Last Updated on December 30, 2019

taking my round the world trip
This is how excited I was at the tail-end of my round the world trip when I was in England and I realized I had pulled it off. I had just one month left on the road at that point.

When I left on my first round the world trip, I asked veteran travelers a key question: How much does it cost to travel around the world? It was the single biggest factor impacting my trip length and destinations, and the number of things that impact a long-term travel budget are far different than a two-week European vacation. Estimates varied wildly, and knowing where my own around the world trip would fall in that spectrum was a great unknown. I had no idea how long my travel savings, my freelance income, and travel blogging to would keep me on the road, so over that first year, I tracked every single dollar I spent while traveling.

Since that first around the world travel, I’ve spent more than a decade of traveling, and budgeting for short- and long-term around the world travel is my specialty. My upbringing was modest , yet I was still able to save the money to travel and work remotely for all 10+ years of my world travels.

Let’s dive into a very detailed breakdown of what an actual one-year trip cost, the hard costs associated with around the world travel, and the factors that most dramatically impact your budget.

How Much Does Traveling the World Cost?

Generally, $20,000 is the baseline cost for a trip around the world for one person for one year. This estimation falls in line with popular recommendations that budget travelers can spend an average of $50 a day on the road, and allows additional budget for flights and vaccines.

You’ll spend up to $30,000 for a budget trip that includes fewer hostels, and some accommodation, transport, or food. Traveling as a couple or family does not directly double/triple/ etc the costs because lodging and transport are shared expenses.

As you’ll see in the detailed trip budgets below, world travel costs for mid-range to luxury world travelers can run as much as $40,000 to $50,000.

My Personal Round the World Trip

A one-year budget breakdown of costs to travel the world

On my first RTW trip, I traveled around the world for for 328 days (11 months) through 15 countries and I spent USD $17,985.

Then I decided to keep traveling. I’ve been on the road since 2008, still traveling as of 2020, although from my homebase in Barcelona, Spain.

In the years since I originally posted my cost breakdown for world travel, other backpackers have loved the precise and meticulous details of just how much I spent throughout a year of active world travel. And even with rising global food costs a decade later, people still travel on similar budgets—yes, so many elements impact a travel costs that you can still travel the world for the same price as a trip 12 years ago (more on how that’s possible later).

Let’s dive into the good stuff. The following tables and charts further outline my around the world trip costs including the country-by-country expenses and budget.

Just want the cold hard costs? Navigate my Google spreadsheet by the countries listed at the bottom of my full World Travel Budget.

My Total Costs to Travel the World for a Year

Travel Expense Cost (USD$)
Flights $3,577.40
Lodging $3,130.77
Food $2,820.11
Activities + Entertainment $3,613.18
Transportation $1,943.43
Misc (internet, gifts, extra gear, etc) $1,753.67
Visas $230
Pre-Trip Travel Gear $484.50
Vaccines $$606
Extra Costs $493.33
      TOTAL $18,588.39

My final costs of $17,985 completely include of everything from getting jabbed in the arm for my Yellow Fever vaccine to buying all of my pre-travel gear, my travel insurance, all of my plane flights, bus rides, camel safaris, and surfing lessons, and straight through to my first delicious sub back on home soil when I passed through Philly on my final layover.

What does that number not include? Some personal choices upped my costs: an external hard drive for photo storage, a new camera (old one was waterlogged in Australia), and a rental car splurge in Ireland. My personal total, inclusive of all of that, was just under $19,000 … so it’s still a bargain considering I was on the road for nearly an entire year.

In the above category breakdowns, consider:

  • Lodging includes all accommodation; I couchsurfed in a few countries and stayed with friends a couple of times.
  • Food includes everything from three meals a day to snacks, and funding for my chocolate obsession.
  • Entertainment covers going out on the town, sharing beers with friends—this will be much higher if you drink often. My budget was for drinking on average once a week.
  • Activities includes my volunteer program in Nepal, and all tours, trips, and group adventures—everything from diving to ziplining to visiting temples and museums.
  • Transportation excludes flights, but covers all intra-country transportation like buses, trains, taxis, and tuk-tuks.
  • Misc is a catch-all and a large portion of costs there came from paying for fast internet—it was pricey to make sure I had a strong connection for my work. It also includes shipping things home, gifts, and toiletries along the way.
  • Flights includes puddle-jumper little flights between countries in the same region—I did not use a RTW ticket, but instead booked along the way (here’s why).

