Breaking the Budget

It’s a bit premature, though full disclosure…

I’m sad to report we’re just ten grand away from busting our target budget. You know, the one that I came up with back before we left on this trip.

$59,392 (and twenty-eight cents)

That’s what we’ve spent so far.

That’s $46,260 USD spot rate

We still have three months of travel left  of our RTW family adventure and there is no way we’re going to stay under what I initially wanted to spend on the entire year long trip.

Ah well.

It was just a ball park. Based on what other people managed to do. Clearly much more frugal people than we. So much for a ‘budget’ travel blog.

But damn, I thought I was more frugal than all that.

We’re Busting into the Travel Stash

Fortunately we set aside enough cash for the trip up front and haven’t dipped into that savings yet. We’ve just been using our regular income to finance the trip so far. The bank balance is actually higher than before we left. Phew!

It still pains me though. In more than a big way.

I wanted to finance this trip on my income alone. And bank all of Rob’s. We’ve saved over 50% of our income for years.

And I have had things to prove (mostly to Rob)… specifically that long term travel is cheap! And that we can keep doing this year after year.

Long term travel is pretty cheap. But it turns out I don’t want to live out of my back pack year after year. Go figure.

Since we arrived in South/Central America back in December we’ve consistently ‘overspent’ what travel blogs said it cost to travel here. Actually, to make things easier, more comfortable and, most importantly, safer, the last three months we’ve spent my income and increasingly used a nice chunk of Rob’s income as well. Even in Bolivia! The poorest country in South America?!

We’ve already booked our flights to Greece. And have most of South Africa planned (free Protea hotel stays). But things aren’t going to get better. Though, hopefully our spending won’t escalate too much more.

Some Reasons Why we Overspent our Target

Hotels in All the Nice Places

We stayed in a ton of pretty nice hotels and resorts in some pretty sweet places. The Boston Intercontinental, Melia Iguazu Falls, Visconti Rome, Astoria Firenze, JW Marriott Phu Quoc, and Palacio del Inca Cusco, just to name a few. Not all of those stays were free award nights. If only! But given the locale and the added elite benefits, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t have many regrets about our hotel choices and defend them vehemently. And generally our paid stays were targeted and well thought out to earn a ton more hotel points through lucrative promotions.

Crazy Drivers, Cliffside Curves, Bald Tires and Bad Roads – All Logically Lead to Airfare

We stayed a month in a condo near the beach in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. Two days in a row, this small surf town had multi vehicle fatalities. One just down the street from our condo. These are windy gravel roads with deep pot holes in residential areas with a ton of pedestrians, chickens and ox carts. How in the world?! Dumbass drivers and excessive speed.

We had a few alarming moments being driven around by others in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Mostly the traffic dance was mesmerizing.

The driving just got more insane in South America. Absurd risk. Worse roads. And 30 hour journeys. It didn’t take long before we decided to fly to our next destination rather than use overland transport.

As charming as the chicken bus is, we also opted out of short distance local transport as well.

We forgot ourselves in Ecuador and agreed to the ‘private’ bus recommended by the travel agent. Really the last time we rely on others for driving. It was the most insane drive ever. Curves alongside steep cliffside drop offs on bad roads with too much speed down a slope with burning brake pads and other cars passing to boot. WTF! Never. Again.

Hats off to families who stick to the local experience but I’ll take a pass.

Four and One Half Adults

We’re a family of five. Three ‘kids’. But really the travel industry sees us as an easy four adults. Often five.

Hannah just turned 17 and is almost six feet tall. She and Emma are offered wine and cocktails all the time. Ben is a boy. And eats like one.

Our costs are easily double than that of the young families of five we’ve read about who are travelling the world in the same style as us.

We need to book and pay for two hotel rooms, a vacation rental that accommodates five, five plane or train tickets, sometimes two taxis and five entrance fees. Thankfully that last often has student discounts.

Fractions and Some NotSo Fuzzy Math

So just in case you’re judging us and calling me a spendypants I need to defend my over-budgetness.

