Fall Budget: $50/day for Family Travel Expenses in SE Asia

$50_day_ Family Gap Year Budget-2

The top 2 questions we get when we’ve told people we’re heading out to do some longer term travel as a family are:

  1. How can you afford that?
  2. What are you doing for health insurance?

We’re planning to lay out all our finances on this site, to give those who are curious insight into our real costs and income and how we afford it.

Our numbers may shift as we go, but I will continue to post with accurate financial information, including our monthly expenses.

In our 8+ years of marriage, we’ve actually never had a budget. I don’t necessarily recommend that to others, we just both happen to be natural cheapskates so we have lived beneath our means. Also Micah is an avid dumpster diver and helps supply our family with a decent amount of groceries.

We’ve never had corporate salaries–in fact we never had a period of marriage with both of us working. So we’ve either lived off of my salary when Micah was in grad school (~$32,000 plus we did get some money from the GI Bill for housing expenses), or since having kids, we’ve lived off of Micah’s RN salary, which was about $70,000 a year.

The short answer to how we can afford it is this:

  1. We have a few income streams to provide (limited) income
  2. We have a bunch of miles and points saved up (About 2 million)
  3. We have an emergency savings fund ($35,000, which represents 6 months of income at Micah’s most recent salary)
  4. Our retirement savings are in good shape.
  5. We’re planning to live frugally (which is the norm for us anyway) and travel to places with a lower cost of living.

Income Streams:

Our income will drop significantly while we travel. Neither of us has a remote job at this point. Our plan is to have a few income streams.

Rental Income: $900/month
This is from an investment property we own.

Airbnb Income: $400/month
We turned our house into an Airbnb. We hope to gradually raise our prices as we get more reviews.

Investment Income: $400/month
This is based on a 8% return on the $60,000 we have to invest for income. I’m actually not planning to invest the money in traditional ways yet, but that’s the return we are aiming to beat. For Fall 2019, we are going to focus on opening new bank accounts in order to get new account bonuses. Bonuses typically range from $200-$500 for opening new accounts and so in August we have opened new accounts with Citi, Wells Fargo, and Chase.

For starting off, that’s $1700 total income per month.

We also start with a cushion, as Micah will be paid out for all his remaining PTO (he has 5 weeks saved), so real budgeting will actually begin in sometime in September 2019.

We plan to start building other income streams that will allow us to keep traveling, should we want to–like this blog! We’ve also looked into agencies like VIPKid that allow you to teach English online to kids, and pay is about $20/hour. Not much to cover expenses in the US, but on our travels, it would be a good chunk.

When we’re home, we’ve always been into various side hustles — selling things on eBay or Craigslist or attending focus groups where we get paid to give our opinions so we will continue those for the months we are home.


Miles and Points: As of July 2019 – 2.1 million points
This is for both Micah & I, across all points programs. Here’s our snapshot from AwardWallet* (referral code), which we use to track our points.
Screen Shot 2019-07-05 at 3.05.18 PM
People have lots of ways that they value points, but 1 cent a point is pretty conservative, so we figure our 2 million are worth a minimum of $20,000 in travel. This represents about 4 years of saving points through credit card churning for us (though that whole time, we were spending points, too, for a value of $5000 – $10,000 of travel per year).

Cash Savings: ~$35,000
About $10,000 of this is earmarked (at least mentally) for property repairs that may come up while we travel, the rest is general savings/emergency fund. We’re hoping not to use our savings on our trip, but know it is there should the need arise.

Retirement Savings: ~$215,000
We both started contributing to retirement accounts when we were 22. In our mid-30s we have about $215,000 in a variety of 401k, IRA and Roth IRA accounts. With the 30 years we have for this money to grow until we are allowed to withdraw this money, we estimate it will be worth over $2million by the time we’re ready to retire (estimating a 8% return, compounded over time).

Even if we don’t contribute any more to our accounts, we’re comfortable with that level of retirement savings.

General Investments: ~$60,000
We recently sold an investment property and walked away with a healthy profit. We used about $30,000 to pay off another investment property so that our rental income would be higher while we travel. $60,000 will be used to invest in the stock market for income. In the fall, instead of investing it, we are actually just using it to open up bank accounts that offer a bonus for new accounts, which is the same rate of return as our investment expectations.


At this point, we are trying to budget $1760 a month for all of our expenses.

That money stretches farther because when we use points, we don’t count them towards our expenses.

Our fixed costs are:

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We’re budgeting $50/day for travel expenses, so $1500/month for lodging, food, transportation, entertainment. We’re currently looking at lodging costs of about $25/night in South East Asia, and we expect to cover most transportation with points. We are also mixing in some couchsurfing and hopefully some housesitting to further keep our accommodation costs down. Some hotel stays will also be covered with points.

If you’re doing your math, you will see that our expected expenses already exceed our expected income by about $60 a month.

$1760/month is a pretty tight budget for us and we are hoping to develop additional income streams to be able to have some breathing room. I also haven’t yet allocated a budget item for US-based health insurance, which is a little more complicated for us until Jan 1. Because we sold a rental property in 2019, our income is too high to qualify us for ACA subsidies. We are waiting to get final numbers from COBRA insurance info before we make our decision.

But also, in 2019, we’re actually trying to control our income this year so we can stay in the 0% tax bracket for capital gains for our property sale (which is calculated differently than income for ACA subsidies…all very confusing….thankfully we have a great accountant)

Our goal for the year is to travel without dipping into savings, but we feel comfortable with our savings, knowing that they are there to fall back on in case of an emergency.

Monthly Budget Reports:

September 2019: $83/day; Amed, Bali

August 2019: $40/day; Jakarta & Yogyakarta, then Amed, Bali

6 thoughts on “Fall Budget: $50/day for Family Travel Expenses in SE Asia”

  1. This level of transparency is so refreshing. Thanks for being so vulnerable with this sensitive info and for bringing us all on the ride. We love you guys!

    1. Thanks, Rob. You may feel differently about our willingness to be vulnerable when you see Micah’s upcoming website…Speedo Dad. 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Best Cardigan for Travel (wear it 30 ways!) [+ promo code] - Katie's Travel Tricks

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