A Little RTW Budget… How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World for a Year? (2017)

A one-year budget breakdown of costs to travel the worldThe single most frequently asked question I get about my travels concerns the cost of budgeting for a solo round the world trip. While understanding how I pay for it all tops the list of questions, the actual cost of traveling for a year around the world is the big unknown. I had no idea how much my RTW trip would cost when I left — some people reported around $10,000 (which seemed absurdly low) while others spent upwards of $40K to travel a bit more luxuriously. So I thought of it as a grand adventure. How much will it cost, and how long can I keep going with my freelance income?

Over that year, I tracked every single dollar I spent on the road.

My full tally is complete and I traveled around the world for for 328 days (11 months) through 15 countries and tracked what I spent, what each and every country cost, and where I could have done better.

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

How did I save for around the world travel?

Jumping at the Taj Mahal

While admission to the Taj was pricey, everything else in India was crazy cheap. I spent less for seven weeks in India than I did for one week in Italy. And guys… it’s the Taj! It ranks up there as one of the cooler travel experiences out there.

I have answered incarnations of this question dozens of times. The real question is this: “Traveling the world is expensive, how could you have possibly afforded it?”

It’s not as expensive as you assume, and most anyone reading this post has the ability to save for travel if it’s a true priority. As regular A Little Adrift readers have surmised, I don’t live off of a trust fund. My family is quite poor and I made it through college on merit-based scholarships. Instead of counting on help from family, I budgeted for the trip. I sold my couch, my clothes, my cups. I sold my car too, and I saved ruthlessly in the countdown months. I took on side-work to sock away money, and then, I worked on freelance SEO from the road for the entire year. And through all that, I came to the same conclusions as those backpackers who have adventurously gone before me: RTW travel is cheaper than you think! 

I am not saying it’s dirt cheap, but compared to my life in LA with $1200+ going to rent and bills each month, I used that same online income to travel the world, and I dug into my small savings to pay for the long-haul flights. I wasn’t sure how much my trip would cost when I left to travel, and there just wasn’t the information out there like there is now. Now you can play with your route and your travel style and come up with a tally in just a few hours. In fact, I believe so much that your dream trip is affordable that I wrote the budget guide and spreadsheet to help you price out your dream trip — it’s priced low so that there is no reason not to see how much you need to save.


Cost of My One Year Round the World Trip

Now, onto my travel budget!

I documented every single expense from my initial year-long RTW trip with meticulous care. My obsession with accurately tracking my expenses is epic but in the five years since I originally posted this breakdown, other backpackers have loved the precise and exact breakdown of just how much I spent throughout a year of active world travel. And five years later, even with rising global food costs, they are still traveling strong on similar budgets.

Total: USD $17,985

You’re shocked right now, I know, I sprang it on you out of nowhere! Close the gaping jaw.

That’s it?!

lakes-district england

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.

Travel was my bootcamp for life. This 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 want to have lived. I am forever glad I chose to travel this big beautiful world.

That figure. A mere $17,985 is fully and completely inclusive 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, surfing lessons, zip-lining adventures in the Laos jungle, and straight through to my first delicious sub back on home soil when I passed through Philly on my final layover of the trip.

What does that number not include? Personal choices that upped the price bit: an external hard drive for photo storage, new camera (old one was waterlogged in Australia), and I rented a car alone in Ireland (most backpacker budgets wouldn’t allow for this so I included my car’s petrol to approximate the cost of public transportation for three weeks). 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. And again, I stress, this is thousands less than my annual expenses living in Los Angeles, California.

But lest you think it’s an anomaly, know that I have tracked cost of living around the world. If you’re considering a slow trip, I documented how I lived in places like Thailand for less than $600 per month, and Mexico for under $800.

What else contributes to a RTW trip budget?

  • Your route and speed around the world. This is the single biggest indicator of how much you will spend. Minimize the number of flights you need to take by traveling overland and slowly and to fewer places. Seriously, we all have a dream list, but if you’re on a limited trip (as opposed to open-ticket, no planned return RTW travels) then you’ve likely over-packed your route. The best advice I received on my RTW was to cut out 5 of the 17 planned countries–reflecting back on it, I can’t even imagine where they would have fit?!
  • Which countries you visit. If you add in developed countries like Europe, the United States, and Australia you will see your daily budget more than double (instead of $30/day in SEA and India, you’re looking at $75-$100/day in the UK, and Western Europe). Weight your trip heavily in favor of developing regions of the world – there’s a lot you’re already going to miss as you travel through, and I guarantee you won’t be bored spending a few extra months going more slowly. 100 % guarantee.
  • The food you eat and style of travel. How you eat on your travels impacts the bottom line; eat locally and at the street food stalls when you find them (rampant throughout Southeast Asia, India, Central America, etc)—they’re perfectly safe as long as you find the food stalls the locals are using too! Western food is more expensive and rarely actually tastes good anyhow. 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 cook at the hostel at least two meals per day to limit costs! For more food travel tips, check out the Food Traveler’s Handbook one my my good travel friends wrote about safe, cheap street eats.

