Slow Travel Cost per Month

We kept track of every expense for our first 6 months of slow travel and we ran the numbers to see just how much this lifestyle costs.

These expenses are for two people and they include everything: lodging, restaurants, groceries, airfare, tour tickets…even Amelia’s hair care and facials.

Throughout the video, we share money-saving tips to help you travel on a budget.

Watch Our Video About Our Slow Travel Costs

Slow Travel Cost Details

These numbers are for our first 6 months of full time travel, starting in Matosinhos, Portugal on October 21, 2023 and ending in Kotor, Montenegro on April 29, 2024.

In the video, I said it was 6.3 months, but that included our 9 nights in the USA, which we decided to omit from the video and this analysis. With those 9 nights omitted, this analysis is for 181 nights, which I rounded to 6 months to keep the math simple.

Because of this change, these numbers are a little different than the video. However, they are more accurate.

Category Total Total/Month % of Total
 Lodging  $   13,692  $            2,282 45%
 Restaurants  $      4,498  $                750 15%
 Groceries  $      3,796  $                633 12%
 Airfare  $      2,295  $                383 8%
 Health Insurance  $      1,425  $                238 5%
 Clothing & Shoes  $      1,344  $                224 4%
 Taxis & Uber  $          982  $                164 3%
 Healthcare  $          739  $                123 2%
 Tour Tickets  $          461  $                   77 2%
 Hair & Nails  $          353  $                   59 1%
 Misc Shopping  $          184  $                   31 1%
 Train  $          151  $                   25 0.5%
 TV & Music  $             93  $                   15 0.3%
 Coffee  $             90  $                   15 0.3%
 eSIM  $             84  $                   14 0.3%
 Snacks  $             75  $                   12 0.2%
 Tourist Tax  $             42  $                      7 0.1%
 Other  $             35  $                      6 0.1%
 Coworking  $             21  $                      4 0.1%
 Metro & Trams  $             13  $                      2 0.0%
 Total   $   30,375  $            5,062

During our first 6 months in Europe, we stayed in:

  • Portugal – 16 nights
  • Spain – 31 nights
  • Rome – 12 nights
  • Athens – 26 nights
  • Albania – 77 nights
  • Montenegro – 28 nights

In the video, we mentioned two hotels (Sheraton in Matosinhos and CUE in Podgorica). After reviewing the data, we forgot to mention a two night hotel stay in Seville due to a travel planning error.

We booked our AirBnB in Seville before we booked our flight from Porto without realizing the airline didn’t fly every day of the week. The Porto AirBnB was booked after our stay, so couldn’t extend our stay and ended up leaving a day early, which meant we paid for a night in an AirBnB that we didn’t use.

Additionally, we paid for two nights in a hotel in Seville to cover us until we could check-in to the AirBnB there (the flight from Porto arrived too late for us to check-in to the AirBnB so we had already planned to stay one night in the hotel).

That was a costly mistake that we (hopefully) won’t make again. Now, we always book our transportation before we reserve a place to stay.

Final Thoughts…

After fixing the error in our calculations, our average monthly expenses are now over $5K, which has us both freaking out a little.

We could definitely save money by eating out less and not ordering wine at dinner. If we didn’t have a YouTube channel that constantly needs new content, we could stay places longer and negotiate lower rates for lodging.

But the biggest savings will come from focusing our time in lower cost destinations like the Balkans, SE Asia and Latin America.

Our single biggest expense is lodging: 45% of the total. By staying in lower cost countries, we can significantly reduce that expense. Our AirBnB’s in Athens and Albania were almost half the cost of similar places in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Montenegro. Based on our research, SE Asia will be even less than Albania.

Thanks to our new accounting firm (Taxes For Expats), we re-filed our taxes for the past 3 years and got a nice chunk of change back from the IRS. That’s helping fund our travels and has kept us from going into debt to finance them, but we can’t rely on that “found money” in the future.

The bottom line is that Western Europe is a lot more expensive than other places and it’s not in our budget for long-term stays. France really blew our budget, but even Spain and Portugal cost a lot more than the places we have on our future travels list.

The “vacation” is over. It’s time to start acting like it.

