Money makes us go around?!
The most popular comment under some media coverage about us (except “wow, that is nice” and “poor kids with irresponsible parents” is: “oh my god, they must be so fuckin’ rich, travelling like this is not available for normal people”. It is, I’m telling you.
The costs of a family trip for few months to the other continent can be really high, I guess. But we are not those people who book hotels, take a rental car, pay for the tourists attractions and eat in the restaurants. But let me tell about costs step by step:
Visas: this part can take a lot of money and energy. Luckily for Polish and German people Central America is open without visas.
Insurance: can take away some of the budget. But this is the most important part of the trip: in case of accidents or problems, the insurance is really needed (on the last trip when our car broke down totally somewhere in Serbia – the insurance paid for our hotel and the transport home with all the luggage we had for 6 months). If you take a health insurance, check that it really includes a trip back home if you have to stay in hospital for longer.
To save money it’s worth to check if you can pause the payments to your local health insurance. What for paying if you won’t go to a doctor at home in this time.
Equipment: tents, sleeping bags, cooker, rain jackets etc. – all those you can also rent from your friends. Or if you look for a bit longer, find not a bad ones in ok prices, online or on discounts. In places like Central America you in general don’t need much: some shorts and t-shirts are fine.
Books: maps and travel guides are really useful thing to have but on the way, in some hostels or while meeting other travellers – you can always exchange books or get them for a really symbolic money.
Flat: this is really some money – to pay your rent back home while for few months you are not living in your flat. Every time we travel – we simply rent our flat, so we don’t have those serious costs.
Flights: the earlier you buy – cheaper it gets. We are usually doing things in last moment, so we overpaid our flights to Mexico. But it’s possible to get there even for only 150 euros!
2. The trip itself.
Transporting: because of our family style trip we love to travel by car. We are then totally independent, can start and stop anytime, we feel safe and have with us all we need: our bedroom, living room and kitchen with us. To make it clear, we are not fans of some mobile homes, big caravan cars, because we like this not-being-too-visible while crossing the villages.
Last time our car was an old Renault Espace, this time a Dodge Caravan. We prepare the cars in a way that, when the back seats are closed – we can build a big bed on them. We bought the car in Mexico at the beginning of our trip and sold it at the end. Of course not for the same price (this car was not the same anymore, after crossing crazy Guatemalan roads with us) but sold the car inner half a the day, just before taking the flight back home. All in all it was still muuuuch cheaper than renting a car (plus with a rented car you cannot cross all the borders). From the funny tips we can also recommend an idea of a couple we met: they transported their own car to Central America by ship BUT for a very small money. How? They contacted a Chichita company, which is bringing to Europe bananas. On the way back, from Europe, the ship is empty. So that is why their car for first few weeks was smelling like bananas!
Ok, petrol costs everywhere. But first of all – the petrol is still much cheaper than in Europe and secondly – we didn’t drive so much more than back home (to work, family or at the lake at the weekend).
Border crossings: here there are some costs with which you cannot really discuss. I have some notes somewhere, if somebody is interested in facts, askme by email.
Sleeping: most of our night we spend in the car. That”s for free. Other: in a tent (for free or on the camping almost for free), at the friend (old or friends-of-friends or new: we got invited by strangers or we contacted them by couchsurfing portal). Few nights, usually in bigger cities – we spend in some cheap hostels (and even this, if you count, is comparable with or even cheaper than the price of your flat for one night). And couchsurfing! Sometimes saved us, sometimes gave a great friendships.
Eating: this is an activity you do anyway: in exotic Guatemala or in your home city. Just with the difference that food in poor countries is much cheaper. As well in supermarkets as in a local bar. We were cooking a lot on our little cooker, but we were also trying local food. Plus we were sometimes invited for some meals.
Attractions: Instead of going to the cinema in your city – you pay for an entrance to some Maya ruins, instead of going to the swimming in your city – you pay for an entrance to some cenote (underground lake). On one hand it can cost a bit, but on the other – if you are there you want to see it and you can support by this a local community.
Other: Still at home we bought quite some small things (magnets, postcards, souvenirs) to take with us as gifts to people who host us, help us or just become our friends. We bought also a bit of presents for friends and family but that was also a good way of “giving” money to communities. This was not big money for us but it was a big money for them. We also gave away too small clothes of our girls and toys, to people in need.
Travelling-not working: This is an important thing to mention: during your travel you should count not only money you are spending but also the money you don’t earn at this time of travelling. And here we were really lucky. Because right now we are living in Berlin and our kids were born there – we have a right to obtain “Elterngeld” (money for a parent who is not working during first 12 months of your baby’s life, or even up to 14 months, if parents change at some point) and “Kindergeld” (a monthly amount of money for a kid, until he/she is 25 or until he/she finished studies). So those money are a enough-to-live income, when you travel to Central America (or like last time during our Around the Black Sea trip to Eastern Europe and Caucasus). Thanks to this money we didn’t have to collect anything in advance and there was money on our account when we came back home than when before we left.
3. After the trip.
There are travelers who make it possible to even earn of their travels: by selling things they brought home (like “special” clothes or materials, or wood, or many other things) or by publishing their articles and/or photos in magazines. We are also publishing a bit but it’s more nice coincidence and will to share things we saw and learn than earning money.
All in all, living on a trip can be cheaper than living at home. Maybe just the big question is how do you live at home and what are your priorities? What do you need to be happy?