We made the decision to set off on a year’s travels without really knowing where we were going and how much it would cost. As it turns out, it was much easier to sort the when and why first. The how and where happened little by little afterwards in ways we weren’t always expecting. Getting bogged down right at the start with minor technicalities like “HOW?” seemed a bit pessimistic.
Which continent you are on does often make a difference, but this trip has been Asia, Africa, Middle East and Europe – mostly Europe.
Th first and main decision affecting budget was to decide to travel by campervan. For a family of five, it seemed an economical way to sleep, travel and eat. Anyone with a family of five knows all about that pesky extra room in hotels etc in a world which caters for four.
It would also give us the freedom to go where and when we wanted. Priceless, especially when you’re not entirely sure where you’re going.
The cost of buying the campervan wasn’t included in our daily budget – you can buy an old one for next to nothing or an all-singing-all-dancing one for the price of an apartment. Ours was in the middle. Reliable and resale-able was our brief, with enough features to make us independent of campsites, hotels or restaurants.
Our budget was loosely based on the £14 per person a day in Adam and Sophie’s budget in the blog Europe by Camper (www.europebycamper.com). In non-mathematically rounded figures, we decided on 50€ a day for a family of 5, for food, accommodation, transport and extras.
We based our budget at this level for a couple of reasons. Firstly and frankly, that’s what we could afford. It was a case of go with that, or procrastinate, save and leave it for another day. But which day? We decided travelling was either to be a priority or it wasn’t.
Secondly, optimistically, it would be a CHALLENGE. You have to volunteer or trade services, you have to be a bit ingenious, you have to TALK to lots of people to find tips and ideas, you have to be flexible, and those detours as it’s turned out, are where the best bits have been.
I think if a bigger budget were possible we’d have stuck with the smaller one. There’s a time and a place for splashing out, and that can be great too, but this trip for us wasn’t the time or the place. The kids have helped manage the budget and that has been a lesson in itself in the art of prioritising. Wild camp and eat out. Or campsite with facilities and eat in. Cool (paying) visit somewhere, eat in and learn to cook something. Or long journey, lots of diesel, wild camp.
As I write this, for example, we had quite a long drive on the way down to (the completely amazing) Delphi in Greece. So it was cafe car park, eat in pasta with what’s in the cupboard, Man U -v- Byern Munich on the big telly in the cafe for the boys (we were a bit historied-out), and a film and a chat in the van for the girls.
This shows, for a section from January to April, where the money has gone. EO and E stands for Eating Out and Entertainment. Other includes everything else: postage, laundry, presents, extras for the campervan ….. Overnight is campsite/aire fees.
Transport and diesel feature highly. We were expecting just under 50%. Which is one reason why Morocco, at 80 centimes a litre for diesel, was cheaper than most of the places we visited. The overnight ferries – see below – skewed the totals a little. But generally transportation whether it be fuel or other takes up a large part of the budget. Matt’s done a separate post on the ferries from Spain to Italy, and a Italy to Greece.
The easy way we figured out to reduce that is to slow down.
We have tried to be accurate. The biggest weapon we have in our organisational arsenal is Matt, so he has been in charge of the day to day recording of outgoings. We are in trouble if we can’t produce timeous detailed receipts. He logs those onto a spreadsheet on his iPod. Things went a little astray when Adam took over for the Thailand leg of the trip, but we are sorted now.
Matt tells us that, after 7 months travelling we are €650 euros over budget ie 13 days – mainly because we’ve just bought those 2 long ferry passages for €844 – but we are working that down every day.
Our return flight to Thailand and our insurances (initial travel insurance and vehicle) weren’t included in the budget because they were bought and paid for in advance. Ongoing insurance has been included. All other transport costs – tolls, diesel, ferry fares, replacement tyre after a puncture in Morocco, trains in Thailand, local transport into town etc, is included.
We upped the budget to 60€ a day for Thailand and the Middle East because we had to leave our “accommodation” behind, and we reduced it to 40€ for an equivalent number of days in Morocco. Which made an equivalent since we left home of 50€ a day.
So, yes, it is more or less possible to travel on a budget of €50 a day for a family of five. The only reason we are over, temporarily, is because we took a couple of ferries extra to get to Greece faster.
We perhaps have economies of scale on our side: feeding and transporting five might not be enormously more than feeding and transporting two. On the other hand, we do have two permanently hungry teenage boys.
And when we think about it, there’s nothing we’ve missed that we wished we’d done. Although I’d so love a decent haircut.