I’ve always been very open about our finances for our adventure because I believe a trip/2-year-lifestyle like ours is something ANYONE can do.
We worked normal paying jobs (we were both State of Florida employees so not making bank) and saved. Yes, we took vacations and had cars and bought things, but we are not extravagant spenders. Pre-trip, our credit card bills would total around $4,000 a month, plus $2,000 for rent, utilities, cable and all that stuff. We put a portion aside every month to use for this trip, budgeting $100 a day and anticipating a year of travel with plenty to come home to because we knew we’d be starting fresh–without an apartment or furniture or job. Well, the year turned into almost 2 years, with a total spending of…
for 680 days on the road, nearly 9 months in the US and 14 months south of the border. That’s $2,798.62 a month and $92.60 a day. We were slightly under our daily budget and cut our pre-trip spending more than HALF!
That figure includes every dime that was spent while traveling–from ferry rides and fuel to copies at the border and camping. So let’s break it down.
**Disclosure: this is just what WE spent and not what is typical of travelers. If we felt like eating dinner out, we ate dinner out. If Hani wanted a really cool handmade knife in Alaska, he got it. I definitely kept our expenses in mind but did not let our budget control our every move, knowing that I’d regret not zip lining in Costa Rica even though we already did it 5 years earlier.
The most expensive places for us were Alaska, where we spent an average of $143.93 a day (Skyhorse needed a new starter, fuel was expensive and we were doing LOTS of driving and the ferry trip), Canada averaged $113 a day (because it’s Canada and things are crazy expensive) and Panama was $110.10 a day (because we went to a fancy doctor and got a pricey repair on the truck). The cheapest countries for us were Costa Rica spending $56.23 a day and El Salvador at $57.87 a day. The funny thing about Costa Rica is that it’s pretty expensive, on par to American prices for groceries, restaurants and tourist attractions. But during our 90 days there, we camped for free, didn’t pay for laundry at all, rented a super cheap house, cooked a lot and relied heavily on the motorcycle, which cut our fuel costs.
We are some good eaters! I am actually really surprised by this number, as I thought for sure our biggest expense would be fuel. But oh no, our bellies spoke louder than Skyhorse’s engine, I guess. Of that total, $10,608.20 was spent on groceries (bottles of booze and beer included), $2,341.87 going out to bars (where we just drank), and $8,879.44 at restaurants, cafes, snacks, and anything that was not home cooked (ummm, tacos…). I cooked the vast majority of the time and I am proud that our costs reflect that.
Pretty self explanatory. We average 8-10 miles to the gallon and cruise at 50 mph. The most expensive diesel we came across was in Canada at $5.50 a gallon. The cheapest diesel was when we returned back to the States. Weird.
TRUCK AND MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE: $8,436
This includes the brand new tires we bought at the start of the trip down to the oil filters needed for the motorcycle. Hani did our oil changes and regular maintenance but we had our fair share of trips to the mechanic while on the road. The only earth shattering maintenance expense was a new U-joint for $1,462. Everything else was pretty standard wear and tear on our big beastly vehicle.
CLOTHES, GIFTS AND SOUVENIRS: $3,251.83
We did replace a lot of t-shirts and undies (if we are being honest), as our clothes took some serious beatings over the years. As for souvenirs, we didn’t buy a lot of things to bring home though couldn’t resist some beautiful art and textiles (our friends and families were the main beneficiaries of what we brought back). The little things here and there added up but I realized that when I saw something I loved, I bought it, knowing I would most likely never see anything similar again. And when I look down at my wrist and see my bead from Alaska and handwoven Guatemalan bracelet, the feeling of being in that moment when I bought those items comes back to me and makes me smile. I’m fortunate that we had that ability to spend money on non-necessary objects.
I’m very proud of this number since it’s the result of LOADS of bargaining on my part (big pat on the back). Plus, how many people can say that they lived in a comfortable home for 2 years paying only this as “rent”? We always try to camp for free but sometime it just isn’t practical or entirely safe. Like when we were in the National Parks in the States, we often opted to camp inside the park even though we didn’t need the services they offered us, instead of driving out for the night and coming back in the next day. Also, in a lot of the major cities in Mexico, it’s completely impossible for us to drive Skyhorse into town so we would park at an overpriced campground outside of town and use the motorcycle to drive in and explore the city. This figure includes everything we paid to park at campgrounds, the “tips” we paid the hired nighttime policemen at Pemex gas stations in Mexico, our few hotel stays and our rentals in Costa Rica and Mexico.
