How much does it cost to travel the world? Is there even a way to answer this question?
A highly debatable topic?! Yes, we agree. But not trying to find an answer isn’t an option for us. We want to succeed in our dream and sustain our new lifestyle of full-time traveling. Hence, we did the research and here is what we found:
PART 1 – Cost Factors
We identified seven factors that majorly impact the cost of traveling round the world:
- Mode of transportation
- Travel accommodation
- Number of people
- Food & Beverage
- Travel speed
- Entertainment & Education
Notice how these factors aren’t really “exotic”, and largely apply to a regular non-traveling lifestyle as well. The tricky thing is to keep track how they interact, how deciding about one will impact the others.
1. Mode of Transportation
Popular ways to travel the world:
- Backpacking / Suitcase travel
- Traveling on foot
- Catching a bus or train
- Flying (e.g., Round the World [RTW] ticket )
- Peddling your bike
- Driving your
- regular car or van (barely modified)
- campervan, mobilhome, RV
- expedition vehicle
When deciding upon how you will get around, consider the cost of the purchase (or rental), modification and/or maintenance of your transportation. How will it impact your need for accommodation (factor 2)? And don’t forget that traveling with a motor-powered vehicle also implies fuel consumption, toll fees, additional insurance (factor 6), permits, …
Note: Are you currently commuting to work by car? How many kilometers/miles do you put on the clock in a year time and how much fuel, maintenance etc. does this cost you? Would this drastically differ if you would travel for a year?
2. Travel Accommodation
- “How frequently do I need to find accommodation to sleep and/or shower?”
- “How luxurious do I want these places to be?”
- “Does their location matter?” (inner city, beachfront, …)
- “Do I need a (reliable) internet connection on site?”
Different types of accommodation for a trip around the world:
- Your own vehicle (on an official campsite, a friend’s backyard and/or wildcamping)
- Tent (on official campsite, a friend’s backyard and/or wildcamping)
- Housesitting (i.e., you take care of a home and often homeowner’s pets, in return for free accommodation)
- Youth hostel (large dorm room or private room)
- Vacation home / Short-term rental
3. Number of People
Hoping to travel around the world with your kids? Then you probably want to opt for traveling overland instead of flying (just imagine the price tag of RTW tickets and suitable accommodation for an entire family).
Also solo traveling has its drawback; you can’t share the financial burden of campsites, shipping or fuel with anyone else.
Note: Even when you can’t split the cost of shipping your vehicle, you might find someone who is interested in sharing the shipping container (& its cost) with you.
Thus, while comparing travel budgets keep in mind the number of people that are on that trip.
4. Food & Beverage
Just like in any other non-traveling lifestyle you can save lots of money by keeping the grocery and restaurant bill in check.
If you want to estimate your personal “food & beverage”-budget, these questions can help you on your way:
- “How easy will it be to cook my own meals? How dependent am I on take-outs, restaurants, street vendors for my daily calorie consumption?”
- “Do I like to cook while traveling? How frequently will I prepare my own meals vs. visit restaurants etc.? Is this very different from when I’m not traveling?”
- “Where will I travel? What is the local cost of living in these areas/countries?” (Alcohol, for example, is particularly expensive in Norway.)
5. Travel speed
Many long-term travelers vow that slow travel is the “secret” ingredient for a sustainable travel lifestyle. Event though the same distance is covered than those who travel faster, slow travel allows you to spread your travel cost (e.g., visas, vaccinations, fuel [or plane tickets], …) over time. As a result your daily budget decreases, and thus granting you more time to explore (or to sleep 😉 ) before the piggy bank needs replenishment.
You will notice that these long-term travelers also prefer accommodations that fit this slower pace: e.g, expedition trucks, RVs, housesitting, short-term rentals…; which often cost less than the rent or mortgage of many non-travelers.
The downside of slow long-term travel is that many of us – but absolutely not all – have to take a hit in our earning potentials. However, contemplating the value of traveling and if you would regret traveling the world, will make it easier for you to be okay with this
* Note: We strongly believe you can financially sustain a travel lifestyle, even with earning less. Popular examples these days are digitals nomads, with some of them running very successful businesses. We will talk more about financing your travels in a future post.
“Do I need special travel insurance?”
You will likely make some adjustments to your insurance plans according to the country/continent you are traveling through. For example, when exploring the USA it is recommended that the coverage amount of your travel insurance is higher than when you travel through Europe. But since we are no insurance experts we can’t answer the question how much coverage you need and which specific insurance you should get.
Personally, we will continue to pay for our
- health insurance;
- car insurance (this is very much debatable in some countries/continents);
- life insurance, incl. retirement savings;
- liability insurance.
7. Entertainment & Education
Factor 7 probably speaks for itself but shouldn’t be overlooked:
- entrance fees for museums or national parks;
- attending a language course or local workshop;
- tourist traps;
Remember you will probably not sign up for that loyalty program of the local cinema or zoo. And can you really resist visiting Machu Picchu when you are in Peru? Or what about hot-air-ballooning when you are in Cappadocia, Turkey?
In the end ask yourself:
“How much will my life really change when traveling the world?”
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