Let’s dive into the good stuff. The following tables and charts further outline my RTW budget including the country-by-country expenses. And because I just had to go that extra mile, I share a complete-down-to-the penny budget too. This budget spreadsheet includes every single expense itemized out in an absolutely gorgeous Google spreadsheet if I can toot my own horn for a moment!

Don’t forget to check out the 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 drive for editing, or download as an excel file!).

RTW Travel Budget Breakdown

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


* 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 my chocolate obsession.
* Entertainment: 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 and all tours, trips, and group adventures. Everything from diving to ziplining to visiting temples and museums.
* Transportation: This total excludes flights, but covers all intra-country transportation like buses, trains, taxis and tuk-tuks.
* Misc: A large portion is the internet, it was pricey to make sure I had a strong connection for my work. Also includes shipping things home, gifts, and toiletries along the way.
* Flights: Includes many puddle-jumper little flights between countries in the same region. I did not use a RTW ticket, but instead booked along the way.

RTW Budget Daily Costs & Total Costs Per Country

My Average Daily Budget for Each Country on my RTW Trip RTW Expenses, Listed by Country and Number of Days

**These totals do not include flights, travel gear, and other misc pre-trip expenditures, only my actual on-the-road costs.

How to Much Will YOUR Dream Trip Cost?

Traveling the world is a mental obstacle as much as a financial one. Every situation is different, but I truly believe that if you are ready to truly prioritize travel, then it’s possible to plan and execute a round 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 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.

Aailable on Kindle, ePub, and PDF.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel the World?

Buy it for $9


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 eight 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.

save for world travel ebook

Buy them both for $13

Resources & Further Research for World Travelers

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! There are a few more essential resources below that will help you plan your trip. 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 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.

World Travel Budgets

Plan Your Own Trip

  • How Much Will My RTW Trip Cost? (Available on Kindle or as a PDF)I wrote this guide to help travelers determine an exact figure they should save before leaving for long-term travel. It’s all of the budgeting and cost-planning information in one spot, with travel budget case studies, detailed worksheets, and specific averages for the daily budget in dozens of countries around the world.
  • How to Save for World Travel (Available on Kindle): This guide outlines the common hurdles people face when saving for big goals, and then sets a roadmap to financial fitness. This guide teaches you how to save, and it will give you a myriad of new ideas to top up your travel fund. Nearly $20k is a huge sum for most people, but it’s a doable sum too. It really is. Mental and psychological hurdles often play a factor in saving and learning how to budget, so this guide provides a streamlined approach, as well as further resources to maintain the strong savings habits that will allow you to travel the world.
  • Free World Travel Resources: This is a a full treatise on all the answers you need to plan and execute the planning of a RTW trip. It’s everything that you might find overwhelming, plus a few things you forgot to worry about. Includes what to pack, how to purge your belongings, picking travel insurance, handling your period on the road, and more.

On-the-Road Travel Resources

  • How to Travel the World on $50 a Day. Published by Penguin and now in its second edition shows you how to stick to a budget while you’re traveling. It’s an guide for travelers new to budgeting on the road and weighs heavily toward backpacker-style travel with tips and hacks to save money by using travel cards, points, etc.
  • Plan amazing activities on the road. Use the ALA Travel Guides for comprehensive information on what to know before you go in each place. The guides and stories share my favorite experiences on the road, as well as plenty of tips for traveling responsibly. And Grassroots Volunteering is ALA’s sister site, offering a database of responsible travel companies and volunteer experiences all over the world.
  • Slow down somewhere and live somewhere fascinating. Use these posts on the Cost of Living Around the World to discover that it’s likely far more affordable to live elsewhere than you’ve ever considered. You can sometimes stretch your trip by months or years by stopping in places for a few months and digging into the local culture and way of life. I’ve done this everywhere from Mexico to Thailand and it’s allowed me to stay on the road and see these places in a new light.

Working on the Road

  • How to Start a Travel Blog: Many travelers find value in starting a travel blog to record the highs and lows of their once in a lifetime trip. I wrote a no-nonsense page detailing the process. It focuses on five quick and simple steps, and offers a realistic perspective on you can expect from your blog without the hype you find on some tutorials. While I don’t suggest professional travel blogging for most travelers, running a travel site for friends and family is a fun way to share your big journey — it’s an electronic scrapbook of memories and moments and stories.
  • Find Freelance Work & Work from the Road. Since money is a huge factor for many travelers, I have a resource page dedicated to working online. I’ve worked from my laptop for more than a decade and there are many jobs that also allow you to work from anywhere in the world.

