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How Much Does a RTW Trip Cost (Really)?

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!

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.

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 accoutrements 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.

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. 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

White Temple | Chiang Rai Thailand | Southeast Asia Itinerary

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

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
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

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

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

Elephant Nature Park | Chiang Mai Thailand | Southeast Asia Itinerary

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:

Iceland * Barcelona * France * Italy * Balkans * Greece * London

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

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 figure out your own RTW trip cost with the tips and strategies that will work best for you.

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

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