See Also: Top 30 Expat Countries Quest

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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Schengen Zone Travel Hacks

A lot of our viewers asked about the Schengen Zone tourist visa in Europe and how it works. We were confused about the specifics before we started traveling through Europe and had the same questions too! That’s why we’re explaining the Schengen visa functionality and how to hack it to make the most of your time in Europe.

Designed to facilitate seamless travel within participating European countries, the Schengen visa simplifies border crossings and procedures for tourists and business travelers. Here’s an in-depth look at how the Schengen visa works starting with:

What is the Schengen Visa

The Schengen visa is a travel document that grants holders entry, transit, or stays in any of the 29 Schengen Area countries for 90 days within a 180-day period. These countries have mutually agreed to abolish internal borders and implement common entry and exit policies.

That means you can travel between the countries the same way you travel between states in the U.S.; they are domestic flights.

If you’re traveling from a pre-approved country, such as the United States or Canada, you  don’t have to apply for the visa before your visit. You get it automatically at the first port of entry.

You get your passport stamped upon arrival and you MUST get it stamped when you’re leaving the Schengen area so you have physical proof of the days you entered and left the zone.

Travelers can move between the 29 Schengen countries for 90 days then must exit the zone (go to a non-Schengen country) for another 90 days. After 90 days outside of the zone you can go back and start the 90 days in Schengen zone all over again.

The 29 members of the Schengen Area are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

European Countries that are NOT in the Schengen Zone:

  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Belarus
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Cyprus
  • Georgia
  • Ireland
  • Kosovo
  • Moldova
  • Montenegro
  • North Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • United Kingdom

Countries Close to Europe that are NOT in the Schengen Zone:

  • UAE (Dubai, Abu Dhabi)
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • Türkiye

How it Works

The 180-Day Period: The 180-day period is a rolling timeframe that begins on the day you first enter the Schengen Area. It is not limited to calendar months or visa validity dates.

The 90-Day Calculation: During any 180-day period, you can stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days. These 90 days can be consecutive or cumulative, depending on your travel patterns.

Cumulative Stay: If you enter the Schengen Area multiple times within the same 180-day period, your stay is calculated by adding up the total number of days spent in the region. Once you reach 90 days of stay within the 180-day period, you must leave the Schengen Area or obtain a long-stay visa or residence permit if you wish to stay longer.

Schengen Example 1

You enter the Schengen Area on January 1st and stay for 30 days.

After leaving, you return on March 1st and stay for another 60 days.

In this scenario, you have used up your 90-day allowance within the 180-day period. You must wait until the 180-day period resets before returning to the Schengen Area without exceeding the 90-day limit.

Schengen Example 2

You enter the Schengen Area on May 1st and stay for 45 days, departing on June 15th.

After a brief trip outside the Schengen Area, you return on July 10th and stay for 30 days, leaving on August 9th.

You then return once more on October 1st and stay for 15 days, departing on October 15th.

In this scenario:

From May 1st to June 15th: 45 days

From July 10th to August 9th: 30 days

From October 1st to October 15th: 15 days

Total days within the 180-day period: 45 + 30 + 15 = 90 days

Since you have reached the maximum 90-day allowance within the 180-day period, you must wait for the 180-day period to reset before returning to the Schengen Area without exceeding the 90-day limit.

How We Are Traveling

We’re doing 3 months in and 3 months out to keep it simple and efficient. We like to do short hops and minimize plane travel. Our journey began in Portugal and from there we went to Spain, Italy, and Greece. At the end of our 90 days we went to Albania and Montenegro for the 90 days outside of Schengen.

Once our 90 days outside are completed, we’re going to start all over again, visiting more countries in the Schengen zone.

Simple Schengen Itineraries

Here are some simple country itineraries to get you started:

Western Europe

If Western Europe is more your cup of tea, start in Portugal and stay for 3 months or spend a month there, a month in Spain and a month in France.

If you end up in Paris, you take the train to London at the end of the 90 days because the UK and Ireland are NOT in the Schengen Zone!

The UK has a 6-month tourist visa for Americans and Ireland has a 90-day tourist visa.

That means you can stay in one country or split your 90 days between them before returning to Schengen Zone.

You can also go from north to south and end up in Spain or Portugal. From there, it’s a short flight to Morroco where you can stay for 90 days on a tourist visa.

