Spending Summary: New Zealand

During our month down under, Kait and I got to spend 7 days in New Zealand with my sister and her husband. Cost wise, we were expecting it to be similar to Australia, with the added advantage of splitting certain costs with another couple. Let’s see how we did.

  • Accommodations: $140.84
  • Food: $357.11
  • Transportation: $361.84
  • Activities: $253.04
  • Souvenirs: $103.56

We spent a total of $1,216.38 (CAD) over 7 days in New Zealand. It was a short excursion so there isn’t too much to discuss, but let’s see how it stacks up to all the other countries we’d been to so far in terms of cost per day.

New Zealand Spending


So, the first thing to note here is that our accommodation costs for New Zealand were very low thanks to two things. First, my sister and brother-in-law had friends in Auckland and Wellington that hosted us while we were in those cities. Second, of the 2 nights that we did stay in hotels on the road, the costs were split between 4 people. Of the 2 nights we stayed in hotels, the total cost was $281.67, or an average of $140.84 per room per night. This was slightly more than it was in Australia, but since Kait and I only had to pay for half of that, our total came out much lower.


Food costs were also pretty much the same as Australia. Nothing too interesting about food costs.


As with the other countries, transportation costs were split between intercity and intracity travel. For our New Zealand costs, you can basically look at it as a single item, because all our costs were car rental related. (I roughly divided gasoline costs to being either intercity or intracity).

The Toyota Highlander we rented for 7 days was $464.13, or $66.30/day. We drove 1,222.8 km and spent $158.85 on gas. Gas was around NZ$2/litre.


This was my (and Kait’s) first time in New Zealand, so for me, I looked for banknotes and coins to collect. This worked out to be $103.56, which averages out to a pretty high per day amount because we only spent 7 days in New Zealand.


Between Auckland and Wellington, we spent time mostly enjoying the natural wonders of New Zealand. Most of that was free, but we did spend NZ$174 to explore the Waitomo Caves. The only other activities we did that cost money were the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua (NZ$54) and the Auckland War Memorial Museum (NZ$50).

As expected, the travel costs in New Zealand were right around the same ballpark as Australia. After Australia and New Zealand, we’d be spending the rest of our trip in South East Asia, so going forward, I expect our costs to drop significantly.

Spending Summary: Australia

So, clearly I’ve fallen (very) behind on these spending summaries, considering Kait and I are back in Vancouver now. I still think they might be useful for people considering trips to these locations though, so I plan to write one for each country that we visited.

We spent 23 nights in Australia, and we anticipated it would be the most expensive country we would travel through. Let’s see if that held true. (As with the other finance posts, all costs are given in Canadian Dollars unless otherwise specified).

  • Accommodations: $1,325.87
  • Food: $1,311.98
  • Transportation: $1,490.16*
  • Activities: $409.83
  • Souvenirs: $156.80
  • Telecommunications: $28.98

So, why the asterisks next to transportation? Well, that’s because I decided to exclude (a painful, $695AUD worth of) speeding tickets from that total. I’ll save the speeding tickets for their own “special” post. All I’ll say here is don’t go over the posted speed limits in Australia, ever. I’ve been driving for almost 16 years and by my estimates, driven around 300,000km. In that time, I’d accumulated a total of 3 speeding tickets costing me $600 (2 in Canada, 1 in the US). In 6 days of driving in Australia, for under 3,000km, I doubled my lifetime total number of tickets and more than doubled my total cost.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at how the costs compared to the other countries we’d visited so far (average cost per day).

Australia Spending


We spent 23 nights in Australia, and although our average per night cost was only slightly higher than in Japan, we spent 12 nights staying with friends and family. So in actuality, when we paid for accommodations, the cost per night averaged $120.53. This far exceeds our accommodation costs in Japan, which averaged $76.79 when we weren’t hosted by family.

Sydney is an expensive place to live in. Real estate is increasingly unaffordable to the average household. It was actually somewhat interesting overhearing random bits of conversations around Sydney which sounded just like conversations you overhear in Vancouver about real estate. Interestingly though, or accommodation costs in Sydney were quite reasonable and we found a nice hotel for under $100/night. The small motels during our road trips, and accommodations at the resort city of Cairns, was what pushed up our average cost per night.


No surprises here when it came to food costs in Australia. Prices are slightly higher than in Canada, but nothing is too outrageous. Even when the price seems high, it’s not so bad when you take into account tax is included (and there isn’t the same tipping culture in Australia as there is in North America). A small (i.e. small drink/fries) Big Mac meal was $9.85.


