Money is one of the biggest things keeping people from travel, and for writers, photographers, graphic designers and other creatives, budgets aren’t just tight – they’re on a shoestring. Many Americans, however, assume the costs of long-term travel to be much higher than they actually are. If you spend $2000 on a week’s vacation, then wouldn’t a year long RTW 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 your overall RTW trip cost within reach. I typically spent less than $2000 a month on my own RTW adventure! Read on for how I traveled for a year with less than $25,000. 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
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 includes not only flights, trains and buses for travel between destinations, but also local transportation within cities like metro cards and cab fare. I estimated major costs for transportation using Skyscanner (for flights) and Rome2Rio (for overland travel). I estimated accommodations costs primarily using listings on Hostelworld and Airbnb as examples. I referred to various guidebooks and blogs to estimate spending on dining and entertainment, and also relied on Price of Travel’s Backpacker Index. Finally, I added 5% to each month’s budget as a “shopping & contingency” category. This would cover things like visa fees, purchasing souvenirs for friends and family, and restocking toiletries.
How to Fund a RTW Trip
I’m not here to say absolutely any and everyone can afford to travel. I know for some people, this is truly not within reach. (I make no secret of the fact that I completely lucked into a debt-free education and this contributed greatly to my ability to afford travel in my 20s.) But if you haven’t actually 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, but it’s true for me personally. I saved for travel doing things like eating out less and selling my car and sticking to public transportation. 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.
Tips for Traveling for a Year on a Budget
There are a number of ways I saved money during my RTW trip. In transportation, I relied on frequent flier miles. While saving for my trip, I used travel credit cards for regular spending (paying off the balance each month) so I racked up enough miles to cover my most expensive flights. I also relied on overland transportation whenever I could and flew on no-frills budget carriers when I couldn’t go comfortably by bus or train. In accommodations, I stayed mainly in hostel dorms. Occasionally, I used Couchsurfing to find free accommodation. 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 I would be unlikely to embark upon anyway, and by being more selective about my immunizations. JULY Iceland, Spain, France $2,600 Transporation: $400 Accommodations: $1,275 Dining: $400 Entertainment: $375 Shopping & Contingency: $150 AUGUST Italy, Montenegro, Croatia $1,700 Transportation: $250 Accommodations: $675 Dining: $400 Entertainment: $225 Shopping & Contingency: $100 SEPTEMBER Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece $1,550 Transportation: $300 Accommodations: $550 Dining: $350 Entertainment: $200 Shopping & Contingency: $100 OCTOBER Turkey $1,700 Transportation: $150 Accommodations: $500 Dining: $300 Entertainment: $200 Shopping & Contingency: $400 NOVEMBER India, Nepal $2,025 Transportation: $425 Accommodations: $50 Dining: $150 Entertainment: $75 Shopping & Contingency: $175 Guided Tour: $1100 DECEMBER Thailand, Laos $1,050 Transportation: $125 Accommodations: $250 Dining: $200 Entertainment: $325 Shopping & Contingency: $100 JANUARY Vietnam, Cambodia $925 Transportation: $250 Accommodations: $225 Dining: $175 Entertainment: $125 Shopping & Contingency: $100 FEBRUARY Indonesia $1,175 Transportation: $350 Accommodations: $350 Dining: $175 Entertainment: $175 Shopping & Contingency: $75 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 Entertainment: $275 Shopping & Contingency: $100 MAY Argentina, Peru $2,175 Transportation: $25 Accommodations: $225 Dining: $275 Entertainment: $275 Shopping & Contingency: $100 Guided Tour: $1,200 JUNE Costa Rica, Mexico $1,225 Transportation: $250 Accommodations: $300 Dining: $325 Entertainment: $250 Shopping & Contingency: $50 GRAND TOTAL: $21,075
Actual RTW Trip Cost by Month
PRE-TRIP COSTS $2616 Travel Gear: $715 Vaccines and Medications: $636 Passport and Global Entry: $210 Insurance: $1055 JULY Iceland, Spain, France $2423.11 Transportation: $589.44 Accommodations: $965.37 Dining: $316.34 Entertainment: $398.35 Shopping & Contingency: $153.61 AUGUST Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro $1665.17 Transportation: $243.20 Accommodations: $749.87 Dining: $192.52 Entertainment: $231.85 Shopping & Contingency: $247.73 SEPTEMBER Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Greece $1730.05 Transportation: $567.33 Accommodations: $533.72 Dining: $331.59 Entertainment: $141.72 Shopping & Contingency: $155.69 OCTOBER United Kingdom $1974.60 Transportation: $445.68 Accommodations: $647.67 Dining: $393.38 Entertainment: $318.03 Shopping & Contingency: $169.84 NOVEMBER India, Nepal, Thailand $2237.35 Transportation: $468.49 Accommodations: $121.76 Dining: $270.04 Entertainment: $1089.33 Shopping & Contingency: $287.33 DECEMBER Thailand, Laos $1015.58 Transportation: $108.20 Accommodations: $197.27 Dining: $293.84 Entertainment: $252.19 Shopping & Contingency: $164.08 JANUARY Vietnam, Cambodia $1202.05 Transportation: $249.39 Accommodations: $186.75 Dining: $270.17 Entertainment: $198.25 Shopping & Contingency: $297.49 FEBRUARY Indonesia $1218.91 Transportation: $293.27 Accommodations: $312 Dining: $320.77 Entertainment: $175.82 Shopping & Contingency: $117.05 MARCH Japan, Uruguay $1906.22 Transportation: $973.53 Accommodations: $261 Dining: $387.45 Entertainment: $162.56 Shopping & Contingency: $121.68 APRIL Argentina, United States $1405.79 Transportation: $97.06 Accommodations: $701.18 Dining: $342.73 Entertainment: $67.80 Shopping & Contingency: $197.02 MAY United States, Peru, Mexico $2536.98 Transportation: $365.77 Accommodations: $186.40 Dining: $390.37 Entertainment: $1365.41 Shopping & Contingency: $229.03 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:
Uruguay * Argentina * Peru * Mexico
Is my RTW trip budget the end-all be-all of travel budgets? Of course not! I’d much rather help you one-on-one figure out your own RTW trip cost with the tips and strategies that will work best for you. Contact me to set up a Skype appointment.
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