Travel cheaply or lavishly, spend $30 or $100 a day, ship anywhere or stick to cheaper bike transport routes – all these things are individual choices, and there is no one perfect formula to fit all. However, planning the budget ahead means you’ve got certain clarity and control of how much you’re spending and where, and it helps to see a bigger picture and plan that epic ride. Here’s what you should factor in when planning your RTW budget:
Fuel, Food, And Accommodation
These are going to be your biggest expenses on the road. Even if you wild camp and cook your own meals most of the time, you’ll still be spending money on fuel, food, and shelter, and it’s best to have a rough estimate so you can plan around it.
Calculating fuel costs will depend on your mileage and bike. The more you plan to ride each day, the more you’ll be spending on gas; slow travel is always cheaper, but if you prefer doing long daily distances, the cost is inevitable.
Daily food budget can vary from $10 to $40 and more a day, depending on whether you cook for yourself, stick to cheap local eateries, or prefer more upscale places to dine.
Accommodation will depend on the countries you’re traveling through; in places like South America or Eastern Europe, expect to pay $20 a day for basic stays and $30-$40 for more comfortable hotels and AirBnBs.
However much you plan to spend, it helps to calculate averages rather than stick to day-to-day figures. This is because you’ll be spending more on some days and less on others; for example, you may be spending as little as $15 for a hotel room if you happen on a good find for a few days, but then part with $60 because you’ve arrived in a touristy town or a place with few options. The $15 days will average out the $60 days, so it’s easier to plan in averages rather than strict numbers.
How big should your maintenance budget be? It all depends on how mechanically minded you are and how reliable is your bike. If you’ll be taking the bike to a dealer’s for oil changes and brake pad replacements, budget the labor costs in; if you can fix and replace most things yourself, the expenses can be kept down.
Next, look at which parts you’re most likely to replace within a year. Chain and sprockets, brake pads, oil – things like that will need replacing fairly frequently, so factor it all in. With bigger repairs or replacements, it can be harder to plan ahead, but you can still predict the demise of your fork seals, clutch plates, and the like if you have a maintenance log or if you know your bike well enough.
The What If Stash
However well you plan, the unexpected is bound to happen, so budget that in in advance – even if you have no way of knowing what it’ll be. From serious breakdowns to medical emergencies, family visits, and major changes of plans, anything can happen, and it helps to have a bit of a cushion Just In Case. As an example, I had no idea my gear sprockets were so worn out I’d need to do a complete engine rebuild; the plan was to prep the bike for the first European rally races, but reality had other ideas and I had to unexpectedly part with more than $3,000 to refurbish the engine and replace a carb over the course of a few months. Owch.
How much you can set aside for the What If scenarios is up to you, but anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 is a good number for a peace of mind – that will get you on the first flight home in case of a family emergency or let you fix a serious bike issue if it arises.
Bare essentials aside, it helps to define your priorities when planning the budget. How do you want to spend your money? For some people, the focus may be bucket list off-bike activities along the way like helicopter flights over scenic landmarks, diving with sharks, surfing lessons, or bush plane journeys over safari parks. For others, it may be comfort, in which case the food and accommodation budget needs to be more generous. For me, it’s rally races along the way. Whatever it is, set your budget around the top two or three priorities, and cut the costs down on everything else: can you wild camp for a while to afford a skydiving course in Portugal, or would you rather stay in more comfortable hotels along the way and skip the Kenyan safaris? There are no right or wrong choices here, but it helps to be honest with yourself and plan around the priorities rather than trying to do it all and burning out, financially as well as mentally, during the process.
How do you plan your travel budgets? Share the tips in the comments below!