You must be REALLY rich to go on a RTW trip, right?

Posted on January 31st, 2013 by BreAnn

Tell somebody that you’re taking off for 10+ months on a trip around the world, and they instantly wonder if you’re RICH or have received some kind of inheritance. The truth for us is: nope, neither, not at all.

Yes, we saved up a bit for our travels this next year, but mostly we both have just been very financially responsible in our everyday lives, have worked hard to get where we both are, and also have spent a GREAT amount of time and strategy to earn a large amount of airmiles and credit card points to allow us FREE flights and hotel rooms during our stay.  Not for the whole trip, but some portions of it.

For those of you who don’t know:  We strategized to accumulate 360,000 airmiles together within only 6 MONTHS, which got us FREE around-the-world airline tickets!  We had to pay around $400 each for the taxes on the flights, but these tickets fly us from Milwaukee, then to 6 different stops around the world (continually going in a westbound direction), and return us to Milwaukee at the end.  Once we make it back to the US, we will have made one full loop around the globe. If we had paid for these tickets out-of-pocket, it would have cost us around $4,000 to $7,000 each!  So without even stepping foot on a plane yet, we have already saved around $8,000 to $14,000 together.

In addition, we have targeted specific credit cards that accumulate a large amount of bonus points and benefits that we can cash in for hotels and shorter flights along the way. We made sure that the cards we take on our trip have ZERO foreign transaction fees (in case you didn’t know, most credit cards will charge you 3%+ on any charges you make in a foreign country, which is EXPENSIVE and can add up fast!), and one of our cards gets us lucrative benefits such as baggage delay coverage, and reimbursement on any personal items if stolen from your hotel. We also opened a savings account with a credit union to receive the same benefits of ZERO foreign transaction fees on ATM withdrawals (again, normal banks will usually charge you 3% or more on withdrawals, which is REALLY expensive…. Think about withdrawing $500… will cost you $15 extra in fees!)

Another reason we can afford to travel for such a long time is because quite a few of the countries we are traveling to have such a low cost of living that you can easily get by on $20-40 per day (per person) for hotel, food, expenses, etc.  For example, in India, you can find a perfectly acceptable mid-range hotel for $10-15 per night. In China, you can stay in a hostel for $5-10/person per night. And in Indonesia, $5 gets two people a three-course meal with wine.  However, if we were to spend a great amount of time in Western Europe, Japan, or Australia, we would eat up our entire budget within a month or two!

Since we are traveling slowly and there isn’t a pricey trans-Atlantic flight to factor into the total cost, we can take trains, buses, and local flights to get us shorter distances around countries.  We can also look into apartment rentals for longer stays or week-long volunteer opportunities to get us cheaper or free accommodations.

Budgeting for travel also REALLY depends on how you handle your personal finances. Personally, I am known among my friends as “the coupon girl” who ALWAYS gets a discount whether it’s groceries, prescriptions, restaurants, clothing, or toiletries.  I cut and dye my own hair, groom my dog’s hair, pack sandwiches for road trips and visits to amusement parks,  and strategize to get most of my shampoo & conditioner, lotions, medicines and more for FREE or cheap. I usually have a Groupon or coupon for restaurants, always pack my own lunch on workdays, and keep a pretty low budget on everyday living items in general.  I have a REALLY hard time buying anything that’s NOT on sale, or that I haven’t shopped around for to make sure I got the lowest price or best deal.

And, of course, James nor I have kids or a mortgage to pay, so that also has allowed us to save more money over the past 5-10 years.

Hostels are cheaper!

Finally, we are planning to keep the costs down on our accommodations, overall. We plan to stay mostly at hostels (which are not as fancy as hotels and means that sometimes we’ll have to share a room or bathroom with other people) and will also stay with some friends and family along the way. We also hope to arrange some “home stays” with host families and volunteer for some organizations, which will not only get us “free” accommodations, but also allow us to get a rewarding and personal look into the cultures of these countries that most people normally wouldn’t get to see or experience.

With all of these points in mind, James and I believe we can maintain a budget of $50 per day per person, which comes out to a total of only $10,000 to $15,000 each to travel around the world for 10 months! And we are ecstatic that our planning, preparation, and research will allow us the rare opportunity to completely take off for the year and discover the whole wide world together while we’re still “young”!

Meanwhile, we’re constantly looking for ways to cut corners and save money on our trip and strategize with our current credit cards to get the maximum points and miles as possible! We would love any advice or pointers you may have so feel free to comment with your own experience on how to save while traveling.

More about credit cards, points, and airline miles to come in future posts ahead . . .



22 responses to “You must be REALLY rich to go on a RTW trip, right?”

  1. susan dixon says:

    Breann, I am So utterly excited for you & James!

    I will read all of your posts & cant wait to “be with you” on your RTW travels & adventures.

    I have been a passionate world traveler my entire life & so feel so excited when I hear about your plans.

    You have worked hard for this trip so may you enjoy yourself & know that we are with you always.

    Please let James know that my thoughts are with him also.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon when you get traveling on your RTW adventures! 😉

    With Warm Thoughts & Happy Travels,
    Susan, Elizabeth & Melissa

  2. Julie says:

    Wow it sounds like you really did your research. I’m interested in the specific credit cards you found, especially one without a foreign transaction fee.

