Category Archives: Finances

6 months touring Scandinavia in our motorhome – how much did it cost?

6 months touring Scandinavia in our motorhome – how much did it cost?  A look at our spending, activity and overnights stats by month and by country. 

So, our 2017 Scandi trip; it wasn’t quite six months, but close – We had a total of 170 days away, from late-April until mid-October.  We left the UK via Harwich to Hook of Holland and travelled through the Netherlands to Germany before reaching our first Scandinavian country, Denmark.  A month there (to the day) and we ferried over to southern Norway to drive a wiggly route by fjords, mountains and tunnels to reach Trondheim, where we headed east to Sweden.  We crossed to the Baltic coast before turning north to eventually reach Juoksengi and our midnight time-travelling Arctic Circle Swim. From here, a straight run north to Tromso was followed by a visit to the Vesteralen and Lofoten islands, before turning sharply south all the way to Oslo.  We crossed back to Sweden and, via many lakes, we reached Stockholm then followed the coast to Malmö and back into Denmark.  A few further weeks exploring then led us back into northern Germany and the Netherlands, before heading home by the same route.

Our route map (sketch)

SCANDI TOUR - Route map sketch

Our Scandi trip overview in key figures:

Length of trip – 170 days
Countries visited – 6  (Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland)
Overall expenditure – €5419.37
Average daily cost – €31.88
Miles driven – 9087 ( Aaron – 4452 [49%], Nicky – 4635 [51%] )
Miles per gallon – 31.3
Cost per mile – €0.17p
Distance cycled – 596km
Distance walked – 619km
WorkAways undertaken – 4
Time-travelling swims – 1
Scandi Skinny dips – 16

Our Trip costs by category

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

The above image outlines our spending for this trip.  With the distance driven (9087 miles), it is of little surprise that diesel for Benny (29%) has been the biggest expense we encountered, closely followed by food shops (inc. booze) at 27%. The next largest cost, at 18%, has been our campsite fees, with many more stops in ASCI campsites than on previous trips.  Transport costs also featured highly, at 12%, as driving through Norway brought with it the necessity of many ferry journeys and also 953 NOK (billed so far) of road tolls.  Several bridges between neighbouring Danish islands also carry a hefty cost.

Our trip costs by country (with daily averages)

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

Note: Germany and Finland costs are not indicative of travel in those countries as both were transition countries where we filled up with diesel and undertook large food shops.

Our trip costs by month, with accommodation, exercise & driving stats

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

Our Accommodation / Stopover synopsis

We stayed in free aires where we could, but on this trip we were a lot more inclined to slip into the comfortable ease of a campsite when the opportunity arose.  Certain key places demanded it (Råbjerg Mile, Flåm, Melkevoll Bretun) but others we chose over available nearby free stops as we were passing during ASCI-applicable dates. We still only paid for around one third of our nights away, the rest being either wild camps or free aires.  Our take on the difference may be specific to us, but we only rate it as a true wild camp if we have found it ourselves without the CamperContact app (or similar).

EXPENDITURE - Scandinavia Tour-FINAL.xlsx

Accommodation pie chart – percentage of stays in each type of overnight stop

Almost two-thirds of our overnight stops were free (65%, or 111 out of 170 nights), with the remaining stays averaging out at a cost of €5.63 per night.  (a €957.07 total spend).

In summary, for the entire trip, from when we left home to our return all those months later, we spent a grand total of €5419.37, for an average daily cost of €31.88.  At current exchange rates that means the entire 170-day trip cost us around £4825.00, or, simply speaking, under £5000 all-in, which is much less than we had expected after all the horror tales of scandalous Scandinavian prices.  Back in our salaried years, we had on occasion spent more than that on a special two week holiday, so to be able to experience over 24 weeks of such varied, interesting and fun travel for a similar amount – bargain.

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Our first year full-timing in a motorhome – how much did it cost?

Our first year full-timing in a motorhome – how much did it cost? Here’s a look at the costs, annual and daily, associated with our chosen lifestyle choice. 

