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How Much Does It Cost to Travel the World for a Year?

Money is one of the biggest things keeping people from travel. I know in 2023, budgets aren’t just tight–they’re on a shoestring. Many Americans, however, assume long-term travel is way more expensive than it actually is. If you spend $2000 on a week’s vacation, then wouldn’t a year-long round-the-world trip cost $2000 a week for a year? Not quite. Traveling shorter distances over a longer period of time coupled with other budget travel techniques can keep this epic travel goal within reach. I typically spent less than $2000 a month on my own worldwide adventure! How much does it cost to travel the world for a year? Read on for the full month-by-month breakdown of what I budgeted for my round-the-world trip and what I actually spent.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. While there is no extra cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. I only link to services and products I personally use and love!

Table of Contents

How to Budget for a RTW Trip

Before leaving for my trip, I estimated my monthly travel costs as follows. I broke my spending into five major categories. Transportation, Accommodations, Dining, Attractions, and Special Costs. I call these my budget TADAS (like Ta-da! Look what you can afford!) when I teach this system of budgeting to my students in Round-the-World Roadmap. I researched each of these categories thoroughly for all the destinations on my itinerary, whether that meant looking up flights on Skyscanner or browsing guidebooks and blogs to get a sense of how much a typical meal might cost. Finally, I added 5% to each month’s budget as a contingency. That Special Costs budget covers things like visa fees, purchasing souvenirs for friends and family, and restocking toiletries.

What sacrifices would you make for travel?

How to Fund a RTW Trip

If you’ve never sat down before and carefully examined your spending habits, do it now! The little accouterments of daily life in United States add up so fast. I know it’s not earth shattering news, and it doesn’t apply to everybody, but it’s true for me personally. The fact is, you don’t really know whether it will work for you until you actually try. Yes, I successfully saved money for travel on a low income by doing things like eating out less and selling my car. The budget you’ll see below came about two-thirds from my savings and one-third from freelance writing on the road. You can read more detail on how I saved for my trip here.

Large cities like Paris can even be friendly to introverts.

Tips for Traveling for a Year on a Budget

There are a number of ways I saved money during my RTW trip. While saving for my trip, I used travel credit cards for regular spending (paying off the balance each month) so I racked up enough frequent flier miles to cover my most expensive flights. I stayed mainly in hostel dorms and occasionally even found free accommodations. Cooking for myself in hostel kitchens kept dining costs down, while finding free or inexpensive attractions made budget entertainment possible. None of this is radical advice – and there are many people out there who travel even more cheaply than I do – but it worked for me.

Projected RTW Trip Budget

PRE-TRIP COSTS
$2,500

This estimate includes my travel gear, medical costs, and insurance. I planned to keep this number down by choosing a basic insurance package instead of one that covered riskier activities and by being more selective about the immunizations I got.

JULY
Iceland, Spain, France
$2,600

Transportation: $400
Accommodations: $1,275
Dining: $400
Attractions: $375
Special Costs: $150

AUGUST
Italy, Montenegro, Croatia
$1,700

Transportation: $250
Accommodations: $675
Dining: $400
Attractions: $225
Special Costs: $100

SEPTEMBER
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece
$1,550

Transportation: $300
Accommodations: $550
Dining: $350
Attractions: $200
Special Costs: $100

OCTOBER
Turkey
$1,700

Transportation: $150
Accommodations: $500
Dining: $300
Attractions: $200
Special Costs: $400

NOVEMBER
India, Nepal
$2,025

Transportation: $425
Accommodations: $50
Dining: $150
Attractions: $1175
Special Costs: $175

DECEMBER
Thailand, Laos
$1,050

Transportation: $125
Accommodations: $250
Dining: $200
Attractions: $325
Special Costs: $100

White Temple | Chiang Rai Thailand | Southeast Asia Itinerary

JANUARY
Vietnam, Cambodia
$925

Transportation: $250
Accommodations: $225
Dining: $175
Attractions: $125
Special Costs: $100

FEBRUARY
Indonesia
$1,175

Transportation: $350
Accommodations: $350
Dining: $175
Attractions: $175
Special Costs: $75

Ubud Cooking Class

MARCH
Japan, Uruguay
$1,775

Transportation: $675
Accommodations: $425
Dining: $400
Entertainment: $125
Shopping & Contingency: $250

APRIL
Argentina
$1,400

Transportation: $50
Accommodations: $525
Dining: $425
Attractions: $275
Special Costs: $100

MAY
Argentina, Peru
$2,175

Transportation: $25
Accommodations: $225
Dining: $275
Attractions: $1475
Special Costs: $100

JUNE
Costa Rica, Mexico
$1,225

Transportation: $250
Accommodations: $300
Dining: $325
Attractions: $250
Special Costs: $50

GRAND TOTAL: $21,075

Travel took me to the Harpa concert hall, but what I left behind is just as important.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel the World for a Year…Really?

