You know there’s not going to be any one concrete answer to this, right? The cost to travel varies for everyone.
This is a question I get asked a lot in the comments and in emails, and it always makes me wince a little, because when I answer I usually have to say it depends.
Kind of vague, but true. What does it depend on? Well, a lot of factors and also on unforeseen circumstances. Even so, with some careful consideration and a little research, you should be able to figure out a pretty good budget to aim for.
Here are the factors you need to consider when looking at your cost to travel:
What Is Your Travel Style?
The biggest influence on your cost to travel needs to be is your travel style.
So what kind of traveler are you? I’m willing to bet most of the people reading this consider themselves backpackers, but there are many shades of budget. Will you be scrambling to find the cheapest flights, self-catering and hostelling it up, or will you aim to rent apartments, eat out frequently and splurge once in a while?
It’s important to be honest with yourself here. It might seem ideal to pinch every penny you can by squeezing yourself into the cheapest dorm rooms and eating nothing but canned beans, but chances are the actual reality might be miserable. If you’re the kind of person that values a private room, take that into consideration. There’s no shame in knowing yourself.
Where Are You Going?
This may seem obvious but different parts of the world cost more or less. Six months in Europe is going to cost a whole lot more than six months in South East Asia. Just your destination can change the cost of travel.
Based on my experiences:
Expensive: Western Europe, Oceania, Japan
Mid-Level: South America, Eastern Europe
Inexpensive: South East Asia, China
Once you know where you want to go roughly, then you can start researching an average daily budget in those places. Blogs are a good place to start, but you can also get a rough idea by pricing out accommodations. The general rule of thumb for a daily budget is a nights accommodation x 2 or 3 (depending on how shoestring you plan to travel).
You can also start to price out flights, which are usually one of the biggest expenses for a trip.
How Long Are You Going For?
How long do you plan to be abroad and where?
I wouldn’t recommend you plan your trip out to the day, but if you have a general ballpark for how long you plan to be in each region, you can figure out how much money you’ll need for that leg. It’s not necessarily true that a longer trip will cost more than a shorter one either, depending on where you go and for how long.
Some of us like a little more spontaneity in our travel plans. We don’t know how long we’re going to be gone for or where we’re going to end up. That’s cool too, but then you need to pad your travel budget a little more to make sure you have room to choose as you go.
What Kind of Stuff are You Going To Do?
Consider the big ticket items on your wish list- things like tours, rental cars, adventure sports activities or safaris. These things often cost quite a bit of money so you’ll need to factor that into your budget.
It’s definitely good to do a little web research while budgeting. Nothing is worse than getting all the way to Australia and realizing you can’t skydive because it costs way way too much money (not that I’d know or anything…).
Will you Have Any Income Streams?
Part of the reason it is hard for me personally to pin down the budget question is because I work on the road. I have money coming in as well as going out, and I’m not very good at accounting so it all kind of gets muddled up. I could tell you how much is in my bank account (I won’t) but I couldn’t tell you how much I’ve spent on travel in the past year. I know, I’m a mess.
If you will be working while on the road, be it teaching English or freelance writing, then you have an extra cushion that most people don’t have. And that might change your cost to travel.
Note that this is for people who actually KNOW they will have money coming in. If you think maybe you can start a travel blog and make some extra money as you go, it’s probably not wise to depend on that hypothetical money.
How Big of a Gambler Are You?
Another way to phrase this would be, how big a comfort cushion do you need?
Things go wrong on the road: people get injured, loved ones get sick, plans change. For that reason, you will probably want to invest in some sort of single-trip travel insurance, like World Nomads. You might also want to sock a little money away for emergencies not covered by insurance (read your policy, they are usually oddly specific on what is and isn’t covered).
Finally, consider adding in a re-entry cushion for after your trip. If you don’t have a job waiting for you at home, you will probably need some money to cover living expenses while you re-establish yourself post trip.
Okay all that said, the general wisdom is $20,000 to travel around the world for 1 year. That was my baseline and my goal. Did I stick to that budget? Well, kind of sort of… My plans for a one year trip veered wildly off the rails at the very beginning which is why I’m writing this from a high rise in Buenos Aires and not an office building back home.
Plans do change, but you can set yourself up for success by planning ahead. So you take all of these threads and tie them together and you should have a pretty good picture of the cost to travel and what kind of budget you need to aim for. Basically, creating a budget goes hand in hand with trip planning: it’s hard to do one without the other.
Do you have any other tips for figuring out the cost to travel?
Curious About What It Costs to Travel To Specific Places Around the World? Here are a Few Examples:
24 Days Adventure Travel in Thailand
3 Months Budget Travel in Europe
7 Week RV Trip in the American West
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21 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Travel?”
Sums it all up! I used to travel in Asia a lot. Its much cheaper and you can still get to see the beautiful places and each country famous tourist destinations. However traveling in a much more expensive country can also be included in one of your lists. Sometimes you need to set aside the expenses to get that amazing feeling. If you worry on budget too much there are other options to still get the vacation you’ve always wanted. I have tried house sitting, couch Surfing and even extend a little hand for work to pay in return for few nights of accommodation and food. Its really fun!
Great post! It really does depend. When I travelled solo in Europe, I ended up spending over $10,000 in three months. This included other costs like clothes, souvenirs and of course, experiences/tours. I’m sure my money would have gone twice as long and far in Asia but it’s the trip I wanted to have and I don’t regret any penny!
Perfect answer to what is probably the most common question in travel. It really does depend. I was just comparing budgets of trips recently and found that I spent about $NZ1000 less on six lazy weeks in SE Asia than I did on a jam-packed two week road trip in New Zealand. Just proves that people can travel on any budget depending on what they fancy.
Fantastic post and we definitely agree! It’s all about spending wisely while on the road – you’d be surprised at what you can do with limited money.
ir has always been my dream to move to U.S. , but since i have No family support, it’ll be beyond hard…. i wonder how much it cost to travel just from Puerto Rico to massachusetts or NYC
Great article. This is one of the most common questions relating to travel that really doesn’t have a simple answer. It was questions like this that led me to build the tool on my website. It’s really hard to quantify because of all the variables, but I tried to factor those variables in, at least on the budget traveler end of the spectrum.
Ha. This is funny. If you’ve done any kind of traveling that’s what the general answer will be, “it depends”. I always say that as well. I can go to the same place as last year and spend less than what I did then. You just never know what kind of deals will pop up. Flights change, room rates change or perhaps you find a place to stay that’s just cheaper. It all depends. :0)
Good advice. I think the most important factor is identifying what kind of traveler you are- budget or splurger? I certainly am the budgeter. I don’t mind staying in a night or two on my trip if it means that i’ll be able to afford a snorkeling trip on the Great Barrier Reef.
I also think your point about not being “married” to a plan is spot on. Travel plans change, and to resist those changes could be somewhat costly and a cause a headache at the end of the day.
Awesome post Steph!
I would love to read an article about budgeting for Buenos Aires!