The most popular question asked to travelling families – what are your travel expenses!?

December was our first month travelling! We left New Zealand on the 6th and arrived in the early hours of the 7th. I haven’t included what we spent the day we travelled to Penang as it’s not part of our day to day living costs. It was also a ridiculous amount of money for one day and I want to ignore it! We did a huge grocery shop the second week we arrived. Picking up (what we assume will be) three months worth of nappies and wipes, and non-perishable food. We also ate street food for every meal the first week, which is more expensive per person. Especially when all E+J want to eat is meat.

Here is the spreadsheet of our December expenses, below you’ll find the details for each section.

Food Total541.10360.101479.80
Bottled Water32.9021.9089.90

We are staying in an Airbnb, in Tanjung Tokong, Penang, Malaysia. We’ve found it to be the perfect location, halfway between Batu Ferringhi beaches and the UNESCO heritage area of Georgetown. It’s a two bedroom apartment on top of a mall (where there is a supermarket – easy!) and a covered swimming pool, which is so nice for the kids. We leave early March, and when we do I’ll pop up a review and direct link to our Airbnb.


We use World Nomads for our travel insurance. It was $1080NZD for six months, so I divided it by six to get the rough monthly cost.


We break our food costs down into three categories; street food, markets, and supermarket.

Street Food183.20121.90501
FOOD TOTAL541.10360.101479.80

STREET FOOD – Street food is delicious. Matt and I have street food almost every night for dinner. E+J are their fussiest at dinner time, so we usually cook for them at home. We will often buy street food snacks when we’re out and about. We love samosas (I’m obsessed with them) and Indian sweets called barfi, which is a bit like fudge.

MARKETS – Some weeks we get our fruit and vegetables from the local wet markets. It’s cheaper than at the supermarket but not by much, and as the market is a 20 minute walk away it’s a lot easier to take a lift down to the supermarket with the kids.

SUPERMARKET – We eat breakfast and usually lunch at home. We find it easier with E+J for a few reasons. J likes finger food so if you give him a bowl of noodles you’re screwed. They are both very easily distracted when we’re out and would rather make friends than eat. And thirdly, trying to get kids out of the house before feeding them breakfast is a just an amateur mistake.


This includes things like nappies, wipes, period related products, hand sanitiser, toiletries and replacing things we’ve lost, broken or forgotten. Like a second power adapter, and replacing my smashed iPhone screen.


As in most South East Asian countries, you cannot drink tap water, so must buy bottled water. However in Malaysia the tap water is safe for boiling eggs or brushing your teeth for example.


This month we paid entry fees to Kek Lok Si temple and Entopia Butterfly Park. All the other activities we did were free; the Youth Park, Batu Ferringhi beaches, Penang Avatar Secret Garden, and trekking through Penang National Park to the Turtle Sanctuary.


I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it a hundred times more, Penang public transport is excellent. We use the Moovit app to catch the RapidPenang bus. The busses are air-conditioned, clean, cheap and it’s a real novelty for E+J. The only negative is that they often run behind schedule (though it’s usually only by 5-10 minutes), and they will drive right past you if the bus is full. Which while annoying is understandable.


While flights to each country aren’t ‘living costs’, I do like to include them as travel expenses, as I feel this gives a more realistic idea of how much it costs to travel each month. Our one way flight from Auckland to Penang for two adults, one child and one infant, was $1980NZD. I divide it by the number of days we are in Penang and then times it by the number of days in the month. This gives me a total of $585NZD for December.


Not including flights1988.501323.105435.90
Per day cost76.5050.90209.10
Including flights2573.501578.906486.60
Per day cost9965.90270.60

I am so stoked with our travel expenses this month. Our aim was to stay under $100NZD ($66.50USD) per day, and we did it!! We weren’t sure if $100NZD per day was overly ambitious (or downright impossible) but seeing the December totals shows it is. It’s also going to be cheaper as we go because the flights to our next country will be much less. We are also planning to spend less on accommodation, though we will have the added cost of visas which we didn’t need for Malaysia.

It’s crazy to me that we’ve spent less than $2k in a month (well, 26 days!) on EVERYTHING. Is it so much less than what we were spending in New Zealand. It’s obviously a very different lifestyle than the one we were living, but we’re loving it!

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