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 a round the world trip possible. If you’re on the fence about making the huge decision to travel, read this. And if it’s months or years before you leave, why not read a few of my favorite classic travel books.

If there is ever anything that I can do to help, please do reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let’s talk about how we can make your travel dream a reality. 


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332 Responses to A Little RTW Budget… How Much Does it Cost to Travel the World for a Year? (2017)

  1. Rachel In Ireland October 17, 2016 at 11:16 am #

    I love your honesty! This is going to help so many travellers. I can’t say I kept my totals to the penny, though, but maybe to the nearest pound.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 17, 2016 at 5:21 pm #

      To the nearest pound is still pretty fantastic. So many people dream of a trip and are surprised when they see the real costs broken down for them.

  2. priscillaronan October 3, 2016 at 7:28 am #

    My business partners required DS-82 several days ago and used a website with lots of sample forms . If people require DS-82 too , here’s https://goo.gl/LqB8da.

  3. Kathryn K August 29, 2016 at 11:26 pm #

    Hi Shannon,
    I’m just starting grade nine, but I have a passion for travel and I’d love to do a solo RTW yearlong trip after going to university. My dream would be to leave right after finishing all my schooling, but I’m not sure if I’ll have enough of a travel fund by then.
    I’m very roughly planning on 2 months in Central and South America, 2 months in Africa, 4-5 months in the southeastern half of Asia (all the way from India to Thailand and up to China), 1 month in Australia/New Zealand, and 2-3 months in Europe. I’d be departing from and returning to Canada.
    I’d probably stay in hostels and guest houses most of the time, maybe couch surf in more expensive regions.
    I’m definitely considering working online while on the road, but I’d like a minimum of $15k before I go. Do you think it’s possible to save $15-20k in 4 years of high school plus 4 years of university? Or would you recommend finding a full time job for a couple years before the trip?
    Thanks, Kathryn

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 31, 2016 at 7:14 am #

      Hi Kathryn, it is so nice to receive your comment! I have no doubt that you can make it happen with that much time and since you are clearly planning now. Since I doubt you can formally work, I suggest you save a portion of your babysitting money or any work you can do in the summers — enjoy some of it but get a savings account and set aside a portion. Then, once you can work, if you spend your summers really working hard, then you can easily reach the 20K in the next eight years. It’s even easier if you have help by living with your parents or family in the summer, then you are saving costs on accommodation while you work between college years. I know that the summer after I graduated high school, I had a job waiting tables and I managed to save nearly all of that money ($4K). I used it to buy a car, but if you put even a portion away each summer, you will surely reach your goals. I encourage you to talk to your parents now, ask for their help in getting a savings account set up, and ask for them to help you prioritize your savings. It can be easy to spend money on the little things, especially with so many activities in high school that require expenses, so with their help you can perhaps really focus on saving a healthy portion of anything you earn. I definitely think you can make it happen with savings ready for when you graduate! Keep me posted, and don’t hesitate to email me if I can ever help as you are saving and dreaming and planning. :)

      • Kathryn K August 31, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

        Thanks for the advice! I’ll definitely consult my parents to set up a savings account for travel, and although you’re right that I can’t apply for a traditional job yet, I have a semi regular pay cleaning my grandparents house for them. Not too many babysitting jobs, since I live outside of a small town, but there are a few. I’m planning to apply for a part time job as soon as I can. Thanks so much for the positivity and support, and I’ll make sure to keep you posted! :D

      • Kathryn K September 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm #

        Hey Shannon, so after looking at lots of RTW travel blogs and seeing how much Europe can raise the cost, and realizing just how much time I want to spend there, I think I might save that continent for a trip of its own farther down the road. The time I would’ve spent there will be spread throughout the other parts of the trip. How significantly would skipping Europe lower the total cost? Do you think $15k USD would be enough for the whole trip?

        • Shannon O'Donnell September 5, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

          I think that is a great figure and plan. Europe will be there and surely you will make it back there in the future. 15K will go a long way toward backpacking all over. I am going to send you an email in a few days to something that I wrote — I think it will help you better play with the figures and potential budget!