Here’s where the costs get a little bit more interesting. Starting with the intracity spending, most of our costs here came from airport transfers and transit fares within cities. Sydney has a decent transit system in the city centre along with trains that go out into the suburbs. Melbourne has a large network of street cars which were nice but felt pretty dated compared to the large subway networks in Asia that we were used to.

Getting to and from the city centres in Melbourne and Sydney were also quite convenient. Melbourne Airport had a bus that runs frequently between the airport and Southern Cross station, along with free hotel transfer if your hotel is in the CBD. They advertise free WiFi on board but it didn’t work both times we took the bus. It’s $19AUD one way (no discount for return tickets). Sydney is even more convenient with the AirportLink train. It takes you from the airport to several different stops in the CBD, and you can use the Opal Card which will work on all the other city wide transit options. The exact fare depends on where you’re going, but it’ll be less than $19AUD.

Our intercity travel costs came exclusively from 2 domestic flights we took. We flew from Adelaide to Cairns on JetStar which cost $212.68/person, and we flew from Brisbane to Sydney on Tiger Air which cost $82.79/person.

The remainder of our travel costs came from the Car Rentals. I included all car related costs such as gas and parking here as well. We drove from Melbourne to Adelaide and from Cairns to Brisbane. Both rentals were from Hertz and the car rentals themselves worked out to be $67.61AUD/day. I was pretty happy with the costs of renting a car, but of course the speeding tickets kind of ruined the mood. (2 of the 3 tickets came from speeding cameras by mail, so we didn’t find out about those until later).


As with the other countries, I like to save coins and banknotes from the places I visit. Since I’d been to Australia before, there weren’t as many coins or banknotes I didn’t already have. It might interest you to know that Australia was actually the first country to introduce the modern polymer banknote in 1988. Canada followed suit in 2011, and actually contracts Note Printing Australia, a subsidiary of the Reserve Bank of Australia, to supply the polymer and security features of the new Canadian Banknotes.


The bulk of our activity costs came from a Great Barrier Reef tour while we were in Cairns. It was just under $200/person.


My sister had a Cellular WiFi hotspot device which we activated while we were in Adelaide. Telstra was a pain to deal with though, and their pay as you go plans were difficult to understand. As much as I like to complain about Canadian Telcos (I’ve filed multiple complaints with the CCTS), I think Australia might be worse.


Not covered above is that Canadians (and pretty much everyone else I think) needs a Visa to enter Australia. You apply online for an “Electronic Travel Authority” and it gets linked to your passport. It costs $20AUD.

Our time in Australia was split with a week in New Zealand, which I’ll cover next. While it didn’t turn out to be more expensive than Japan on a per day basis, that was largely due to more of our accommodations being covered. Also, we spent a lot more on intercity travel while in Japan. If I were to compare two hypothetical trips to Tokyo and Osaka vs Sydney and Melbourne, I would guess that you would spend more in Australia.

(Originally Published August 8, 2016)

Spending Summary: Japan

In what feels like ages ago even though it was only a little over a month, Kaitlyn and I spent 28 days in Japan. After spending time in Taiwan and Korea, we were expecting to spend more in Japan. As with the other spending summary posts, hopefully this can help you get an estimate of how much you might spend in Japan on your own travels. Let’s see how things worked out.

Over the course of 28 days (and 27 nights), we spent a total of $5,712.93, which works out to be $204/day. As with the other spending summary posts, all dollar amounts are in Canadian Dollars. This was more than we spent in Korea, and around double the cost of our travels in Taiwan. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Accommodations: $1,535.83
  • Food: $1,729.50
  • Transportation: 1,969.13
  • Activities: $470.47
  • Souvenirs: $7.99

And here’s how things compared with Taiwan and Korea.

Japan Spending


We stayed at a variety of places in Japan, but they were all pretty “conventional” when you take into consideration some of the quirkier places you could spend a night in Japan. Of the 27 nights we spent in Japan, 7 of those nights were complimentary thanks to my great-aunt “hosting” us in Osaka. The remaining nights were spent in various hotels and an AirBnB in Tokyo. Looking only at the accommodations we paid for, our average cost per night in Japan was $76.79. This was actually less than I expected it to be, but a lot of that has to do with finding a very reasonably priced AirBnB in Tokyo, which is the most expensive city in Japan. Overall, I was quite happy with the final cost as we still kept things below what our rent would be in Vancouver (~$60/night).


