FINALLY GOT AROUND to calculating my trip costs this weekend. I may have discovered a secret fetish for spreadsheets.
Before I left Korea, I found it useful to research the practical costs of round-the-world travel; I think BootsnAll does the most exhaustively thorough analysis of this (this article is absolutely brilliant), and I recommend them if you want help figuring numbers out. GoMad Nomad also offers a useful series called “What It Costs In…” that I found helpful, and have subsequently contributed to.
I left Korea hoping to spend less than $10,000. Coming in at just over $7,634 — that includes airfare, hotel costs and ATM fees, not to mention food, clothes, gifts, and transit — I think I did all right. In the style of the aforelinked BootsnAll piece, my breakdown is as follows:
Total days: 123
Total countries: 19
Total cost: $7,634 (of which airfare: $2,269)
Daily average, excluding flights: $43 ($34 in Southeast Asia; $49 in Europe)
So in the interest of passing around some anecdotal information that may help some eager planner out there online, here are some tips and explanations.
Book Early, Book Personally
V and I started off well before we took flight, thanks to the dubious villains at Air Asia who charge extremely low costs for extremely inflexible plane tickets. (This actually bit us in the ass twice, but even an expensive Air Asia flight is a cheap flight.) Every ticket was bought at least a month in advance. The eight-week rule (sometimes known as six-to-eight weeks) holds true in my experience, though sometimes you just have to wait to make sure your plans work out and it winds up worth the extra hundred dollars.
Trains and buses in Europe should always, always be booked in advance, though this doesn’t matter as much if it’s a week or month before, so long as it’s online and through the right system. The Man in Seat 61 is indisputably the go-to resource on this one. (Side note: if travelling through Czech Republic, give Student Agency a shot. Their buses are speedy, clean, extremely cheap, with free WiFi and divine complimentary fruit tea.)
I later compared my itinerary, flight-for-flight, as inputted into BootsnAll’s round-the-world planner, which charged just over $6,089 for the whole trip in airfare alone. I spent $2,269. There’s an argument to be made for convenience, but it ain’t worth $4,000.
Those who follow my blog (insert requisite self-deprecating comment a la “all five of you” or “hi Mom!”) will recall that I had to make an emergency trip back to Toronto midway through Europe. This trip allowed me a few cheats. For instance, while I packed well for two equatorial autumn months, by November I’d have had to throw out and mail home virtually every article of clothing I packed, and buy a winter jacket, sweaters, long socks, etc. I bypassed spending those hundreds by just grabbing my old clothes from home. My winter clothes were two t-shirts, two long-sleeve undershirts, two collar shirts, two wool sweaters, one pair jeans, one pair long johns and one jacket. The combinations worked fine for six weeks, and Iceland in December wasn’t even as cold as I expected it to be. (Truly: nowhere as cold as Toronto now.)
Couchsurf If You’re Comfortable
The only way I could afford Europe on $50 a day (admittedly misleading: most days I spent $60-$70; some days I spent $10) was by saving on accommodation. I surfed on the couches of kind international friends from university and South Korea, and where I didn’t have friends I made new ones. If you’re uncomfortable with this, consider that if I’d added $25 for each night I slept in Europe (average hostel cost, between central & western Europe), I’d have spent a bit more than $1,100 extra. If that sum sounds worthwhile for privacy and a certain degree of presumed cleanliness, that’s fine.
Don’t Waste Money on Touristy Nonsense
Yes, I’m sure climbing the Eiffel Tower is an unforgettable experience. But so what? You take a few aerial shots, you stand sandwiched between a thousand sweaty tourists; $30 later you’re back down. For me, the personality in seeing such landmarks lies in the subtle details that surround them.
This being said, I’m more the type of traveller who will save by avoiding the Eiffel and sleeping on strangers’ floors, but who will gladly spend three euros on the right macaroon. So, really, the moral of the story here is to spend your money on whatever you want, but don’t feel bad if you ignore the rest in the process.