          • Kathryn K September 5, 2016 at 7:41 pm #

            Alright, thank you so much for your help! I’ll be patiently waiting. 🙂

    • alis H September 9, 2016 at 9:41 pm #

      Hi! Im just starting 10th grade, and i also dream of traveling the world!….just like you Im going to try solo backpacking. Maybe ill try for a year or two Im not sure right now…and since im homeschooled i have time have a job so i can save up money to go. Im trying to go as soon as I turn 18 and school finishes which is roughly in another 2 years…
      Im trying to save up at least $30-40k in the next two years and even though it sounds like a long shot I truly believe its possible.
      Im going to Greece and Italy next year as part of my school trip and so ill get to see what it would be like to travel alone.
      I have this huge map on my wall and Im trying to plan out where in the world i want to go. Making a travel route of sorts.
      Pinterest helps alot!
      I was thinking of renting an apartment (cheap) so I can just travel through out Europe and always have somewhere to come back too… Do you think its a good idea? i dunno…
      I have some money put away so I don’t necessarily have to save up but it would be great to challenge myself and get some experience in working.
      I want to work and travel in bars, restaurants, cafes, teaching etc… would i need a special visa for that or something?
      Do think i should go to college first?
      All in all my end game is to find a place in the world i truly love and live there forever!
      After that ill go to university and get a degree in nursing!

      • Shannon O'Donnell September 20, 2016 at 7:59 am #

        Thanks for writing! So sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I love that you are heading out on a solo trip. It’s wonderful that you are able to work now and save up the funds. As far as getting an apartment, that can definitely help save on costs in some parts of the world, but there are other considerations about getting a visa and such. In Europe, you can’t stay for longer than 90 days. Plus, it’s pretty pricey. Perhaps look into budget backpacking through Europe — you will meet a lot of others at the hostel. Then you could rent a place in Thailand, Mexico, or somewhere very budget that has a lot to explore.

        And yes, working is a whole other thing. There are times that you can find under-the-table work waiting tables or you can often work in a hostel and earn your bed (this is very common). It’s best to save up the majority of the funds that you will need, and not count on finding work. That said, look at the work-visa for Australia — it’s very popular and you qualify for that one-year visa until you’re in your late 30s. This is hugely popular and lots of backpackers work the farms picking fruit and waiting tables in Oz, and then backpacking this region (https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/americans-guide-working-holiday-visas).

        Lastly, it’s a tough call on going to college. I am very glad that I had my degree when I left long-term, it has allowed me to earn more money and stay on the road longer because I have a degree. It really depends on your situation. You could always backpack in huge chunks every summer throughout college and then go on a longer one- or two-year adventure. There is no wrong decision, and it comes down to your goals. There are travel nursing programs that could be an incredible fit for you, I recommend that you google these organizations that send nurses for several months to spots all over the world. I’ve met a few on the road and they seem like they have found a good dynamic to work-life-travel. (My friend Candy has a great blog about it: http://www.thegypsynurse.com). Best of luck! Keep me posted if I can help with anything. :)

  4. Chandan Mazorwar August 29, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    Hi I am chandan planning for a backpacker trip of 20 days in may/June 2017 please help which countries should I visit. I am planning to visit whole world on continent basis say one continent or two in a year. Would like to start with Europe. Since I am from India will need help on 1. Which country to start and end. Visa requirements.trip cost with minimum air travel. I like to feel the place I visit. And best places to stay.

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 29, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

      Hi Chandan! So exciting that you have a good trip coming up. Europe is wonderful and will make for a fun way to start your years of exploring. As for starting and ending points, hub cities are the best. I recommend that you use Skyscanner to look for open-ended routes from the airport you will leave from and then you can just type in “europe.” This will allow you to find good rates into cities you might not have considered that have easy routes to and from India. Then look into Eurorail passes, the Global pass may be the best bet for the maximum way to move around and explore a lot of the countries on offer. Best of luck! It’s such a culturally rich area of the world to be exploring. :)

      • Chandan Mazorwar August 29, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

        Hi just update me on the best and cheapest season. Which countries have good landscapes. I love them. Considering 20 days trip which countries do u think I should opt. BTW thanks for immediate reply and such an informative post.

        • Shannon O'Donnell August 29, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

          I think you should look up the weather information for the countries you’d like to visit and you can chart a course through them in the right time of year for your ideal climate. There are warm parts of Europe even in the winter, or you could go north and ski. Up to you and will depend on what you are looking for! That type of information is not something I specialize in, but once you are planning the trip, I have a lot of gear resources and the such here: http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/

          Best of luck!

          • Chandan Mazorwar August 29, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

            Thanks again..things are more clear now

          • Amanda Calderon August 30, 2016 at 7:01 am #

            Hey Shannon, your story was amazing and inspired me to travel for about 3 months… Would $12,000 suffice? 🤔

          • Shannon O'Donnell August 31, 2016 at 7:09 am #

            Hi Amanda! $12K is a good sum! It will surely get you three months of travel at almost any travel style too. Even if you have a mid-range budget, that will last more than three months in developing countries. If you are backpacking Europe, then it’s a good sum to really enjoy and have tasty food and nice lodging the entire time. :)

