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:
- It began to be too much of a chore to keep track of and categorize our expenses.
- 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.
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!!!!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.