Mar 6, 2012

So How Much Did Our Trip Cost?

So the post that many of you have been waiting for:  How much did our year of traveling with 2 kids really cost?  Well the dust has finally settled enough for us to do the final number crunch (being the daughter of a Chartered Accountant, I can be a bit obsessive about number crunching).  The results surprised us.

First of all, I want to clarify how we came to our numbers.

Throughout our trip, we diligently recorded 99.9% of all our expenses using an app on our iPod Touch called ‘Expenditure’.  We did this because we were curious ourselves what story the numbers would tell.  The app was really easy to use, you could customise your own category labels, and best of all, you could export it all in Excel format by email to yourself.  It can keep a running total, a monthly total, and a category total all at once. On past trips, we used the paper-and-pencil method, but this was ‘cleaner’ and much easier to use and to interpret the data.

We then compared our total as recorded in Expenditure with our actual bank records for ATM withdrawals (our primary means of accessing money), credit card transactions and we also took into account cash we started the trip with.  The results were surprisingly accurate, with the Expenditure amount being $200.02 more than the actual bank records.  Not bad.

Also in the months prior to our departure, we purchased many of our flights, as well as paying for costs such as travel insurance, home insurance, and stuff we thought we’d need for the trip (clothing, etc).  Spreading it out over time and while we were still working allowed us to ‘absorb’ these costs so we didn’t really factor them into our ‘daily budget’ figure.  Nevertheless, they are still part of the ‘cost of traveling’ and these items have been included in the ‘Expenditure Statement’ table.

Excluding our pre-trip expenditures, we had aimed to achieve a daily budget figure of $50 USD once we got underway.  This figure was based in part on our previous travels, factoring in extra for the kids. This figure would be for all four of us and would include everything from accommodation to food to entry fees to ice cream to water and toilet paper (although we did get a bit sloppy with the water entries).  Extra flights (ie to Canada for Christmas as well as our flight home to Australia) also needed to be purchased, which would be in addition to this figure.

We had hoped that our expenses during our trip would be around $35,000: $18,150 for daily expenses plus pre-trip expenses and ‘additional extras’. 


Our total expenditure during our trip was $24,591.32, which worked out to $67.74 per day.

When you add the pre-trip expenses, the over-all cost of the trip was $46,678.08, for a daily budget of $128.59.  

This figure surprised us, at first anyway.
Total Days Traveled 363
Total Spent DURING 363 days $24,591.32 based on actual ATM withdrawals, credit card transactions, and cash on hand; versus *total as recorded on 'Expenditure':  difference of $200.73
PLUS Pre-Trip Expenses:
+Total FLIGHTS $10,374.76 19 flights, including rtn Hong Kong to Vancouver (4ppl) @ $4576
+Travel Insurance $1,406.00 Southern Cross Travel Insurance for 4ppl, coverage in SEA/India only (not Canada)
+Home Insurance $1,510.00 Building Insurance for house, and contents insurance for items in storage (Suncorp)
+Vaccinations (pre-trip) $506.00 the balance were completed in Thailand ($453.88) and India ($147) and included in their costs; total vaccination expenditure=$1,106.88
+Passports $565.00 2 Adults (10yr expiry), 1 Child (5yr expiry) only
+Pre-trip Gear $463.00 including 3xLonely Planet Guide Books (purchased used)
+Interest $5,806.00 re our Line of Credit
+House Rates $1,456.00
Daily Average $128.59


Yes.  SEA and India were much more expensive than on our last visit in 2003.  And Sri Lanka and the Philippines were more expensive than we'd hoped they would be.  

We also purchased 2 new cameras and a laptop along the way.  There  were the hospital expenses too (which have been recovered through insurance).

And our trip to Canada to spend Christmas with family and friends cost us $8,096.27 (but also included the cost of a new DSLR camera and laptop).  Mind you, had we not gone to Canada, we still would have incurred some cost for that same time period, where ever that may have been.  

So really, we didn't do too bad given our original optimistic estimate of $35,000.

