People always ask us, “How can you afford to travel for a whole year and not work?” The answer is, traveling is really not that expensive, as long as you’re smart about it. We’re not staying in Hiltons every night, changing countries every week, or backpacking through Europe. Instead, we’ve sacrificed feather down pillows for home stays with locals; we’re staying in every country for at least a month to save on transportation costs; and we’re traveling through a region of the world where our money will last us much longer. Does this mean we might not have A/C sometimes? Or that our bathroom might smell a little? Sure. Do we sometimes stay a night or two in 4 star resorts after spending a week in the jungle with no electricity? You bet. But most of the time we’re paying around $13/night total with breakfast included for a very comfortable place. Even better, it’s usually run by a local family, so our money goes to the local community and not to a Western corporation. All it takes is balancing your budget. Our priority is to stretch our money as long as we can, and we’ve found this is the best way to do that.
“How much did you each save for the trip?”
The next question we always get is, “How much did you save?” After a lot of research, we found that in most Southeast Asian countries, we should be more than comfortable with a daily spending limit of $35/day each, or $70/day total. That’s roughly $13,000/each, but we ended up saving $15,000/each to leave room for incidentals and larger travel expenses. Really, that’s it. That’s all you need. We also took a lot of time before we left to rack up tons of Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card points which will cover our return tickets to the States whenever we decide to come back.
Monthly Budget Breakdown
Click below to see detailed budget breakdowns for:
After each country we visit, we’ll do a recap of our expenses to show you just how easy (or hard!) it is to stay within our $70/day budget. We’ve been meticulously recording every last cent we spend each day in a handy app created by travelers, called Trail Wallet. This app allows us to see what we’ve spent on average each day, broken out in both US dollars and the local currency, as well as breaks out each expense into categories and their percentages. We also stay up to date with the latest exchange rate with the XE Currency app.
We break out each expense into the following categories:
It’s been super easy to find nice places to stay in for less than $20/night. This almost always includes free breakfast which further reduces our costs. We also have an advantage in that we’re traveling as a couple, so we’re able to share this expense.
This includes our nearly daily indulgence of cappuccinos in the morning. We don’t have room in our backpacks for souvenirs, so instead of shopping, we splurge on capps!
Tap water is not safe to drink in most of Southeast Asia. We needed to create a separate category just for the amount of bottled water we buy and/or have refilled from shops.
The fun category! This is everything from snorkel rentals to cooking classes to massages. We keep a close eye on these expenses to make sure we’re not going to bust the budget.
This includes flights to other countries (again, very cheap in SE Asia using budget airlines like Air Asia), bus / boat tickets, and motorbike rental and gas. We try to walk or motorbike whenever possible.
This includes everything else like medicine, toiletries, laundry, etc. We’ve even added in unexpected hospital visits.
So there you have it! Traveling on a backpacker’s budget 101. Be sure to check out our budget breakdown for each country we visit to get an idea for specific costs.
Also, if you’re thinking of doing a similar trip and want to know how we saved the money, or want tips on how to plan for a long term trip, feel free to each out to us in the comments below! We’d love to help out.