Budget of Daily & Total Costs Per Country

Don’t forget to check out my well-loved Travel Planning Resources.

And consider using the blank, formatted spreadsheet to log your own RTW travel budget (this is a Google Spreadsheet, either save a copy of this to your own Google drive for editing, or download as an excel file!).


How to Much Will YOUR Dream Trip Cost?

Finding a way to travel the world is a mental obstacle as much as a financial one. Every situation is different, but I believe that if you truly prioritize travel, then it’s possible to plan and execute an around the world trip. The problem is, there’s crappy information out there about how to make it happen. Many bloggers have shared posts with a handful of tips about how much they saved for their dream trip, but they don’t break down how they arrived at that final figure. You may read this information and see my budget, but it leaves you wondering if your own travels would cost the same.

For that reason, I wrote two entire guides to address your current hurdle. One is about creating a realistic anticipated budget for your trip. The other is about saving for world travel.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel the World?

BUDGET

How much will your dream trip cost? I wrote this guide to specifically answer the most common question I was emailed by readers: how much will a specific route/itinerary costs. In it, I share comprehensive and thoroughly practical advice about understanding trip budgets and understanding your own style of travel. The guide is a full treatise on how to estimate what your dream trip will cost and it includes case studies from other long-term travelers who tracked their trip budgets. I’ve spent eight years on the road, and nearly that long talking with with other travelers about how they budget for travel. Using the aggregate of their knowledge and experience, I’ve outlined a road-map to taking a long-term trip. I wrote this guide to empower travelers and travel dreamers anywhere in the world with the tools to plan their trip. The guide breaks down average traveling costs for the world’s most traveled destinations, which you can use with the fully customizable Trip Budget Worksheet to create an accurate anticipated budget for your dream trip. Available on Kindle, ePub, and PDF.

save for world travel ebook

SAVE

True wealth is having the freedom to do what you want with your life. Many travel dreamers get waylaid by the financial side of life. If you’re new to personal finance, or lost about how to start saving for a big goal, this book distills hard-learned information into easily actionable steps specifically targeted at giving travel dreamers tools to become financially literate. This book provides a thorough deep-dive into the principles of saving money, common obstacles, overcoming debt, and the tenets of strong personal finance. It offers a streamlined process to create substantial changes in your financial life. If money is your primary obstacle to leaving on a long-term trip, this guide breaks down exactly the shifts you can make to change your financial situation. Many travelers look at my adventures and experiences these past 12 years that I’ve traveled and they dream of also traveling through the cultures, stories, and conversations. This guide gives you the tools to move the needle from dreaming to doing. Available on Amazon Kindle or as a PDF bundle with the budget book.


How to Decide on Your Final World Travel Budget?

Travel was my bootcamp for life. My around the world trip was the single best investment in both my personal growth and my career. Throughout life we are presented with a series of choices—each has the ability to help us create the life we dream of living. I am forever glad I chose to travel our beautiful world.

~ Shannon O’Donnell

Creating an accurate anticipated budget for your world tour is an important step—you certainly don’t want to plan for a year but run out of funds in month eight! Each person has different goals, a unique trip itinerary, and differing travel styles. These factors can create significant differences in the total cost of a round the world trip.

Assess How Much You’ve Saved

A round the world trip is not as expensive as you assume. Most anyone reading this post has the ability to save for travel if it’s a true priority. My family is quite poor and I put myself through college with merit-based scholarships. Instead of counting on help from family, I budgeted for the trip, and I traveled with the budget I had—not the one I wish I had.

Before leaving, I purged everything I owned and saved ruthlessly in the countdown months. When calculating if I could afford my trip around the world, I even accounted for my student-loan and medical credit debt repayments (because yes, I was actually in a fair bit of debt). I took on side-hustles to sock away money. And then I worked on freelance SEO remotely for the entire year.

Compared to my life in LA, where $1,200+ went toward rent and bills each month, I used that same online income to travel the world, digging into my small savings for my travel gear and long-haul flights. I wasn’t sure how much my trip would cost when I left to travel, and the information just wasn’t out there like it is now. Now you can play with your travel route and your travel style and come up with a tally in just a few hours for what your dream trip will cost. In fact, I believe so much that world travel is affordable that I wrote a budget guide and spreadsheet to help you price out your dream trip and have all the possible resources you need at your fingertips.