          • Amanda Calderon September 1, 2016 at 5:50 am #

            Thank you so much! I also started following you on FB, your page is amazing!! 🙌🏻.
            Also I was wondering how far $12K would take me in SEAsia (Time Wise)? 🤔

          • Shannon O'Donnell September 1, 2016 at 6:04 am #

            Well, if you are willing to travel as a budget traveler, then you could backpack around Southeast Asia for about $1,200. That is staying a low-cost guesthouses or hostels, and going with the backpacker vibe. If you decide to stop in one spot for a month or two, it can be much cheaper. You can temporarily “live” in Chiang Mai or Bangkok for as little as $600-$800 for a month. If you plan to stay in nicer places, it will just cost a bit more each month. The $1,200 is a guestimate though because it really depends on the countries you choose. Vietnam is very, very cheap to backpack, and you will spend less than that for a month backpacking there, but Myanmar can be pricier. I think $1,200 is a good backpacker average estimate if you are in SEA for 8 months or so. :)

  5. Bianca August 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm #

    Hi! Happy to see that your still responding on this blog post. I plan to pick up my things and just go very shortly. I currently travel on short trips every month in the US but I still crave more. There is just something about meeting new people, experiencing new things and just seeing the world that draws me in. I really think just finally deciding to go and experience such a once in a lifetime opportunity is what my soul needs.

    The only problem is I literally have NO idea where to start. I read blog post after blog post but still can’t find a starting point, nor a travel path that will be the most cost efficient. I do have about $20k saved up so thats not the problem its just determining my path that continues to pull me back. Any help on what to do when in this situation?

    Also, was wondering if you are still traveling? If so, where about may you be now? Do you expend your trips a bit longer then a month now a days. ?

    Thank you for any help,

    • Shannon O'Donnell August 24, 2016 at 7:42 am #

      Hi Bianca! You have definitely reached the hardest step, which is saving up the funds. In terms of actually traveling and setting out, there are so many various options. There are a few key ideas that can help stretch a travel budget. If you stick to one region of the world, especially affordable areas of the world, then those funds can stretch to 18 months or even longer. You could slowly backpack around Asia for a very long time on a budget like that. Or even start in Central America and then head south until you reach the end of South America. This style of travel allows you to cut down on expensive plane flights, while also exploring neat cultures and countries, and also giving you the flexibility to stop for a few months in a spot if you end up loving it. All of these things would stretch the budget a good deal. I suggest that you start looking at what other travelers have spent in the countries that you are interested in. There are two levels — traveling daily rates accounts for things like touring and getting between cities. But cost of living breakdowns that some digital nomads post ( http://alittleadrift.com/cost-of-living/ ) will give you a good idea of what it will cost to go very slowly. I will send you an email with a few more ideas. As for me, I am currently in England, I was in Spain house sitting for two months, and now I am going to head to Australia for two months to visit a friend there. I go much slower now than I did on that first RTW trip.

      • bianca August 26, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

        Thanks so much for your quick reply ! I will respond more in email !

  6. Sam G July 25, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    Does that 20k (ish) include air fare?

    • Shannon O'Donnell July 25, 2016 at 10:54 am #

      Yes indeed. $3,500 of that is flights. I didn’t book a RTW ticket, I booked as I traveled and it totaled out to just a portion of the total. If i had done fewer long-haul flights jumping continents it would have been lower on the flight expenses.

  7. Engineered Wanderlust July 24, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    I used this post while planning my RTW trip! Thank you so much for your advice!

  8. DJAW July 10, 2016 at 7:05 am #

    So can you just get a year off work like that or did you just leave your job

  9. jealousofyou July 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm #

    I am so jealous of you.

  10. Nicholas Jager June 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Aloha! I read your article a few years ago and I’m re-reading it again. We seem to have inadvertently used your article as a blue print for our careers. Becoming care takers has afforded us with a nice way to travel and submerse ourselves in a local culture. Kudos to this articles longevity and relevance today. BTW – You were way ahead of the AirBnB curve!

    • Shannon O'Donnell June 22, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

      Well it makes my day to hear you say that you found it relevant both a few years ago, and now too! And I am so happy to hear that you are traveling and immersing and cultures and on a life path you love. Happy travels! :)

  11. Traveler May 16, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    Hi! Thanks for this informative article!
    The main thing I am worried about is safety as a woman traveling alone. I’d like to think I am above all the poor, fragile girl rhetoric and while I’m not THAT, the truth is women do have to take different precautions, especially when traveling and traveling abroad. Do you have any advice or and experiences that you can share?

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 16, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

      Hi Rachel, so glad you found the piece useful. Safety is a valid concern. It’d be crazy not to talk about the fact that solo females have some specific concerns on the road. I wrote a piece here that looks at my experiences on the road, and how I’ve managed to stay safe. It includes some tips and thoughts about where your actual concerns should be, versus what aspects of travel we are taught to fear (most of which don’t pan out!). http://alittleadrift.com/2013/06/solo-female-travel-safety/

  12. Chill Investor April 29, 2016 at 1:35 am #

    Hi shannon
    i am very inspired by your journey. I have a question did you travel europe in car?

