What does it cost to travel the world? Show me the money!

Six people, six months of travel expenses

Oh, the places we have been . . .

How much does it cost to travel the world as a family? It’s the question that everyone wonders about but most are afraid to ask. Well, the wait is over. I’m about to open our books for you.

First of all, some information to put this in perspective:

  • we are a family of six and our boys (unfortunately) eat like adults
  • we’ve visited 22 locations in 12 different countries
    1. Iceland
    2. Ireland
    3. Northern Ireland
    4. Czech Republic
    5. Poland
    6. Italy
    7. Spain
    8. Bulgaria
    9. Turkey
    10. Cyprus
    11. Sri Lanka
    12. Malaysia
  • we’ve been on 11 different flights, not including connections
  • we are moderately frugal, cooking our own meals when practical, choosing less expensive activities when possible, but not sacrificing great experiences

The punchline

Given that, here’s the total: we spent $54 098 CAD in our first six months of traveling. That’s $299 per day, or $49.83 per person per day. This includes everything from plane tickets to SIM cards to new shoes. It also includes all food, accommodations, and activities – including the $5000 skippered catamaran charter we did in Spain. The only things it doesn’t include were a new laptop for me, our new Google Fi mobile phone and my sailing courses – they were somewhat discretionary.

Here’s how the costs break down:

  • Transportation $9273 (17.1%)
  • Accommodation $22,747 (42.0%)
  • Food $13,749 (25.4%)
  • Activities $6,446 (19.2%)
  • Gear (clothes, shoes, etc) $1,883 (3.5%)

Costs by country

Some countries are definitely more expensive than others, but there were a few surprises. Take the following figure with a grain of Mediterranean sea salt, then look at the comments below.

Notes on costs per country

  • Iceland would have been even more expensive if we hadn’t brought food with us from Canada (possible because it was our first stop)
  • Czech Republic – we spent $500 on two more tablets for the kids which adds to the total
  • Italy – we did a lot of travel within Italy which added to the cost, but we were shocked by how much we spent on food!
  • Spain – this included about $5000 for the one week sailing charter. Mallorca was expensive. Valencia was affordable. All of it was awesome.
  • Bulgaria – great food, great culture, great prices!
  • Turkey – we loved Turkey! (and so did our bank account)
  • Cyprus – in reality, similar to Czech Republic. Our costs were less because we shared a house with visiting family and never went out to eat.
  • Sri Lanka – looks much more expensive than it is because we ate out for every meal (no kitchen) and did lots of expensive activities (PADI certification, surfing, snorkeling, safari).

Results may vary

We wanted to give you real dollar values so that you can come to your own conclusions, but keep in mind that there are many ways to either increase or decrease your costs on a trip like this.

Speed of travel
Slower travel means lower expenses. Not only will you spend less on transportation costs, but you get better deals at many AirBnBs

Types of accommodation
We seek out accommodations with kitchens so that we can go grocery shopping and make our own meals as much as possible. Staying at hotels is usually more expensive and indirectly adds to food costs. Bonus tip: eating local (as opposed to Western) is cheaper and much more fun.

Transportation
We use Google Flights to find the cheapest plane tickets, sometimes even choosing a location based on a great deal (Bulgaria). When exploring an area we rarely rent a car, opting for cheap public transportation instead.

Activities
Cheap or free activities like hikes and playgrounds are often just as much fun as paid alternatives. When it comes to activities we think hard about what will give us the best bang for our buck!

The bottom line

Some people assume that full time travel must be exorbitantly expensive because they extrapolate costs from one or two week vacations. As you can see, it’s really much more affordable than that – and there are many ways to cut costs even further like doing workaways or housesitting.

It’s also worth noting that these costs are in line with what we expected based on our pre-trip research – about $50 per person per day for the regions we covered and the pace/style of travel. But a slower trip with more time in affordable countries could cut your costs in half. (Numbeo is an amazing website to estimate and compare cost of living in different places)

The next question is: how are we paying for this? That will have to wait for another blog post!

9 Comments

  1. Nicely done and thank you for sharing all the details! I’ll bet the average physician family of 6 in North America is spending much more than that just to live in one place.

    I did the math (well, Google did) and $54,098 translates to $40,590 USD.

    Interestingly, our anticipated budget for a family of four doing some extensive travel at least part of the year is $80,000 US. Thank you for showing that it’s easily doable.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. You’re welcome! And, yes, many people’s “normal” life in North America is more expensive than $50 ($40 USD) per person per day. Even more importantly, what are you getting for your money?

      Sounds like the projections for your adventures are sound. Feel free to reach out if we can help with any questions about costs, destinations, etc, etc.

      PS – really enjoyed your recent podcast with Paradocs 🙂

  2. Very interesting! Traveling slowly for sure, that’s a really big one! On our trips (usually 3 to 5 weeks at a time) we try to stay still for 5 to 7 nights at a time, at least part of the trip. It’s often much more expensive to make 2 stops of 1 night each than to make 1 stop of 2 nights, because of the “service fee” and “cleaning fee” being tacked on to each stop.

    So: I always say “next time” we’ll make fewer stops, spending more nights in each place. Why not 3 weeks with only 2 stops the whole time? Sounds great! Definitely. But, I’m halfway done planning our upcoming trip of 3 weeks, and so far I’m already up to 6 apartment rentals! What was I thinking? Urgh. So…maybe next time!

  3. Hey guys! It’s been great following along with your adventures and hearing about how you’re all doing. I especially enjoy the posts where you are reflecting about your travel experiences and about life in general. It’s been great hearing the boys’ perspectives too. This post was great – thanks for being so open and real. Love to all of you. Miss you guys! xo

  4. Hey Matt, do you see your six month numbers as a good approximation of a long-term run rate, or are the some expenses that you think might come up on an annual basis? In other words, would a year of similar travel work out to roughly CAD$110,000?

    1. Hi Andrew – yes, I think these numbers would be a good approximation of what a full year might look like, i.e. $110k CAD. Having said that, families who continue traveling for more than a year tend to slow down a lot and often find great locations that are very cost effective, both of which would ease the budget significantly.

  5. Bookmarking! I got my spreadsheets going and paying the most attention to accommodation costs. The main reason we are slow traveling and planning ahead to get deals. Hurts our spontaneity but helps the wallet. So far our budgeting is 1/3 of our accommodation expenses here in So Cal which helps immensely. Thank you so much for doing this!!

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