Country No Nights Total Expenses,       In-Country Daily Average Living Costs Visas/Departure Tax (4pp/)
Bali 25 $1,969.52 $78.78 $185.00
Cambodia 43 $2,423.49 $56.36 $120.00
Hong Kong 6 $767.86 $127.98 $0.00
India 82 $3,934.27 $47.98 $219.00
Malaysia 32 $2,382.75 $74.46 $0.00
Philippines 19 $1,078.50 $56.76 $55.80
Sri Lanka 27 $1,674.60 $62.02 $0.00
Thailand 75 $4,583.87 $61.12 $0.00
Vietnam 29 $1,697.12 $58.52 $180.00
Vancouver, Canada 23 $3,520.27 $153.06 $0.00
overnight plane 2
Totals 363 days $24,032.25 ($77.70/day) + $759.80 = $24,792.05
Totals per Bank  $24,591.32

Here's Some Examples of Our Costs In Each Country:

-Room and Food costs are total per day for 4 ppl
-All other costs are total spent during entire time in country

Country Av Room Av Food Bottle Water** Attractions/Entry Fees Travel Costs Metro/Bus/Taxi Hire Car Expense Computer Use Note
Bali $34.32 $24.27 $15.97 $46.46 $0.00 $24.05 $220.28 $0.00 both visa and departure tax required
Cambodia $17.86 $21.63 $13.20 $135.50 $242.75 $73.00 $34.75 $0.00 taxi costs include Angkor Wat tour; Misc includes Visa x 6@$20
Hong Kong $47.92 $17.91 $0.00 $29.90 $0.00 $90.45 $0.00 $0.00
India $17.67 $15.88 $19.35 $227.65 $150.85 $83.65 $50.20 $30.25
Malaysia $20.64 $20.22 $0.00 $23.35 $114.70 $180.22 $0.00 $2.35 includes new camera ($451) & hospital expenses ($374)
Philippines $18.72 $24.95 $1.15 $33.05 $139.20 $26.05 $0.00 $0.45
Sri Lanka $21.43 $21.79 $21.95 $215.00 $55.00 $80.45 $0.00 $19.10 includes Yala National Park Safari ($100), refresher dive (x2 @$50)
Thailand $17.13 $16.64 $17.93 $123.41 $466.99 $147.58 $164.03 $6.11 includes vaccinations $453.88
Vietnam $15.66 $14.17 $10.52 $393.20 $149.53 $14.80 $69.20 $0.00
Vancouver, Canada $0.00 $0.00 $157.90 $0.00 $15.00 $32.50 $0.00 stayed with relatives (no accommodation, minimal food); purchased new camera and computer
*Sample Expenses; other expenses include massages, toilettries, personal purchases/clothing, and gifts
**Figures not exact (approx 75-100% of actual)

So there you have it.  Maybe it could have been done cheaper, but if you've been following our blog, you'll know how we travel.  Mostly due to the kids and the fact that we have 4 people in 1 room, often sharing a bed, we tended to get a double room with air conditioning at guest houses or 1-2 star hotels.  When traveling through a country, we'd primarily use the local bus network although sometimes we took the trains too.  In a town and when possible, we hired scooters/100 cc motorbikes to get our family around; otherwise, we took the local bus, shared taxi, and occasionally hired bicycles.  We also walked ALOT. 

As someone put it, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being homeless and 10 being Beverly Hills, we were probably a 4.5.  Our style before kids was probably more like a 3.

What surprised us most was the final figure but once it was broken down, it was pretty much what it should have been.  The other thing that surprised us a lot is that our perception of a country and that often it's 'value-for-money' wasn't necessarily the reality once you looked at the numbers.

This is where the figures don't lie or get distorted like perception!  But we do have terrific memories of our year away--well worth it!  The value of travel with children is unmeasurable.

So what do you think?  Feel free to ask if you have any questions about our numbers. We'll have more tips on how we actually financed this trip coming up soon...stayed tuned.


  1. You have done such a great job of breaking it all down! Thanks for the resource!

    1. Thanks! The app we used really did the hard work for us. Highly recommend it--we're even using it now that we are home to keep track of where it all goes.

    2. Just got the app. I am a spreadsheet kind of girl so this will come in very handy!

    3. Clearly great (Canadian) minds think alike ;)

  2. Thanks for sharing... our family hopes to do this in the next 5 years. I love when people are open to letting us in to see how they made it work.

    1. Hi--we love sharing! Without being there, it's hard to have an idea of what the costs are like, but even with the sharing, everyone has their own 'style'. But at least hopefully it will give you an idea to help you plan! Stay tuned--next up, i'll reveal how it only cost us a fraction of our actual expenditure in the end!

  3. Well done! I can't imagine tracking expenses like that - I don't even know where I spent money yesterday! I think your expenses are totally in line with expectations. We figured we spent around $50/day for daily expenses for the four of us while we traveled on our bikes. Special events like a trip to the Galapagos or Machu Picchu were additional expenses that we budgeted in.

