Resources, Travel, Trip Planning

Budget Report: how much does it cost to travel for 5 months?

How much does it cost to travel

“How much does it cost to travel?”

This is by far the most common question that I get asked about travel. I had always read that “you don’t have to be rich to travel” but how true was that really? Let’s find out!

About this report

I decided to break this down by country. Since most of the countries I visited don’t accept American cards, I payed cash for almost everything. I tallied these numbers by looking back on my bank statements and adding up the cash withdrawals according to the dates I was in each country. On my next trip, I’ll keep better track of expenses by category for you guys so we can find out how much they were individually. 🙂

The numbers below include everything you might pay for back home. Food, lodging, entertainment, midnight snacks, transportation, toiletries, clothes etc.

Before I left for my trip, there were a few purchases I had to make that will be included in the total, but aren’t associated with any particular country.

Flight to Bangkok: $414

Flight home from Tokyo: $861.66 (if I had planned better, I could have bought this further in advance and lowered the cost big time!)

Travel insurance: $110

Keep Costs Low

There was also a considerable amount of prep-work that I did before I left, in an attempt to keep costs down. If you’re ever planning some long term travel, I recommend you do the following to keep costs low:

  • Open an account with a company that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. I use Capitol One 360 – this saved me a few bucks every time I used an ATM OR made an online purchase in another currency.
  • Open an account with a company that will reimburse you for your ATM fees. Since I come from a military family, I use USAA. If you’re non-military, take a look at online banks such as Charles Schwab for this perk.
  • Buy one way tickets. My ticket to Bangkok was actually round-trip, even though I didn’t catch my flight to come home. Buying a one way ticket keeps you from having to pay ticket change fees, and from eating the cost of paying for a seat you might choose not to be in once you get on the road.
  • Give up the booze. I started doing this before I left and once I was on the road. Not buying alcohol can literally save you hundreds of dollars!

The final numbers

6 flights, 9 buses and 10 trains later, I present to you: the final costs! How much do you think it will be?

Cost Breakdown by Country

  • USA, San Francisco: $1,329.37
  • Thailand: $666
  • Laos: $641.24
  • Vietnam: $714.37
  • Cambodia: $323.92
  • Malaysia: $136.57
  • Singapore: $527.18
  • Hong Kong: $323.44
  • Japan: $1,978.49

Total Cost: $7,498.40

Is that higher or lower than what you expected?

When I looked at this number, I felt a bit shocked. It seems high (thanks Japan)…but when I think about how much my cost of living was in America – it was actually cheaper to travel!

In Chicago, my apartment expenses started at $600/mo. Once you add in groceries, transportation, entertainment, girls night out, a Netflix subscription, and impulsive video game purchases, life on the road was more affordable – and so much more satisfying!

Looking back on the trip, there’s a lot of things I would do differently to save even more. All in all though, this was still the trip of a lifetime and absolutely priceless!

If you have any questions about the costs, or ideas on how to save even more – leave me a comment!







  • Reply

    Halee Pagel

    September 23, 2016

    Love the breakdown! One thing I’d like to know: how many days did you spend in each country?

  • Reply


    September 25, 2016

    I live in Japan and know why it threw your travel budget off! Japan is a wonderful country but it doesn’t come cheap! How did you find affordable accommodation?

    • Reply


      September 26, 2016

      Hey Kia, thanks for commenting! I mostly stayed in Hostels. I also used AirBnB, because it some places it was actually cheaper – and I got to stay with a local!

Don't be shy!