What does it cost to

This article, and the entire website of RTW Expenses, is to showcase the real expenses and lifestyle of a couple traveling around the world on a budget.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. That’s pretty much the mindset we had to take when we first decided to travel the world back in 2008. If we thought about the enormity of the trip, we probably never would have gotten on the plane. But by focusing on the daily budget we set, it made the entire trip seem doable and real, and in just over two years of saving and downsizing, it was.

Before we boarded our one-way flight to Ecuador in 2010 we decided we would track every dollar, yuan, peso, euro, and ruble we spent on our adventure. RTWExpenses.com is the result of that experiment, and we’ve made our monthly expense reports from the first three years of travel available for aspiring travelers to better plan their own budgets. Along the way we’ve shared our tips and suggestions for how we were able to save money as well as the mistakes we made so you don’t have to.

Life has turned out very different than what we imagined before we left the United States, which is a fantastic side effect of long-term travel. If you would like to read more about our experience or dive into the books we write along the way, we’d love to see you over at Married with Luggage. You can read about how we turned our travels into a lifestyle, what discovering the world together has done for our relationship, and what kind of opportunities opened up for us when we took on a traveler’s mindset for every aspect of our lives. We still pinch ourselves that this is the life we now lead.

Discoveries from Three Years Full Time Travel

Traveling full time has been one of the greatest opportunities for discovery in my life. I’ve learned more about myself, my relationship with my wife, and cultures around the world than at any other time in my life. However, since this is an article about expenses, I’ll confine the discussion to the financial side. (NOTE: if you’d like to read about what a life of adventure has taught us as a couple take a look at the book we wrote on the subject.)

Following is a series of lessons we have learned first hand in our time exploring the world. We’ve made a ton of mistakes along the way and hope that by sharing our lessons you will be able to save money early in your adventures and enjoy your time on the road even more.

Style and Speed

The two primary areas which will determine how much you will spend are style and speed of travel: the style in which you travel and how fast you move.

Style is how you want to travel. Staying in 4-star hotels is a very different style to sleeping in dorm rooms or renting a hammock on a beach for a week. There are many, many different options and you can find a host of alternatives in most parts of the world. The most important aspect here is settling into a style that fits YOU. Don’t compare yourself to others and feel that you need to travel with less (or more) comfort. This is your adventure, no one else’s. Whether you choose to sleep in private rooms in a hostel (this was our style) or stay in big name hotels it’s your choice. The key is finding a style that will allow you to enjoy each step of  your journey.

Speed – how fast you travel has a significant impact on how much you will spend. When we first started planning our trip we thought we’d “see the world”  in a year. We laid out a crazy ambitious plan that had us flying between cities and continents, at what now feels like break-neck speed. The benefit of moving faster is you can cover a lot of ground and explore more of the world in a shorter period of time. The downside is it will cost far more. We discovered that we love to travel slow, to rent an apartment or a room for weeks (or months) at a time. This slower pace allowed us to get to know the area and people more, but was also far easier on our wallets. Often times you can get significant savings, often over 50%, by booking for a longer period. Plus, if you have the time to avoid air travel you can see far more of the world on a fraction of the cost by taking buses, trains, or as we have done many times – walking.