(4th September 2016 – 3rd September 2017)

It’s been a full year now since we took the plunge, leaving our professions, friends and family behind for life on the road.  We thought it might be useful to others who may be considering a similar lifestyle change to see, for their planning purposes, how much we’ve spent over a full year, and on what.

Of course, what we’re happy with on the road may not suit you, and vice versa, so we should say first that our spending levels are absolutely personal to us.  Our costs are at a level we’re comfortable with, and they suit our current financial situation; but everyone is different.  If required it would be possible to live on much less, with patience and frugality.  And it would certainly be very easy to spend much more too, if eating out, guided trips and expensive attractions are what interest you on your travels.

We like cooking, so eating out only very occasionally is fine for us.  Most of what we really enjoy doing is free, like hiking in the mountains, wild swimming, cycling off-road or running trails.  The one big exception to this is skiing, which is definitely an expensive week (or two) whatever way you look at it, even if bringing your own accommodation helps reduce the costs a little. We like seeing cultural sites too, but we’ve learned to be selective, as paying into every church, museum, fort, gallery or other attraction we pass would be exorbitant.  We have occasionally volunteered our time at WorkAway projects and these social, volunteer efforts offer a variation that invigorates us, offers a welcome change of scene and keeps our costs for that time at a minimum.  We also have a few winter house-sits coming up which will enable us to live a more rooted, normal life for a time, and allow a more detailed exploration of specific portions of rural France.

General Overall route – Europe map:  (red – first six months, blue – current Scandi tour)Route map - all trips

More detailed country Route Maps: (paper maps marked up by hand)

Our travels during our first year were split into two long trips of roughly six months (France, Spain & Portugal) and five months (Northern Europe and Scandinavia) respectively. We had a month or so in between where we returned to the UK for servicing, maintenance and a catch-up with friends and family.  We sneaked in a quick two week trip to Scotland (no map) during this time too. The Scandinavia trip is still on-going as our ‘one year on the road’ anniversary has fallen mid-travels.

We have tracked all our costs and distances as we travelled, noting down spending and mileage counts at driver changes or stops as they occurred.  We added these to a bespoke spreadsheet set up to record, count and analyse our activities month by month and county by country.  Synopsis tabs with some complex formula then collate each category into, hopefully, easy to understand tables or charts, for a quick overview.  Yes, indeed we do have too much time on our hands.

France / Spain / Portugal trip:

COSTS - FranceSpainPortugal

Scotland Trip:

COSTS - Scotland Tour

Scandinavia Trip:  (note: still on-going)

COSTS - Scandi tour

After the completion of our first six month trip we tweaked the spreadsheet categories a little, adding in new columns to allow for a more accurate breakdown of our spending. This meant the spend percentages between each portion of the trip were not perfectly aligned, but the spend totals remain unaffected and it’s these we have used for this post.  We also added in a column for type of accommodation, to track where we spend our nights.  Here’s a typical (actually, untypically expensive) month from our current spreadsheet (June 2017) , for interest.  (note our serious lack of cycling in Norway!)

COSTS - June 2017

FACILITATING COSTS:
Outside the daily costs of living on the road we also had many one-off or annually reoccurring costs that enabled the trip to proceed initially.  (note: these are all included in the totals and are shown here purely as examples of other costs that you will / may incur)

COSTS - Facillating

This doesn’t include purchasing our Benny (a new Benimar Mileo 201) in the first instance, so the cost of your chosen van, whether new or used, should also be factored in here.  All our ferry costs to and from mainland Europe, or within each country are included within the daily cost totals under the category ‘transport’.

We tracked everything in euros, as this was the predominant currency of our first six months and it made sense to continue with the same base.  All Scandinavian currency spends were recorded in euros at a fixed exchange rate, that of what it was when we first entered the country, so there may have been some fluctuation in value during our time (in either direction) that we didn’t capture.

Our annual totals by portion of year:

COSTS - synopsis table

 This equates to (at current exchange rates) an approximate spend of £13354.00 for our first year travelling in Europe, or an average spend of £36.59 per day, all in for us both.

