How did we afford two years on the road? Total tour costs.

DSC09331OK folks, it’s the post you have been waiting for – just how much did it cost us to tour Europe in a motorhome for two years?

How did we do it?

In 2009 interest rates dropped, and our mortgage fixed rate deal ended. With no idea what to do, I put us on a tracker mortgage. We carried on paying the same amount we’d been paying on the fixed deal, and this overpayment began to erode our mortgage. Seeing this happening, we set ourselves a goal to pay £20,000 off it in a year We tightened our belts, took packed lunch to work, made do without any new clothes or gadgets and we did it, in fact we paid £26,000 off it.

The next year we did it again, then in early 2011 our mortgage was gone. It was an amazing feeling. All the money we were using to pay the mortgage now went towards saving for our tour. We had planned to go in June 2012 for a year, in a newer van and with a bigger safety net of cash. But instead, we left in October 2011, and we still managed two years!

Considerations

Everyone is different and your costs will mainly depend on three things:

  • Where you sleep (campsites, aires, car parks)
  • Where you eat (restaurants or in your motorhome)
  • How far you travel (every day and overall)

Our general philosophy was to sleep in places which were as cheap as possible, only stopping in campsites when laundry called, if we were in a big city, where we had to (Croatia!) and where it felt safer to (Morocco and Tunisia).

We ate out at least once in every country we visited. Generally if a country was cheap we ate out more, if it was expensive we cooked in Dave and treated ourselves with coffees, cakes or ice cream when out.

Finally we drove most days. Europe is a huge place and there is so much to see, we would get restless after a couple of days in any one place. Some days we only drove 10km, others it was hundreds. We averaged 68kms a day (42 miles).

What did we have when we set off?

Our bank account had a balance of £28,050.59 when we set off.

We’d already paid for Dave our motorhome (£10,495), taxed him (£215), insured him (£717 for a full timing policy) and put him through a full service, a few repairs and an MOT (£764) and a habitation check (£10). We also bought breakdown cover with ADAC (£95), travel insurance for ourselves (£221), and 29 camping cheques (£435).

For our second year we re-taxed Dave (£225), insured him (£1,169!!), renewed our ADAC cover (£96) and put him through another full service and MOT (£530), he had deserved it!

From now on all other costs will be in Euros as this was the currency we tracked everything in while we travelled. For countries that didn’t use Euros we used a conversion rate based on how much it cost us to change our money.

Where did we stay?

stays2We stopped in free places as much as possible. When Dave was in the garage having a new clutch fitted we had to spend four nights in a hotel. Aires is used as a generic term for any motorhome-specific parking. Wild/free are the nights we spent in places that were not designated as being for motorhomes – car parks, lay-bys, beaches and marinas. The costs for our overnight stops were :

Wild / Free €0
Campsites €2,518
Free Aires €0
Paid Aires €965
Friend’s Drives €0
Hotel €147

 

What did we spend?

spends4We thought most of our money would be spent on diesel, but it was food that was our biggest cost. I guess this was because we didn’t really scrimp on it, buying tasty local treats (from the supermarkets as they were cheaper than touristy shops).

  • ‘Travel Other’ includes ferries, buses, subways and any other mode of transport that wasn’t Dave or a tourist attraction.
  • ‘Tours’ include entrance fees and rides that weren’t ‘Travel Other’!
  • ‘Phones’ includes all communications with home; our internet connection, postcards and mobiles (that were on Pay As You Go)
  • ‘Clothes’ is mainly the cost of laundry over the two years, but it also includes the odd replacement item
  • ‘Supplies’ are non-food items like maps, guide books and non-motoring related items for Dave.
  • ‘Pooch’ was Charlie’s jabs and vets visits – his food is included in supermarket.
  • ‘Other’ is all the stuff I didn’t have a clue where to put it!!

