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Apr
10

Six Months In Asia – What Did It Cost?

At the beginning of the trip I was all gung-ho on keeping track of our expenses and sharing a monthly expense report on this blog.  That lasted all of about one month.  I abandoned it for two reasons:

  1. It began to be too much of a chore to keep track of and categorize our expenses.
  2. I soon found out that our budget was unrealistic for our family and we decided that for this trip we would travel as we felt comfortable and worry about how much it cost us later.

Maybe that was irresponsible but we did have a fabulous time.  Although I don’t regret any of the things we did or the way we traveled I know I will change a few things in our future travels to keep our costs down to what I view as a more sustainable level.

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Before we left on our trip we had a budget in our head of $2000 per month.  This budget was not set in stone and we had room to go over it, it was just what we were hoping we could travel for.  We soon learned that this was an unrealistic budget for our family of four.

We thought that we were hardcore budget travellers, but we are not.  We like comfort.  We like to eat what we want, when we want (there is only so much rice and noodles you can eat before you get sick of it!).  We wanted to do what we wanted to do.  Basically we treated our six months as a vacation instead of as a lifestyle.

Even so, we were still pretty shocked when I ran the final numbers.  We spent double our original budget!!!!

The Numbers:

Our pre trip expenses were $4868.

Our flights within Asia were $2434.

And our costs of living were $20 913.

We traveled for 182 days so basically our daily cost was just under $115 per day.  If you include the costs of our pre-trip expenses and our flights this number goes up to $155 a day for a grand total expense of $28 215.  Wowzers!

Accommodation:

The cheapest place we stayed in was $18 per night and the most expensive place was $125.  Usually we stayed in places that were between $30 and $50 per night.  At $30 per night we would get a very nice, clean room sometimes with a pool.  For fifty dollars a night we would definitely get the pool and breakfast would be included.

Food:

When we were in self contained accommodation we would cook our own breakfast 95% of the time and we would cook lunches or dinners about three to five times a week.  The rest of the time we would eat at restaurants.

When we were traveling (which ended up being exactly half of the time) we would eat breakfast in our rooms maybe 30% of the time and all other meals would be eaten in restaurants.

The costs of meals varied greatly.  We would eat street food for $2 a head, local restaurant food for $3 to $6 a head, and western food for $5 to $8 a head.  Just like at home, adding drinks to your meal becomes quite expensive when you are paying for four people but we did drink A LOT of fruit shakes which would add to our bills.  Fruit shakes can be had on the streets for $1 and in a restaurant for $2.

Flights:

We spent a total of $2434 on flights within Asia.  Could we have done without this?   A few of our flights were completely necessary like our Hong Kong to Penang, Kuala Lumpur to Bali, and Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong.  These distances were too great to go overland.  As for the rest of them (a few within Thailand and from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur) we actually did a cost comparison between taking buses or trains and taking Air Asia flights and the flights actually worked out to be either comparable or cheaper than taking an overland route!

Activities:

We did A LOT in six months time.  We went on road trips, snorkel adventures, elephant rides, and waterfall hikes.  We explored museums and art galleries, royal gardens and wats, festivals and dance performances.  Everything costs money, even if it is just the cost of travel to get there.  We did not limit ourselves, we did the things that we thought would be interesting.

Looking Back (What We Would Do Differently):

There is a lot of freedom in not planning too much in advance but this backfired on us a bit.  We did a lot of backtracking which added a lot to our expenses.  When my parents came we wanted to show them the best of Thailand.  We met them in Bangkok, headed to Southern Thailand, and flew up to Northern Thailand.  All of this was backtracking for us.  Of course I don’t regret any of this, we had an awesome time, but we could have planned it a bit better.

