities in these eight months, not including the ports of call on the cruise. We spent twenty-eight days or more in five of them and were only slightly over budget for these five combined. Considering that two of them were in France, this was not bad at all.

Our stays in the other ten cities were shorter, which drove up the daily cost of lodging. We also chose a few more expensive places, like a sailboat in Lisbon.

A marina in the Belem area of Lisbon
Our short-term home in Lisbon

Moving between cities also increased our transportation costs. We used the economical trains and buses in Portugal but opted for a personal driver when going from Bucharest, Romania, to Byala, Bulgaria. The total cost for this was $225 ($175 plus a $50 tip for our driver, who went above and beyond in helping us secure our rental car). We used the rental car for two weeks in Byala, then drove it to Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The total cost, including gas, was $426.

Costs by City

CityCountryTotal CostDaysCost per Day
CruiseU.S. to Spain$4,30015$287

BarcelonaSpain3,60031116
ParisFrance3,80028136
StrasbourgFrance3,70028132
LondonUK2,1003700
ZagrebCroatia3,20028114
BucharestRomania2,6002893
ByalaBulgaria1,80014129
PlovdivBulgaria1,7001894
SofiaBulgaria7005140
LisbonPortugal2,80014200
AvieroPortugal5003167
PortoPortugal7005140
SintraPortugal1,30010130
LagosPortugal5004125
FaroPortugal6004150
LisbonPortugal7004175
FlightTo U.S.8001800

General3,500
Totals$38,900
243$160

General costs include $1,700 for supplies, $1,000 for Medjet coverage, $500 for office-related expenses, including $200 related to our virtual mailbox, $200 for loss on exchange rates, and $100 for international driving permits.

You Can Do This Too!

Right now, you might be thinking that you could never afford to do this. Guess what? You probably can. We are retired seniors living on money we have saved over forty years of marriage. But you don’t have to wait until you’re old(er) to travel the world.

Thanks to the Internet, you can learn about people of all ages who are living a nomadic life. Some of them save up for a year or so of travel, and others work on the road as digital nomads. You can certainly see many of the world’s wonders and have exciting experiences for considerably less than we spent.

If the idea of traveling full-time is appealing to you, Google the heck out of it. There are so many resources, that planning has never been easier.

What’s the worst that can happen? You spend all your money and return home with wonderful memories, funny stories, and far too many photos.

Was It Worth It?

Absolutely!

I could say that you can’t put a price tag on the experiences we had, but I just did. We met wonderful people, were exposed to different ways of life, and saw sights we had only read about. We made friends with several cats and ate way too much. History came to life, we enjoyed wonderful art in museums and on the street, and we learned the difference between Bucharest and Budapest.

Ponts Couvert in Strasbourg, France
Oh, the places you’ll go, the beauty you’ll see (Ponts Couverts in Strasbourg, France)

These eight months have enriched our life beyond words and dollars. And that is really what this whole dream was about in the first place.

Man and woman at Plitvice Lakes National Park
Steve and I enjoying the beauty of Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

You can read about what led us to retire early and leave our old life behind here.

Find out what we spent during ten months in Latin America in 2019 here.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.com

Originally published on May 22, 2019.

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.

13 Travel Services and Apps We Won’t Travel Without

There are many tools that make travel easier and more affordable, and 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 with 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 were.

Communication
4. Local SIM Cards

During our first four years of travel, we kept our AT&T accounts. 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.

5. Hushed

In 2022, we discovered Hushed. This app will provide you with a phone number with an area code in the US, Canada, or the UK. You can also port your existing number if it is from one of these countries.

The international coverage is $4.99 per month. You then add credits that will be used when you make phone calls. The cost of the calls is inexpensive.

By switching from AT&T to Hushed, we are saving hundreds of dollars a year.

Check out what Hushed is all about here.

6. WhatsApp

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

Mail Service
7. 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 them. This service costs us $199 per year and is worth it.

Let Traveling Mailbox make your life easier.

Travel Insurance
8. 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
9. Safety Wing

During our first two years of travel, Steve and I self-insured 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 2020 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 medical insurance for when you are traveling outside your home country. They bill every four weeks, and you can stop and start it as needed.

As of this writing, if you are under 40 years old, Safety Wing will only cost $42 every four weeks. The price increases with age. The cost of four weeks of coverage for a person aged 65-69 is currently $145.

Learn how Safety Wing can protect you when you travel.

On-The-Go Apps
10. 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 from which to choose.

This is indispensable when grocery shopping and eating out. You can quickly see that your 80,000 pesos meal in Colombia only cost you $16.

11. 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 from which to choose.

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.”

12. Google Maps

When 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 then, we have used it in Latin America, Europe, and Asia, and it has worked well.

Bank Cards
13. 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 are worth 25% more when used for travel or to pay yourself back for Airbnb charges.

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, so drop us a comment in the comment section below.

Happy traveling,
Linda

Featured photo by Rob Hampson on Unsplash.com

Originally published on April 10, 2019.

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.