On the Road spending pie:

COSTS - On the road spending

FOOD – Food from a supermarket/shop. Includes wine & beer, but not eating out
FUEL – Diesel for Benny
LPG – Propane gas for cooking, heating and running the fridge when not on sites
TRANSPORT – Tolls, vignettes, ferries, bridges, public transport & day parking 
EATING OUT – Eating & drinking in restaurants & bars (includes snacks & ice cream)
OVERNIGHT STAYS – Cost of sites, aires or parking overnight, where a cost applied
CLOTHING – This includes personal items such as clothes & shoes and laundry costs
ENTRY FEES– Entry fees for museums, galleries, castles, cathedrals and other events etc..  
MISC. – All other items not separately designated (from stamps to ski passes)

If we removed all the up-front facilitating costs and only looked at expenditure on the road, we are spending under €950, or £870, per month, and for the incredible experiences we’re having and the beautiful places we are seeing, this seems like a very good deal to us – long may it continue.

Our first six months – an activity and financial synopsis

Our first six months – an activity and financial synopsis

Following on from our First six months photographic synopsis, we decided to also create an activity and financial synopsis, to record the details of our life on the road to date:

As motorhoming newbies, going full-time in our very first van was quite a scary proposition at first.  Would we enjoy it?  How would we cope with the driving?  Would our budget be sufficient, or have we made any miscalculations?  How would we get on in such close confinement every day?  The answers would only be supplied by time, patience, prudence and experimentation.

We learned not to see our day-to-day life in our van as a holiday, but as a specific lifestyle choice that brings its own trials, complications and rewards.  We gave up a lot of valued possessions, personal comforts and money to gain the time, freedom and frugality we experience on the open road.  Along the way we’ve had our share of difficulties and headaches, made some mistakes, but these normal hiccups in our new lives have been the insignificant parts of a much larger and complex jigsaw puzzle we have been building slowly and rewardingly together over these past six months.

First Six Months - Route

The above image is a rough sketch of our route, from our initial arrival in Dieppe until we arrived back in Dieppe six months later.  In these first 184 days on the road, we have:

  • Driven 7071 miles, in three countries (not including England), for an average of 38 miles per day.  ( France – 3256 miles; Spain – 2756 miles; Portugal – 1059 miles. )
  • Had our fuel costs and driving efficiency (27.1 mpg) average out to around €0.19 per mile
  • Cycled 1040 kilometres, mostly off-road, with 30 outings on our bikes
  • Walked over 500 kilometres (GPS tracked) and more urban kilometres that weren’t recorded

As mentioned previously in our80 days’ synopsis post, we tracked all money spent on the road, because we wanted to ensure this is a fully sustainable way of life for us.  We created an over-complicated multi-tab excel spreadsheet, a good sign of much too much time on our hands, that we used every day to input distances travelled and costs incurred.  We then compared what we spent our money on from month to month and from country to country, and tracked all our outgoings in specifically defined categories, as detailed below:

FOOD – Food bought from a supermarket / shop. This includes wine and beer, but not eating out
FUEL – Diesel for Benny
LPG – Propane gas for cooking, heating and running the fridge when not on sites
TRANSPORT – Tolls, vignettes, ferries, bridges, public transport & parking when not overnighting
EATING OUT – Eating and drinking out in restaurants and bars (also includes snacks and ice creams)
OVERNIGHT STAYS – Cost of sites, aires or parking overnight, where a cost applied
ENTERTAINMENT – Entry fees for museums, galleries, castles, cathedrals, attractions and other events etc..
Note: This final category also includes personal items such as clothes, shoes, laundry and other misc. items

