$86,875.52

I’ve now managed to go more than three months without posting. During my online absence I’ve traveled to Atlanta twice, where I supervised the loading of two separate trucks, one bound for our new home in California, the other for long-term storage in another state, and attended the closing on our house. Yes, we managed to do the impossible–sell a house in a crazy, rapidly declining market—and thus concluded yet another chapter in our lives. We didn’t expect upon ending our travels almost a year ago that we would face quite so many transitions in such a short time, but we’ve learned to expect and even relish change. It’s not always easy, but its in the transitions, when everything familiar and comfortable is stripped away, that our hearts are exposed and we discover what really matters to us. Our cross-country exodus has been stressful, chaotic, and exhilarating all at the same time and given us a unique opportunity to reflect on what we gained during our magical year.

One thing we’ve learned is that it cost a lot less than we originally planned. Including all our planning, preparation, gear, electronics, and travel, we spent a grand total of $86,875.52. That means if you break it down by person, we each got an 11-month, 6-continent adventure, including bungy jumps, elephant rides, and parasailing for $14,479.25! Now that’s a steal! If you strip away our laptops and cameras, you can get it down another $1000 or so per person.

For those looking to do things as inexpensively as possible, there are a few things to bear in mind:

1) We used frequent flyer miles for our RTW tickets. If we purchased these tickets, they would have cost in the neighborhood of $3000-6000 each, still keeping the number around $20,000 each.

2) We stayed for free or at discounted rates at Starwood Hotels using frequent guest points for a total of 45 nights. In some locations this saved us a bundle, in others just a little. In any event, our budget for lodging, which we rarely exceeded was $100/night. You could add $4500 back into the total to compensate for our freebies, but this would probably be more than we would have spent on our own dime.

3) You could go on a lot longer on a lot less if you moved more slowly than we did. There were many times we had to take an expensive plane or train in order to keep our schedule when we could have taken the slower, cheaper route by bus or donkey. Given that southern China and Vietnam cost us only about $75-100/day for 6 of us, we could have spent many months there and kept our expenses way down.

The big expense that some would argue should be included is the cost of keeping our house. We did spend a bundle paying the mortgage, homeowners’ dues, insurance, taxes, etc., but I don’t think it’s fair to make this a cost of travel. We could have rented it out or sold it–which in the wake of our employment situation and the current real estate crisis would have proven a wiser move–and had a lot more spending cash on the road. Both leaving and coming home would have been more difficult, however, and though our bank account holds it against us, we don’t regret doing things the way we did.

In a time when cars can easily cost $40,000 each and $87,000 won’t buy you a bedroom in most cities, we can’t think of a better way to have spent this sum. For $264/day, we gained an unparalleled closeness with our kids and each other, a lifetime of shared memories, and a wealth of experience and knowledge that will remain long after our cars have gone to the scrapheap and our house has been leveled to make room for a shopping mall.

We can’t wait to do it again.

21 thoughts on “$86,875.52

  1. Well done and congratulations.

    You may not have been the first family to make a journey like this, but the six of you brought something special to the adventure, and in your telling you have inspired dozens, if not hundreds, of other families to do the same.

    Ours is one.

    Best of luck to you, and we’d love to see you on the road again.

  2. Please keep posting. I love to hear about your “regular” life too. Your family writes really well, and we’d all love to hear about your daily adventures.

    Thanks,
    Samantha

  3. Wow. I was happy to just go to London for a week, and I’ll be paying that trip off for another 2 years…. I’d say though the ability to do so was priceless.

  4. Fabulous! What a great deal!!! But, I would think that in reality – the trip was priceless!!! Such a great adventure…and now, does it seem sooo far away? Seems once we return home, the trip almost seems like a dream!
    Anxious to hear about the next adventure!

  5. My mate Drew went to America with his family in Spring, he was shocked at how expensive it was. If he’d known some of your tips i’m sure he could have saved some bucks!

  6. Wow – just came across your site (while looking for accom in Prague). What fun! It’s my dream to spend a year travelling – you know, like the kids do with (next to)no time limit in mind. Our 3 kids are almost all out of the house so now it will be without them but we did traipse them through various parts of the world in years gone past- backpacking always, sleeping (2 in a bed)on trains in Europe, climbing ruins in Mexico, riding tuk-tuks in Chiang Mai, speaking French in Siem Riep, making homemade paper dominos and drinking rum & cokes with our Cuban homestay hosts (the kids are a bit older now!)…loving almost every moment. They all have the travel bug – except maybe our youngest (16) who loves being the homebody. Maybe its because she doesn’t think she remembers much – like when she was lost in the Louvre (my most harrowing moment). I had to chuckle at some of your posts and advice – so true! Good luck on your future travels and keep posting.