So yes, we were our own source of transportation, but there were times we took a tuk tuk or cab or bus or lancha/boat or a ferry (in Alaska, Baja and Costa Rica). This biggest chunk of this was $1,400 for the Alaska Ferry from Haines to Juneau to Sitka to Ketchikan dropping us off in Prince Rupert, Canada. Totally worth it and an extraordinary way to explore the Alaskan seas, cities and wildlife!
This is our Jazz Fest, museums, tours, movies, zip lining, volcano boarding, park and zoo entrance category. Lots of free stuff to entertain ourselves along the way but these were the special things that we just wanted to do.
Our doctor visits (big and small) and medicine. I don’t even want to begin to figure out how much these visits and medicine would have cost us if we were in the US. We didn’t see any doctors during our time in the States. South of the border the medical care was fabulous and cheap, and since health insurance didn’t matter, we didn’t have any.
Shae and Olivia were very easy travelers and not very expensive to travel with. But honestly, even if it was expensive to travel with our dogs, we would have done it anyway because it made the trip that much better! When days took a shitty turn (as they usually did), a doggie kiss and cuddle did wonders for our attitudes. We brought the dogs to the vet under a handful times, only one time when Shae was actually sick. We paid a total of $46.33 at the borders of Guatemala (for b.s.) and Honduras for fees. The rest was dog food, treats and refills of their monthly heart worm and flea and tick medicines when I ran out the last 9 months. Dog food was insanely pricey south of the border, which was odd considering how many strays there were.
BORDER CROSSINGS: $1,161.96
16 borders in total–US, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, times 2. That figure includes entrance and exit vistas, fumigation, vehicle permits, insurance, and copies (the dog permit fees I included in the above “dog” section). We only bought insurance when we were required to so we didn’t have vehicle insurance in Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras. Also keep in mind that permits and insurance was for 2 vehicles–Skyhorse and the motorcycle. The most expensive vehicle permit was for Honduras, probably because they know most people just drive through the country. The most ridiculous border fee we paid, aside from the dog fee, was the $30 exit fee leaving Costa Rica. Pay to leave?! Really??
Laundry is one of those things I have always taken for granted. Except for my dorm years and one year in law school, I have always had a washer/dryer in my home. I never really paid attention to how much it cost to wash my clothes. On our trip, however, I hustled majorly when it came to laundry. When we were in cities when we knew someone, I had no shame in asking to use their washer and dryer. I would scout out the best laundry deals and avoid doing laundry in backpacker or tourist towns, as prices would inevitably be higher there. Coin operated laundromats ceased to exist outside the US so our wash was mostly hand or machine washed, line dried, and folded, waiting for us to pick it up and cost around .40 per pound. I always bargained for cheaper prices south of the border, hence why our cost to have clean clothes was so low…until we got back to Antigua, Guatemala, that is. It was there, after we had just had all of our clothes washed that we discovered we had mites and needed to have every item inside the truck washed again in hot water. EV-ERY-THING! $85 and 2 days later, our bedding and clothes were super clean and mite free.
Hani is addicted to books. He will maybe read 1 of every 10 he purchases from cover to cover. So when he bought his first book of the trip in Texas for $2, I thought it would be funny to see how much he spent the whole time. This amount is totally nuts. We could have gone out to a few more nice dinners on this. Instead we have a large bookshelf of unread books. Damn Hani and his desire to learn! (Side note: I did buy a few books on my Kindle but didn’t include the cost on here. Many of my books I got for free. I highly recommend getting a Kindle or other eReader to save space.)
We came across a random toll here and there in the US, but nothing prepared us for the tolls in Mexico. Not only are they excessively expensive, the quality of the toll roads are 1,000 times better–no speed bumps or cattle or craters–so the cost is minimal compared to the aggravation endured by taking the free roads. Just in Mexico, we spent $271 on tolls and it was worth every peso!
CELL SERVICE: $318.56
Cost of having cell service during the 14 months we were in Mexico and Central America only (we still had our US plan in the States and Canada). Both our iPhone were unlocked at the beginning of the trip so when we entered a new country, we bought a $2 local SIM card and a data package with a local company, which averaged about $18 for 3 weeks of internet. We only bought plans for one of our phones since we were always together and would add a few extra dollars on the phone for local calls and texts.
The remaining expenses were for water, parking and donations. We never paid foreign transaction fees on our credit card (we have Capital One Visa cards with cash back rewards) nor did we pay ATM fees (we bank with Charles Schwab and get all ATM fees reimbursed at the end of each month).
And that’s the cost to drive from Key West to Alaska to Panama City, Panama and back!