    • Shannon O'Donnell April 29, 2016 at 8:36 am #

      I traveled by train and bus in Europe — it was really quite easy to get around this way. I rented a car for three weeks in Ireland, and that was the only spot that i did that.

  13. Dutch April 24, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    Amsterdam is not a country it is a city from the Netherlands.

    • Shannon O'Donnell April 24, 2016 at 3:56 pm #

      Very true. It was done on purpose. It’s the only country where I visited just one city instead of traveling around, however, so it felt like a lie to report that as the cost of traveling the Netherlands since Amsterdam’s costs are so different.

  14. Briettani Michael March 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    What is it like traveling with a kid?

    • Shannon O'Donnell March 2, 2016 at 11:55 am #

      Good question! From a cost perspective, it’s slightly less than double the costs. And it’s less than traveling as a couple. The kids get discount bus/train tickets in some areas (my niece got discounts since she was under 12, the boat in Laos was half-priced). Sticking to the cheaper regions and they don’t really add on much costs because you would already be doing many of the activities and the entrance fees can be low. I found myself doing more things like hanging out for free at the local park so she could play with other kids and less time out and drinking and such. If you want to know what the actual experience is like, I traveled with my niece for seven months in SE Asia, those posts are here: http://alittleadrift.com/category/traveling-with-ana/ And I traveled in Mexico this past summer with my two nephews: http://alittleadrift.com/2015/12/yucatan-mexico-kids/

  15. Shahul Hameed February 9, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Inspiring. I am 27 yo now, and planning to take a 1 year unpaid leave to travel. I really need to work on it seriously, It has been a day dream so far but reading your post, I know I can work on it.

    • Shannon O'Donnell February 9, 2016 at 1:39 pm #

      I wish you the best of luck Shahul, it can take time to save up the funds but will be worth it when you head out on that dream trip!

  16. Amanda February 8, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I have a decent job but am not really feeling it right now. I’d love the experience of taking a year off and just traveling. I figure that if I work another couple of years I can take a year off and do just that. I had budgeted around $28k but it’s wonderful to hear that it can be done more cheaply.

    • Shannon O'Donnell February 9, 2016 at 11:39 am #

      So glad that you found it useful! I think that aiming higher in the savings is always good, that way you can splurge when needed, and you may visit some more expensive countries. But in general your estimations are spot-on and you will surely have enough to set out on your travels! :)

  17. Mitch December 26, 2015 at 1:00 pm #


    Amazing article. I am about to quit my job and travel around the world and im very analytical so your budgeting breakdown was amazing! I have never been backpacking but am excited to go.

    I saved about $35,000 So hoping to be as efficient as you.

    A couple things I am worried about. Have you had any trouble with people stealing things at hostels or getting robbed?

    Also what did you do for money? Any credit cards you recommend or an ATM card?

    • Shannon O'Donnell December 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

      That’s a great savings to get you on the road! For safety, I haven’t ever been robbed, which is a combination of simply luck alongside some careful planning. I am meticulous about locking things up at a shared hostel, and at guest houses I am careful about leaving expensive things out. But then, there are just some things you can’t always totally prevent. I use Clements for my gear insurance, never made a claim but it makes me feel better (http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/#insurance and http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/#safe have more info) and for the ATM card, my hands-down rec is to get a Schwab card if you are American (http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/#cards).

      • Mitch December 28, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

        Holy crap. That link you provided to me was absolutely perfect.

        Ive read tons of blogs but yours seem on point.

        Thank you so much for all your help!

        Im looking forward to my adventure alone and I am American so thank you for that link as well!

  18. King Manikya December 17, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    HI Shannon thank you very much for the information provided by you about Travelling.i would like to ask you provide me little information,i am from INDIA,next year i.e 2016 FEB i am planning to travel Singapore and i would like to stay at hostel. but Is there any age restriction to stay at hostel reason for asking i am 28 years old.

    • Shannon O'Donnell December 17, 2015 at 11:45 am #

      Hi King, usually the only age restrictions at a hostel are for teenagers or older people. At 28, it’s highly unlikely that your hostel has any restrictions, usually I would say 18-45 is a safe age range to assume most places. You can also email them if you are concerned, but they would have it written on the site if they had that type of policy. Have a wonderful trip!

      • King Manikya December 18, 2015 at 1:01 am #

        thank you very much for your response have a great day :)

  19. Dumbao October 29, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    how were you able to pay your visa at such a low price in all those countries?