  7. I have been following your travels since you were on Oprah. I love to travel and your diary has made me add some places on my “must see before I die” list. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do a RTW trip with my family, but I have instilled the travel bug in at least one of my daughters and I’m hoping she’ll cover those places I won’t be able to see.

    Love your writing!

  8. Thanks for helping us out on how you spent and saved. It helps us be able to plan for our own trip in a few years. Thanks for inspiring us!

  9. SO glad you posted again. It’s been inspiring to read of your adventures on the road and at home. Best of luck!

  10. Hi Anne,

    You asked for our website when we got on the road. We are the family of going RTW for a year from the San Diego area.

    We have been traveling through Peru, Chile and now Argentina since July 1.Our blog is vonZwecktrek.com. Posts have been sporadic as many of our hostels have not had internet and we don’t seem to want to slow down enough on the exploring to deal with internet cafes.

    FYI, our airfare through Airtreks for the first 6 months of this trip cost over $4,000 per person. That gets us through So. America, to Africa (Egypt and Tanzania), over to Indonesia,and then up to Bangkok. After land travel through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodio, and Laos we still need to purchase air to India, a few flights in India / Nepal, air to China also with one or two flights within China, and then the tix home. We can’t seem to slow down long enough to take the time to book those tickets, or maybe we don’t really want to know what they are going cost.

    Our budget is $150/day for the four of us which has been relatively easy to do except when skiing in Chile.

    We are having a blast and hope that you all are enjoying So Cal.

    Hasta Luego,

    Tim von Zweck

  11. My husband and I leave on September 30th to backpack to various countries around the world for a year or so.

    As we have been planning for our adventure we have been updating a blog. http://www.nomadbackpackers.com We would love to have other opinions, ideas, encouragement, advice, helpful tips, and more left as comments.

    Thanks,
    Natalie

  12. Anne,

    I love what you and your family did and that you were willing to share it with the world.

    Our story has a few parallels. Seven and a half years ago, my wife and I decided to shutter our business in Silicon Valley and check out of the rat race for a while and travel Mexico. We were your classic workaholic professional couple and had not had a 10 day vacation in more than 18 years!

    During our three month trip, we wound up buying a fabulous modern Mexican villa on the shores of Lake Chapala where there is a decent sized English speaking expat population. We came home with the plan to sell our Los Gatos abode and get out of Dodge. Well, we did sell but like you, the market had softened and we got less than we would have if we had done so be for the trip.

    But we are sooo glad we did what we did and have not looked back.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

    Happily Retired in Ajijic, Mexico
    Joel and Sue
    http://www.CasaPreciosaAjijic.com

    P.S. The trip may have cost you $86,875.52 but as the credit card commercial goes, “The experience was PRICELESS”!

  13. Anne, I truly envy your trip and the priceless experiences and life stories you have given your children for mere pennies a day. Once I raise my own family and my kids are 7 to 10 years old Im going to do this.. you’ve totally inspired me.

    I did want to tell you that since you’re a backpacker please feel free to visit us in Panama. While the city is as metropolitan as most US cities… you must visit our beaches and mountains. There are literally hundreds of beautiful inns spread across the countryside which I would love to show you and your family.

    One last thing, I haven’t been able to find any posts about your trip to Egypt/Lebanon/Israel.. I’d love to hear your insights on it as it is an area of the world dear to my heart.

    Keep up the posting!

  14. So inspiring (and helpful). I recently discovered your website when doing some research about RTW trips and I love that you documented everything here to help other families.

    My husband and I would eventually like to do the same thing…when we’re done with pregnancy/babies and our youngest is about 4 (was that a good age for traveling?). Needless to say, it might be a little while. ;)

    But…it’s still fun to research + plan now.

    Did you break down the expenses any further here on your website? I’d love to hear about the kind of places you stayed, the activities you participated in, etc.

  15. I am so happy to hear that! We are planning our trip for probably next year with a family of 5 (kids 13, 8, 5) and really inspired by finding your blog!

  16. Hi, we very much like your website and have already spend some time on it. ;)

    We’ve also four kids and the plan to go on a one year trip but not via plane, but via an old fire truck. As the truck both combines travel costs and ‘hotel’, we guess that we will spend not more than 45000,-EUR for the whole trip (buying the fire-truck, paying the fuel and the food). we are going to europe, western asia and north afrika.

    all the best, hannes from northern germany!

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