I decided to take a little break this week, so Tom is doing the blog post for a change. He has done a stellar job tracking our budget for us and his post is all about our expenses so far. Take it away Tom!
We often get asked how we can afford this year of travel? It has been a combination of saving, paying off debt, creating passive income sources, and budgeting. I will spend the remaining portion of this post on the latter – budgeting.
When we originally started planning this trip, I aggressively searched the Internet for expected costs of a trip of this magnitude, looking to learn from others that have done something similar. It varied immensely from person to person, and when the trip required many intercontinental flights, the costs skyrocketed. Hence, our plan right now is to spend our time on just two continents, Europe and South America.
I also discovered that our first stop, Western Europe, would probably be the most expensive spot in the world to travel. I knew going into the first 3 months of our trip, that our overall travel budget would take a beating right out of the gate. So here we are, one month into our travels, and our first monthly travel budget complete.
We found it extremely helpful when other travel blogs posted their expenses, so we are doing the same. We hope it can benefit you as you plan future trips to Europe.
As you will see below, I have two metrics I look at. The first is a daily budget of $175, which factors in all expenses (including lodging and major transportation), and the second a $100 daily budget, which only looks at the day-to-day expenses of food, normal transportation costs, sight seeing, and miscellaneous costs. It excludes major transportation and lodging. The first metric was one that I created; the second metric was based on recommendations from other travel sights.
So without further ado… see below. I will follow up below with my thoughts and suggestions:
Conclusion: Overall, I am very satisfied with the start to our budget. Though we were over budget on the first metric, I think we will be able to make it up during our remaining two months in Europe. Additionally, Jaime and I are very intentional on discerning between a good purchase and a bad purchase. We want to invest our money in unique experiences that we will appreciate and splurge when we really get good value. For instance on our first night in Paris, we spent over $100 USD for a meal. Come on… you think we are going to pass on a traditional French meal just because we are on a tight budget?
So let me offer some suggestions on cost saving tips if you plan to travel to Europe:
Lodging: Airbnb.com is our favorite site. If you have not used it, start using it. We have been able to rent rooms in Paris, Rome, and Florence for the same price as staying in a 16-person bunk in a hostile. Yes, you might have to stay with someone, but it’s better than staying with 16 people in one room. The benefit to this is most of the time we get our own bathroom and you don’t have to fear your valuables getting stolen.
As I write this post, I’m drinking a cup of coffee overlooking the Tuscany countryside. I can gladly admit that we are staying in our own one bedroom apartment, complete with a kitchen, living room, free Wi-Fi, private patio, and use of the hosts garden, with an amazing view of Tuscany for only $42 a night. Don’t limit yourself to Europe! I have come across places in New York a block or two away from Time Square for $150 a night for a complete apartment.
Or... find some friends or friends of friends who will let you stay at their place at little or no cost. Thanks again, Peter and Solvieg!
Food: So I have this theory…I believe you can learn more about a culture and society over food and drink than you can in a museum. Yes, a museum can provide you with more background and history, but the reality is you can’t experience the culture and city that way, you can only observe. Eating a meat pie in London, a baguette in France, or drinking an Aperol Spritz in Italy introduces you firsthand to the daily lives of the people that live there. What’s even better is when you can enjoy your food and drink with a local, adding more insight to the experience.
As you can tell, we tend to spend more on food and drinks than sightseeing (i.e. museum entrance fees, tourist attractions, etc.). However, we still have to be creative on our food spending. A couple suggestions to save money on food and drinks:
Transportation: We try to walk everywhere we go. I brought a pedometer as I was curious how much we would walk. In a typical day we walk about 20,000 steps, which is about 8-10 miles a day. Not bad. It saves us money on metro tickets and taxis and we get to see more of the city.
For major transportation, I found that any ItaliaRail train rides on Saturdays in September and October are buy one get one free. So as you can imagine, we try to take major train rides on Saturdays. Also, if you are going to take the Eurorail from London to Paris or vice versa, book ahead. I booked about a month in advance and it cost about $60 USD per person. The day of travel, that same ticket would have cost $170 USD per person.
Sight Seeing: So when it comes to sight seeing, I tend to get a little picky. For instance, to pay $16 USD per person to stand in line for two hours to go up the Eiffel Tower or to spend $20 USD per person to go around in a circle with a bunch of people on the London Eye is not my cup of tea. But, to each his/her own. If you love views of the city, locate parks, churches, or squares that overlook the city and go there for free views (and bring a bottle of wine to share) instead of paying to go to the tops of towers.
Jaime and I have found creative, low cost ways to see each city we have visited. Before this trip I was completely unaware that every major city has free walking tours. Even in the US! We just show up to a specific location noted on the respective free travel tour website and boom, we get a two hour walking tour of all the major sites for just a small tip!
We try to do the walking tour the first day we are in each city. It gives us an overview of the major sites and then we can decide which ones are worth paying to revisit. You also get some historical information about the city without going to a museum. We have found the tour guides to be very knowledgable.
Be nice. On Friday nights, the Louver is free to those under age 26. We were too old for this discount, but we were really nice to the lady at the ticket counter and she let us in for free anyway ($40 USD savings!). We didn’t even ask to be let in for free. She just offered it!
So there you have our first month’s budget in a nutshell. If you have any specific questions about our budget or expenses please feel free to contact me directly.
Note: I opted to withhold our airline tickets from LAX to London, since I bought these while still employed (we paid $540 one way per person). Additionally, we pay $160 total per month for "catastrophic" health insurance, meaning low monthly payment, but high deductible. This is intended to cover us in the instance of a major health or life issue.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!