Let’s Talk About Money, Honey

by Gigi Griffis

It’s been awhile since I talked about money here.

Which is interesting, since money is, by far, the most common question people have about full-time travel.

In large part, this is because people assume travel is expensive. After all, a weekend at Disneyland or a two-week jaunt through Europe or a 10-day trek in the Andes are all things people save up all year (or for multiple years) to do, right? Which means travel is expensive. Or so people assume.

And so when it comes to full-time travel, the general assumption seems to be that either we travelers are uber wealthy or we’re couchsurfing vagabonds with nary a penny to our names.

Both are untrue.

Certainly there are wealthy full-time travelers and there are vagabonds. But there are also lots of people who fall in between those extremes and still manage to travel full- or part-time.

The secrets are actually pretty simple:

First, we spend less than we make. Just like any financial advisor would tell you to do no matter where you choose to live. Whatever you make, your budget should be less than that. Period. It’s the only way to sustain any sort of lifestyle.

Second, we travel differently. When you’re on vacation, and especially when you have such a limited number of vacation days each year, you’re likely to travel quickly. You also have expenses back home that don’t stop while you’re away (phone bills, mortgages, etc.). And the plane tickets or train tickets that get you to your destination add up really quickly.

So vacation is expensive. And it makes sense that it is.

Full-time travel is different. Most of us travel slower, taking advantage of long-term apartment rental discounts and reducing our transportation costs significantly. Many also choose to travel in cheaper places. In Thailand or Mexico or Argentina, your costs will simply be lower and over time those savings can add up to a lot. And, very importantly, we’re all working. So we’re not out every day sightseeing and eating at restaurants and spending money. We certainly do sightsee and eat out, but rather than condensing it into a two week jaunt, we spread it out over months, spending our in-between time on not only work, but also normal daily tasks like grocery shopping and laundry and free activities like going to the park or walking around our new cities.

This difference in lifestyle adds up quick when it comes to budget.

Let’s do a hypothetical scenario, shall we?

So, for someone who lives in the US and works a full-time job and probably gets two weeks off per year, a two-week vacation will include:

:: Expenses back home, such as rent, phone bill, internet, utilities, car insurance, and health insurance. Let’s conservatively say this all costs $1,000 for estimating purposes.

:: A round-trip plane ticket and maybe bus or train fare. Let’s say, again conservatively, this costs $1,000 per person.

:: 12+ nights in hotels or Airbnb rentals at nightly prices. Again conservatively, let’s call this $50 per night (times 12 makes $600).

:: At least two meals per day eating out. Conservatively, let’s say that’s $15 per meal and 14 days including travel days, which brings us to $210.

:: International health insurance, which for a two week plan with a popular provider is quoted around $90.

All of the above means that, without even factoring in sightseeing, day-to-day bus, train, or rental car fees, breakfast, snacks, petsitters or pet transport fees, or souvenirs, the baseline cost of a two-week vacation for our mythical person above would cost almost $3,000. And, again, these are pretty conservative estimates.

Now, let’s think about a similar situation for a full-time traveler.

:: No back-home expenses.

:: A one-way plane ticket to a similar destination might cost about $600 (or less if you’re willing to be flexible on dates – something a full-time traveler can do more easily than a vacationer).

:: 1 – 2 months in an Airbnb or other local rental at a similar destination would likely cost $600 – $1,000 per month.

:: Eating in most of the time means you could easily half the vacationer’s food budget.

:: Long-term international health insurance can cost as little as $100 per month.

So, our second mythical person could spend a month in their destination (again not factoring in sightseeing, day-to-day transport, etc.) at a base cost of $1,600. That’s for a stay twice as long as the vacationer’s.

Now, the above numbers are made up. But they are educated guesses based on real budgets I’ve seen and experienced in my own travels. I’ve spent thousands on short vacations and much much less as a full-time traveler. The key is that full-time travelers aren’t in vacation mode. They’re not moving fast. They’re not paying for expenses somewhere else.

So, here’s the point: travel doesn’t have to be expensive. Full-time travel is particularly affordable (in fact, depending where you travel, it can be a lot cheaper than full-time living in the States).

There are plenty of good reasons not to become a full-time traveler (like if you have an ailing parent you want to be near or if you simply don’t want to travel full-time), but money really isn’t the issue we think it is.

Just thought I’d remind you. In case you are working toward more travel and were feeling some financial overwhelm.

And if you’re craving more? Here are some detailed financial posts from days past:

How I Afford to Travel the World Full-Time: Expenses

How I Afford to Travel the World Full-Time: Income

How to Save Money (Or Even Make Money) While on Vacation

How to Finance & Sustain Your Travels with Nora Dunn

My Real Budgets for Stays Around the World

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1 comment

Cat Tree UK March 2, 2016 - 4:30 am

I’m currently living off around 1000$ a month in Thailand and I live very well! I couldn’t ever get a flat for that back in london.


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