Monday 25 April 2016

Touring a Continent for a Year: Cost Breakdown

On the 24th April last year, we woke up in a parking bay on Dover seafront and caught a ferry to Calais with no booked return journey.  We had a vague plan of what route we wanted to take, as well as what we wanted to spend.  It’s now a year on and it seems we massively over predicted the amount of countries we could cover in a year, not quite realising how ambitious an undertaking it would be to try and fit Scandinavia and the Baltics into our schedule.  Similarly our estimate of how much we’d be spending over the year turned out to be a rather loose estimate, but the good news?  It was an over-estimate.

People in our age-group are a minority when it comes to motorhoming, and we’re very lucky to have had the opportunity to do this.  We’re certainly not rich however, and this trip was the result of a lot of time rigorously saving.  A few years ago, we spent 16 days on a 3000 mile trip down to north Portugal in a self-build campervan, a holiday in which we kept written records of all our spending.  To choose a target of how much we’d need to save for this trip, we looked at what we spent during that previous holiday, making adjustments for what we expected we’d do over the long term (such as a lot less time driving!) and extrapolating it out over a year.  This brought us to the nice round target of £10000 (£415 per person per month) excluding the van road tax and insurance, which works out as a £192 weekly budget.  We also allowed for a £2000 contingency in case the money didn’t stretch as far as we hoped or something expensive cropped up like a van repair.

Twelve months down the line, and how’s that 10k looking?

Well, for the duration of 366 days (due to being a leap year), covering 19119 miles across 18 countries, our total spending to date: £8999.78, just 22 pence short of £9000, per week that’s £172.60. This is with road tax and insurance costs now included within these figures too!

The Cost Breakdown

We keep a very strict record of everything we spend, down to how many cents we leave as a tip or how many pence of card interest we pay a month (for fee-free cash withdrawals), and what the exchange rates are on each transaction.  Thanks to this slightly nerdy approach to finance, we can easily work out where we’re spending our money and see if there’s anywhere we can cut back.

Where all our money goes as a percentage
As it stands, fuel is our biggest expense at £2489.61 (£47.61 a week), averaging 366 miles a week.  Food and drink comes in second at £41.45/week, which is similar to what we would spend back in the UK.  Food is generally cheaper in most places we’ve visited compared to the UK, but we allow ourselves a few more luxuries that we wouldn’t have at home such as lots of fresh bread and sustaining Matt’s croissant addiction.

We’d expected that these would be two of our biggest categories, so no surprise there.  The main area in which we save compared to other travellers is probably our overnight costs.  We’d been expecting to use campsites more than we have done, instead spending as much time as possible parking for free or using low-cost aires.  The only country where we paid for camping every night was in Croatia, where they’re a lot stricter about overnight parking.  Despite only spending 4.4% of our nights in Croatia, it makes up a whopping 21.7% of our overnight costs.  This will have contributed to making our weekly overnight average spend £15.90/week, which is still very cheap when you consider that it’s around the cost of the average campsite for a single night out of season (and much less than a night in a hotel room!). We’ve been getting better at avoiding campsites as we go, and since the start of 2016 we’ve been averaging £8.61/week overnight costs.

The most we’ve spent in a week was £335.55, which was during our return trip to the UK before Christmas.  December was an expensive month for us in general, mostly down to doing a lot of driving getting from Spain to the UK and back again.  Still, we saved here by avoiding the expensive Santander ferries and driving to Dunkirk; as fuel was so ridiculously cheap, it worked out to be around £380 cheaper doing this, which to us means another couple of weeks travelling.

The initial spike in May was for our time sightseeing around the main cities in Italy visiting a lot of tourist attractions plus covering a high mileage, and the major spike in December is our UK visit.  The cheapest period in January/February was Portugal.
So what’s next for us?  Thanks to getting a fresh MOT done early when we had to go home and having our travel insurance policy extended, we’re not limited as to when we have to get back.  With the money we’ve got left from being under budget as well as the contingency savings we made, we can afford to keep travelling quite a while longer.  Until the end of last year we thought we’d just keep going until the money ran out, but since have spent a lot of time increasing our financial education listening to audiobooks and podcasts, from which we’ve generated plans and goals for which going back this summer will be beneficial to getting started.  As it stands, we’re aiming to keep going until the start of July, giving us two months in which we hope to cover Austria and Switzerland.

It won’t be much longer before we have to face the real world and get into full-time work, but for now we’re going to enjoy the time we’ve got left touring.  Time to see what we can buy with 22p.

- Jo


  1. How wonderful! How happy one can be with less! Congratulations! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  2. Excellent work! What audio books an podcasts are you listening to?

    1. Thanks Donal. We were pointed in the direction of most of the audio books by Jay & Julie of OurTour, some of which have been recommended on their blog in the past. The main one I would recommend most is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, it puts forward some very interesting ideas. Others (all good) include: The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. In terms of podcasts we're listening to Meaningful Money and The Property Podcast, gradually working our way through all the back episodes!

  3. Great information here and proof that touring around in a motorhome is an affordable way to travel. Following your journey with you. Good luck

    1. Thank you Alan, we're planning a more detailed version for our full trip costs when back in the UK later this summer too. Had a quick look at your site, will have to follow your travels when we're back at work!