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During our time on the road, we’ve kept a pretty detailed track of our expenses (using a great app called TrailWallet). As we’re wrapping things up now, it was time to see where we stood financially and we wanted to share this info with you, as well as draw some conclusions. So, let’s begin:
In general, we spent 200 days on the road and drove just about 19,000 miles from Boston to Buenos Aires. We originally estimated somewhere between 15,000 to 22,500 for the trip, so it was roughly within that range, although at the expense of cutting out Patagonia from this trip.
During this time, we spent a total of $34,000 between the two of us (roughly $17,000 per person). So, let’s see how the money was spent:
FOOD: $6,430 was spent on food with an average of $32 per day for the two of us. As a whole, this represented 19% of our overall spend. In some way, it surprised us a bit, as we did not expect this to be our number one expense.
We did end up cooking a fair amount – pretty much every time we camped and then some. However, shopping for groceries was not necessarily particularly money-saving. Most of the times, if we’d go to a supermarket to stock up for the week ahead, we’d still spend close to $60-80 per trip and go through our supplies pretty quickly.
Eating out, on the other hand, proved to be incredibly cheap in some places like Mexico, Peru or Ecuador where a huge, 3-course lunch or dinner can run $3 to $5 per person. On the other hand, other countries like Chile or Costa Rica, eating out would easily run up $20 for the two of us, so we’d try to limit it as much as we could.
At the end of the day, you “gotta” eat, so we’ll just accept this expense as it is.
GAS: $5,209 was spent on gas with an average of $27 per day or 15% of our overall total spend.
This can be attributed to three things:
1) Fred’s appetite – unfortunately, in spite of all of the great things we have to say about the Toyota Land Cruiser model, fuel efficiency is not one of them. We’d get on average of 12 miles per gallon during the best of times. A smaller vehicle, like a Toyota 4Runner, or a diesel car would cut the gas costs in half. We did get a lot in return in terms of reliability and comfort, but it came at a price.
2) Our speed of travel – for better or for worse, we wanted to cross from US to Argentina during our 6+ month journey. This meant a fair amount of driving in a “relatively” short period of time. Most of the other folks we’ve met who are doing a similar trip are generally spending 1 to 1.5 years on it. So, in a way, a 1 year trip covering the same distance would incur pretty much identical gas costs. Alternatively, a smaller distance covered – such as only Central America or only South America – would cost less as well.
3) Cost of gas – gas was pricy pretty much everywhere. It has reached an obscenely high cost of nearly $5 per gallon (I can hear the Europeans chuckle here) in Chile and Argentina and generally hovered at close to $4 in most countries. Ecuador was the one exception where it was about $1.30 / gallon, so we could get a full tank for under $35, but that was the exception to the rule.
CAR REPAIR / MAINTENANCE: $4,518 was spent on car-related maintenance and repairs or 13% of our total spend. Whenever possible, we’d try to get service done at Toyota dealers – so that the subsequent buyers of the car would have all of those records. Although we only had 1 breakdown on the road, we did end up going for maintenance a bit more than we expected. This figure does include 5 new tires, about 5 oil changes and check ups, and other maintenance.
As a whole, the luxury of traveling by car added about $10K to our trip between gas, maintenance, and repairs or 29% of our overall expenses. In return, we got the freedom to go wherever we want, the ability to camp out in amazing places, and the flexibility of having everything we need on us at all times. It’s an amazing way to travel long-term and we are happy that we chose this mode of transportation.
ACCOMMODATIONS: $4,622 was spent on accommodations. This represents about 14% of our overall spend with an average of $23 per day for the two of us. Within that amount, we spent $2,944 on hotels, $1,192 on Airbnbs and $486 on campgrounds.
For full disclosure, we were pretty lucky in that we also had a bunch of miles and points that we were able to redeem for another ~10 hotel nights without any cost, as well as a fair amount of Airbnb credit that offset those accommodations. I wrote it about it in a prior blog post. We love free stuff, so it was particularly great when we were able to find a free yet awesome hotel along the way.
We camped quite a bit up until Bolivia and then the temperatures started to drop to below freezing in a lot of places, so we started to look for alternative accommodations more and more.
Shipping Costs: We spent about $1,070 to ship the car from Panama to Colombia and about $1,600 to ship the car from Buenos Aires to Florida where we’ll pick it up later in September. So this adds up to around $2,670 or 8% of our overall spend.
Entertainment: We spent $3,126 on things like admission fees to parks, tours, Machu Picchu, museums, and things of that sort. One of the best things we’ve done on this trip was also take a homemade submarine down 2,000 feet under the ocean in Honduras. It was about 30% of all of our entertainment budget, but well worth it. Another 30% of the budget came from the week we spent in Galapagos – it’s an amazing place, but can be pricey. Overall, this represents an average of $15.63 per day or 9% of our overall spend.
Learning: We spent another $2,092 on various learning activities. This included Spanish classes in Mexico, dance classes in Colombia, a number of photo tours, as well as a 3-day scuba diving class in Panama (one of our favorites!). This is an average of $10.68 per day or 6.5% of our overall spend.
Visas: About $1,260 of our spend was applied towards various visas. This was about 4% of our overall spend.
Tolls / Parking / Transportation: About $1,856 was spent on miscellaneous transportation (Uber in cities, boats, etc.), as well as tolls and parking. Some places like Mexico or Chile were particularly tough with tolls, where we could spend $20-30 just within a day’s drive. Whenever in cities, we’d typically find secure parking for Fred and then walk or use Uber/public transit to get around. This was about 5.5% of our overall spend.
Miscellaneous: We spent about $2,312 on other expenses that don’t quite fit into previous categories. Things like car washes, haircuts, toiletries, laundry and things like that. This represents around 7% of our overall expenses.
$34,000 is, of course, a significant chunk of change. For us, we typically try to put it in comparison with a cost of buying a new car vs. being able to have 6-7 months worth of adventure. So, I think we’ll be riding old beaters for the foreseeable future.
An interesting observation is that costs begin to go down as you slow down. If we’d go a bit slower, we’d spend less on gas, stay at our favorite campgrounds for a few days or a week instead of 1-2 nights, be able to cook even more, and so on. If the same trip took about a year but within the same route, we estimate that we’d spend about $45-50K for 2 people or perhaps even less.
Countries also end up varying dramatically. Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador (Galapagos), Chile, Argentina – they all tend to be fairly pricy no matter how much we tried to avoid it. Whereas places like Mexico, Honduras, Colombia
So, if you’re planning something similar for yourself, hope this breakdown helps with your own planning!