One of the most important questions and the biggest hesitation Jennifer and I had before starting our nomadic life was “How much is it going to cost?” The cost of full-time travel in North America can be hard to grasp because it is going to be different depending on your priorities. We looked at other travel blogs to get an idea of the costs but found few people traveling like we intended. Still, the information we found was helpful and we decided to share our expenses to help others.
The Unexpected Costs
We have our first year of travel broken out by the month to give more details about the minuet cost of full-time travel. Often the most expensive part of being a nomad is the unexpected. The unexpected costs can be devastating. But, the unexpected parts of traveling can also be the most fun parts of being a nomad. So, take the good with the bad.
What We Value
We have learned a lot about what it costs for us to travel and what we need to travel. Like many of our fellow travelers, we value experiences over comfort. We also have to put a lot of time, effort, and money into staying connected so that we can work jobs online. These digital jobs allow us to live our nomadic lifestyle. At the start of each fiscal year, we set a budget and then we track our spending via Trail Wallet which is one of our favorite apps. Without a budget, we would be tempted to spend even more money on accommodations and experiences. The danger, of course, would be the unexpected breakdown or medical expense that could derail us suddenly.
Accomodation is where many full-time travelers spend a lot of money. Since we began planning our full-time lifestyle, our goal has been to keep our accomodation expenses as low as possible. We installed a solar system and low wattage fridge that allows us to stay off the grid year-round. Boondocking is our favorite form of accomodation as it is typically free. Boondocking is much easier in the western half of the United States than in the eastern. Our modest accomodation budget does allow us to pay to camp in areas where we want to be when there are no boondocking options available. However, it does require planning far in advance to lock in the cheapest rates in the most sought-after areas (typically state and national parks).
Cost of Full-Time Travel – Budgets and Expenses
Here is our yearly budgets and our actual cost of full-time travel in North America. We eliminated our vacation line item after the 1st year as we think of vacation as entertainment and had a hard time differentiating between the two when traveling full-time. We also split apart insurance and health expenses for the 2nd year because insurances are fairly static while health expenses are not.
Year 2 Summary
For our second year of travel, we raised our budget. However, because of the Corona Virus, we ended up spending far less. We would have most likely spent at or near our full budget had it not been for the pandemic. A lot of our backpacking trips and general travel plans were canceled because of the shutdowns. It is very cheap to boondock in the Arizona desert when you’re trying to save money or just avoid Covid-19.
Year 3 Summary
In year 3 we made up for the lockdowns and went a little crazy with our entertainment expenses. We also had a lot of gear that needed to be replaced and website fees to pay so we blew out our projected business expenses. We are prioritizing spending more on entertainment and trying to pull back on our accommodation, business expenses, and eating out for year 4 but also realize that with inflation on the rise we will need more for gas and groceries.