Last Updated on: 6th November 2022, 03:28 am
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.
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
Base cost of our cell phone plan
Storage of our possessions in the U.S.
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 Reality: Costs by Category
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
|City||Country||Total Cost||Days||Cost per Day|
|Cruise||U.S. to Spain||$4,300||15||$287|
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?
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.
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.
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.
Featured image by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.com
Originally published on May 22, 2019.