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  • Gretchen Richter de Medeiros

When you're staying with family, your expenses are subsidized

Let’s be honest. When you’re staying with family, your expenses are subsidized. We are forever grateful to our Brazilian friends and family who took care of us during our three months in-country. Similarly, when you’re in one spot for 3 months, you create time-based economies. With those two things in mind, and despite a serious 2-week splurge for New Year’s in Rio, Brazil was the least expensive country of our trip.

Also, compared to every other country we’ve visited, we had the largest amount of historical data about travel-costs. Rodrigo and I have been together since 1993, so, that’s 22 years of travel back and forth between the US and Brazil. Our estimates were pretty spot-on.

Being real, we did contribute to lodging costs for some parts of our Brazil trip. In this category, we spent $8,242 over three months. Over 50% of this, $4,845, went to our spectacular Ipanema apartment in Rio. (So worth it! Thanks to Chris and Krissy for making this part of our trip extra-special!) The remainder was our contribution to Rodrigo’s aunt and mother for our housing costs in Natal, in the Northeast of Brazil. Due to more-than-expected costs in Natal, housing came in $1,242 over our estimate.

As for transportation, we borrowed a car and only paid for gas, resulting in a very low total of only $640, which was $1,460 under budget. We also cooked quite often for ourselves and contributed to weekly groceries. It’s amazing how much a difference it makes when you can cook, save leftovers for another day, and plan for the week instead of for the day. As our Argentina experience exemplified, when you’re moving from city to city every third day, you end up eating out quite a bit. When you know you will be in the same house on Friday as the one you’re in on Monday, you will take the time to make a menu list, cook your kids’ favorite meals, and save food for later. Food costs were $5,382, $216 under budget.

The kids were eager to have a Brazilian experience in the three months we were there. Unfortunately, we were unable to coordinate language lessons, but we did get them enrolled in soccer (Marco – Escolinha do Flamengo) and dance (Bella). These two expenses account for the largest portion of our education category, $1,155. Even without the language lessons, however, we were really happy to see that Marco’s language skills improved significantly. Friends have said that they noticed he’s speaking in full paragraphs and his confidence has increased 10-fold*.

Fun expenses in the other category are chlorine for the pool at Tia (Auntie) Wania’s house $43.12, thread and other supplies to replenish our sewing kit $5.00, and mailing of boxes home to the USA $248.62. We also spent quite a lot on clothes: $416. We knew we would be experiencing our hottest months while in Brazil, but didn’t want to carry too many clothes in our backpacks, so had specifically planned to buy summer fashion while in Brazil. Thanks to Vovozinha (grandma) for buying gorgeous New Year’s Eve outfits for Gretchen and Bella.

Proportionally speaking, we didn’t spend a lot on Entertainment/Excursions/Education. Expenses in this category were all in Rio. They include our bike tour, $123.08, our tickets to see Christ The Redeemer, $158.46, the gondola up to the world-famous Sugar Loaf mountain, $107.31, and, most expensively, Rodrigo’s amazing para-gliding experience from Pedra of Gavea to Pepino Beach, $230.77.

Thinking of other RTW travelers who are spending time with family, my advice would be this: it doesn’t really work out to be free. But it is cost-effective. And, like the Mastercard commercials say, the experience is PRICELESS.

Budget Report: Brazil

Total Cost: $17,138

Days: 88

Cost per day: $194.75

Cost per person per day: $38.95

*Here’s an interesting story: As the first child, Bella’s first language is Portuguese. Rodrigo and I used Portuguese at home 95% of the time when Bella was a baby and toddler. When Marco came along, Bella was in pre-school. This meant that she was actively learning English and was eager to use it at home. Subsequently, this meant that Marco heard and used more English at home as a baby and toddler, resulting in the honest fact that his Portuguese is not as strong as Bella’s. But it’s steadily improving, and, year-over-year, he’s more interested in becoming more fluent. And that’s all a parent can ask for. Good on him!

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