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 29, 2015 at 10:01 am #

      Well, I travel on an American passport, which means there are certain countries where entry is free (all of Europe, Thailand). The other countries weren’t too expensive, usually around $30 to enter, and since I stay in places for a month or two, it helped spread out those costs. There are regions of the world that are much more expensive and tricky to get visas (Central Asia is tough on an American passport). There are sites you can use to check out costs and requirements ahead of time: http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/#visas

  20. Tanya October 13, 2015 at 10:03 am #

    Hi Shannon,

    Great article thanks :) I am hoping to go and travel with my boyfriend and ideally a RWT would be what we are looking to do. We are flying from Europe and planning on starting in South America down in the South and then moving up North. It sounds so inspiring when you say that you managed to do your trip in under 20k usd………but when I look at the costs involved for our trip everything seems so expensive and I feel like I honestly do not know where to start. Financially, things to pre-book and plan, how much luggage to take, how much time to allocate to each area. I would love to also be able to stop in countries and work as I go…to be able to stretch our travels out, so that we are not chomping away at our savings :( How much time do you think is needed to preorganise and plan a long term trip for like 10 month to a year? And do you have any tips on South America?

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm #

      Hi Tanya! I know it can seem so, so overwhelming when you are first diving into the traveling, but I promise that you will start to dig through all of the noise to the pieces of budgets that best work for you. One key thing about my RTW is that I had a really solid mix of developed and developing world travel, and I also limited my trip to three continents. Flights and rapid transport are some of the biggest budget killers, so if you can land in one or two spots and then go overland, that helps a lot! I haven’t actually been to South America yet, but I hear that it’s in the mid-range to expensive in areas. Chile and Argentina are going to set you back, as are some of the high end things like the Galapagos and Machu Picchu. Comparatively, you could plan to start south but limit your time there and spend more time in Central America. Same goes for Africa versus Asia. I found Africa to be more expensive than you would expect when you added in the activities and such, and it was generally more than I had anticipated. South and Southeast Asia, however, are VERY budget, so if you plan the bulk of your time there, you again start to offset the cost of more expensive places.

      Jodi has a great list of budget posts so you can dig in and get a good idea for it. And one last thought is to look into WWOOFing ( http://wwoofinternational.org it sounds exactly like what you will want to do to stretch the budget and also really get to know an area well. Hope that helps! Keep me posted if I can help with anything, or check out my planning page for all the tips I wish I had known as I was planning too! ( http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel).

  21. Roopa W October 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks for detailed blogging.

    I am from India and I am also looking to cover the world. Basically Europe with parents and lil more challenging like Antarctica in Cruise solo.
    That’s how I am sketching my future travel all the time, easier ones take parents and tougher ones just alone or with some another solo buddy.
    Currently I am also looking for such travel documentary types of jobs so that I can go to such places as a job :) :) . I am v optimistic here :P :P
    You have any suggestion in mind. I am checking trip together website too. But first would be Europe trip with family,
    Saving money somehow gives me an indication that it would take long to fulfill these dream. Any suggestion or such job suggestions in mind?
    Nevertheless, I loved your money managing skills along with your blog.
    Keep travelling


  22. Bere cm September 26, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

    Hi! I absolutely loved this article! I am from Mexico and I want to go to Europe alone an this helped me so much with the amount of money I need to save, but there’s just one thing I don’t understand? The costs that you put are on dollars or in euros or in the currency of the country? Please can you tell me? I am 17 now and next year I want to travel solo but I need to see the amount of money I need to save and work for it! Thanks!

    • Shannon O'Donnell September 28, 2015 at 9:23 am #

      Hi Bere, that’s a good question! The prices in this article are in USD and for my trip back in 2009, so you will want to think about that. A few places have gotten more expensive since then, but some have also gotten cheaper (the Euro to USD rate is better now). So, there is a good chance you could plan a similar budget RTW trip for a similar budget. Within the spreadsheet if you click through to the Google Doc, those prices are in the local currency and then also calculated into the price in USD at that time.

      And if you are looking for budgets of a specific place I did not go, Jodi from Legalnomads did a wonderful round-up of budgets here: http://www.legalnomads.com/wds#budget

  23. JiggityJackson September 25, 2015 at 1:54 am #

    You were pretty anal about it ?

  24. Karol July 10, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

    Great blog!