Food prices vary widely in Japan, but nothing ever feels unreasonably priced. You get what you pay for in Japan, and that price range can be big. However, especially when you take into consideration the prices, it’s hard to have a bad meal in Japan. Even the cheapest eats are likely to leave you satisfied and pleased with its quality.

The cost of food was quite close to Korea, with Kait and I spending $61.77/day. The higher spending in Japan can be attributed to more “splurge meals” than we had in Korea. The food in Japan was more in line with our tastes, so we found more opportunities to go for an more expensive meals (i.e. $20+/person lunches or $50+/person dinners). I would say anywhere from $20-40 / person / day is a very reasonable budget estimate for food in Japan.


Transportation was where the biggest increase in spending was compared to Taiwan and Korea. Moving from city to city in Japan can be expensive, and while not unreasonable, transportation within cities can also quickly add up.

The bulk of our transportation costs came from just 2 things: domestic flights and trains. Both of these modes of transportation can be expensive, but there are many options to reduce your costs if you do your research. For trains, Kait and I purchased 14 day JR Rail Passes which cost $558 each. Rail passes can be good value, but you need to compare the cost of a rail pass with your planned itinerary to make sure you’re saving money with the rail pass. Also, don’t feel limited to JR Rail Passes. There are other (less expensive) options out there, especially if you’re only planning to travel around a certain area, and not all over Japan. For flights, we booked 2 domestic flights where each flight segment cost $130. Both JAL and ANA have promotional flight pricing at around 10,000JPY / segment for foreign travellers with international tickets in and out of Japan. This makes air travel very competitive with train travel as long as the places you’re travelling to are covered by direct flights from either airline.

Other than those two major transportation expenditures, all the remaining spending mostly came from travel within cities on subways, and the occasional bus our train rides. Budgeting $10-$20/day/person for transportation within cities in Japan would be a good place to start, moving up and down the range depending on how much you want to walk, and how often you opt for taxis instead of taking transit.


Activity spending is really dependent on the traveller with regards to how much you need to budget. Kait and I spent an average of $16.80/day on activities, but in reality, we didn’t even spend money on “activities” for most of the days (17 out of 28 days to be exact). Most days Kait and I are happy to just walk around a city, which is free. Here are some spending highlights:

  • Most Expensive: $183.66 for the Tokyo DisneySea
  • Most fun bang for your buck: $24 baseball tickets
  • Best Japanese Experience: $27.12 Onsen admission
  • Most recommended: $7.20 Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum

So, that’s it for the Japanese Spending Summary. Next up on our travel itinerary is Australia and New Zealand. I’m expecting these two countries to be the most expensive, but we’ll see how they stack up compared to Japan.

(Originally Published June 7, 2016)

Spending Summary: Korea

Kait and I spent 6 nights in Seoul, and while it’s a much smaller sample compared to the 30 days we spent in Taiwan, hopefully a review of our spending will still be useful to people.

First, the total up front. Over 7 days and 6 nights in Seoul, we spent  $1,095.88 CAD (Everything will be in CAD unless otherwise noted). This works out to $156.55/day. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Accommodations: $577.98
  • Food: $340.48
  • Transportation: $68.05
  • Activities: $107.47
  • Souvenirs: $1.90

Of note, we also spent $181.83 “Shopping” which includes gifts and everyday things for ourselves which I wouldn’t categorize as travel related (unlike souvenirs, which I think of as travel related keepsakes).

For comparison, here’s a table of spending by country. Numbers in brackets are per day averages.

Spending Taiwan, Korea


Nothing too interesting here. We spent our entire stay in Korea at the same hotel in Seoul. We paid $577.98 for 6 nights which worked out to $96.33/night. (The reason the per day average is different is because I averaged the cost of accommodations over our total days). This was a discounted rate because we booked our flight to Korea on Expedia and they give you an opportunity to book hotels at a discount at your destination. (And not a fake discount. We did a lot of comparing the discount rate vs non-discounted rates on a variety of sites including Expedia itself).  I was expecting the per night cost to be higher in Korean compared to Taiwan, but I was happy we found a good hotel with a great location for less than $100/night.


Food in Korea, both in restaurants and on the street, appear to be more expensive than comparable food in Taiwan. I would estimate things were +25% more anecdotally. The bigger jump in our per day spending came from the fact that we had a longer list of things we wanted to try in Korea, so we ate at pricier places more frequently due to our shorter stay.


