Budgeting for Long-Term Travel


Well, we have returned to Minnesota. I feel quite strange to be surrounded by so many familiar people and sites. We were traveling for 392 days. Essentially, we’re still traveling since we are staying with friends and family instead of in a house of our own. 

Budgeting for a long travel adventure is scary and challenging. We eventually tried to keep our budget under $150 per day on average. Every place we visited had a different cost of living, and exchanging currency added an extra layer of complexity. 

How much did one year of travel cost for two people?

We spent a total of $41,400, which is about $105 per day. 

Which countries cost the least?

We visited 13 countries; Guatemala was the cheapest country for us. We spent six weeks volunteering at a hostel/restaurant that took care of our lodging and most of our food. Mexico was also cheap for us.
Budget for Travel

How much did food cost?

Our biggest expense was food. We spent $12,200 on food. It sounds like a lot, but it is only $36 a day or $6 per meal per person. We spent the least on food in Canada, but that was at the beginning of our trip when I cooked all of our meals exclusively. We ate out all the time in Mexico and our average meal was $4.40 per person. Crazy cheap. 

Budget for Travel

How much did transportation cost?

Our second biggest expense was transportation. We spent $9,500 on transportation, which includes flights, taxis, busses, trains, boats, and gas. Colombia was the most expensive because we flew between the cities instead of taking busses. Public transportation in Bogota was also more expensive, and we took it often. Nicaragua looks expensive, but it includes an 18 hour bus ride to and from the country for a visit of only 3 days.

Budget for Travel

How much did lodging cost?

We stayed in a wide variety of lodging this past year. Sometimes we stayed with friends and family. Sometimes we stayed with strangers. In a tent, a hotel room, a hostel private room, a hostel dorm, an apartment, a house, and in the car. We used Couchsurfing, Hostel World, Trip Advisor, Airbnb, guidebooks, Hotels.com, Work Away, and just wandering around to find accommodations. Finding a place to stay was always a taxing chore; finding a good place to stay was the best feeling in the world. 

Interestingly, the United States has a very low average lodging cost primarily because we can stay with family and friends more easily. If we had stayed only in hotels in the United States, our average cost would be over $100. Nicaragua could have been much cheaper, but we splurged on renting a private apartment for the few days we stayed there. 

Budget for Travel

What’s next?

We don’t know exactly! 

I’m looking for a job outside the United States somewhere. Hopefully by the beginning of 2016 I’ll have a job. Until then, we will continue to travel. 

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9 Responses

  1. Kathy Askegaard says:

    Great to read your posts of your travels. Glad you and Martin braved the world…what an experience. I bet Mom and Dad are so happy to see you. Welcome back..for awhile anyway!

    Kathy A.

  2. Deb Greelis says:

    Thanks for sharing your adventure!

  3. Interesting – thank you so much for sharing! I’m sure you’re visiting family pretty extensively, but we are really looking forward to seeing you. State Fair time is around the corner, but we would love to see you before then! <3

  4. Kris Bloom says:

    enjoyed your blog so much, Jill~! will you be visiting the Fed while in MN?

  5. mom-in-law says:

    Good $ info – and great photos, too! We’re so happy to see you and Martin again!!!