Since our return back home from our gap year of travel around the world, the most frequent question we get is “How did you pay for your trip?” or some derivative of that question such as:
- How in the world could you afford that?
- Did you guys hit the jackpot?
- What do you do for a living?
- Did you work while traveling?
- Where do you guys get your money from?
- You guys must be rich.
- You guys must have rich parents.
- You guys are nuts.
All these questions and comments lead to the same conclusion for most, if not all, of the family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers that we speak with about our trip.
Traveling the world with my family would be great, but we could never afford it.
Ultimately, people cannot fathom how we could possibly afford traveling around the world for 10 months through 10 countries with 2 young kids. We sent our kids to school for 6 out of the 10 months we were on the road at our stops in Thailand, China, and Spain. We spent Christmas in Hawaii and we drank a bottle of wine almost every night during our 80 day journey through some of Europe’s most famous cities, including Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Paris, and Amsterdam. We enjoyed ourselves on the trip and spent money where we felt money needed to be spent.
Most parents squash the thought of traveling for more than two weeks at a time to anywhere in the world precisely because they think they don’t have enough money to do it. But I’m here to tell you that family travel around the world can be inexpensive, affordable and very possible. All you need is an open mind, a curiosity to explore the world, flexibility and a bit of budgeting skill.
What comes next is all of our expenses for the trip, laid out for everyone to see. I’m showing you my cards face up because I want you to realize that traveling the world with your family isn’t a fantasy, as long as you get vigilant about your savings, budgeting, and spending. But the most important change starts with your attitude. You can do it, as long as you focus on your goals and the necessary steps you need to achieve those goals.
So here goes…This is what we spent for 10 months of world travel:
- Duration: 1 month
- Accommodation: Free, Stayed at my mother’s place
- Flights: $2400 – San Jose to Honolulu and Honolulu-Hilo round-trip
- Flights from Honolulu to Phuket free via points
- Transportation: $800 – SUV rental for one month
- $6,000 total
- Duration: 3 months
- More info: Living on $80 Per Day in Thailand
- Accommodation: $2000
- Schooling: $2100
- Transportation: $400, moped rental
- Visa extensions: $200 total
- Flight from Phuket to Hangzhou free via points
- $8,000 total
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Duration: 3 days
- Flights: $435, Phuket-KL round-trip
- Accommodation: $150 total at hotel
- $750 total
- Duration: Approximately 2 months
- Accommodation: Free, Stayed at in-laws’ place
- Flights: Free via points, Phuket to Hangzhou
- Schooling: $400 total for 2 months
- $2,500 total
Asia Solo Trips (Wife and Kids in China)
- Duration: Each trip lasted approximately 5-7 days
- Trip to Beijing, China – $500, high-speed train
- Trip to Cebu, Philippines and Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia – $500, flights on AirAsia
- Trip to Bali, Indonesia – $500, flights booked via miles
- $1,500 total
Europe – Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands
- Duration: 2.5 months
- Italy (Rome, Florence, Venice): 3 weeks
- Spain (Barcelona): 5 weeks
- Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam: 3 weeks
- Transportation: $5200 for round-trip flights between China and Europe, flight from Venice to
- Barcelona, trains, and other transportation
- Accommodation: $5000 for accommodation
- Food and Shopping: $5000 for food and shopping
- Schooling: $800 for 4 weeks in Barcelona
- $16,000 total
- Duration: 3 days
- Accommodation: Free, stayed at friend’s place
- Flights: Free stopover in Hong Kong on way back to Hangzhou
- $300 total
- Duration: Approximately 2 months
- Accommodations: Free, stayed at in-laws place
- $2,500 total
Flights to Bay Area: $2,000 total
Breakdown by Expense Type
- Flights: $9,500
- Trains: $1,000
- Accommodations: $7,500
- Schooling: $3,300
- Food, Shopping, and Leisure Activities: $18,250
Breakdown by Stops
- Hawaii – $6,000
- Thailand – $8,000
- Malaysia – $750
- China #1 – $2,500
- Asia Solo Trips (3) – $1,500
- Europe – $16,000
- Hong Kong – $300
- China #2 – $2,500
- Flights to Bay Area – $2,000
GRAND TOTAL: $39,550
- Average total spent per month: $3,955
- Average total spent per day: $132
- Average total spent per person per day: $33
Things to Note:
- Many flights booked with points, most Asia flights booked on AirAsia
- Most accommodation with family and friends (Hawaii, China, Hong Kong), one-bedroom apartment in Thailand, inexpensive hotels in Asia, and Airbnbs in Europe
- Schooling for 2 kids for 6 months in 3 countries (3 months in Thailand, 2 months in China, 1 month in Spain)
- In Europe, most meals were cooked and eaten at home. In Asia, most meals were eaten at restaurants when not with relatives in China.
So there you have it. We spent approximately $40,000 over the course of 10 months of travel inclusive of all airplane and train tickets, accommodations, schooling for the kids, food, shopping, and leisure activities. $40,000 might seem like a large number, but spread that number out over 10 months and that equates to about $4,000 per month.
$4,000 per month is less than half of what we would spend for our normal living expenses in the Bay Area, California. Sure, we didn’t make any money nor did we contribute any money to our retirement savings during those 10 months of travel. We paid for this trip by dipping into our savings, but lightened the overall financial burden by renting out our house in California and selling our car. Spending $40,000 out of savings was a big sacrifice, but we viewed it as a valuable investment in ourselves and our kids.
Traveling abroad for extended periods of time doesn’t need to be expensive. We did 10 months through Asia and Europe for $40,000. Not being able to afford world travel shouldn’t be an excuse to not follow your dreams. If you travel slowly, budget properly, and spend wisely, you can do something similar to what we did.
Traveling with your family for three months in the summer or for a full gap year can be done. You just need to make it happen. Just go and never look back.
If you’re still curious what $40,000 over 10 months got us, here’s a video made by my six-year-old daughter about her trip around the world.
The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. Originally appeared on LiveFamilyTravel.com. Images courtesy of author.
Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.
First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: Edward White