We had no intercity travel at all since we stayed in Seoul the whole time. However, if you consider Incheon Airport outside of Seoul, we spent 10,000 KRW ($11.32) on an Airport Bus into the city and 6,900 KRW ($7.81) on an Airport Express Train back to the airport per person. The Airport Express Train was by far more comfortable, cheaper, and more convenient (assuming you can get to Seoul Station without too much difficulty). The rest of our transportation costs came from taking the Seoul Subway. Most rides (under 10km I think) were 1250 KRW ($1.41).

Taiwan’s total for transportation was higher primarily because we did a lot of travelling between cities in Taiwan. Comparing the intracity travel costs, Taiwan was significantly cheaper that Korea (or really, just Seoul). Lots of rides on the Taipei Metro were only 16 TWD, or $0.64 compared to Seoul’s $1.41.


There were only two activities that we spent money on in Korea, and over 90% of it was spent on our DMZ tour. The other activity was the entrance fee to Gyeongbokgung Palace. The rest of our time was spent walking around exploring neighbourhoods… and shopping.


As mentioned in the Taiwan Spending post, we tend not to spend too much on Souvenirs. For Korea though, I set aside some coins as keepsakes since I collect coins and I’ve never been to Korea before. 50 and 10KRW coins are difficult to come by (basically nickels and pennies). Your best bet would be when there are percentage based sales (e.g. 30% off) or in my case, our hotel happened to have coins for me to exchange with them.


Overall, our spending in Korea was pretty much in line with my expectations, and even the amount spent on gifts and personal shopping were quite reasonable. We’re in Japan now, and while I originally thought Japan would be more expensive than Korea, I have a feeling our spending average will be close (or even less). We’ll see how it goes. We’ll be in Japan for just under 30 days, and we’ll be travelling throughout, so we should get a pretty good idea of average spending across Japan.

Anyone have experience travelling around Japan and Korea? What were your experiences with cost comparisons?

Spending Summary: Taiwan

Now that we’re in Korea, it’s time for me to look at how our spending went during the first leg of our trip in Taiwan. We spent 30 days in Taiwan through most of March, and our final travel spending total is…

$2956.53 (Canadian)

Here’s how the spending breaks down:

  • Accommodations:  $1,525.19
  • Food:  $825.42
  • Transportation:  $547.42
  • Activities:  $58.50
  • Souvenirs: $0

This works out to around $100/day for 2 people travelling around Taiwan, which I think is very reasonable. Looking at the totals though, some things jumped out at me. We spent more on transportation than I expected (not sure why I thought the trains would be cheaper), and less on activities. Not too much surprise with food and accommodations.


I would put our spending on accommodations in the lower mid-range in terms of travel budgets for Taiwan. We had the benefit of family members providing accommodations, as well as splitting costs between 4 adults while Kim, Noel, and Nate were in Taiwan with us. The accommodations we booked ranged from lower end hotels to fancy beach resorts. At the end of the day, the main comparison Kait and I wanted to make with our accommodation spending during our travels was whether or not we spent more on our accommodations than we would have spent on rent back home in Vancouver. With that in mind, I consider our accommodation spending in Taiwan a success.


Food can be very inexpensive in Taiwan, particularly eating out. But at the same time, as with lots of things, you can spend as much as you want to. Unlike at home, we intended to eat out for most of our meals while in Taiwan. We had a kitchen in a lot of our accommodations, but the kitchens were only used for cutting fruit and prepping meals for Nate. If you’re not comfortable eating street food or sitting at a table with other diners, our food spending is probably on the low end of the spectrum. Otherwise, our budget is probably a pretty good estimate for dining in Taiwan… around $15/day/person.


This category really encompasses two different things, intercity and intracity transportation. We spent $478.28 travelling between cities and $69.14 moving around within cities. For a trip that involved doing a loop around Taiwan and another round trip between Taipei and Kenting, I would say this is on the low end of the spending spectrum. As mentioned in Taxis vs Transit vs Walking, our preferred modes of transportation naturally lends itself to minimizing spending. Between cities, we took trains and used regular rail instead of high speed rail down the west coast when we did our loop. This kept our intercity travel low. If you expect to take more taxis, you’ll probably spend more for intracity travel (and if you plan to make use of the great bike shares available in Taiwan, you’ll probably spend less).


