Date Published: June 7, 2022
How much does it cost for a couple to travel the world for a year? This is the question burning in every prospective long-term traveler’s mind. How long can you travel? How much can you afford?
As with anything in life, the cost to travel depends on the type of traveler you are. Traveling the world for a year can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose.
I’ve done the cheap, backpacking life before, but when I traveled the world with my husband in 2019, we were middle-of-the-road spenders. We splurged on bucket-list items but saved in other ways.
Surprisingly, the cost to travel the world for a year as a couple isn’t as much as we thought it would be.
In this post, I’m breaking down our costs of traveling for a year to help you budget for your trip and sharing tips on how you can lower your costs to travel longer.
Places We Visited on Our Trip Around the World
Before I get into the costs of traveling the world, I want to share the places we visited for you to get an idea of the places we went with our budget.
We left in the month of January with a one-way ticket to Bangkok. Our month in Thailand was all planned out, but other than that, the rest of our year was wide open.
During our 12 months of travel, we spent 4.5 months in Southeast Asia, 1 month in Australia, 1 month in New Zealand, and 5.5 months in Europe.
The majority of our year was spent in more expensive countries. I’m looking at you Europe and New Zealand.
However, when we totaled everything up at the end of the year, we were happy to find out that we were pretty much right on target with our $50,000 budget.
So how much did we spend on our trip?
The Total Cost for a Couple to Travel the World for a Year
The total cost for us as a couple to travel the world for a year was $50,269.82.
Almost right on budget! I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were only a couple of hundred dollars over our budget for the year. Especially considering we were in Europe for over half of the time.
If you break it down, we spent around $138 per day as a couple. $138 per day took us to 19 countries and hundreds of cities around the world.
That includes transportation, accommodation, food, insurance, activities, and much more. I’ll break down all of these costs below.
Our Costs Broken Down
There are several factors that affect how much it costs to travel the world. How many places do you plan on visiting? How do you plan to get around? What kind of accommodations do you plan to stay in?
These are all questions that you should think about when putting together your budget.
I’ve broken down our expenses into 6 categories to help you get an idea of where you can expect to spend your money.
Our total costs for accommodation were $11,721.
That’s cheaper than what we normally spend on rent, which is currently around $18,000 per year.
Crazy, right? When we tell people this, they are always shocked.
We only stayed in one hostel on our entire trip. Our main form of accommodation was Airbnb.
One of the perks of traveling as a couple is that it’s often the same price per person to book an Airbnb or a hotel room as it is to book a bunk in a hostel. For the majority of the year, we had our own private Airbnb or a room in a shared Airbnb apartment.
If you’re thinking, “whoa, I thought Airbnb was super expensive” – it’s actually not as expensive in other countries as it is in the United States.
We spent an average of $20-$27 per night in Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, which is cheap. We also spent an average of $45/night in Australia and anywhere between $36-$63 per night in Europe
Additionally, if you stay for more than 28-days at an Airbnb, you can get an even better nightly rate.
For full transparency, we stayed in London, England with our friends for the last 2.5 months of our trip. They have a 2-bedroom flat in the city, and we were able to rent out their second room for a very reasonable price.
If we weren’t able to do that, we probably would have ended up somewhere cheaper for the last couple of months.
Our total transportation costs were $12,467.46.
Transportation was our most expensive category for our trip as a couple. We traveled to 19 countries, rode on a lot of planes, took many trains and buses, and rented cars and scooters.
It’s expensive to get around.
We found that public transportation was by far the cheapest way to get from place to place. Public buses in Asia and trains in Europe were much cheaper than renting a car.
Flights in Europe and Asia are also very affordable for short-distance flights.
If you plan to rent a car or a scooter, make sure to get an International Driver’s License. It’s a requirement to have one in most countries, and you don’t want to get pulled over and fined for not having one on you like we did in Bali.
Our total food costs were $6,013.64.
Trying foods around the world is one of our favorite parts of traveling. Some of our best memories from our trip revolve around food.
If only we had Khao Soi in the states like they have in Chiang Mai, Thailand . . .
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a huge food budget, so we couldn’t eat out every night.