In total we spent €32,482, and here is what we spend on each category:

Clothes € 865
Diesel € 5,965
Eating Out € 4,173
LPG € 429
Other € 214
Overnight Stays € 3,631
Parking € 166
Phones € 1,494
Pooch € 286
Repairs € 2,905
Services € 40
Souvenirs € 212
Supermarket € 7,638
Supplies € 755
Tolls € 252
Tours € 1,567
Travel Other € 1,891

 

Other facts and figures

In total we travelled 29,773 miles (47,915 km). We filled up with diesel 108 times, and with LPG 25 times (generally when we could get LPG, not when it was running out!). We paid to use service points 17 times (costs are included in Paid Aires section), paid 50 motorway tolls and charged our Caxton FX card 41 times.

Income

As we travelled we did have some income. Our house back home was being rented, as was a bungalow we own. However the income from these was left untouched as we knew we would need money to get us back up and running once we returned home. Figures below are in £GBP as they were paid into our UK account.

Interest from Bank £61
Magazine Article Payments £250
Book Sales (233 copies) £993
Google Adwords £232
Amazon Associaes £91
Rental From Properties £10,367

 

I think that covers just about everything, but if there is something I haven’t covered, please drop me a line.

In future we hope to travel entirely funded by passive income, allowing us the freedom to, effectively, travel for the rest of our healthy lives. Our follow-on blog posts track our progress towards this tantalising goal: the moneymuppet.

Ju x

P.S. There are ways to do this cheaper, or longer, a few ideas:

1. Travel less. We did two 12 month tours, around Europe twice. We travelled most days. Diesel isn’t cheap.

2. Drink less alcohol. To be fair we didn’t drink out much, and bought the cheapest possible wine and lager most of the time, but nevertheless, booze is expensive.

3. Eat less meat. As per point 2, this stuff isn’t cheap.

4. Spend long periods in North Africa, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania and similarly cheap countries where free camping is possible. These places are cheap.

5. Work as a campsite warden, or on a scheme where you can help out at a hostel or farm and stay for free.

6. House sit. People will let you stay at their property, even in their property, for free for weeks at a time.

Just a few ideas folks, cheers, Jay

26 Comments

  1. Hi Guys

    I’ve so enjoyed your blog over the past 2 years but now just wanted to say what a great read, ‘A Monkey ate my breakfast’ is, great inspiration, I can feel a trip coming up. Best wishes for the future.

    • Thanks Marina

      I am glad you enjoyed our book. It’s a great souvenir for us too and brings the whole tour around Morocco flooding back.

      Can I be cheeky and ask that if you get a moment you drop a review of it on Amazon (or whatever site you bought it through), as I’d really appreciate that.

      Have fun and keep truckin’!

      Julie

  2. Good info Jason. Its always nice to see these trip cost breakdowns! You have missed one important category out though – alcohol !!!
    Seriously, its a good ‘guide’ – and everyones expenses will be different, but probably similar overall! We plan on reducing the fuel bill by staying longer in places rather than an ‘agenda’ to visit everywhere in a certain time, but then again will likely incurr higher overnight/site fees so its all swings and roundabouts!
    My pension in 2 years will be around £1600 net per month for everything – so based on your numbers I’m in the right ball park which is encouraging!
    Good luck with your financial plans – oh, and BTW – enjoyed the book!!!
    D&J

    • Thanks D&J

      Fortunately alcohol was much cheaper abroad, and we managed to acquire a taste for Lidl 1 litre ‘briks’ of wine. These sold from upwards of €0.45!!!

      If beer was expensive in a country (like Italy) we drank wine. If wine was more expensive, like in Czech Republic, Jay drank beer and I had shandy (as I don’t like beer). Finally if alcohol was hard to come by in countries like Morocco and Tunisia – we filled Dave’s wardrobe with a hefty supply. There’s always a way to keep the costs down!

      You’ll certainly keep your costs down by moving around less, and site fees might not be such a problem if you seek out the cheaper/free places to stop. Aires, Stellplatz and Sostas are often free in smaller villages and towns – we even found some with free electric hook up in Italy! Then your pension should easily stretch to a beverage or two!

