There are great websites for budget travelers and luxury travelers, but there isn't a lot of information for those of us who want to travel somewhere in the middle.  So the big question is, how much does it cost to travel for a year?  We love to eat and drink and ski and hike and DO things, so we will pinch most of our pennies on lodging and eating local but not extravagantly.  We started with the base line of $100 per person, per day and then gave ourselves a comfy cushion for a total of $50,000 each for the year.  We have hoarded American Airlines miles (approx. 400K miles), Hilton Hotel points (300K+ points) and Chase Ultimate Rewards Points (200K points - the equivalent of $3K in travel dollars) to offset the costs of long haul flights and allow us to splurge on occasional fancy hotel nights. We know some countries - Japan! - will blow our budget so we will live frugally in others.  If the money runs out, we will either come home or work on the road, but if it lasts longer, we may extend our journey! 

We will post pie charts (Lisa LOVES pie charts) by country of our expenses: lodging, food/drinks, activities, transportation. Hopefully this information will inspire others who think traveling is either too expensive or only for the 20-something backpackers.


16 weeks, 5 countries.  How are we faring??  Japan busted the budget, as we anticipated, but Southeast Asia more than got us back on track.  So here is where we stand, from our departure on January 25, 2016 until our return to the US on May 16, 2017 - 112 days, door to door:

TOTAL SPENT: $19,234.13

Total per day: $171.73

Total per person, per day: $85.87

In addition to all expenses on the road, this includes:

  • All transportation to and from the US
  • Storage unit in the US
  • T-Mobile cell phone coverage for 4 lines (including 2 family members back home)
  • Travelers Insurance

It looks like we may have enough money remaining to travel for another full year!


Nepal was 100% about trekking to Everest Base Camp and beyond that, we did not venture out of Kathmandu.  Staying in Kathmandu is a necessary evil: you need time to organize all details before you trek and you need a few buffer days before flying out of Nepal in case of delays getting back to Kathmandu from Lukla.  We definitely spent a few too many nights there for either of our liking, although we found a great vegetarian restaurant that we dined at 3 nights in a row (yep, it was that good: OR2K).  I typically include transportation into a country in the expense total and transportation out are included on the next country, but since we flew back to the states, Nepal expenses include both incoming and outgoing flight. Incoming from Myanmar was expensive: we flew Yangon-Kuala Lumpur-Kathmandu ($529.51 for 2), but we used miles for the trip back to Boston, so only incurred charges for the taxes ($123.72 total).  The flight from Lukla back to Kathmandu also tipped the scales ($314.10 for 2) compared to the bus ride to Jiri ($13.55 for 2). For detailed breakdown of just our trekking costs, go to our Epic Journey blog entry.

The Fine Print on Nepal:

  • Subtotal for Nepal: $3439.07
  • Daily Average: $118.59
  • Fixed Expenses: $13.31/day
  • GRAND TOTAL: $131.90/day for 2 people
    • Still under budget: averaging just $65.95/per person!
  • Visas/Permits:
    • Nepal Visas and Qatar Visas for our layover en route to US
    • TIMS cards and trekking permits
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Trekking gear: clothing purchases and rentals
    • Toiletries, laundry, massages, pedicure
    • Donations on the trail
    • Gifts 

Nepal Expenses: 29 days


Two weeks in Myanmar was only enough time to hit the Tourist Trail highlights: Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and a 3-day trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake.  We mostly traveled by overnight bus between these major cities, which is slow but inexpensive, plus one domestic flight from Mandalay to Yangon.  The country is beautiful; the people are warm and inviting.  Visit now, while international tourism is still in its infancy and try the Tea Salad!

Myanmar Expenses: 15 Days

The Fine Print on Myanmar:

  • Subtotal for Myanmar: $1540.06
  • Daily Average: $102.67
  • Fixed Expenses: $13.31/day
  • GRAND TOTAL: $115.98/day for 2 people
    • Under budget: averaging just $57.99/per person!
  • Entertainment:
    • Entrance fees to Tourist Zones: Bagan and Inle Lake
    • Entrance fees to Temples
  • Excursions: 3 day trek to Inle Lake
  • Transportation: mostly inexpensive buses, but one flight from Thailand and one domestic flight
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Tips, trinkets, and a $4 hair cut!