I enjoy mental accounting just as much as the next person. Especially converting to USD. Money is fungible. So I’m okay to move items into different buckets. And I probably have too many categories. You may think the Costa Cruise should go under transportation instead of accommodations. Whatever.

All these figures are solid though. I may be missing a couple of things that someone didn’t tell me about. But I’d bet I’m not missing $50 tops.

Here’s everything that we’ve spent for, and on, this trip so far, including some future travel that we’ve already booked…

Meals – $9,199
Dining out, groceries, snacks, ice cream stops, and all drinks are included in ‘meals’. I may have missed a couple of tubes of toothpaste that I didn’t break out of the receipt properly. They should be in ‘miscellaneous’ Looking back, it would be nice to know how much beer and wine is included in that, but too late.

Accommodations – $21,026
Wow, that’s a lot. All hotel stays, vacation rentals, the Transatlantic cruise, and any extra fees for the fifth person. This amount accounts for almost always two hotel rooms per night, two ship board cabins and a minimum two bedroom vacation rental. It does not include estimated costs for Award Stays that we booked using hotel points or travel cash (that we would have otherwise had to pay).

Flights – $9,799
‘Flights’ includes taxes and fees for award flights booked on airline points and all of the paid flights that we’ve taken or booked so far.
Boston-Tokyo, Tokyo-Kyoto, Kyoto-Tokyo, Tokyo-Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City-Phu Quoc, Siem Reap-Bangkok, Bangkok-Singapore, Singapore-Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai-Rome, Cordoba-Iguazu Falls, Iguazu Falls-Salta, Uyuni-La Paz, Cusco-Lima, Lima-Quito, Quito-Panama City, Panama City-Managua, Managua-Toronto, Toronto-Athens
That’s 18 destination flights. Yes, we’re staying in Toronto for a bit to restock and visit Rob’s brother Don.

Other Transportation – $7,047
Trains, planes and automobiles, ferries, car rentals and the fuel, subway and bus rides, overnight train/bus, private transport and taxis, tuktuks and songthaews are all included here. The train to and from Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu and the Buquebus ferry from Buenos Aires to Uruguay were particularly expensive.

Activities – $6,274
The Halong Bay cruise and entrance tickets to Angkor Wat (three days) and Machu Picchu, the Tupiza to Bolivia Salt Flats tour and the Amazon trek are the big ticket items in ‘activities’. It also includes any entrance fees we paid for museums and temples and to access sites.

Logistics – $285
Laundry, hair cuts and the occasional luggage storage. Laundry is expensive!

Miscellaneous – $1,376
Toiletries, any household goods, meds like acetaminophen and Gravol, contact lenses, sunscreen and bug spray. In my defence, I’d never pay the prices at home for what I paid for these things abroad. But what can you do? We left with five large tubes of sunscreen and lots of pots of girl stuff.

Other – $471
Anything that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else went to ‘other’ and I often had to clean it up.
Gifts, Hannah’s hospital adventure in Da Nang, Emma’s cell phone screen repair. Even Rob’s Army Run registration for this Fall… it has nothing to do with the trip but I had to record it somewhere.

Travel Insurance – $1,920
Insurance is a must of course. I need to do a post about this because it is of interest to many. OHIP is still there. But we’re really insuring against a catastrophe. Think med evacuation. Unfortunately we’ve had an opportunity to ‘test out’ our insurance.

Entrance Visas – $1,608
This one could be easily avoided if you wanted. There are a ton of countries that we could visit Visa free. Visas aren’t cheap… it was $600 for the five of us to enter Brazil! The Reciprocity Fee to enter Argentina was $499.20. Fortunately (for you), that requirement ended for Canadians on 1 January 2018.

Yellow Fever Vaccination – $280
We all had vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B from previous travel and regular immunizations at home. I opted us out of anti-malarials. After quite a bit of research I knew a Yellow Fever vaccination was prudent. We opted to get it while abroad, well before Argentina where we actually got the vaccination. Thailand is supposed to be a perfect place for travel immunizations. No clamouring, please, I weighed the pros and cons.

