We set ourselves a budget of £60 per day, excluding flights. This was fairly arbitrary but would mean that we could last 2 years without earning if necessary. And despite a flourish of luxury at the end, we have actually stuck to it, thanks to being under-budget for most of the trip.
In total, we spent £18063. We didn’t splash out on many extravagances but we also didn’t really rough it; we only spent about 10 nights in dorm rooms. How did we do it?
I used several spreadsheets to consider alternative routes around the world, trying to visit countries at the optimum time of year to get good weather but avoid the worst of peak season. Another tab on the same spreadsheet shows some of my research as to how to get cheaply between the places we visited.
One key point is that we were flexible: other than the vague targets of Oceania and Patagonia, we had no must-see places, so we allowed flight prices to guide our trip.
One strategy which saved some money (and a lot of hassle) was to travel hand-luggage only until we needed camping gear. If you don’t want to camp/hut in NZ and Patagonia, then you’re missing out, but it means you could do hand luggage only for the whole trip.
Alice was amazingly dedicated in recording every single expense along the way; you can read the gory details here.
Airbnb. The wonders of the sharing economy mean that a double room is now as cheap in Australia and New Zealand as it is in the Philippines.
We did spend about 15 nights camping in places where we could have paid for accommodation, in Australia and NZ if there were no cheap Airbnb’s and when we stayed with friends who had hired a campervan.
We spent 21 nights staying for free with very kind people along the way; from our past Airbnb guests and old university friends to a lovely couple we met in a NZ hut.
On that note, we also spent 30 nights in NZ mountain huts (total cost £50pp with an annual pass) and 10 nights camping in the Patagonian Mountains. Many people may see these nights as ‘roughing it’ but when you wake up to views like this and a cabin all to yourself, I class it as luxury.
So, if you’re not into camping, hutting and don’t have any generous friends to host you around the world, you’d need to budget for another 75 nights of accommodation: around £1000pp.
Food and Drink
We ate out 3 meals a day, every day in Asia, as food is so cheap and kitchens hard to come by. After that, we were glad to be able to cook most of the time when we got to Australia and NZ. For those five months, we ate out about once a week and in Patagonia about every other night. We tasted around 80 beers in Australia, but rarely more than 100ml of each! If you want to eat and drink out more in Aus and NZ, you’ll find it really hard to stick to our budget.
I mostly used kiwi.com, which is particularly excellent for finding bargain single fares when you have flexibility about where you want to go. Skyscanner and Kayak are better if you have fixed departure and destinations, with the latter more useful for return flights with a few days flexibility either side.
These days, most short haul flights are very cheap (<£50 if you are flexible on day, except for Aus-NZ which is heavily taxed) but long haul bargains are harder to find. With kiwi, I found good value flights from Dubai to Manila for £90 (yes, hard to believe) and Buenos Aires to London for £300, so we planned our trip around these. We had to stump up £460 each for Christchurch to Santiago, one route which has not yet been reached by low-cost carriers.
Overall, I’m certain that buying 18 single flights was significantly cheaper than buying a round-the-world ticket. We usually booked one country ahead, because of the need to provide proof of onward travel, but this still gave us some flexibility to change our plans depending on how we were feeling.
If you wish to follow my advice on taking a few shorter trips rather than one big one, the fact that long haul returns often don’t cost that much more than singles is in your favour.
We hired a car in NZ for the full three months and it cost £12/day. Cheaper were available and I regret not choosing them, as most rental cars seem equally old! Between two people, the value of this freedom was probably worth it but if you’re on your own, hitchhiking is very easy.
In Australia, we took advantage of camper-van and car relocation deals to drive the whole country. If you want to see the outback, this is a great idea, but be aware that the fuel for such long journeys is not an insignificant cost!
Elsewhere, buses dominated, except for a few choice train rides in Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia, which we did for (geeky) fun rather than budget reasons.
You’ll see that we spent relatively very little on ‘Sightseeing’. Mostly, we climbed and looked at mountains, which is conveniently free in most parts of the world. In cities, we tasted beer and visited museums and galleries.
Particular (free) favourites were tours in Perth’s botanic gardens and Melbourne’s main art gallery, a gallery of traditional Vietnamese dress in Hoi An and the Welsh history in Gaiman, Argentina.
We don’t have a bucket list, nor do we particularly enjoy organised fun, which meant that we didn’t spend the money on the expensive tours in Asia (more fun to rent a scooter for around £5/day) or bungee jumping in New Zealand. It’s hard to strike a balance between being tempted by FOMO and later regretting not doing something.
Overall, I didn’t find it hard to stick to the budget as I’ve got my grandad’s thrifty genes, but Alice often wanted to spend more and this sometimes led to conflict. Part of me thinks that 10-20% higher budget would have made things significantly easier but I’m not sure; it may be that whatever your budget, you always feel restricted.
If we’d known that I was to be starting work again in April, we’d have spent more. This may have led to more type I fun, but I don’t think it would have affected the levels of type II fun. Above all, I love good value. I hope you’ll agree that our last 255 days have been a bargain.