We stayed in accommodation rented by the month for two months of our six month trip.  Next time I think we will try to rent monthly for five or even six months.  Not necessarily in the same place for all of that time but we found renting by the month to be easy and extremely cost effective.  Every time we traveled it cost a whole heck of a lot more money than if we had just chosen somewhere to settle or had stayed stationary longer.  Of course when you do it this way you don’t get to see as much but we actually found that going deeper was much more fun than going wider.  We also found that the kids did much better when we were stationary as opposed to moving around all the time.

And In The End:

In the end I am still pretty shocked about how much this trip actually cost us.  We actually spend slightly less than this per month living at home in Canada even when we had a mortgage!  Next time we plan to travel much slower, concentrating on only one or possibly two countries and treating our six months out as more of a lifestyle and less of a vacation.

If you are planning your own trip and are worried about your budget, check out this break down my friend did on what it cost her family of four to travel for an entire year.

Related posts:

13 comments

1 ping

  1. Renee — RambleCrunch says:

    Interesting! Amy, does your final number include medical insurance?

    1. worldschooled says:

      Yes, it does. Our medical insurance was just under $700 and is included in the pre-trip expenses.

      1. Renee — RambleCrunch says:

        Gack! Sorry, I just clicked the pre-travel expenses link & answered my own question.

  2. Jess with2kidsintow says:

    Interesting numbers, but as you pointed out, they reflected ‘how’ you traveled (ie the activities you did, your accommodation choices, etc). Even though it cost slightly more than if you’d just stayed at home, at the end of the day, the two cannot be compared as I’m sure you’d agree! So even if it was slightly more, you got much more in your 6mo.

    Thanks for the link back. We too ended up spending more than we’d expected though :)

  3. Tracy says:

    I can imagine it’s a bit of a confronting figure when you see it written down like that, particularly if living back home for six months would have been cheaper. Asia becomes really cheap if you aren’t travelling. For instance, places like Chiang Mai – if you were to stop there for three months and rent an apartment, your costs are almost nothing. That’s where it ends up being cheaper. Travelling around, the expenses are always going to creep in.

    1. with2kidsintow says:

      Also, as you travel for longer, the pre-trip expenses get spread out along with other costs such as your initial flights, which from countries like Canada (to SEA), are a big deal.

  4. Anne says:

    Thanks for sharing! I also love the comments and feedback from the travelers I’ve been following for years!!! :)

  5. Alyson says:

    You’re scaring me a bit here! We are also a family of four and we plan to spend a lot less than that per year. You did have a lovely apartment for a while though. Let’s see how we go, we leave in 3 months. It’s been great seeing what you guys have been up to.

  6. Lisa Wood says:

    Its so good to read what it cost a family to travel for six months….it does add up quickly!! Never thought about what it would cost to travel in Asia….i am not good at book work :)
    Interesting to see if it would be different if you did travel more slowly…but then again living comfortably is high up on my list as well :)

  7. Heidi says:

    Thanks for breaking it down like this, Amy! We’re discovering the same thing about expenses when we travel faster than we’d like to. Clearly, slow travel is the way to go, budget-wise. But you can’t replace those experiences for you or the boys, right? The bottom line, though, is that you would do it again. Doesn’t that say it all?!

    1. worldschooled says:

      Totally, no regrets here!

  8. Bethaney - Flashpacker Family says:

    Very interesting to read Amy! I love what you said about staying in one place for a longer period of time and going deeper, not wider. That totally hits the nail on the head about what family travel needs to be about for us.

  9. Krista Beauvais says:

    What a wonderful post!

    I’m just reading through a few in order to ask you the right questions for the story you’re happy to share on Wodara and I find I just want to keep reading!

    I love your writing! I love how honest and open you are – really great, helpful entries for others interested in doing this!

    Looking forward to contacting you soon with questions…

    Cheers,
    Krista

  1. List 15/52 – Five Blog Posts About Family Travel Budgets | The places we go says:

    [...] Six Months In Asia – What Did It Cost? by Worldschool Adventures: Cost summary of a six month trip for a family of [...]

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