International Driver’s Licence x 2 – $50
We stopped by CAA for these. So far we haven’t needed them. Maybe I’ll have to present one for our South Africa road trip.

Blog – $47
Domain name registration and hosting. Hopefully I got those terms right.

VPN – $76
This is another thing I need to share in more detail. We’re doing all our finances online. Over networks that we know little about. In some countries with questionable internet security. A VPN seemed like a no brainer.

Interestingly, since cash is king in many countries … we’ve had to withdraw $15,058 CAD worth of various currencies. This includes add-on ATM fees. And of course we used all that currency to pay for the stuff above so it is not in addition to it. Yeah! It pains me to be missing out on $15,000 worth of strategic credit card points.

So, that’s it … how we spent  $59,457 (and 28 cents) on our travels to date.  Surely pushing us over our targeted spend for the year of round the world travel. A family of four and one half adults. (Don’t pick… there are some rounding errors on the chart above).

$32,118 (and 81 cents)

I posit that a couple could shave our spending down without even trying. How about one hotel room to start. Two out of the five airfares. Two out of the five restaurant meals or 40% of our grocery budget. At least half our activities and entrance fees and 50% of miscellaneous. Far fewer bodies to sunscreen and DEET-up.

I did a bit of calculations and put out that a couple could spend about $32,118 for our luxurious and fairly broad travel experience. It’s still luxury on a budget but it’s way cheaper than what most couples I know spend at home.

That’s $28,864 USD spot rate

Hey! That’s right about where I read that many blogging couples put there spending budget at.

Maybe I am as frugal as all that.

Live Update:
We’re still in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The wi-fi is often terrible. Though that’s not my only excuse for no photos. Seriously, what picture goes with this post? I would have liked to load a proper table with our numbers. But slowww wi-fi.
We fly out Sunday night for Toronto where we’ll stay a few nights and meet up with Don and restock some worn out clothing and our favourite brand toiletries. Maybe even some peanut butter. We’re just following the cheap airfare.
After that, we fly to Athens and spend a month in Greece (Hannah’s bucket list).
South Africa is still in our future, scheduled for May.

As always, thanks for reading.
XO Colleen

8 Replies to “Breaking the Budget”

  1. How can you put a price on your adventures. You have garnered a life’s worth of memories. You guys should write a book or go into the travel guide industry. Happy trails on your next adventures.

    1. Hello Estelle!

      All is well with you and Marty?

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not putting a price cap on our adventure.

      I have to say as cliche as it is, this RTW trip is priceless. But things do blend together a bit. We laugh about mixing up our time in La Paz with Lima. Angkor Wat really feels like a life time ago. I wonder how things would be if we were heading off on mini trips with gaps in between instead of one big thing after another.

  2. Canada! Wish I was in TO to see you also – have a great visit with Don
    Great post …hope you got early bird fees for the Army Run! 🙂

    1. Hey J!

      Me too. Though I couldn’t ask for you to come down and meet us. We did consider renting a car but it would be too much pressure for everyone. We looked for flights to Ottawa and Edmonton but they were just as bad as Managua directly to Athens.

      We are thrilled that Don is able to meet up with us.

  3. Im glad you said Edmonton too lol… i would have felt very hurt!!!… Altho Rob said that the distance between Edmonton and Toronto is just a drop in the bucket compared to what you have done!!!!!
    Maybe you need to add Banff…Jasper or Lake Louise to that itinerary considering it is quite beautiful and you do have family with a house on wheels in that area !!!! but in any case it all sounds amazing!!!

    Love you all,

    1. Hey Tammy, It was a big option that we were considering to go to Edmonton (Rocky Mountain House) but the colder weather and the ticket fares favoured Toronto. Rob

  4. Great Post. Eye opener on the costs but really I do agree with Estelle. What an adventure. Look forward to seeing you guys.

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