  25. Rick July 6, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    Hey Shannon, great blog, absolutely love it. I am planning a long trip abound the world with my partner :P what we are finding really hard is to save up for it. My graphic design job pays only 7500$/yr where am at. So it might take nearly 2 years not spending a penny to save up for a year of travel :( I try doing stuff on the side too, but still its a lot to save. Anyways I have faith that l figure it out…

    • Shannon O'Donnell July 7, 2015 at 8:19 am #

      That is tricky to save with a low salary, but I encourage you to look at the forums and sites that talk about “side hustles” — they are amazingly active with people sharing ways that they have made money on the side ( http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/who-has-a-side-gigjob-that-brings-in-extra-cash-share-with-us!/ — this thread is years long and still active). It is a slow, gradual process, but any extra gigs can help speed it up, or add to a bonus fund for fun things on the road. Best of luck and let me know if I can help when you’re planning it! :)

      • Rick July 13, 2015 at 6:46 am #

        Thanks for the tips, Ill definitely check it out…and yeah ill probably need a few more when planning :) cheers

  26. Kara June 11, 2015 at 2:03 am #

    How about the Philippines? You totally should visit Palawan! The islands there are marvelous! El Nido and Sabang are my favorites :)

    • Shannon O'Donnell June 11, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      I would love to make it there soon! The photos I have seen of the Philippines just look incredible. Thanks for putting Sabang on my radar, I hadn’t really considered it before!

  27. brit cameron June 8, 2015 at 6:54 pm #

    You are pretty much the most amazing person ever. My fiance and i just traveled europe for 7 months straight and I wish I would have found your blog sooner you are seriously like my long lost twin. I wrote down every single expense to the penny and what exactly i spent it on. i have not put it in to categories yet it’s just divided by what place I was in and each day. I have never met another world traveler let alone one who would make a spread sheet with every detail. Good for you. Your amazing.

    • Shannon O'Donnell June 9, 2015 at 1:18 am #

      I love that you tracked your European trip too! There is a deep satisfaction in being able to look at it after and see where and when you spent your money. I just find it fascinating in how it all breaks down. Good luck segmenting it out in the future if you choose to! :)

  28. Jess May 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

    Hello! I’m 17 and i was thinking of saving up for a year (or longer) and going around the world. The problem is is that my parents (particularly my father) thinks it’s too dangerous and too expensive for me to do this alone especially, as my dad puts it, because i’m female and i guess he’s scared i’ll be taken???? It kinda heart me since i’ve been dreaming about doing this yet he refuses to even support. He would rather me go to college when i really don’t want to waste money if i don’t know what i want to do instead of do something i want to do. and i found this blog and got really excited knowing that you were able to do this and seeing things like this keeps my motivation going. so thank you

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 25, 2015 at 5:22 pm #

      Hi Jess, so good to hear from you and it sounds like you have an amazing plan in place! Traveling the world can be safe and can be a great education, but on the flip side, your dad has some legitimate fears and a formal education should be considered too. I went the traditional route of college, and then did a study abroad one semester and it was incredible, I am so glad I did it and also glad that I got my degree so that I could then work and travel for the past nearly seven years. It was a path in life that worked for me. Only you and your family know the one that is best suited to your dreams, passions, and needs. If I were in your position, I would come up with a clear plan of how long you plan to travel, when you’ll return for college, where you’ll go, and present it to your dad calmly and ask for his feedback, as him his concerns and to ask him to have a frank and open discussion about why he doesn’t support the trip. Opening those lines of communication in a controlled environment (on a good night when everyone is rested, eaten, and no looming time constraints) could help you both better understand where each other are coming from. Best of luck Jess! Let me know if I can ever help with anything. ~Shannon

  29. Helena Marie May 21, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    This is an amazing article! What is your input on traveling alone and staying in hostels alone? I hear safety is a major concern (especially in Asia) so I wanted your input on that. Thanks!

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 21, 2015 at 10:39 am #

      So glad it was helpful Helena! I traveled solo for nearly seven years now, and much of that was solo at hostels, so I think that you can absolutely do it safe. And Asia is pretty regional with it’s concerns — you will be totally fine in Southeast Asia. India is the big worry for solo females, just making sure that you are generally safe, for accommodation there, I stayed in family compounds and it seemed very safe to me the ones I chose. Though there are some concerns like scams in tourist areas of Bangkok, sketchy transportation standards, and things like that, I haven’t really heard anything bad about the hostels and guesthouses in Asia. I loved them and the community of backpackers passing through them. Safe and happy travels :)

      • Helena Marie May 21, 2015 at 10:45 am #

        Phew! Super relieved to hear that! I’ll definitely be popping back in to badger you with more questions :) thanks so much for the helpful and quick response!

        • Shannon O'Donnell May 21, 2015 at 11:28 am #

          Sure thing, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email with questions if I can help. I did a solo female safety post here as well: alittleadrift.com/2013/06/solo-female-travel-safety/

  30. Traveller May 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm #

    Just came across this article. Incredibly helpful for a first time planner of the RTW trip. Thank you :)

    • Shannon O'Donnell May 20, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

      So glad it was helpful! Good luck planning your trip and let me know if I can help with anything. :)

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