PRE-TRIP COSTS $2616

Travel Gear: $715
Vaccines and Medications: $636
Passport and Global Entry: $210
Insurance: $1055

I was over budget by $116, largely because of my medical costs. My insurance wouldn’t cover stocking up a prescription medication more than a few months in advance so I paid out of pocket.

JULY
Iceland, Spain, France
$2423.11

Transportation: $589.44
Accommodations: $965.37
Dining: $316.34
Attractions: $398.35
Special Costs: $153.61

I was under budget by about $200. I stayed in a hostel instead of an Airbnb in Barcelona and cooked for myself more regularly.

AUGUST
Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro
$1665.17

Transportation: $243.20
Accommodations: $749.87
Dining: $192.52
Attractions: $231.85
Special Costs: $247.73

I was slightly under budget, and spent much less on food than anticipated.

SEPTEMBER
Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Greece
$1730.05

Transportation: $567.33
Accommodations: $533.72
Dining: $331.59
Attractions: $141.72
Special Costs: $155.69

I was over budget by nearly $200, mainly because of transportation costs. I took a short flight from Belgrade to Athens and ferrying to the Greek islands isn’t cheap!

OCTOBER
United Kingdom
$1974.60

Transportation: $445.68
Accommodations: $647.67
Dining: $393.38
Attractions: $318.03
Special Costs: $169.84

I was over budget by about $250, because I had to change destinations at the last minute. Everything in London is more expensive than in Istanbul, but I had a wonderful month.

NOVEMBER
India, Nepal, Thailand
$2237.35

Transportation: $468.49
Accommodations: $121.76
Dining: $270.04
Attractions: $1089.33
Special Costs: $287.33

I was over budget by about $200. This was in part because I flew to Thailand at the end of November rather than early December, so that flight cost drove things up.

Elephant Nature Park | Chiang Mai Thailand | Southeast Asia Itinerary

DECEMBER
Thailand, Laos
$1015.58

Transportation: $108.20
Accommodations: $197.27
Dining: $293.84
Attractions: $252.19
Special Costs: $164.08

I was slightly under budget this month.

JANUARY
Vietnam, Cambodia
$1202.05

Transportation: $249.39
Accommodations: $186.75
Dining: $270.17
Attractions: $198.25
Special Costs: $297.49

I was over budget by nearly $300, mainly from eating out more frequently.

FEBRUARY
Indonesia
$1218.91

Transportation: $293.27
Accommodations: $312
Dining: $320.77
Attractions: $175.82
Special Costs: $117.05

I was slightly over budget this month, from eating out much more frequently.

MARCH
Japan, Uruguay
$1906.22

Transportation: $973.53
Accommodations: $261
Dining: $387.45
Attractions: $162.56
Special Costs: $121.68

I was about $100 over budget, mainly from more expensive flights and trains.

APRIL
Argentina, United States
$1405.79

Transportation: $97.06
Accommodations: $701.18
Dining: $342.73
Attractions: $67.80
Special Costs: $197.02

I was on budget this month.

MAY
United States, Peru, Mexico
$2536.98

Transportation: $365.77
Accommodations: $186.40
Dining: $390.37
Attractions: $1365.41
Special Costs: $229.03

I was over budget by about $350 this month, mainly because I had to fly back to South America after interrupting my trip for a family emergency. (Insurance covered my flight home, but not the cost of resuming my trip.)

JUNE
In April, my grandfather had a stroke and I interrupted my trip to be with him and our family when he passed. Ultimately, my travel insurance covered the cost of my emergency flight home, so I haven’t included it in my RTW trip cost breakdown here. However, it took a few months to get the insurance check reimbursing me for that (very expensive) flight. So, after the funeral I chose to fly back out for the Inca Trail trek I had already booked and paid for, but return home about a month earlier than planned. My total cost wound up being about the same as I projected, but it was technically for 11 months of travel, instead of 12.

GRAND TOTAL: $21931.81

Actual RTW Trip Cost by Country

You can also see breakdowns of what I spent in each individual country on my RTW trip by checking out the specific posts linked here:

Iceland * Spain * France * Italy * Balkans * Greece * London

India * Nepal * Thailand * Laos * Vietnam * Cambodia * Bali * Japan

Uruguay * Argentina * Peru * Mexico

Is my travel budget the end-all be-all of travel budgets? Of course not! I’d much rather help you figure out your own trip cost with the tips and strategies that will work best for you.

Check out the Travel Savings Toolkit and score 45% off this handy pack of challenges, worksheets and more!

Get on the waitlist for Round-the-World Roadmap where we have several lessons devoted to working out your custom savings plan and travel budget.

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5 Comments

    1. Interesting comparison, but judging by the name of the link you’ve dropped, that’s what companies charge for traveling on private jets and packaged luxury tours… there are SO many other ways to see the world! We don’t have to hold out for high end luxury tours that others provide us. Folks who don’t have that kind of money or even just want a different kind of travel experience can use the resources I’m providing here based on my personal experience to backpack around the world for much, much less than this proposed 6 figures!

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