It felt like a quick three weeks in Thailand, covering only 3 locations: Chiang Mai, Koh Tao (an island off the east coast, where Dive shops abound) and Bangkok.  Food and lodging rival Vietnam - that "inexpensive to down-right cheap" category, plus our finances were helped immensely by a 10-day free stay at a friend's condo in Chiang Mai. We used faster, but more expensive travel - plane/ferry vs. bus/ferry - to and from Koh Tao, but we used Chase Points for the flights. Once again, we ate a lot of street food or at casual restaurants, costing $5-$20 for lunch and dinner for 2, plus 1 splurge our final night in Bangkok.  Baan was recently named one of the Top 10 restaurants in Bangkok.  Dinner for 2, with cocktails, was $75. We were on our way to Myanmar, then Nepal, so decided it might be our last chance!  Entertainment - our largest expenditure in Thailand - includes: 3 1/2 day Scuba Diving certification, a 2-day trek into the hillside near the Myanmar border, visit to an Elephant Sanctuary, entrance fees to Wats, a half day cooking class and a classic Thai Massage for 2.

Details below - and don't forget to scroll over the categories to see the dollar amounts!

The Fine Print on Thailand:

  • Subtotal for Thailand: $2167.96
  • Daily Average: $114.10
  • Fixed Expenses: $13.31/day
    • You know the drill by now
  • GRAND TOTAL: $127.41/day for 2 people
    • Under budget: averaging just $67.71/per person!
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Tips, laundry and it's time for new toiletries
    • "Wat Appropriate" clothes - because knees and shoulders are too sexy for the temples!

Thailand Expenses: 19 Days


We spent 4 weeks, traveling north to south, tip to tail, through Vietnam.  It ranged from inexpensive to down-right cheap. Other than one domestic flight from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City, we traveled exclusively by bus, plus we used American Airlines miles for the flight from Tokyo, Japan to Hanoi, Vietnam.  We stayed in small hotels and guest houses, all of which were clean, with hot water and AC. Most accommodations include breakfast, too. We ate a lot street food, but even restaurant meals were only $8-$20 for 2.  I have added a new category: Excursions. This includes any organized tour that was inclusive of transportation, meals, accommodations (Sa Pa, Ha Long Bay, Hang En Cave). The 2-day, 1-night trip to Hang En Cave in Phong Nha National Park was our single largest expense at $300 per person, but worth every penny.  We also splurged on tailored clothes in Hoi An (a silk suit, dress shirt and linen shorts for Ruben; a new dress and silk lined wool coat for Lisa), but I have left this off our recap because, do you really care how much we spent on clothes??  Scroll over the pie chart to see expenses by category!

Here are the details:

The Fine Print on Vietnam:

  • Subtotal for Vietnam: $3318.49
  • Daily Average: $130.13
  • Fixed Expenses: $13.31/day
    • T-Mobile Cell phone X2
    • Storage Unit back home
    • World Nomads travel insurance
  • GRAND TOTAL: $143.45/day for 2
    • Under budget at $71.73/per person!
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Tips, laundry, chotchkes
  • Entertainment:
    • Entrance fees to Museums
    • Single day tours

Vietnam Expenses: 25 1/2 days


Japan Expenses: 23 1/2 days


The Fine Print on Japan:

  • Sub-total for Japan: $6211.58
  • Daily Average: $264.32
  • Fixed Expenses: $13.31/day
    • T-Mobile Cell phone X2
    • Storage Unit back home
    • World Nomads travel insurance
  • GRAND TOTAL: $277.63/day for 2; $138.82/day, per person


  • Entertainment:
    • 5 days skiing, including premium ski rental
    • Entrance fees to all museums
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Shipping ski boots/ski clothes back to the US
    • Laundry
  • Transportation:
    • Flights to Japan:
      • redeemed American Airlines miles, so the cost was only $11/each
    • JR 14 day Train Pass was a life saver!