Our Budget for 1 Year of Continual Travel Abroad | 3 Continents, 23 Countries, and 60 Cities… and You Spent How Much?!
Our budget as a couple for one year of continual travel abroad might astound you! We’ve included all of our expenses, like health insurance, hotels and lodging, food, plane tickets, buses and trains, sightseeing, tours, etc. So, if you want to know how much we spent for a full year of travel, or if you simply want to learn our budget tips, read on!
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Our Total Travel Expenses and Budget Summarized
First thing’s first, we’re not writing this article to brag (although, we are very proud!). This article is meant to be insightful, helpful, and motivational.
With that being said, one of the first things people consider when planning a vacation is their budget. It’s an important part of travel planning and we too did our fair share of research and budget estimation before beginning our year abroad (mainly Europe).
We wanted to know how we matched up to our own pre-trip budget estimation, as well as the average couple traveling abroad long-term. So, we kept track of every expenditure we made along the way.
Naturally, one’s budget is heavily influenced by travel style and preferences (i.e. budget vs. luxury) so while you may not want to replicate exactly how we traveled, at minimum our budget will provide you a guideline of what’s possible.
In addition to our total budget and our expenses broken down by category, we’re sharing some of our budget tips and tricks. So whether you’re vacationing for a couple weeks, going on a long-term travel adventure abroad, or even wanting to save money while at home, we’ll probably have something for you!
We traveled for a year abroad and after 3 continents, 23 countries, and 60 cities we had to decide what to do next. See how our experiences shaped our decision and how we’re continuing to... Screw The Average!
Like any good project manager, we did plenty of research and planning when it came to our budget for a year of travel abroad in primarily Europe (in reality, we did this for every aspect of our trip not just the expenses).
Tip: A word of caution, it’s all to easy to fall victim to paralysis by analysis, especially with a project of this scope and magnitude on your hands. With that being said, we employed Dr. Covey’s principle of starting with the end in mind (what’s our goal and what are we trying to achieve?) and the Pareto Principal (20% of the effort provides for 80% of the results).
What We Learned from our Pre-Trip Budget Research
From our research, we noticed that couple travel bloggers who published their one year European travel expenses usually came in at about $40,000 to $50,000 per year.
However, as we mentioned earlier, the numbers can and will of course vary wildly based heavily on personal travel preferences and the region(s) traveled. Furthermore, we used only a small sample size and we of course came across many bloggers who posted higher costs and several who posted lower costs, but $40-50K seemed to be the norm.
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What Our Living Expenses Were Before Traveling Full-Time
For context, our expenses before we set off averaged $1,000 a month, therefore approximately $12,000 a year.
Here are a few key factors in how we kept our expenses low…
Rent and Location
We rented an older (but very well managed) one bedroom apartment in downtown Boise, ID.
Driving and Car
We were a single car household and drove less than 5,000 miles per year. We either walked to work or worked remotely with clients/employers.
We rarely ate out and cooked nearly all of our meals at home. We also followed typical food saving guidelines:
Buy in season and on sale.
Buy in bulk (we miss you Winco Foods!).
Never waste food and freeze it if necessary.
Limit meat consumption.
Comparison shop based on prices per ounce/pound.
Use coupons, when they make sense and on foods we’re already going to purchase.
We consistently lowered, or at least attempted to lower our monthly bills by:
Turning off our water heater when not in use.
Turning off our lights when not in use and using LED bulbs.
Calling for promotional rates on our internet service every time our current promotion was about to expire.
Not having cable television or a home phone.
Planning in advance and batching our errands to limit our driving whenever possible.
Being mindful of how much we consumed (e.g. shampoo, electricity, detergent, water, etc.)
Being minimalists at heart.
Don’t miss our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists! Whether you’re traveling long-term or going on a short vacation, we'll show you how to travel with a single carry-on. We share our packing lists (his and hers!), packing tips, and our favorite gear. Plus, we discuss what we don’t carry and why!
Our Budget/Expenses for a Year of Continual Travel Abroad
Yes, you read that correctly.
All-in for both of us, including health insurance, travel costs, lodging, attractions, food, etc. we spent just over $16,000! Thankfully, that was a fraction of the $40,000 to $50,000 our research for couple travelers had uncovered.
For those curious about how $16,074 breaks down, below is an infographic with details. And for those looking for the strategies we employed to keep our travel expenses low, scroll down and keep on reading!
We were able to spend $16,000 all while not having to skimp out on the experiences and attractions we wanted to have and see. We went to countless museums, did a couple of road trips (in Ireland and Romania), took an unbelievable train tour through the Swiss Alps, saw the Great Pyramids of Giza, toured more castles than we can count, stayed in luxury hotels and resorts, and indulged on traditional foods… Just to name a fraction of our adventures.
Expenses Broken Down by Categories and Percentages of Total Budget:
Transportation = $5,249.39 (33%)
Lodging = $4,772.53 (30%)
Food = $2,497.14 (15%)
Sightseeing = $2,267.96 (14%)
Supplies = $634.71 (4%)
Misc. = $561.98 (3%)
Medical = $90.62 (1%)
How We Cut the Average Couple’s Travel Budget by Nearly 60%
From our research, the average couple's expenses for a year of travel abroad is $40-$50,000 (again these figures vary greatly depending on travel style and region). Therefore, our grand total of $16,074 is nearly a 60% savings!
We know we’re extreme, we do say Screw The Average after all, so feel free to implement all of our tips for budget travel, or just implement the ones that work for you. Whatever you chose to take away, we urge you to reach beyond your comfort zone. Who knows, you may surprise yourself!
Our Budget Travel Tips and Tricks
Don’t rent a car if you can avoid it. Public transportation and walking aren’t only budget and waistline friendly, but great ways to discover a city (in our humble opinion!).
Go grocery shopping! It’s a wonderful way to experience local food and culture, all while saving money. We did this even when staying at hotels.
Eat Local Cuisine
Many grocery stores have an American/Foreign section and while you may enjoy the comforts of home you’re going to pay a bit more for it. If you eat the local cuisine, you’ll save significantly on your food costs.
When possible, travel by regional train or bus but don’t count airplanes out altogether. Europe is on a different playing field than North America when it comes to budget airlines. For example, we purchased international plane tickets for as little as $20.01 USD!
If you keep your travel plans flexible you can travel the opportunities, not the destinations. In other words, travel to a city where you have a house sitting job or volunteer opportunity, or choose your next destination based on total travel costs. In our case, this meant crisscrossing Europe, however we were able to take advantage of amazing opportunities and managed to cut our travel costs dramatically.
There are a whole host of ways to save on lodging. Our top two are house sitting and travel hacking with award travel! The first is an ingenious exchange of services that offers house sitters free lodging in return for caring for a home and pets. The second is staying at hotels for free or heavily reduced rates by using reward points and promotions. Don’t limit yourself though, we’ve outlined options in our article Cheap Alternatives to Hotels: Save Money On Lodging!
Use Less, Buy Less
If you use less stuff day-to-day then you end up purchasing stuff less often (think toiletries and other consumables). We go over our methodology in our article How to Use Less and Still Live Comfortably.
Whether you’re planning a trip to a single city, touring several cities, or embarking on a long-term travel adventure like us, we hope that our budget information may be of use to you on your journey!