One of the most common questions we are asked is, "How can you afford to spend so much time traveling?" People tend to confuse what we are doing with what most Americans do two or three weeks a year - go on vacation. Long-term travel is more like daily life than a vacation. It can even be cheaper than living at home.
We spent a year and a half planning and saving for this 16-month adventure. There's no magic involved, just a lot of research, spreadsheets and number crunching. This article explains what we think the trip will cost, how we broke down the different expenses, and what we spent before leaving home.
|Start Up Costs||$17,224||$5,741.33|
|Food & Lodging||$23,446||$7,815.33|
Total Cost: $90,350
Per Person: $30,116
Per Person Per Month: $1,882
Average Group Per Diem (Food, Lodging & Gas): $71
The two lists below include the money we have spent prior to the start of the trip. This does not include personal expenses like new clothes, cameras, camping gear and toiletries. We weren't very religious about keeping track of the small stuff, but all of the big items are included below.
|Vehicle Total: $12,068||Other Expenses Total: $5,156|
Total Start Up Costs: $17,224
This list list includes all of the expected expenses we will have on the road, excluding food, lodging and gas. These numbers are the totals for three people. The cruise to Antarctica is by far the biggest item in our budget.
|Darien Gap Shipping Fees||$1,200|
|Extra Car Insurance||$150|
|Belize Exit Fee||$40|
|Costa Rica Border||$12|
Total One-Time Trip Expenses: $21,424
Lodging costs were calculated based on the percentage of camping we planned to do. In the U.S. we hoped to camp 80% of the time. For all other countries we figured on camping half of the time. These are very rough estimates, reliable camping availability and prices has been hard to come by for some countries. The 'Guatemala - Volunteering' row includes $15 per person for a homestay, and $15 per person for Spanish language school.
Food costs were kept low since we planned to cook for ourselves most of the time.
|Guatemala - Volunteering||53||$45||$45||$4,770|
Total Food & Lodging: $23,446
Gas costs were calculated given a rate of 13 miles per gallon for our 4Runner. At home it's closer to 19, but given our uncertainty about road conditions, the number of miles we'd be driving and fluctuating gas prices, we picked a low number to be safe.
Given the difficulty of generalizing gas costs across an entire country, we averaged several numbers and erred on the side of higher prices. Prices for the U.S. were intentionally left low because we could count on gas mileage much better than 13 MPG.
Total Gas: $7,003.85
Personal spending money is $10 per day, per person. Each person manages their spending money separately. It can be used for anything from fishing licenses, to ATV tours, to chocolate bars. It also exists as another buffer for when we really need a hotel, but already blew our normal per diem on a steak dinner.
We also added $14 per day for "group spending money". This is to pay for things like park fees, phone and internet use, and to give our budget a bit more flexibility.
Total Personal Spending Money: $14,490
Total Group Spending Money: $6762