RTW Planning Guide: How to Create A Trip Budget / by Shane Henderson

Planning a round the world trip can be an overwhelming experience. One of the first and biggest questions of the planning stage is how much trip can I afford? Maybe your goal is to travel for a defined period of time, like 6-months or a year, and you want to know approximately how much money it will take to do that. Or maybe you already have a sum of money saved up and you are wondering how long it will last while you are traveling. Either way, figuring out a trip budget is the key to determining anything and everything. Sure, for most people budgeting is the least enjoyable part of the planning process (although I am weirdly into it), but if you want to get the most out of your trip, it is crucial to lay out a spending plan. Here are the steps I took to create an estimated budget for our trip and figure out how much money we needed to save up. 

1. Put Together A Rough Itinerary and Ideal Timeline

This is the fun part! Make a list of all of the countries or places you want to visit on your trip. Don't worry if its long, you can always cut out places later on! Once you have a good list, think about how long you want to spend in each place, roughly, and add it all up to find the estimated length of your entire trip.

For example, our original list looked like this...  Hawaii, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Italy, France, UK, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Morocco, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Brazil
There are plenty of other places we are hoping to go on the trip but those were our initial "must visits".  We also knew that we wanted to move pretty slowly on this trip, spend a month or so in each country to try to soak in as much as we could of the language and culture. So, 24 countries with 1 month spent in each, we were looking at a 2 year trip!

2. Research Estimated Costs For Each Country

This is arguably the toughest part of the process. Spend time online researching the estimated costs in each of the countries you are going to. There are a couple ways to go about this. First, if you google "budget for a round the world trip" you will find a lot of bloggers who have already been travelling for years and have tracked every cent they've spent. This can be a great resource to use as a starting point because you can see how much they spent in each country. I personally like this list, and this site, and this spreadsheet! Keep in mind that everyone travels differently. If you are going to be staying in all luxury hotels, your costs are going to be very different then the bloggers that only couchsurf, or stay in hostels.

Once you have a general idea of costs, dial it in by using a cost of living calculator, such as Numbeo or Eardex, which will show you estimated costs in every category for a specific country. For example, you can see how much it costs to buy a beer in Rome, or what a night in a hotel costs in Tokyo. Using these costs, put together an approximate daily budget for each country. Figure out how much you think you will spend each day on hotel, food, entertainment, and transportation, then add it all up! Once you have that, you can multiply it by the number of days you want to spend there, in order to get the total budget for that country.

3. Research Transportation and Prep Costs

On top of the costs you will incur from living in each country, you are also going to be spending a pretty penny on travel getting from place to place. Make sure you factor that into your budget. Spend a little time on Google flights researching what the major flight costs of your trip will be. For our trip, some of the major flights are Hawaii to Tokyo, Bangkok to Rome, Morocco to South Africa, South Africa to Argentina etc. The rest of the flights are short and relatively affordable, or we will be taking cheap train or bus rides. 

Also, don't forget to factor the trip prep costs. This can include buying clothing, luggage, and travel gear, getting any necessary vaccinations, and visas! One major expense that I budgeted in was a new camera because I knew I wanted one for the trip. 

4. Find Your Total

Phew, you have done all that research and now you are ready to find your total estimated cost. Just add up all your estimated country costs, transportation costs and prep costs to find your total. DONT PANIC! This is just an initial number. Sure it might be high, but there are plenty of ways to cut it back to a realistic amount for you. Go through your budget and find places you can cut costs. One easy place to save is on hotel/housing. There are a lot of great options for affordable places to stay. If hotels and Airbnbs are still too expensive, maybe consider Couchsurfing, house sitting, or volunteering in exhcange for room and board

When Anna and I first came up with are total, it was wayyy too high. We decided a more realistic plan for us was to travel for 1 year, instead of 2. If we end up spending less than planned on our first year, or if we figure out a good way to make money while we travel, then we can extend the trip into the second year. But for now, we are planning and budgeting for 1 year. 

5. Start Saving Up

Once you have a realistic total in mind, start saving up for it! I am not really gonna talk about the best ways to do that. Yes, I could make the whole "buy less Starbucks and avocado toast" point, but I am sure you have heard it a million times before, and plus it only applies to people fortunate enough to buy those luxuries in the first place. Everyone is coming from a different financial situation and will require a different saving plan. I will throw out one recommendation for my friend Kara's blog - From Frugal to Free. She paid off a ton of student loans on a very low income and has some great advice on how you might be able to do the same. 

Anna and I are both fortunate enough to be debt-free and have steady incomes, so it was much easier for us to save than for most. Our biggest savings tactics were living with a lot of roommates to save on rent and utilities,  and eating all of our meals at home. I think our most impressive budgeting feat was getting our weekly combined grocery bill to just $50! We basically eat chicken and rice for every meal though, so it is not a very exciting diet.

6. Track Your Spending While Traveling

If you successfully save up enough money and are getting ready to set off on your round the world journey, be sure to track your spending as you go! Doesn't matter how you do it, you can use a notebook, or an app, or an Excel spreadsheet - but if you don't track your spending you won't be able to adjust your remaining budget accordingly! If you go way over budget in France for example (as we plan to!), you can take that into account and tighten up the purse strings in the next country you visit. 

Thats it! Go forth and create your own dream trip budget and let us know how it goes!