The current ratio of our spending is as per the image below:

six month finances - including skiing

The final category, the loosely defined ‘Entertainment’, has proved to be the most problematic for us, as it became the place to dump in all costs not otherwise specified.  This category then became massively skewed by the inclusion of a week’s skiing in Serre Chevalier, as this added the equivalent cost of around six weeks of travel into just one week.  If we removed all the main costs associated with our full week of skiing, including purchasing ski chains, lift passes, ski and pole hire and the ski aire camping costs, we would instead have:

six month finances - without skiing

Our ‘by country’ cost averages worked out as:
77 days in France –   €60 / day (inc. skiing)  or €46 / day with skiing trips excluded.
75 days in Spain –     €29 / day
31 days in Portugal -€25 / day

It’s clear that by removing skiing from the equation the general theme remains, as before, that feeding ourselves is the biggest expense, followed by diesel for travel, with every other category of expenses lagging far behind.  But in general, we’re comfortable with our pace, our spending and our level of activity throughout. All is going well and looking fully sustainable going forward.

Our next long trip, beginning in a few weeks at the end of April, is east and north, for a touch of Midnight Sun. We plan to ferry to the Hook of Holland and drive through the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark before crossing to explore Sweden, Norway and Finland.  We definitely will continue to track all costs and miles, writing up posts and recording our experiences as we go, keeping active and living as we originally planned.

80 days around the W…est of Europe

So, we thought it might be interesting to post a quick synopsis of our first 80 days on the road, to capture how we’re getting on to date.  As I’m sure was the same for Mr Fogg, some days it feels like we’ve been on the move for a lot longer than we have, other days it’s like we’ve barely started and have only scratched the surface of our visiting potential.  Our days are still jam-packed with interests and activities, but time is still marching by much faster than we’d like.

Here’s a rough approximation of our route so far;  beginning in Lincolnshire, then heading first down the west coast of France, across northern Spain, into Portugal and zigzagging south until we reached the Algarve, then east back into southern Spain.  We’re currently in Granada as we post this update, on day 80 of our trip.

80-days-route-map

We’re tracking every penny spent whilst away on the road, because we want to see if it’s a fully sustainable way of life for us.  We can then compare what we spend our money on and track if our outgoings in specific areas need to be tweaked.  Also, because I’m a bit of a statistics geek and like to play with our growing spreadsheets to see what conclusions can be formed from the information gathered, all manner of comparisons of costs across months and countries can be made.

So far we have spent less than our initial projected budget; Portugal has been the cheapest country to date, with 31 days of travelling there with an average spend of just over €25 per day.  This was over 35% below our original budget projections, so we are proving to be more frugal on the road than our starting expectations.  This is definitely a good thing as it allows us a surplus for unseen surprises and unexpected costs if and when they occur.

Unsurprisingly, food and provisions brought from supermarkets is our highest cost item, run close with diesel for Benny.  The percentage spend on diesel will no doubt diminish over the coming months as we covered a lot of miles in France in a hurry, and our pace of moving on since then has dropped significantly.

So, in these first 80 days on the road, we will have:

– Driven in excess of 3700 miles, in three countries (not including England), for an average of 46 miles driven per day.  We’ve split the driving fairly equally ( A-1889, N-1831 to date)

– Had our fuel costs and driving efficiency (27.6 mpg) average out to around €0.17 per mile

– Parked Benny in 51 different overnight stops (39 nights in free aires, 28 nights in paid aires, 6 nights in campsites, 5 nights outside a friend’s apartment, 2 nights at friend’s houses) and many more for local day parking stops

– Cycled over 650 kilometres, mostly off-road, with 18 outings on our bikes (including 7 rides of at least 50km)

– Walked over 340 kilometres (GPS tracked) and probably a lot more kilometres that weren’t specifically recorded

– Swam a lot less than we wanted to / should have, but the Atlantic seas have been wild and pools mostly closed for winter

– Had our sketchbooks out on only four occasions (a figure that definitely needs to change going forward)

– Realised that Portuguese, whilst looking similar to Spanish, in no way sounds like it is written when spoken.  But also, we’ve found that a lot of Portuguese people speak decent French (but not Spanish), so that’s been helpful.

Budgeting

Shopping for food is much the same as at home, with the exception of cheeses, which are sometimes silly expensive and often awful.  We’ve recently found that Lidl stores are the more dependable in terms of cheese supply, and do often stock cheddar, salad cheeses and feta for sensible prices, so we stock up there where we can.

