Whitney and I have been back in the United States for about three weeks now. It’s hard to believe how quickly our five month semi-retirement trip flew by, but it was an amazing experience filled with memories that we will have forever. We were sad for the trip to end, but we were also excited to get back home to spend some time with family and rest after an action packed five months.
It’s hard to believe that I first introduced this trip on the blog almost a year ago. A five month Around-The-World trip was so exciting, and I couldn’t wait to write about the itinerary.
When we first started planning our trip, the itinerary looked a little different. It grew and evolved as we did more research on different areas we wanted to visit, the weather at each time of year, and the route to get to each place. We also thought that we would have the entire trip fully planned and booked before we left the US, but that didn’t quite go to plan. When we left, we only had booked the first 2 months including Europe, Morocco, and Chiang Mai, then the last part in Southern Thailand and Hong Kong. We’re actually glad we left the middle open, though. We ended up booking the rest of it while we were in Chiang Mai for a month and had some time. We added on some stops that we didn’t originally plan, including Chiang Rai, Thailand and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I’ll recap the final itinerary below.
Since I had never been to any of these countries, I really had no idea what to expect as far as expenses, but originally I wanted to keep my spending at $2,000/month or less, which would be $10,000 for the entire trip. That was about right for the first month through Europe and Morocco, but once we arrived in Asia, I realized that I could do better than that and challenged myself to spend $1,000/month for the last 4 months of the trip, which would put my total spent over the 5 months at $6,000 ($1,200/month average). I had no idea if that would be possible, but once I wrote about this on my expense report from our time in Chiang Mai, I knew I had to make it happen!
In this post, I want to recap the entire trip and give my final total for costs over the full 154 days.
If you didn’t follow along as we went and are interested in any certain place we visited and what we did, as well how much I spent there, then check out my most recent article on our last stop, Hong Kong, where you will also find all the links to my previous posts. I kept track of every dollar I spent on this trip and also included some details about each stop we made along the way. You can also check out Whitney’s most recent post from Hong Kong, and in there is the full list of all her previous posts with pictures and even more details about what we did in each location.
We left the United States on the morning of July 16th and returned to the United states on the night of December 17th.
During the trip, we visited 3 continents:
And over 30 cities (including day trips outside of where we were staying), in 11 countries! Below are the 24 cities where we stayed:
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Dublin, Ireland
- Agadir, Morocco
- London, England
- Berlin, Germany
- Munich, Germany
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Luang Prabang, Laos
- Vientiane, Laos
- Chiang Rai, Thailand
- Hanoi, Vietnam
- Ha Long, Vietnam
- Da Nang, Vietnam
- Hoi An, Vietnam
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Hua Hin, Thailand
- Krabi, Thailand
- Ko Lanta, Thailand
- Phuket, Thailand
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Hong Kong, China
The majority of the time during the trip (about 4 out of 5 months) was spent in Southeast Asia, which significantly helped to reduce expenses, since the cost of living is so low there.
We used Delta miles for our two biggest flights of the trip (US to Scotland and Hong Kong to US), as well as hotel points, free hotel nights, and Airbnb to save costs on hotels in the more expensive areas that we visited.
Whitney and I split all of the shared expenses and kept our expenses separate for everything else, so the expenses I’m going to discuss here are just the totals for my portion of the trip. Whitney didn’t keep track of her expenses throughout, but she likely spent a decent amount more than I did due to buying more things and opting for more expensive meals frequently, but her overall costs were still relatively low due to saving on the “big ticket items” of lodging and transportation. I was relatively frugal on this trip compared to the average traveler, but I still didn’t hold back when it came to getting the most out of each place we visited. We visited dozens of temples, explored castles, went to almost all the main attractions in each location, kayaked, snorkeled, went on numerous day tours, rented a car for the day in Germany, and ate out for almost every meal over that 5 month period with absolutely no cooking. We even went bowling and to many movies to escape the heat during the hottest part of some days in Asia.
Below are my expenses listed by the different areas in which we traveled. You can see my total expenses came out to $5659.40 for the entire trip, which is about $36.75 per day!
I’ll break down the expenses below and explain how we were able to keep costs so low in each category.
Accommodations: $1,210 spent
We primarily stayed at Airbnbs while traveling. I also accounted for buying Airbnb gift cards at about a 15% discount when I found good deals on them. I stocked up on the gift cards twice last year (about $1,500 worth each time) when deals popped up. One was for a 10% discount and the other was 20% discount, and since I purchased the same amount each time, I averaged this out to a 15% savings as indicated on the spreadsheet above. We also took advantage of a ton of hotel points and free nights that we had accumulated over the past 3 years of credit card reward hacking. From that, we were able to get 16 free hotel nights throughout the trip! We strategically used those points in the higher cost of living areas on the trip as a primary way to keep our accommodation expenses lower.
In total we used:
- 65,000 Hilton Points (Jared)
- 1 night in Edinburgh (30,000) and 1 night in Berlin (35,000)
- 120,000 Hilton Points (Whitney)
- 5 nights in Hong Kong (30,000 each with 5th night free)
- 2 Free Hilton Nights (Whitney)
- Earned from a credit card sign up bonus, used in London
- 1 Free Hyatt Night (Jared)
- Free anniversary night from Chase Hyatt card, used in Berlin
- 80,000 IHG Points (Whitney)
- 4 nights in Munich (20,000 each)
- 1 Free IHG Night (Jared)
- Free anniversary night from Chase IHG card, used in Hua Hin
- 17,500 SPG/Marriott Points (Whitney)
- 1 night in Hong Kong (17,500)
In total that’s 282,500 points and 4 free nights redeemed!