    But really, it's the experiences and memories that count. Is there a price you can put on that?

    1. Thanks Nancy, but like i said, it was actually quite easy keeping track via the app and the iPod. Its good to 'see' where you spend the money, although our budget definitely didn't dictate how we traveled--the two complemented each other.

      Although you can't put a price on memories, these numbers still give a glimpse of how much it might take, for better or for worse.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  4. Wow..that's awesome. We're leaving next year and this is definitely encouraging.

    1. Cool! Was it more or less than you were expecting?

  5. That is such a great idea - keeping track of expenses for a year of travelling. I like how you broke it all down and what money was spent for each country.

    I am not good with keeping track of money - love the sound of that easy app on our iPod Touch called ‘Expenditure. Great idea.


    1. Lisa, I'm now attempting to keep track of our expenditures now that we are 'home'. Will be interesting (to me at least) to see how it will compare to our year away. My predictions are that the year away was actually cheaper (and better!) :(

  6. What a fantastic breakdown. So useful! Thank you!

  7. Ok, so now you are officially God in my eyes. I still have little notebooks from three months back that I'm supposed to enter into Excel. And one of them, I think it's two months worth of Colombia, is smudged with water stains. Go you! Inspirational for sure.

    1. Haha. we used to use the paper-pencil way too, but like you are finding, it can be very inefficient, especially if you plan to input in excel anyway and if you have an iPod Touch or an iPhone with you, which is easy to carry too. Being able to export into Excel was terrific, and from there you can manipulate how you like. Huge time saver. And having the numbers was very enlightening for us, mostly to be able to see where it was all going!

      Thanks for your comment and for stopping by :)

  8. p.s. Does the app accept different types of currencies? And does it convert it into one cost currency in the end?

    1. the app allows you to select from a bunch of different currencies and to presumable change them when needed, but unfortunately it cannot convert between the currencies. as such, we chose to input everything in USD so we had to manually convert it first before inputting. you could probably just assign a particular currency then just convert at the end of that country i suppose--would have probably been more efficient come to think of it!

      anyway, the app was cheap (like $1-2 AUD) so it wasn't super powerful--but definitely sufficient. might be better ones out there, but would cost more.

  9. Such a great breakdown - thanks so much for sharing. We're budgetting and saving for our big trip and this has really helped confirm that we're on the right track with what we're aiming for based on what we currently spend on travels, and seeing the way you did it.

  10. Thanks guys for such a great breakdown of your expenses. We've used Expenditure as well and it's fantastic. Funny how much easier it is to spend less when you actually track your spending!

    It's interesting to see that even though your flights to Canada were a huge portion of your total expenditure on flights, when you average it over the year it really only added an extra $13 a day to your total expenditure. I always balk at spending that much money on flights but when you break it down like that it doesn't seem to bad.

    1. Hmm--I never actually thought of our side trip to Canada like that! an extra $13 isn't so bad then! Thanks for pointing that out! in any case, it was to visit family and friends so necessary and worth it.

  11. Wow, thanks. We are gearing up to leave next year and this sort of information makes us really realise that this lifestyle is obtainable.
    Thanks for sharing. How are you feeling being home? Are you planning the next trip yet?
    A actually added up our expenses if we stayed at home for the year and they were more than what I was budgeting to travel with. Crazy Australian prices!!!

    1. hi carla,
      the lifestyle is definitely obtainable and like you've realised, the cost of living can be much cheaper than what you've been used to at home (especially in australia!). but you do need to travel slow and still watch your expenses, even in cheap asian countries. the payoff is so worth it, and the experience, unforgettable! good luck with your 'gearing up'!


  12. Jess - This is amazing! I wish I 1) had this before our trip and 2) was this organized to do it myself. I really like how you went country by country, that is going to be valuable advice for many people. Now you have to do the trip again in other parts of the world so we all have as detailed as a guide :)

    1. Would love to Diya--care to find a sponsor for me though :o

  13. that is so awesome that you travelled with your kids for so long and such fabulous countries as well! we have two kids aged 3 and nearly 5. Being old school backpackers ourselves (10+ years on and off) we love taking the kids where we can when we can. if only things like work didn;t get in the way lol. it's a shame that more people don;t take the plunge. thanks for your blog - it has been a facinating read. we are taking the kids to vietnam for a little under a month soon and i can;t wait. cheers

    1. i guess we are 'old school backpackers' too-- at least the 'old' part LOL. this is what we hope our blog can do for others, to inspire then to do it, even with kids. Its such a different experience traveling with kids. Have fun in Vietnam (have you checked our posts filed under 'Vietnam'?)!