Some other items are much cheaper than at home; for example:

We recently bought a litre of red wine for €0.69, another litre for €0.89 and a third, this one a premium label, for €1.10.  We thought it best to try each of the available levels, to see which is better, or at least our favourite.  That’s three litres of red wine for €2.68, or as that volume equates to four standard 750ml bottles, a cost of €0.67 each.  That is, at the time of writing, a whopping average bottle cost of 57p.  This immediately makes us wonder at both the quality of this product, but also the level of mark-up included on a standard bottle of wine available at home.

The first litre was rather poor; it was 10%, but looked and tasted less, more like a red that had been cut with water to dilute it for volume, with no expectation of taste.  To be fair, we weren’t expecting much, and got exactly what we paid for.  The second was actually a lot better, a 12% deep, fruity red that was reasonably tasty and went down very nicely.  The third, the premium label, was quite different, sharp and bitter, and neither of us were left impressed.  So, we found our ‘everyday’ wine – a €0.89 per litre red from Don Simon (or occasionally Peñasol).  This certainly keeps our costs down, as now our favourite (cheap) biscuits cost more than a bottle of red.  It’s also become a joking marker for any other expenses we have; a €3.50 parking charge now gets equated to 4 litres of wine – is it worth it?  Doing €8 worth of laundry – are you mad, that’s 9 litres of wine, or 12 bottles!  We do occasionally treat ourselves to a posh bottle costing around €3, because, hey, life’s too short.

We separated our running expenses into various categories, described below in words that we shamelessly stole from other long timer motorhome bloggers we’ve previously followed on the Internet.  (Many thanks, Adam and Sophie.)

FOOD – Food bought from a supermarket / shop. This includes wine and beer, but not eating out
FUEL – Diesel for Benny
LPG – Propane gas for cooking, heating and running the fridge when not on sites
TRANSPORT – Tolls, vignettes, ferries, bridges, public transport & parking when not overnighting
EATING OUT – Eating and drinking out in restaurants and bars (also includes snacks & ice creams)
OVERNIGHT STAYS – Cost of sites, aires or parking overnight, where a cost applied
ENTERTAINMENT – Entry fees for museums, galleries, castles, cathedrals, attractions and other events etc..   Note: This also includes personal items such as clothes, laundry & other misc. items

The current ratio of our spending is as per the image below:

EXPENDITURE - Benny Travels.xlsx

This changes a little on a daily basis, but the general theme that feeding ourselves is the biggest expense, followed by fuel for travel, with every other expense lagging behind, is reasonably constant.  As we’re spending a fairly low amount (around €250 / month) on food, this really puts the cost of this lifestyle into perspective.  Other than eating out more, and we love to cook so this is not too much of a hardship, we don’t deny ourselves much at all.

In short, all is going well and looking sustainable going forward.  We’re comfortable with our pace, our spending and our level of activity.  We really need to be running under budget for this portion of our trip, as we will be splashing out for a few weeks of skiing in the French Alps come February, and that doesn’t come cheap.

We do sometimes feel that, even though we have all this time to ourselves and few other external commitments, we don’t quite seem to be achieving all that we’d hoped for in the free time we have.  We’re visiting places and learning their history, reading books, enjoying beaches, cycling routes and trekking mountains, but these are all the expected activities of our trip.  The mundane, everyday things; shopping, cooking, laundry, servicing for Benny (e.g. Emptying waste tanks, filling up with drinking water etc..) all take up a greater portion of our time than we thought they would, and we don’t seem to be able to fit in enough of the luxury extras – playing guitar, writing for pleasure, sketching, learning languages.  Or, it could be that we are falling into the lazy ways of the recently unemployed and time-rich and making the typical excuse of “we’ll have time for all that tomorrow”.  We hope it’s not the latter and that we make the effort and recommit to achieving the goals we aimed for at the outset of our journey.  It’s only 105 days now until our first return to the UK, six months into our trip.