And Just How Are We Paying For All This Travel?

We’ve known from the start that our Big Adventure was going to cost A LOT, and that we had to have a good, solid financial plan to make it happen.

Before deciding to go ahead with the Big Adventure, Brett and I crunched a whole lot of numbers many, many times, made several changes to the itinerary, and finally came up with a realistic plan for covering the costs of continual travel on a fixed income, and without incurring any debt.

Our goal is to cover one year’s around-the world travel combining travel savings with our regular monthly income. We’ve been putting away as much as possible this year, and plan to finish this December with at least $8500 in our travel account. Next year our goal will be to bring our total amount saved to somewhere around $28,000 – $30,000 by the time we leave Kaua’i at the end of August.

Here’s how and what we’re saving next year:

  • We’ll be putting a minimum of $800 a month into our travel savings account for the eight months before we depart Hawai’i.
  • We’ll be using our credit card to pay upfront for some travel expenses (see below), but will pay the card in full each month and put the rewards toward travels expenses.
  • Income tax and other refunds, gifts or windfalls will go into savings, and we’ll continue with our change/$1 bill savings. The monthly increases in Brett’s military retirement and our Social Security will go into our travel savings – we weren’t expecting any increase this year since we haven’t had one in four years, and view it as a windfall.
  • We will sell our car as well as the furniture and household items we’re not going to store here before leaving Kaua’i.
  • The savings total will include approximately $1500 in Southwest Airlines gift cards – most will be earned through Swagbucks.

We will use the savings to pay upfront for:

  • All our Airbnb lodging expenses except for Sydney and New Zealand – those will be booked further along in our travels (Airbnb requires payment when we reserve a home). We have given ourselves a strict upper limit for how much we can spend per night.
  • Normandy B&B
  • India tour
  • Train trip across Australia
  • One-way airfare for two to Buenos Aires from Houston, TX.
  • One-way airfare for two from Buenos Aires to Paris.
  • One-way airfare for two from Lisbon back to the mainland.
  • Additional travel insurance – our military insurance covers all medical expenses everywhere in the world, but we’d like to have evacuation coverage and a couple of other features
  • A rental car for approximately one month before we leave Kaua’i (how long we’ll actually need it will depend on how quickly we sell our car).
  • Three week’s to one month’s vacation rental on Kaua’i before we leave (we plan to move out of our house at the end of next July)
  • One year’s worth of storage fees
  • Flights on the mainland with Southwest Airlines, paid with gift cards

The rest of our expenses, including meals, local travel expenses, travel between most countries, and incidentals will come from our regular monthly income. We’ll have just three fixed expenses when we leave Kaua’i: my student loan payment, our phone plan and non-owner car insurance, which together will total less than $500/month. We’re keeping our T-Mobile plan because it gives us free data and texting in all the countries we’re visiting, and the girls are on the plan until they graduate from college. Without having to cover all our current expenses we’ll have a solid amount to live on as well as continue to save while we travel.

I have enough miles in my Hawaiian account to cover flights for four of us back to the mainland at no cost, and we will use the Southwest gift cards to cover airfares when we or the girls are flying inside the U.S. mainland.

Brett will be manning the spreadsheets to keep track of our expenses and spending, and like our heroes and retirement role models, Michael and Debbie Campbell (The Senior Nomads), we will be keeping a daily log as we travel, and tracking every expense down to the penny (or euro or yen or whatever).

Meanwhile, in the coming year we’ll continue saving, saving, saving as well as using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without as we get ready to go!

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6 thoughts on “And Just How Are We Paying For All This Travel?

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Joy! We had to get this detailed now, but there’s still lots of unknowns at this point. The biggest unknown right now is where YaYu will be going to school, and when she needs to be there. Everything will revolve around that on the front end. And for the 2019 part of the trip, we are waiting on 2019 tour dates for India – everything else will revolve around that date. In the meantime, we’ll just keep saving!

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  1. Natalie says:

    Congrats again, Laura, for having a concrete plan to achieve your travel goals and experience a new lifestyle. We have so many options available to us as long term travelers now that it’s quite do-able, and even if the travelers change their mind somewhere during the journey, it’s not the end of the world to change the plan. I’ve been to some of the destinations on your itinerary (Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Paris, Florence, etc.). They’re all wonderful. I know you’re well prepared but feel free to ask if you have any questions. I have maps to send, too if you’d like to see them ahead of time. Online maps are good but paper maps have not lost all their values yet IMO.

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    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Natalie! My philosophy re. travel planning has always been to set up a good foundation that everything else can work off of, and that allows us to be a bit more spontaneous when we’re at our destination. So that’s what this is – our foundation for the trip, and having those expenses covered will make it easier to see how to best use our regular income.

      I know you and other readers have a wealth of information about the places we’re going, and I’m thankful you’ll be willing to share your tips to help us make the most of our visits to the places we’re going. I’d love to gather tips, what people enjoyed, out-of-the way places we shouldn’t miss, what we should avoid, etc.

      We just may ask for those maps, too – Brett is still big on using paper maps (although he has an uncanny sense of direction and never gets lost).

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  2. Denise Bowman-Arcure says:

    Any thought to where and how you will live once this adventure is over? Back to Hawai’i or ? You’re putting items into storage in Kaua’i so I’m assuming you are returning to the island to live.
    And will you need to procure another vehicle after y’all are back and is there a plan for that?

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    • Laura says:

      The answer to your question is we don’t know right now what we’re going to do at the end of our Big Adventure. We might keep traveling, we might come back to Kaua’i, we might decide to settle somewhere else. We’re storing our things here though because of the cost of shipping them back to the mainland and then storing them there – why spend on that now if we might end up coming back here? We can ship our stuff later if we need to. Everything we’re selling before we go are all things that can be replaced, including the car.

      It will depend on how we’re feeling at the end of our year of travel, but continuing to travel is currently #1 on our list of options. There are an awful lot of places we still want to see in the world, and a further year would cost less because we wouldn’t be taking any expensive tours the second time around. Without having to pay for all the things we currently do, we’re going to be able to save at least a quarter of our income during the coming adventure and still have enough to cover everything else, including the girls’ transportation inside the mainland. If we decide though that at the end of our year we’re tired of traveling, and settle back somewhere, the savings will give us a nice cushion for our landing, including here on Kaua’i. Buying a car will depend on if and where we settle – we’re not wedded to car ownership, but for someplace like here having a car is a necessity. In someplace like Portland we could easily manage with walking, public transportation and a car sharing service (like ZipCar). So it will depend.

      Anyway, what comes after is a big unknown right now. Somewhere during the year though we’ll make a decision and go from there.

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