How To Estimate Your Budget

July 11, 2015

Arguably the most difficult part of planning a lengthy trip around the globe is saving enough money. This leads to the next obvious question – how MUCH money? Despite the experience that Dan and I have had with international long-term travel, budgeting for a family of four on the road is completely new to us. We want to be realistic about the day to day expenses, ideally erring on the side of saving too much money vs. not enough.
In the effort to come up with a reasonable financial plan, we have been combing the web for information about the average daily expenditure in the countries we are hoping to visit. This research has been a real eye opener. I will try to be as upfront about the true cost of this trip for our family as possible, and intend to log what we spend on the road on our blog. It will be interesting to see if our calculations meet up!

Overall, we are budget travelers. We are not afraid of chicken buses, 10 hour train rides, street food, or hostels (ideally with a family room). However, I cannot sleep in filth, love food too much to not have frequent meals in good restaurants, and have some spendy experiences on my must-do list – i.e. safari in Africa, Galapagos touring.

We’ve divided our budgeting into the following categories:

1) Airfare
2) Daily differing expenses, based on country
3) Pre trip expenses
4) Ongoing expenses
5) Money to come home to

Here is our closer look into each category:

1) Airfare

I’m not going to lie – we have it easier than most here. Although prices are bound to “fluctuate” i.e. GO UP, I have looked at each flight, using published fares, through the course of our changing routes. When researching our first itinerary, I found the very low per person price of $3478 for the following route: Los Angeles – Amman – Overland on our own – Cairo – Cochin – Overland on your own – Varanasi – Delhi – Abu Dhabi – Seychelles – Johannesburg – Miami – Cartagena – Overland on our own – Guayaquil – Galapagos – Guayaquil – Panama City – Overland on our own – Mexico City – Los Angeles.  *This price was NOT taking into account the fact that we are travel agents, and are thus hoping to get some industry discounts, or applying our limited miles toward the occasional free ticket, OR the fact that our children are eligible for child fares that are usually 75-80% of the base adult price. I think it is an amazing deal!

Although we were always hoping that our airfare would be under this $13912, we wanted to pad this amount higher, in case we need to buy additional flights… maybe even say $20000, and hope that this will also cover ALL ground transportation (trains, buses, & car rentals).

The current reality:  We have purchased the first half of our tickets, which are very different from the original plan.  Here are the true costs:

  • Los Angeles – Rome – Tel Aviv – Overland on our own – Amman – Dubai:  $683.60 per adult/ $669.65 per child
  • Rome – Mykonos: $66.88 per adult/ $57.43 per child
  • Athens – Zagreb: $127.50 per person
  • Dubrovnik – Rome: $48.95 per person
  • Dubai – Delhi: $152.38 per person
  • Goa – Guwahati – Bombay:  $210 per person

Total spent thus far: $5110.44

2) Daily Expenses

The absolute hardest part to research and anticipate is what our daily cost of living will be in each of the places we want to visit. I’m trying to be generous in my calculations, but frankly, those higher amounts scare me. I know that slower travel will help keep our budget down and I know that we can be thrifty by preparing more meals, and lowering our accommodation expectations.
The following amounts are what we are hoping to spend in one full day of travel and include all expenses: lodging, meals, sights, and local transportation.

  • Oregon to California – $100 (32 days – most accommodation w/ friends and family)
  • Rome & Mykonos – $300 (6 days)
  • Greece (the rest), Croatia & Slovenia – $250 (23 days)
  • Israel & Jordan – $200 (22 days)
  • Dubai – $250 (2 days)
  • India – $135 (74 days)
  • Southern Africa – $200 (75 days)
  • Florida – $100 (10 days spent with family – thus the VERY low budget)
  • Colombia – $150 (30 days)
  • Ecuador *excluding Galapagos – $150 (30 days)
  • Galapagos – $250 (8 days)
  • Central America – $135 (53 days)

This totals to $58645, about $161 average a day.

Adjusting our budget will be an ongoing assessment, and we will always aim to spend much less. We may change plans about where we want to go from India onward, how long we want to stay somewhere, or if we can even afford a full year of travel, but we are hoping that our monthly costs will average no more than $4887.

3) Pre-Trip Expenses

This category covers everything that we must buy before we leave on this trip:

  • Passports
  • Visas (definitely needed in advance for India and Jordan)
  • Vaccinations (which we will more thoroughly address in a different entry, and can be VERY expensive)
  • Technology (new LIGHT laptop?, 2 Ipads for the kids, 1 smart phone with or without a calling plan, hard drive, camera?)
  • Backpacks (do Dan and I get new ones? The kids will need them. We all need day packs, and are investing in packing cubes)
  • New durable clothes and shoes (multi-use)
  • Travel insurance (also to be thoroughly explored down the line)

4) Ongoing Expenses

This covers the monthly bills that will continue in our absence:

  • Life insurance for Dan and I.
  • Mortgage (this we are hoping to offset by renting out our home), and updated home owner’s insurance, plus ongoing trash bills.
  • Do we pay for a phone plan or unlimited music thru Apple, Spotify etc.?

5) Money to come home to

We are not touching our retirement accounts (which we will continue to contribute to until our trip begins), or HSA savings. The viability of this trip also hinges on our assurance that we can return home with the strong possibility of getting our jobs back. Regardless, we want to have a liquid savings that equals three months of living expenses.

I appreciate anyone’s insight on our plans. I am especially curious to know what you think of our daily cost estimates while abroad. Are we way off?

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