Eastern Europe

Western Europe is great, but it’s also a lot more expensive so if you’re on a tight budget, Eastern Europe might be a better option.

Start your journey in Southern Italy in a place like Sicily or Puglia and then take a ferry to Greece.

When your 90 days are up, you can go to Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia, North Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo or even Turkey.

Albania has a 1-year tourist visa for Americans and the other countries in this region offer 90-day tourist visas.

That means you can spend your entire 90 days in one country or split your time between multiple countries.

Schengen Travel Hack

Use this  Schengen Travel Hack to live in Europe for a year or longer without the hassle or expense of applying for residency.

Live in  the Schengen zone for 90 days continuously, exit the zone for 90 days, and then re-enter through 1 of the Schengen countries.

That’s it! But be sure to keep track of your dates so you don’t overstay and face fines or other penalties.

You can use this Schengen Area Calculator to help with your planning.

We recommend Leaving a buffer of 5 days on both ends in case flights get canceled or you can’t travel for whatever reason (that’s what we’re doing, better to be safe than sorry!).

For example, if you’re traveling through a Schengen country and your flight gets canceled you’ll have to go through customs and that will add a day to your time within the zone.

Getting stuck in a Schengen country during transit due to adverse weather or another issue counts towards your time inside the zone. Therefore you might accidentally overstay your visa and you’ll face fines or other penalties, so plan carefully!

Travel Health Insurance

Make sure to have travel insurance for health care emergencies. Check with your current insurance company first because they may offer additional coverage. If not, a couple of good options are Insured Nomads and Safety Wing.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the intricacies of the 90/180 rule is crucial for seamless travel throughout Europe. Follow these guidelines and plan your itinerary accordingly.  By doing so, you’ll make the most of your time in the Schengen Area while complying with immigration regulations. Plus you can live the dream of living full time in Europe!

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

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AirBnB Alternatives for Digital Nomads

As numerous cities worldwide enact stricter regulations or outright bans on short-term rentals available on platforms like AirBnB, VRBO, and Booking.com, long-term travelers and digital nomads are feeling the crunch.

The recent near-total ban in New York City is just the tip of the iceberg with similar regulations already enacted in Vienna, Florence, Paris, Berlin, Bali, and other popular destinations.

While platforms like AirBnB were once the go-to solution, offering affordability and a chance to live like a local, the surge in extra fees, decreasing customer focus, and gentrification have travelers exploring other avenues.

The Evolution of AirBnB

Picture of a couple checking into an AirBnB.In the beginning, AirBnB was a boon for locals, allowing them to rent out their spaces and improve their quality of life while also boosting the local economy.

However, it’s not the traveler-friendly, affordable, and customer-focused platform it once was. A plethora of extra fees and common scams have become synonymous with the service since it went public in 2020.

Meanwhile, corporations and investors have purchased hundreds of properties in popular areas contributing to gentrification, which is pricing locals out of long-term rentals in the places they’ve always called home.

AirBnB Still Offers Benefits

The pros of AirBnB are still relevant, especially for long-term travelers and digital nomads:

  • They provide more space and a more home-like feel than a hotel.
  • They’re still often more affordable than a hotel in the same area, especially for longer term stays.
  • They allow you to “live like a local” in authentic neighborhoods.
  • They offer the opportunity to save money by cooking meals rather than eating out three times per day.

Our AirBnB Tips

We read the bios of the AirBnB hosts before we book because we like to rent from a local instead of a property management company. In general, if the host is managing multiple properties we assume they are part of a larger company. We try to rent from someone with 1 or just a couple of properties.

If you are a heavy internet user message the host ahead of time and ask for a screenshot of the up and download speeds to make sure the internet will meet your needs. (We’ve learned this one the hard way!)

Make sure to read all the reviews and do a search for things like stairs, elevator, or wifi if those things are important to you. Don’t hesitate to ask the host questions before you commit!

Despite the benefits of AirBnB, gentrification, extra fees, inconsistent quality standards, security concerns, hidden cameras, unreliable reviews, and inflexible check-ins and checkouts beg the question: Are there any better alternatives to AirBnB?

Watch Our Video About Alternatives to AirBnB

Exploring the Alternatives to AirBnB

If you’re a long-term traveler or digital nomad, here are several options that might work if you’re ready for a break from AirBnB.