      Cheers

      Julie

  3. wow !!! amazing accounts . It makes us want to look into our spending, maybe. It also brings it home to us how lucky we are to be able to do this for as long as we want to.Hope it all works for you xxxxx

  4. We are going to do something similar and this is really useful data: thank you. Do you happen to have a rough idea of your average mpg? “Dave” has a relatively old 3L engine, and I am thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of buying an older verses newer van. Older perhaps 25mph vs Newer 2.3L perhaps 30mph. Clearly, when long-terming you would drive more slowly and take in the views.

    • Hi Colin

      Glad you found our figures useful. Dave has a 2.5l diesel engine (I think!), and we averaged around 31 mpg as we travelled. Less in the mountains, more on the motorways – but it all evened out.

      We were very impressed with that considering he was hauling our belongings around in him and was usually right on his 3.1 tonne weight limit.

      When we bought him we costed up a replacement engine as a worst case scenario as we both had concerns about his high mileage (160,000 km). Adding that cost to his purchase price still had him coming in cheaper than some of the newer vans out there so we went for it, and I am so glad we did as he was not only a real work horse, but also a talking point when we met fellow Dave drivers!

      Julie

  5. Hi guys, we were following your blog and ‘You Tube’ videos (and bought your book !) when we were in our planning stages and found them very inspirational. We sold our house and ‘all’ our furniture and started fulltiming in September 2013 !! So you are partly to blame :0)

    Our blog is at http://www.ericandshazza.wordpress.com

    Hope to meet up with you guys on the road somewhere, sometime :0)

  6. Hi, we are about to embark on a 6 month tour in our motorhome with our 2 children (10 & 7), we leave home on Sunday and get on the Eurotunnel hopefully Wednesday!!!

    I’m really interested in the breakdown recovery you used, ADAC, please could you advise if there is a UK contact number to arrange this before we leave?

    Many thanks

    Helen :-)

    • Hi Helen, sounds like you have a fabulous adventure ahead of you, brilliant! ADAC don’t have a UK office that we know of, but if you call them using a +49 (German) number from their website and just ask to speak English, there is always someone available who speaks it perfectly. They are happy to have UK customers, but I guess they just don’t want to alter their systems to take the relatively few UK people who go driving around Europe for months on end? Cheers, Jay

  7. Hi guy’s I first contacted you about 18 months ago, as I was heading towards retirement and wanting an adventure when it came around.I told you that I was inspired by your travels and I was putting my house on the market ( the seed had already been sown ) and would buy a motorhome, caravan or narrow boat. After much research the motorhome won. the house sold after about 18 months I am now the proud owner of a 13 year old Hymer B584 & retire in 20 days. I just wanted to let you know that you were the catalyst for my decision. My plan is to tour round Scotland from the middle of April for a few weeks to get used to life on the road in Leftie as I have christened him and then travel over to Ireland. Hopefully I will then be ready for Europe. I would love to spend time in Greece. I know you had a great time on your travels as I followed you every day. I also know you gave pleasure and inspiration to many people. I know there will be good times and not so good but life is an adventure. thank you both I will send my blog address when I begin my adventure. CARPE DIEM.

    • Bob, many thanks for writing and for the kind words. It means an awful lot to us, and I’m certain you’re about to have one hell of a fabulous time of it. It sounds like a good plan, to have a wander about in the UK and Ireland before heading out to big old Europe. On the othe hand, mainland Europe is THE place for motorhomes, it’s a totally different world out there for us sometime itinerants than in the UK. The level of acceptance is just stunningly high, especially in France and Germany. Have a cracking time and please do fire over your blog URL as soon as you get going! Cheers, Jason

  8. I have followed your blog for awhile now and I hope to one day have the same opportunity you have and travel the world. The world has so much to offer and it is very inspiring that you are experiencing as much of it as you can. Although, I wouldn’t travel for two years straight, I think I would like to take a month or two-long trip to Europe. I know I could make it an affordable and valuable experience. Fourty seems like the perfect age to take a two-year break and travel. I just hope that I have the same opportunity 15 years from now and I can make if as affordable as you have. Great post.