This may sound like a lot, but between the two of us that required only 5 different credit card sign ups, which isn’t too bad for the value we got. Some of these hotels were the nicest hotels that we had ever stayed in! We have a lot more credit card points that we could have used to reduce expenses even further, but it didn’t make sense due to the already low costs of accommodations in most parts of Asia. Instead we’ll save those for our next trip ;).
You can currently get the AMEX Hilton credit card with a 100,000 point sign up bonus after $1,000 in spending. This is an easy bonus to get, the card has no annual fee, and it has no foreign transaction fees! That’s enough points for 3-4 nights or more at many of the Hilton properties.
IHG is offering 80,000 points on their Chase IHG credit card after $2,000 spent right now as well, which is exactly how we got the 4 nights in Munich for free above. It does have a $89 annual fee, but they offer a free night each year (that I used for our suite in Hua Hin) which offsets that fee. It also has no foreign transaction fees and offers a $100 credit when signing up for Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
Food/Drink/Miscellaneous: $1,339 spent
We didn’t have access to a kitchen during the trip, so just about every meal we ate was out at restaurants or street food in Asia. A few times we went to grocery stores to buy deli meat and bread to make sandwiches, but this was almost strictly in Europe. We went out to dance clubs and bars often on weekends, but I did my best to keep my expenses reasonable there (which was tough to do in Dublin where everything is expensive and bars are everywhere :D). Whitney and I were used to intermittent fasting before the trip, mostly for maintaining weight and for health reasons, but it really came in handy on the trip as well to save money. While eating only two meals per day, any free meals from things like hotel breakfast or airport lounges meant half of our food for the day was free. I wrote about how we went about saving as much as possible on food expenses more in depth here.
This total also included “miscellaneous” things like sunscreen, bug spray, tooth paste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash.
Transportation: $2,119 spent
This was my biggest expense category by a significant margin, even with the $1,000+ in savings from getting the two reward flights using Delta Miles mentioned above. We took public transportation whenever possible to save money, but even so there were about a dozen other shorter flights that we paid for out of pocket. The biggest single expense was $400 for a flight from Munich to Chiang Mai. We considered using credit card points for that flight as well, but we couldn’t find a good enough value, so instead just paid cash for that flight. We used Grab (SE Asia’s version of Uber) when we couldn’t use public transportation or didn’t have time. We also took several long distance buses between various places and a train from Berlin to Munich. We saved a ton of money by traveling using only carry-on bags for this trip. If we had checked bags it would have cost hundreds of dollars more from all the flights we took and would also have been much more cumbersome when moving so often.
The flight from Roanoke, VA to Edinburgh, Scotland was paid for with 30,000 Delta Airlines miles with only $5.60 in tax/fees. The flight back from Hong Kong to Roanoke, VA was 40,000 Delta miles with $71.75 in taxes/fees. The AMEX Delta Gold card is currently offering a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus after $1,000 in spending within the first three months. The card has a $95 annual fee but it is waived for the first year. This card also offers the first checked bag free and priority boarding on Delta flights. It also comes with no foreign transactions fees!
Activities: $885 spent
We did a ton of various activities in each place we visited. We did everything from guided day tours, to watersports, to comedy shows. I won’t try to go through everything here, but if you’re interested in any certain place, then check out Whitney’s breakdown of activities in each in the international travel tab above.
Travel Insurance: $106 spent
The last expense for the trip I needed to account for was travel insurance, which was surprisingly cheap! We actually found an even cheaper option than that, but it made Whitney feel better for us to be overprotected even if it cost a little more. I was fine with spending a little extra (especially since $106 for a 5 month trip was less than I expected to spend anyway), since I’d never been to any of these countries and was slightly worried about what would happen in the event of a serious injury. Luckily, everything went more or less exactly according to plan with no injuries, missed/cancelled flights, or major changes to our itinerary, so we never even had to use this insurance. We also had additional travel protection due to paying the taxes and fees from the reward flights with a credit card that had travel benefits.
Summary of My Expenses
Traveling for 5 months and going all the way around the world to almost a dozen countries was much more affordable than I would have ever imagined!
At $36.75/day, I could easily afford to “retire” and travel full time indefinitely while living on 4% yearly portfolio withdrawals. In fact, I spent less money while traveling internationally than I did on most months while living and working in the United States over the past three years. I was even able to generate enough income from this blog while gone to cover all the expenses on the trip, without having to even touch my savings from work, which was amazing and a huge relief especially with the stock market turbulence in 2018… a bit of a scary time to “semi-retire” as it turns out 😀.
On to the Next Trip!
We enjoyed the trip so much that we have already started planning a 3.5 month trip leaving in May of this year! I’ll write more about our plans for that trip soon. We will likely spend the whole time traveling around Europe on the next trip, even though it will undoubtedly cost more than our previous trip. I probably won’t write individual expense reports for each place we visit in the future, since that became a little cumbersome by the end. But, I will still keep track of all of my spending and write about it to some extent.
Thanks for reading and I hope you follow along with our travels and future financial posts! If you’re trying to travel cheaply using credit card rewards and are thinking about using the cards that we used on this trip, I’d greatly appreciate if you use the referral links to our cards above. What travel plans do you have for 2019? Any exciting extended trips? Let me know!