Other Short-Term Booking Sites

Platforms such as VRBO, Booking.com, and Hotels.com offer alternatives but largely present the same listings and similar rates as AirBnB.

While they do have some lower fees for guests and some offer enticing rewards programs, their contribution to gentrification is similar to AirBnB, and customer service and guarantees may not be as good.

Social Media “Classifieds”

Some travelers are turning to local short-term rental listings found on social media groups and sites like Facebook, Reddit, Craigslist, and GringoPost (in Cuenca, Ecuador). Most cities around the world have similar online options to find short-term rentals.

These provide a chance to deal directly with local owners and potentially secure better deals, especially on longer-term stays of a month or more.

However, scams are common and the lack of protection or guarantees, along with the need for upfront payment or security deposits, can be risky. Do you research and ask for references.

Hotels

A man checking into a hotel with a woman smiling at the reception desk.A more conventional approach is reverting back to hotel stays. Hotels offer a consistency in service, security, and amenities like pools and gyms, along with rewards programs and daily housekeeping services.

However, they usually come with a heavier price tag and lack a homey ambiance and kitchen facilities so you might be stuck eating out every meal, which can significantly elevate travel expenses.

Some hotels include breakfast for an extra fee, usually $10 per day. However, if you eat out three times per day, it can easily add up to $50/day or $1,500/month in extra travel expenses per person.

Combined with the extra lodging fees and lack of month-stay discounts, hotels are not a viable option for most long-term travelers.

Marriott Homes & Villas

Marriott Homes & Villas (not a sponsor) blend the hotel quality with a home-like ambiance in condos, single family homes and villas. However, they’re a lot more expensive than AirBnB and hotels, and they often lack hotel amenities like a restaurant, bar, pool, gym, etc.

Despite offering a more homey feel like AirBnB, they still contribute to gentrification due to corporate ownership of local properties.

ApartHotels or Extended Stay

Exterior view of Gran Colombia Suites ApartHotel in Cuenca Ecuador.ApartHotels are emerging as a popular middle-ground, combining the benefits of both hotels and AirBnB.

In the United States where the franchise model abounds, places like Extended Stay America, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, Choice Hotels, and others have a studio apartment feel with small kitchens, but are typically more expensive than a hotel.

In other countries, locally owned ApartHotels are generally more affordable, secure, offer kitchen facilities, and provide a platform to meet other travelers in common areas.

However, the quality and size of accommodations can vary, usually being smaller and more basic compared to full apartments.

We stayed at both Apartamentos Otorongo and Gran Colombia Suites in Cuenca, Ecuador. They were similar in price to AirBnB condos in the area and units in both places had small kitchens, but they offered more of a secure hotel feel than AirBnB.

Hostels

Several young men and women talking to each other while sitting in a room with bunk beds at a hostel.Hostels present a cheaper and more social alternative, particularly favored by younger travelers.

They offer a communal atmosphere, reliable reviews, and some have communal kitchens.

However, they often come with shared bathrooms and bunk beds, a possible party atmosphere, and generally fewer amenities compared to hotels.

Final Thoughts…

In the ever-evolving landscape of short-term rentals, there is no perfect solution, but you might be able to find a balance that works for you.

ApartHotels offer the best of both worlds with a more homey feel and a kitchen for cooking while providing some of the benefits of hotels.

Or, you can book a short hotel stay upon arrival in a new area and then look for a short-term rental through local sources to blend comfort, experience, and budget.

With the rise in regulations, staying informed and adaptable is crucial in finding the perfect home away from home, whether it be a hotel, hostel, ApartHotel, or a short-term rental platform like AirBnB.

DISCLOSURE: THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS, MEANING WE GET A COMMISSION IF YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH OUR LINKS. THERE IS NO COST TO YOU AND SOMETIMES YOU'LL EVEN GET A DISCOUNT BY USING OUR LINK. PLEASE READ OUR DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

 

Download the FREE Live Abroad Checklist

Enter your email address to receive helpful and timely information about living abroad, slow travel, having more freedom, and living life on YOUR terms!

You'll also get immediate access to our FREE Live Abroad Checklist, which will help you get focused and ensure you don't miss anything important as you embark on this amazing life transformation!