  9. GREAT BLOG ALTHOUGH WE HAVE DONE MOSTLY THE SAME AS YOU I CANT PERSUADE MY GOOD LADY TO STAY AWAY FOR MORE THAN 6 MONTHS AT A TIME AMHOPING YOUR BLOGS MAY HELP ME KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK AND BEST OF LUCK

    NORMAN

  10. Just found your site and have spent the last few hours reading it. Extremely interesting and informative. My adult son and myself are off to Morocco for four weeks in a Range Rover which although reasonably new has been modified with side awning,cooker,fridge etc. We intend to sleep in Australian swags which are similar to bivouac’s but a bit more robust. I had done the Morocco trip in the early 70’s on the ‘Magic Bus’ so it’s a bit of a bucket list trip for me and also an opportunity to spend some precious time with my son. If I can figure out how to make a website I will publish some photos and similar. Hope you continue to travel I had a good five years of it as a young man and never regretted a day of it. We leave in a weeks time so everything is chech this and that.

    • Hi Hamish, have a fabulous trip, sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun for you and you and a wonderful experience for your son. If you have a look at WordPress.com, or blogger.com you can set up a website for free and they’re quite easy to use. Send us the website name of you do; it would be fun to follow you. As for us, we have more work to do here in the UK but we have plans to travel again. Once you’ve the bug, it’s hard to settle I guess. Cheers! Jay

  11. HI

    My husband and myself are taking off next year in our motorhome, which would you recommend, France, Germany, Italy first etc

    Thanks

    • Hi Barbara

      If this is your first wander on the continent, then you can’t do much better than either France or Germany. Both offer very affordable and generally good quality aires/stellplatz and campsites. Italy, Spain and so on are all fabulous too, but a little bit more challenging to find good quality and safe feeling places to stay (not that we didn’t find them safe, just that France and Germany felt very safe indeed). If you travel in the May to Sep period, you will also have a lot of motorhome company, sometimes a bit too much!

      Have fun, cheers, Jay

  12. Me and my boyfriend are thinking of going off full time for a year / two years next year, so will look forward to reading your information :-)

  13. Hi Guys!

    I’ve read through this one a few times now, and something struck me. How did the costs of travelling compare to the costs of not travelling? I’m trying to grasp an idea of how much you would normally be spending on living in a house etc, with all the costs that incurs. Am I making myself clear? I’m just thinking when i finally get my house sold, and start to prepare for my life off grid, would it be more or less expensive…

    your views would be welcome

    James

    • Hi James

      It’s an interesting question. For us the cost of travelling was cheaper than the cost of living at home, but each person and their circumstances are different.

      On the road we don’t have the regular expenses of living in a house – Rent/Mortgage, Council Tax, Gas, Elec, Water, Phone, Broadband, TV Licence etc. We also find that we spend less on food as we don’t have huge cupboards to store it in so we tend to buy just what we need and have less waste, and we spend less on going out – pints in English pubs are very expensive!!

      That said, when we set off this time our spending in the UK was pretty low. We’d set ourselves up so we don’t have those monthly bills, we’ve been tracking out spending for good few years so have trimmed it down wherever possible – life on the road now might be about the same.

      As everyone is different, it’s probably worth tracking your own spending to see where you are now, then once you start life on the road within a couple of months you’ll get an idea if it is cheaper for you. From our own experience and what we have seen from other’s doing similar travelling people tend to get through between £8k – £15k a year while on the road. I hope that helps a bit.

      Cheers

      Julie

  14. Hi,

    I have just come across your blog & so far I am really ebjoying it, this is what I really want to do, plans are in place for saving & looking at your blog I wanna go now, do you have any other guides/books to read on your travels & any other info in rehards to the Motorhome & general advice please?

    All the best

    Sean

    • Hi Sean! TBH, I have no idea where I’d start mate, it’s a huge lifestyle and technical subject. You could kick off with this blog, and others on the Your Tour>Other Great Blogs page. Europebycamper.com is a fab starting point with lots of cost info. It’s an extraordinary life, well worth the effort needed to get into it. Cheers, Jay

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