  14. Wow You collect all the data!!! Really you are very much careful. Petter Joe

    1. Entering the data via the app on our iPod Touch was fairly painless and simple--we think we successfully inputted 95% of our costs.

  15. Curious what country you considered the best value for money. Looks like India but wondered what your impression was?

    1. Great question David!

      Although India was by far the least expensive country we visited in terms of our daily expenditures, our standard of living also reflected this. We travelled exclusively by local public ground transport and ate at local indian restaurants. We did have a lot of great value for money at 'attractions' such as amusement parks, zoos, and sights, but overall, the accommodation standards at the budget end was hit and miss.

      Cambodia had nice, new and well appointed budget hotels, but again, the overall amenities was low and infrastructure was poor. It was cheap but basic.

      So to answer your question, Vietnam was probably a good all-round winner. While not the cheapest, it was still low especially when compared with the more popular Thailand and Bali, yet much better value, especially in terms of budget accommodation, which of course can account for nearly 1/2 of your budget. Lots of small new hotels, usually with free wi-fi and often breakfasts and a pool included too. Our transportation costs (another budget killer) was also relatively low in Vietnam. And food options were good too. Vietnam also offers a great diverse range of things to do, from historic sights to natural landscapes to amusement parks and activities for the kids.

  16. Great post! I plan to travel with my family when I have one so your blog is very inspirational.

    I think that most people would look at your total budget for one year and think it is a very shocking number. However, I would argue that you probably saved a GREAT deal of money by not paying many of your normal bills and expenses you have while living at your home (i.e. car payments, gas/petrol, utilities, groceries, mobile phones, cable TV/internet, etc).

    Would you agree or disagree? Do you think that a year on the road can be cheaper than a year at home?


    1. Hi Kim,
      I agree--I think people would think that our budget for the year was a shocking number--that is, until they realise that they more than likely spend at least that while at home. we do, and our lifestyle isn't as relaxed or 'indulgent' as when we are away. We did a post on our figures at home

      Also, the fact that this budget (away and at home) is for an entire FAMILY of 4, the number's likely more shocking how conservative it is! Single people these days spend that much on a new car, or others on a big overseas tour package. It's all relative, but the point is--it's do-able.

      I hope you do travel with your family one day--everyone should try to make that possible because the experience is invaluable.

      Thanks for visiting us!

  17. Can you comment on your food expenses a bit more? Did you take any housing that had kitchens where you could cook on your own or was eating out the whole time? Or was it a mix?

    1. Hi Rob
      Great question. I don't think we ever took housing that had a kitchen--it just wasn't our priority coupled with the fact that in the places/countries that we were in, it was pretty cheap eating out as long as you stayed away from the eateries aimed at foreign tourists and ate where the locals ate instead, which is what we did. we ate out for all our meals.

      however, soon after we got to india (august '11), we purchased a set of 4 stainless steel bowls and some spoons and started buying a big bag of cornflakes for breakfast as we liked to have 'western' food for breakfast, so it tended to be a bit pricey in the restaurants. then pretty much every morning, we'd pick up some fresh milk and bananas, both of which were readily available, so we didn't even have to worry about having a fridge either.

      hope this answers your question--feel free to ask anything else. thanks for stopping by!

  18. Wow, fantastic breakdown of cost! amazing to see you were able to record all the expenses in the year. It's very helpful to us, thanks a lot.

    1. Glad you found it helpful Matthew! If you have any specific questions, feel free to email us directly :)


  19. Wonderful info on travelling with kids!
    We started when our younger one was two and do for a month every year from London.
    It sure costs a lot less to do it in one go, though we managed to spend less than staying in London for a month.
    Southeast Asia is a definitely the place to go for budget trips.
    We haven't been able to do Africa properly yet, because of Malaria for kids. Have you got any plan for the trip down that way soon?

    1. Hi Eunmi
      Yes, Malarial areas are a problem when you have young children but Africa isn't on our radar anytime soon either. We've got another trip planned for SEA, then possibly some exploring in North America in the next few years.

  20. Thanks so much for this advice and I too will get the app. I guess you just get used to filling it in as you finish up your meal etc or back in your room...
    My budget with 4 kids for Thailand/Malaysia for 12months is more like $40,000 AUD and we will be staying in one place for 2 months at a time I think we will do very well really.
    Hurry up Jan 2015 I can't wait.