Decide Your Route & Speed Around the World

Jumping at the Taj Mahal on my RTW journey
While admission to the Taj was pricey, everything else in India was crazy cheap. Seven weeks in India cost less than spending one week in Italy! And guys … it’s the Taj! It ranks up there as one of the cooler experiences when traveling the world.

This is the single biggest indicator of how much world travel will cost. Slow overland travel lowers costs, and you can minimize the number of flights needed. To save money, also consider visiting fewer places. Every travel dreamer over-packs their around the world route. You surely have a dream list, but unless you have unlimited funds, then you should scale back the number of regions/countries that you will visit. When I first planned my trip, a long-term traveler advised me to cut five countries from my itinerary. Looking back now, I can’t even imagine where they would have fit! It’s my route and speed that allowed me to travel for under $20K.

Read: How to Plan an Around the World Itinerary in 8 Steps

Determine the Types of Countries You’ll Visit

If you add in developed countries like Europe, Japan, Australia, and the United States, your daily budget will double. Instead of spending $25 per day in SEA and India, you will average $75 to $100 per day in most developed countries. For that reason, weight your trip in favor of developing regions of the world. Save Europe or the U.S. for a shorter trip later in life, and add a few off-beat locations to your planned route—these are most often the sleeper-favorites by the end of your RTW trip.

If You’ll Eat Local Food, Street Foods, & Shop in Markets

How you eat on your travels impacts your bottom line. Eat locally from mom and pop restaurants, and sample eats from street food stalls. Contrary to many assumptions from first glance, these locations are perfectly safe so long as you adhere to a few standard food safety practices. Local food is a window into the culture, so dig deep and eat like the locals, asking the vendors questions and learning more about each country’s food peculiarities. Also, when traveling in Western countries, shop for groceries and prepare your own breakfast at the very least.

Read: How to Eat Street Food Without Getting Sick and buy the Food Traveler’s Handbook to learn even more about safely enjoying street eats


Note that budgets and guides give clear examples of how travelers can truly spend on average $50 per day on average to travel the world. And using the tips above, you can lower these figures even more, if needed. You could likely travel with as little as US $12,000 per year if you stick to one region—overland for a year from Mexico to Argentina; or overland through China, Southeast Asia, and India. The price of a budget trip jumps to US $25,000 to visit many regions rapidly. If you prefer mid-range accommodations, that might increase your expenses by $10,000; same goes if you’re prone to splurging on expensive extras like helicopter rides, diving, and adventure activities.

The bottom line: Understand your route, travel style, and goals before you can develop an accurate anticipated budget for travel.


Recommended Next Steps

It’s easy to see the numbers, be inspired for a bit and then never take action. If you’re actively planning your RTW—fantastic! My site and those of my friends contain every essential resource you need to plan world travel. If you’re currently working, studying, or just dreaming of traveling, I have resources for you as well. And if you want a second look at those spreadsheets, visit my full RTW budget as a Google Document that will open in your browser. Or head to the free blank spreadsheet to track your own expenses as you travel around the world. You can save an editable copy of these to your own Google Drive, or download for your own use.

Eight Steps of Planning a World Trip

  1. Save for Travel & Eliminate Debt
  2. Build a Realistic Trip Budget
  3. Plan Your Around the World Trip Itinerary
  4. Pick the Right Travel Insurance
  5. Pack for Long-Term World Travel
  6. Work Remotely While You Travel
  7. Stay Healthy on the Road
  8. Browse Free Destination Guides

Resources & Further Research

World Travel Budgets

Books to Read First

On-the-Road Travel Resources

  • ALA Travel Guides share comprehensive information on what to know before you go in each new destination. 
  • Grassroots Volunteering is ALA’s sister site, offering a database of responsible travel companies and volunteer experiences all over the world, as well as Responsible Travel Guides about how to use travel as a force for good.
  • Cost of Living Guides show you how affordable it is might be to live outside your home country. You can sometimes elongate world travels by months or years by stopping in these affordable locations.

Working on the Road

  • How to Start a Travel Blog: Record the highs and lows of your once in a lifetime trip. This no-nonsense page details the process and won’t upsell you on any courses you likely don’t need. Just basic facts of how to start your first blog, and maybe even make some money along the way.
  • Finding Freelance Work for Digital Nomads. Since money is a huge factor for many travelers, this resource page thoroughly covers remote work—something I’ve been doing since 2005.

I truly believe that world travel is possible for most people. When and how is unique to each person, but by prioritizing and planning travel, you can make an around the world trip possible.

~Shannon

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