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If you have ever dreamed of traveling full time, one of the first things that you will think of is how will I pay for it. I am hoping I can help you out a little here.

For myself, I had this in my plans for nearly 15 years beforehand and had been saving and investing for the day I could hit the road without a job. I managed to see hundreds of cities and towns in more than 70 countries during a 4 year period. And, wouldn't trade that experience for anything that I can think of.


When I started traveling in 2019, I was terrible at spending money and was going way over what I thought I would spend! There were many factors that led to that, but the greatest by far at that time was the speed of travel.  If you are always moving, then travel will cost a lot more. Booking a new ticket every few days or taking a new road trip and buying gas (I once spent over $2000 in 6 weeks on gasoline alone), staying in hotels instead of Airbnb, eating in restaurants instead of using supermarkets. These things add up, and quickly! So, finding a balance between budget and speed is important. Over time, I slowed down and saved money. And, by slowing down, for me, that meant spending a week somewhere instead of just 2-3 days. I have met people that spend a month at a time in one place. That would save even more. But, I felt like that was too slow for me. You will have to find your own balance. 


The other thing that will help immensely is keep detailed track of where you spend money. When you are out and about, money can easily and slowly leak away, and add up to large sums over time. 

I think that calculating full time travel expenses include many things one would not normally include in a vacation budget. And, to say otherwise is misleading. If you only add up your plane ticket, hotel, and restaurant bills, that is shortchanging the expenses considerably.


To control my expenses, I had to fully understand where the money was going...ALL of the money.  And, to do that, I had to record every penny spent.  So, my figures will include everything from lodging, transportation and meals...all the way to dental appointments, new shoes, cleaning supplies, car insurance, storage fees, right down to dropping a euro for pay toilets while walking the streets in Paris...etc. etc.

If you want to know how much a vacation cost, it is fine to just add the tickets, hotel and meals. 

However, to know what it costs to travel full time, I have to include everything that one would spend living at home, plus what has to be spent for traveling around. Because those every day expenses that you have now do not stop when you travel full time.

Some explanations on my spending total below;

  1. Food spending is broken down into 3 categories.  I try to use supermarkets as much as possible because eating as restaurants 3 meals per day would get really expensive, and ultimately really bad for the waistline!  There is also a category for "snacks".  This will include food bought while moving around (i.e. rail stations and airports) but also things picked up while just out and about exploring (i.e. bottle of water, coffee, ice cream treat, etc.)  Those little snacks add up faster than you would think!  at about 4 dollars per day for snacks, it was over $1000 for the year. I would also note that in an effort to keep cutting the spending, my food spending went from 67% in supermarkets in 2022 up to 71% in 2023. Restaurants went from 20% down to 16%. And, I do not do "fancy." There are no 4 and 5 start restaurants in here. NO place that I need a tie. So, if that is your lifestyle, your expenses will be much higher. Despite that, I was still hit with food inflation like anyone else and my costs went up nearly 20% in one year.

  2. Items such as lodging, rental cars, medical / dental expenses are put in the budget when they are used, instead of when they are paid for; since lodging and rental cars can be reserved and paid for ahead of time, and medical bills (well, American medical bills anyway) are often paid long after.

  3. Since I was on the road full time, I didn't have a primary residence.  Therefore all my "stuff" needed to be stored, and my car needed to be stored also most of the year when I wasn't in The States.

  4. In 2022, I made an effort to avoid rental cars as much as possible.  Mostly, because the cost of them skyrocketed that year after Covid.  Often, the cost of a car would have exceeded what I was paying for lodging.

  5. I collect rewards in 2 ways.  One is on my credit card as cash back, and I have added a line item for that.  The other is hotel rewards,  which is already included in the price of lodging.  My hotel rewards for 2022 totaled $478.47 while credit card rewards totaled $1406.16.  

  6. For my phone, I don't use local SIM cards while traveling.  Instead, I have a worldwide plan that works in most countries.  So far, it has worked everywhere except Kosovo, Laos and Montenegro. In those cases, I rely mostly on WIFI when I can.  And, download google maps for the area when out exploring.

  7. I calculated that in 2022, approximately 40% of my spending was in US dollars.  That came from the time I spent in the US, and also the fixed costs in The States (car insurance, cell phone plan, storage, etc).  60% of my spending was outside the US, and the exchange rate in 2022 was a great help in controlling spending and mitigating for inflation.  Unfortunately, that help with the exchange rate went away in 2023 as the dollar weakened. 

  8. I have looked at the numbers and taken a chance, and cancelled health insurance, so all medical and dental is straight out of pocket.  So far, at least, it has worked out quite well.  Instead of spending over $7000 per year for insurance (with a $6000 deductible), I spent much less paying directly. and for non-Americans reading this...yes, $7000 per year for bad medical insurance is not a misprint!   

In US Dollars - average spent per month in 2022/2023

2022         2023

2769.24   2858.10  lodging

746.04     873.39    food (69% grocery stores, 18% restaurants, 13% snacks while traveling)

652.05     402.59   flights

397.74      341.96    storage for belongings and car in Seattle

231.64     133.01     gas/petrol

209.40    38.47      car maintenance and washes and registration renewal

202.9       273.14     train, bus, and ferry tickets - intercity (not including local metro)

197.44      182.70     vices - alcohol, tobacco, lottery and gambling

126.60      196.46    subscriptions (books, movies, Microsoft, music, website, taxes, Amazon Prime)

105.44      106.24   phone

94.54        81.84     museums and churches, temples, zoos/aquariums

84.50        105.24   insurance for car

74.19         18.13      medical and dental appointments

67.63        99.21     metro tickets - public transportation

76.31        30.34    taxi and Grab/Uber and hotel shuttles

61.96        120.64  rental cars and scooter rentals

55.95        107.54  electronics (laptop, earbuds, new phone)

34.04       0.00     Visa fees and passport renewal

32.22       12.39    clothing and shoes

31.11          0.00    Covid tests and certifications

28.50        19.52   haircuts

27.58         80.99  household goods (i.e. umbrella, gifts, cleaning supplies, glasses repair, batteries, phone charger, gym towels and lock)

22.74        31.71    toiletries and medicines and masks

11.28         6.00    camp sites and national parks

9.35          10.29   atm fees and cash exchange fees

7.17            10.00   road tolls

4.57           3.40    laundromats

4.50          10.84   parking

3.77            6.14    pay toilets

3.30           7.56    luggage storage

0.00           33.38  activities (bike rental, scuba, fjord trip in Bergen)

-117.18      -33.33  cash rewards

6256.33     6168.28   total

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