The only time we did eat out every meal was in Southeast Asia. Street food is ridiculously cheap in Southeast Asia.
For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, our meals cost us around $1-$2 each in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. In Bali, we spent around $5 on average per meal.
Other than that, we usually cooked most of our meals and ate out a couple of times a week instead. This helped us to cut down on food costs and save for some other activities.
Our total activities cost was $3,027.10.
Before we decided to go to a new country, we usually picked our top 3 bucket list items for each place.
For example, in Australia, we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and drove along the Great Ocean Road.
In Jordan, we went to Petra to see the temples and Wadi Rum to see the glorious red desert.
In New Zealand, we visited Hobbiton – the set from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Other than our bucket-list items, we mainly found really cheap or free activities. Self-guided walking tours, hiking, picnics, and eating out were some of our favorite things to do.
Our total miscellaneous spendings were $14,059.62.
I know, that’s a huge number.
I wasn’t super organized with tracking our pre-trip or cash expenses during the trip, so our miscellaneous expenses include all of that stuff, plus other things like SIM cards and VPNs.
We spent $8,503.73 in cash – mostly in Southeast Asia for food, scooter rentals, and some activities.
We also spent $1,528 on pre-trip vaccinations and $451 on our backpacks. Make sure to budget for these kinds of pre-trip expenses. You can check out our long-term packing list guide to help you plan for things you need to pack.
Our total insurance costs were $2,981.
We spent an average of $248/month on insurance as a couple. I had to go to a doctor in Vietnam and get an x-ray in Australia, and our insurance helped to cover those costs.
Not to mention, it gave me peace of mind knowing we were covered in case anything happened.
I’ve heard horror stories of people getting stuck with huge medical bills abroad because they didn’t buy travel insurance. I highly recommend getting insurance for your trip, so you don’t have to deal with any unexpected medical costs while you are traveling.
To help you find the right insurance for your trip, check out our post on the best long-term travel insurance options.
RECAP: What is the total cost for a couple to travel the world?
Based on our experience, the total cost for a couple to travel the world for a year is around $50,000, give or take $5,000.
You can use this number as a baseline budget to help you plan your trip.
Of course, not everyone travels the same, so you may plan to spend more or less depending on your circumstances and priorities.
However you plan to travel, you can at least know that you can get around the world for a year with $50,000.
If this budget is still too high for you, I’ve included a few ways below to help you lower your costs.
7 Ways to Lower Your Costs
1. Credit Card Points
Before we left on our trip, we had saved up around 300,000 credit card points. This helped to cover the costs of several flights and ended up saving us a few thousand dollars in transportation costs.
2. Stay Longer in One Place
The less you move around, the less you spend getting from A to B. This means both your transportation and accommodation costs go down.
As I mentioned before, Airbnb offers fantastic discounts for anyone who books more than 28-days at a time if you want to take it a bit slower on your travels.
3. Work Exchange Programs
Work exchange programs are a great way to travel for cheap. With a work exchange program, you get paired with a host who needs help with a project like renovating their house or help running a bed and breakfast.
In exchange for working a few hours each day, you get free room and board.
We spent two weeks volunteering at a flower farm in New Zealand through Workaway (a work exchange program) to help offset the high cost of living in New Zealand for a month. This means we spent $0 on accommodation and food for two weeks just by working a few hours a day on the farm.
4. Plan Ahead
The more you plan ahead, the better deals you are going to get.
Booking train and plane tickets well in advance can save you a lot of money. Not to mention, you’ll find better options for Airbnbs, hotels, and hostels by booking in advance.
5. Take Public Transporation
Taking public transportation like buses and trains is a lot cheaper than renting a car. It may take you longer to get somewhere, but if you have the time, you can save a few dollars by doing this.
Eating out gets expensive real quick. Find accommodation that has a kitchen (a lot of hostels have kitchens, too), so you can cook most of your meals.
7. Stay in Less Expensive Countries
Southeast Asia, South America, and Central America are all less expensive parts of the world to visit. If you want more bang for your buck, plan on spending the majority of your year abroad in these regions.
Your money will go a lot further, and you can spend more time on the road for less.