Why our trip to Asia 2011 will cost $10,000 each person

I mentioned recently that BF did the preliminary budget per person, and came out to $9700 per person for our trip which includes food, lodging, transportation and flights but not personal shopping.

I told him I had already expected to spend about $10,000 total.

The majority of responses I received to that $10,000 figure were mostly of the following:

  • HOLY CRAP! Are you going to Asia for a YEAR?!?
  • How can it be $10,000 per person!? I could go for MUCH cheaper than that to Asia!
  • You sure spend a lot of money on traveling
  • That’s half my income a year (relatively speaking, a lot of money)

And so on.

It is definitely a lot of money but this post is not to defend my spending (frankly it’s my money, so… :P), but more to explain and clarify why it is costing $10,000 to go to Asia.

I wouldn’t just throw $10k around lightly and go on some wild shopping spree, but for traveling to new places? Heck yes.

Let’s clear up a couple of things first.

$10,000 = 4 Countries. 7 Cities. 45 nights.


  • Tokyo, Japan – 7 nights
  • Kyoto, Japan – 5 nights
  • Beijing, China – 5 nights
  • Shanghai China – 7 nights
  • Hong Kong* – 7 nights
  • Macau* – One-day trip included in Hong Kong
  • Singapore – 14 nights
*I know Hong Kong and Macau are technically “China”, but I still consider Hong Kong and Macau as a cities in one separate country because I’m used to it. They even use the Hong Kong dollar in both cities or the Macanese pataca, not the Chinese yuan.


I don’t own a home, I drive an old minivan that cost me $1800 in cash to purchase, and I wouldn’t call myself frugal so much as I’d call myself spending conscious.

(Let’s face it, a frugal person wouldn’t have so many laptops or external hard drives :P)

As it is with my philosophy towards minimalism, I only spend on what I consider important, and travel is one of my top 5 spend categories.

I always believe that you put your money where your mouth is, so if you say that traveling is important but you actually spend more money on eating out or shopping, well. 🙂

If you track your spending for a year you will find that your priorities always reveal themselves in the  top 5 categories of spending.

In my Fabulously Broke year 2010 spending review, here are my priorities:

  1. Savings: $130,100
  2. Rent: $4735.87
  3. Electronics: $3504.20
  4. Groceries: $2928.01
  5. Travel: $2673.61

Judging from where I spent my money last year, I love to save, live with a roof over my head bundled up with my gadgets, eat food and travel.

I didn’t travel as much as I had wanted in 2010, but that’s because I had to work to deliver to my clients, so BF jet-setted off to the rest of Europe without me and spent about $5000.


We are young without kids (yet).

We have solid savings.

We can afford it.

We’ve already “paid” for our basic living expenses for the year from working a few months each in 2011.

We have the time and have the rest of 2011 to travel.

..so if I am going to get in a plane and fly for 15+ hours to another continent, I am not leaving until I’m ready to!

We are going to make sure we go to all of our #1 picks (mine is Japan and Singapore, his is China and Singapore) and make the most of already being on the continent.

It’s more efficient and it saves money rather than traveling back to each individual country at separate times.


Despite what people think, not all of Asia is “dirt-cheap”.

I know we watch documentaries and think that Asia is dirt cheap compared to North America or Europe, but it simply isn’t true for the entire continent.

Sure, if I went to Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia I could go for much cheaper, but going to Japan and Singapore? Forget about it.

If you don’t have relatives in those countries and you want to be centrally located within walking distance (or subway distance) to the major sights, then you are going to pay at least $100/night for a hotel room or more.

I suppose if we were to move to a cheap Asian country, $10,000 a year is enough to live with like a king. I could buy a place outright.

But can you imagine me living in Tokyo, Japan on only $10,000 trying to buy, let alone rent a place for that amount for a year? Impossible!

They have such a limited amount of space and everything is at a premium there.

This is probably not scientifically accurate, but I can safely say that Tokyo is just as expensive as NYC, if not more.



I could stay for $10-$30/night per person (or less) in a hostel in any country, but I don’t want to travel like that.

I’m sure they’re clean and nice, but I feel much better having my own room with a door to share with BF, than to share a room with 6 other strangers I’ve never met before, no matter how nice they might end up being.

We also travel with expensive gear (cameras, laptop), and I don’t want it to disappear mysteriously.

I want to go on a REAL vacation and stay in a REAL hotel room and I am willing to pay for it.

I am not looking to spend like a rockstar at the Four Seasons, I also don’t want to go below a basic minimum, so the hotels we usually stay at are 2 or 3 stars and that is the lowest we will go for just a simple room with our own bathroom and a locked door.

Our favourite traveling brand that is both basic & clean are the Ibis Hotels (2 stars) if we can find it, and Novotels (3 stars).

However, if the Hard Rock or some other fancy 4 star hotel has a deal on for the same price, you can be sure we’d book it immediately.


Every year since I got out of debt, we go on a big trip(s). The following amounts are per person.

Our first trip together was $5000 going to Chicago, Boston, Dallas and NYC (about $1000 spend per person in each city, except for NYC which was $2000).

Then we went to Portugal for a summer, another $3000.

The following year, we went to Paris & Lyon in France, and London England for a month, which cost me $2700.

BF stayed longer and spend $5000 in total.

For me, $2700 to go to Europe for 4 weeks is dirt cheap, and the only reason why the trip was so cheap was because we had an apartment for free in Paris for 3 weeks, which saved at least 70 EUR per night.

So 70 EUR x 3 weeks = 1470 EUR that should have bumped the trip up to $5000 per person, without staying any longer.

And that’s only for 2 countries and 3 cities.

So you can see how I estimated that going for a month and a half to 4 countries and 7 cities would cost almost double.

We are not only flying overseas, but we wouldn’t have any friends or family to stay with to save on hotel costs.


Keep in mind that we are still splitting food & hotel in half.

Out of that $10,000 budget, I saw it breaking down like this per person for 45 nights in Asia:

Click on the image to make it larger

It would be even more expensive if BF or I were traveling alone, because we’d have to pay for 100% of the hotel cost rather than 50%.

It all adds up.

Once we book the actual flights and hotels, we will have a better idea of the two biggest expenses of our budget.


…but not for where we want to go, what we want to see and how we want to travel.

Where we do save the money is by:

  1. Staying in 2-3 star hotels, not 4 or 5 star — a minimum of basic  & clean
  2. Not going to restaurants daily and eating from grocery stores
  3. Not taking cabs  — we take public transportation where we can
  4. Trying to take the train or boat to travel — where reasonable
  5. Going to the must-see entertainment spots
  6. Understanding that this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing & not to go too cheap

Ultimately, it makes no sense for us to cheap out on a trip and be miserable staying in some sketchy hotel, or eating only rice and beans to save money.

The whole point of a trip is to have fun, spend a little (not too much) and really experience the country firsthand.

If not, I might as well stay at home and watch travel documentaries. 🙂

I hope that helps explain why it’s $10,000 to travel to Asia.

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.