This was the biggest surprise for me. We really didn’t spend as much on activities as I thought we would. Even more surprising, the spending here was dominated by 2 things: The National Palace Museum (overpriced now thanks to a large influx of mainland Chinese tourists?) and watching Batman v Superman (not even including the pop and popcorn). Those two made up over 70% of our “activity” spending. Although looking at the total surprised me at first, it really shouldn’t have. My favourite thing to do when I travel is to walk around and look at things that are out and about…. and that’s free!


So, we basically spent nothing on souvenirs. We’ve bought gifts (which I haven’t included in this total) and we’ve spent money on a few other things that are more related to life than travel, so I probably won’t include those in these summaries. When it comes to souvenirs though, I imagine Kait and I will eventually get something from our travels, but we’re packing pretty light, so we have to be picky. I like to collect coins and banknotes, so I’m sure somewhere along the line, I’ll set aside some nice coins and crisp banknotes to save. When I do, I’ll consider the money spent on souvenirs.

So that’s our spending in Taiwan. I expect our spending rate to increase in Korea, and increase again in Japan. After that will be Australia (and New Zealand?) where I expect our spending to peak, before we finish things off in South East Asia where I can (hopefully) blissfully enjoy how inexpensive everything is.


Travel Without a Budget

Something many people asked us when we first told them we were quitting our jobs and travelling was what our budget was. “How much do you plan to spend”, “are you sure you want to quit your jobs”, and “did you win the lottery”, were all things we heard in one form or another. While a budget for a trip like this should be an obvious thing to have, the questions actually caught me off guard. As much as Kaitlyn and I talked about whether we actually wanted to take this trip or not, a budget wasn’t something that ever really entered the discussion. If you know me (and my obsession with personal finance), you might find this surprising, but let me explain.

Travelling without a budget doesn’t mean we have unlimited funds (whether saved or through debt) to spend on this trip. What it means is we have no predefined spending plan that we will try to adhere to. We will allow ourselves to spend as we please, but we’ll be conscious of our spending. We’ll deal with money and spending on the road the same way we did at home (while employed)… without a budget (which don’t work for most people).

I enjoy (or rather, am compulsive with) personal finance, but I don’t believe in budgets. They may work for some people (e.g. crazy disciplined people, of which I am not), but I genuinely believe they don’t work for most. So how does a person concerned with personal finance go about their spending without a budget? I practice (what I call, not sure if there’s a formal term…) value based spending. To me, it is the most important principle in personal finance, and the one thing everyone should be aware of. What you spend your money on is a true reflection of your values. No exceptions. (The same can be said of your time, but that’s a topic for another day). So, consider what your values are, and spend accordingly. Simple, right?

Or maybe not so simple, because people can have little or no idea what their values are, and when they do feel like they have certain values, a reflection on whether their spending habits actually align with their “values” can be a difficult thing to reconcile.

  • Do you spend more money on charity or on shoes?
  • Do you save for financial security or take on debt to buy things you can’t afford?
  • Do you value things or experiences more?
  • How much money have you made in your lifetime and what do you have to show for it now?

So how does value based spending allow Kaitlyn and I to quit our jobs and travel for a year (without a budget)? First and foremost, we value freedom. As long as we were dependent on our work related incomes, we weren’t free. We were wage slaves to our employers. So, we spent money on ourselves (i.e. saved a high percentage of our income), so that we had enough savings to afford our (temporary) freedom. Second, we value frugality. Given our frugal nature, we can spend freely without a budget knowing that our savings provides us with enough of a buffer. (If you value luxuries over basics, and convenience over frugality, then save (or budget) accordingly).

Meditate on what you value (or want to value), then see if your spending aligns with it. If it doesn’t, ask yourself why not, then take action.

While we may be travelling without a budget, that doesn’t mean we don’t track our spending as we go. Just as I do at home, I am meticulously recording our spending on this trip. An important part of value based spending is tracking your spending so you can review and reflect on whether your spending aligns with your values. When things don’t align, you have the information to make the necessary adjustments so that your spending better reflects your values.

We’ll have future posts with details on our spending (maybe 1 post per country?). Hopefully, those posts can help you with planning your own trips and allow you to set a budget (if you happen to be one of those people who’s good with using budgets).

For those who are curious, I’ll also share what software I’m using and maybe post a spreadsheet or two. I’m sure you’re all dying to know what this is for: