The Final Numbers Part 2 – Spending on My 2010-2011 RTW Trip

Posted By Jeremy in Planning

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With 151 days, 15 hours, and 15 minutes of travel from the minute the first plane departed until walking into the door upon return, I collected a lot of numbers during my trip.  From the amount of money spent, to miles traveled and everything in between (Part 1), I kept track of it all.

The types of data collected can be separated into two categories: financial related, and not.  Part 1 into this series featured the final numbers of all things non-currency related as measured by the RTW Tally.  This entry, however, gets to the bottom of just how expensive long term travel in Asia really is.  The numbers, are a bit surprising.


For 152 days of travel, I spent a grand total of $16,635.37 from pre-trip spending and all on the road expenses until I stepped foot in the door home.  This number appears high, however looking at the breakdown of costs shows more to the story than just one number can elaborate.  So before you comment below about how I overspent, read on!

A Lesson in Over-Spending

To begin, a simple breakdown of spending is necessary.  My major expenses were calculated by looking back at three unique criteria:

1) Pre-Trip Spending – $3,852.68
2) Cash Removed From Checking Account – $8,940.38
3) Credit Card Charges – $3,842.31

These expenses are rather high, and there are a number of reasons that were factored into the increased spending that should be isolated and discussed:

1) Deciding to come home produced the single biggest expense of the entire trip – $1,349.40 for a one way ticket from Singapore to Dayton, Ohio via Tokyo and Newark.  When factoring in that my one way ticket to Tokyo from home at the beginning of my trip was $725.00, the grand total open-jaw ticket price was $2,074.40.    Sadly, airfare prices were peaked during my travel, and a round-trip ticket in the same style of the route I did now costs the same as the one way trip home.  Overspending: $725.

2) A luxury trip for two, instead of normal backpacking, upped the entire spending by quite a bit when my fiancee visited for the last two weeks in Thailand.  Not only did we stay in nice resorts ($75-$120/night), but I paid for all of her expenses as well, apart from airline ticket.  That means transportation expenses, site seeing, meals, everything doubled.  You could say that instead of 152 days of travel, I actually paid for 167 days of travel, and 30 of them were luxury.  For two weeks of travel for two, I spent approximately $3,000.  Compared to the rest of the trip, which was done in relatively budget standards, I can easily say that this is more than a 50% increase in spending due to being luxury.  Overspending: $1,000

3) Souvenir shopping overload became apparent when I realized I was going to come home.  If I wasn’t thinking of moving in with my fiancee, or job interviews, I would not have bought a $250 custom and shipped suit in Vietnam, or most of the expensive souvenirs from Thailand ($120 hammock), Cambodia ($40 paintings), Singapore ($60 painted crystal ball).  So with the knowledge that I didn’t have to be thrifty, well, I wasn’t thrifty, and bought whatever I wanted.  Overspending: $470

I could go on and list every single item that I splurged on with the knowledge of coming home, but the preceding three are most definitely the largest, and illustrate a good point.  In knowing that I did not have to maintain my budget to within original specifications, I spent well over $2,195 in excess.  Am I upset about this? No, but it inflates my spending account big time for future planners. 

Without nitpicking every detail of overspending, that $16,635.37 looks a lot more appealing at a modest $14,440.37.  This value can be dissected even further.

$16,635.37 over 167 equivalent days factors out to $99.61/day.
$14,440.37 over 167 equivalent days factors out to $86.47/day.

Lets say that you are a seasoned traveler already, and already have every item you need before heading out on the road.  Assume you already have things like electronics, gear, vaccinations, and only need things associated with the same exact trip I took like plane tickets, hotel reservations, the Japan Rail Pass, etc.  The pre-trip spending of $3,852.68 decreases a further $1,175.22 that I personally had to spend extra.   That is to say, it is possible that some people could have spent over a thousand dollars less for the same itinerary, or:

$13,265.15 over 167 equivalent days factors out to $79.43/day.

Regardless of how you want to look at it, a daily cost of $80-$100/day for 5 1/2 months in Asia, of which four weeks were in Japan and one month was living luxury in Thailand, the cost breakdown is not that bad. Would I have made my original 10-14 month goal at this spending pace?  Hardly, unless you include earnings from the blog as potential spending streams.  But if I were to have spent less based on the previously outlined omissions, my spending budget would likely be near $9,000, or another 5 months on the road.  Of course, new destinations always means new spending patterns, so I could be way off, but knowing that over ten months of travel, for one, can be had for under $25,000 without living like a bum makes me quite happy.

As it seems like Part 2 of this post got a bit carried away analyzing over spending figures, I am omitting a country-to-country break down of spending for Part 3 of this series.  Head on over there to check out the detailed spending on each country while on the road!  Of course, be sure to not miss the RTW Tally interpretation in Part 1 as well!

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  1. @Christy – I am the exact opposite! We’re just now trying to put together a spending spreadsheet for living at home, and I find it a lot more difficult than I do while traveling. I guess when you have people you are reporting your numbers to you become a bit more motivated for that on the travel aspect. Any tips for keeping it in line at home?

    @Cornelius – This comment just made my day. I highly encourage you to do the Asia trek, as it is quite incredible. Keep in mind that my numbers were probably elevated from what the “cheapest” you can spend for an individual (or couple for that matter) depending on where you go and what style you find is best for you. If you ever have any questions or want to bounce ideas off, let me know!

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  2. This post made me email my fiance and may have solidified our plan of where to go and what to do after Grad school. We already had plans of finishing May 2012. Then Peru for wedding fall 2012 and maybe try to find a job in Japan or somewhere but why not just start somewhere in Asia and backpack to Tokyo and then look for a job. It seems more and more probable. Thanks for this post you may have given me answers I didn’t know I was looking for yet!

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  3. It’s funny that when I’m living in one place I’m very good at tracking my expenses, but when I’m traveling, I usually don’t do a very good job of keeping track of what I spent. I think I will start doing this from now on. I do know that for 6 weeks of travel in Australia and SE Asia I spend around $4,000. That’s a lot for 6 weeks, but Australia is expensive and $1800 of that is airline tickets.

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  4. The best I would recommend for this would be to get a small journal and fill out one page per day on items you bought and things you did. Doesn’t have to be fleshed out a lot, just like “Lunch – pad thai – 30 baht” then at the end of each day add everything up in local currency, convert back, and boom!

    It does take a good memory sometimes to help remember what all you bought after a long day. Somehow my horrible memory lets me get a pass in this category.

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  5. Wow, good on you for putting this together. I always had such high hopes for keeping track of travels like this, but it does take a lot of work πŸ™‚

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  6. I love keeping track because I can help show my numbers off to others, but I can see where you wouldn’t want to.

    @Lindsay – I would love to start that business. Know anyone that would want clients

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  7. Good job! I never remember exactly how much money I spent on my trips. Not sure if it’s better to know or not to know. That’s the question πŸ™‚

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  8. I agree that in most cases it is not accurate to measure it from 151 to 167 like that. I only did it in this case because the hotels were well over twice as expensive of what I would normally be paying for either 2 people in a dorm or 2 people in a cheaper style private, just from the level of quality increase we took for the rooms.

    For the amount of money that was spent, I just wanted to give the example that it could have been 167 days as one person for the same amount I spent for two in that extra week.

    When we go travel together, I’ll be able to break it down the other way and show how much we’re saving by traveling as a couple. On this trip, there was definitely no savings for the luxury :).

    I’m an engineer πŸ™‚ so close enough to accountant. Keeping track of my numbers is how I got into blogging in the first place.

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  9. Wow, I’m very impressed that you were able to keep track of your expenses so well! Are you an accountant πŸ™‚

    It seems like it was money well spent because of your amazing experiences!

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  10. Wow, I am beyond impressed that you kept track of your expenses so well!!! Plus you had an amazing time so I’d say that it’s all money well spent πŸ™‚

    I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that you paid for 167 days as opposed to 151 because aren’t most hotels paid at double occupancy? That’s why it’s “cheaper” to travel as a couple than as a single. Although there’s the argument that as a couple you stayed in a nicer place than you would have otherwise.

    Well regardless, your fiancee is very lucky that you treated her to such a fabulous vacation.

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  11. Thanks! You can tell I put an engineering eye on it eh? I’m going to do a few posts about souvenirs in the future, but the hammock is quite special. Actually, I’m going to do a post just on that one by itself

    I saw several <$10 hammocks all over the place as well, but were tiny and of questionable construction. There is a place in Koh Lanta called the Hammock House (chain in Thailand) that sells entirely hand woven hammocks. The one I purchased is jumbo sized, enough for multiple people. Incredibly soft, durable, weather resistant, and incredibly massive. A bit of a splurge, but it is one of those that will quite literally last forever.

    Pictures of their super jumbo hammocks:
    If you look at the picture of the right with the 3 women, you can see how huge it is:

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  12. Coming from a fellow engineer I enjoyed your detailed cost analysis. One question – What’s up with the $120 hammock from Thailand? I’ve been seeing them everywhere for $8-$10 in Cambodia. Oh, major congratulations on the engagement! Brad

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