    You trip is going to be amazing. I’m looking forward to hearing all your adventures!

    • BreAnn BreAnn says:

      There are quite a few credit cards that have zero foreign transaction fees… although most of them come with an annual fee, so you need to weigh the benefits of the card with the annual fee to see if it’s worth it. HOWEVER, most of these cards also waive the annual fee for the first year, so if you are planning a trip out of the country, sign up for a new card a few months beforehand to prepare…. and then just cancel or downgrade the card when the year anniversary comes up.

      The card that we are using (zero foreign fees) is the Chase Ink Bold, but it’s a business card, but I’m pretty sure the Chase Sapphire card (which is a personal card) also has zero foreign fees.

      I’ll let you know what else I find out along the way if you want to know which other ones have the same benefits as well 🙂

  3. Kevin says:

    Looking forward to seeing you in Music City in February!

  4. Brittany Ducat says:

    This is SO awesome and inspirational!! Keep all the good info coming 🙂 I’m taking notes as you go for when I’m ready to join the travel bus 😉 have an awesome first part of your travels!!

  5. Beky says:

    Breann, this is amazing! I envy your passion, dedication and commitment. A good read!

  6. Laurel says:

    The key word is “young.” You two will do fine in hostels and home stays. However, us older travelers can look back and remember staying at some very fine hotels, dining at world renown restaurants and caught some amazing musical performances. To each his own…I can’t wait to hear all of your “young” exciting adventures. Stay safe!

    • BreAnn BreAnn says:

      Yea, I know what you mean…. I AM starting to feel a little “to old” for hostels, but I guess we gotta make some sacrifice along the way.

      However, for shorter trips (1-2 weeks) in the future, we can strategize with cards to get free “luxury” accomodations and stay in nicer places. Guess time will tell!

  7. Pamela says:

    My BF is so jealous and wishes we could do something like this (:. Keep us updated love getting this to live vicariously!

  8. Ann says:

    So proud of you, Bre! And James for going along with all the hard work it takes to do all of this budgeting and strategizing. You guys rock!

    I’m with Julie, I’m interested in knowing which credit cards you got that give you 0% fees on foreign transactions. I’ve never seen that with CCs. I do have a credit union that reimburses me a good portion of foreign transaction fees, I might have told you about it awhile back, actually. It’s way better than a regular bank.

    The money you have saved on flights just blows my mind. Talk about awesome strategizing! I’m so excited for you two to take this amazing adventure. I look forward to all of your posts! xoxo

    • BreAnn BreAnn says:

      Hey girl!

      The travel/credit card blog that I follow RELIGIOUSLY & have learned all about my recent savings is “The Points Guy”, and you should check out this page that covers different cards and their benefits:

      A quick look at this page, I see the following credit cards have zero foreign transaction fees:
      –Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit Card
      –Hyatt Credit Card
      –Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
      –The Platinum Card from American Express
      –Capital One Cash Rewards for Newcomers
      –Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
      –British Airways Visa Signature® Card
      –Marriott Rewards® Premier Credit Card
      –Chase Ink Bold & Ink Plus

      **Again, make sure you check out the annual fees and other benefits and bonuses to see if the card is worth getting.

      One more thing…. if your credit union charges you foreign fees (even if it IS low, like $1 per transaction, or 1%), look around for another one. When James and I started researching credit unions, we were surprised to find some that had NO fees at all. Email me separately and I’ll give you the one that we are using 🙂

  9. Jessica says:

    wow, that’a a lot of money on a credit card! Did you have people put their bills on your credit card and then have them pay you cash? I’m super impressed!!!

    • BreAnn BreAnn says:

      Hey Jessica,

      Well, we didn’t put $360,000 on cards, if that’s what you were thinking! We chose cards that had HUGE signup bonuses. Specifically, we both opened up the following cards with the following bonuses:
      –American Express Gold Open (business card): 75,000 bonus points
      –Gold Delta skymiles Personal: 40,000 bonus points
      –Gold Delta skymiles Business: 40,000 bonus points

      Together, that equaled 155,000 points/miles each, and that was from only $12,000 in spending between all 3 cards… and yes, we had friends help by charging their rent insurance, flights, and concert tickets on our cards & giving us cash or check for their purchases.

      But then we also did a few other promotions, like testing out Bose products to get extra 2,5000 points each, and purchase everything online through shopping portals that give us more points.

      In total, we each got over 180,000 miles/points, which is enough for an around-the-world ticket through Delta airlines.

      More about those things in future posts to come…. 🙂

  10. Dawn says:

    Very cool. Have fun and I look forward to reading your posts.

  11. Christine says:

    You go, girl!!! Way to do your research 🙂 I look forward to reading about your experiences and learning lots of new stuff for when I get to travel abroad 🙂 XOXO

  12. Roxanne says:

    Breann – my friend from high school did a RTW trip with his wife. Here is their website:

    He and I grew up in Costa Rica together, so he had some background in foreign travel and living.

    – Roxanne

    • BreAnn BreAnn says:

      Wow, this is great!! He’s an excellent writer, too! I’ve already read some of the things he wrote about what they learned from their travels and it’s nice to hear. Thanks for passing this on . . . I’m sure I’ll be reading more of this in times ahead!

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