Another Successful Trip
After our 5 month trip around the world last year in 2018, we had such a wonderful time that we knew it wouldn’t be our last big international trip. We learned that the world is a huge place and there’s so much to see before we decide to eventually settle down. The thirst for adventure combined with plenty of time due to our transition into semi-retirement in 2018 quickly led to pondering about what would be next. Shortly after getting back in the United States from our around the world trip, we began planning our 2019 summer European adventure. We had some time constraints that we had to plan around (my brother’s graduation in May and a cross country road trip in September), but we still had plenty of time to explore some of our bucket list destinations in Europe! We settled on 15 weeks from May through August, and then started plotting out our rough itinerary.
Changes are Inevitable
We learned on our first long international trip that the planning process can be tedious and time consuming. This European trip was no different. We spent countless hours lining up flights, buses, trains, AirBnB stays and hotels, but that preparation was vital. For the most part, things went smoothly, but we’ve also learned that changes to the schedule are inevitable despite prior proper planning. Unforeseen issues and circumstances arise and throw a wrench into things, but we do our best to look at these challenges as part of the adventure. We went through several iterations of the itinerary for the trip, but in the end our final itinerary included 14 countries (15 if you include Vatican City which we explored for a day) and over 30 cities throughout mainland Europe.
While Whitney did not track her own expenses very closely, I kept meticulous records of all of my expenses on this trip just like the prior trip in 2018. Even though I had the data from the prior trip ($37/day average expenses) to base some of my calculations on, that trip was primarily in Southeast Asia which is known for lower costs. This trip would be exclusively in Europe, which is known for many wonderful things, but unfortunately low cost is generally not one of them. Many people told me that the $37/day average cost on the prior trip was only due to the low cost countries we went to and that there was no way I could keep my costs reasonable in Europe. Luckily, I love a good challenge. With that being said, I wanted to be reasonable with my expectations and had no intention of skimping on experiences since many of the places we were visiting I will likely never return in the future. I’m all for saving money on lodging, food, and transportation, but if there is something beautiful or historic nearby an area that we’re visiting, then the cost for activities is much less of a concern. After all, how do you put a value on an experience that could potentially be life changing?
Initially, I set a budget of $50/day, but that was a very “soft” budget– meaning I was fully prepared to go over that amount if it was warranted. Part of me felt that $50/day was being very optimistic after looking at the prices of AirBnBs in western Europe and imagining some of the other higher costs there as well. Fortunately, I knew that eastern Europe wouldn’t be nearly as costly and that we would be able to save a significant amount of money with free hotel stays that we were redeeming points for as well. I hoped that things would balance out in the end and, surprisingly, they did!
In this post, I will recap the entire trip and give my final total for my costs over the full 101 days that we were traveling through Europe!
If you didn’t follow along as we went and are interested in any certain place we visited and what we did, as well how much I spent there, then check out my most recent article on our final stops, Croatia and Italy, where you will also find all the links to my previous posts. I kept track of every dollar I spent on this trip and also included some details about each stop we made along the way. You can also check out Whitney’s most recent post from Italy, and in there is the full list of all her previous posts with pictures and even more details about what we did in each location!
We left the United States on the afternoon of May 17th (only 5 months after returning from our prior trip) and returned to the United states on the night of August 27th, for a total of about 15 weeks.
During the trip, we visited 14 countries and stayed in 28 cities (totaling over 30 visited counting day trips). The cities and countries where we stayed are listed below:
- Madrid, Spain
- Porto, Portugal
- Caldas da Rainha, Portugal
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Lagos, Portugal
- Seville, Spain
- Granada, Spain
- Valencia, Spain
- Barcelona, Spain
- Paris, France
- Reims, France
- Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
- Brussels, Belgium
- Bruges, Belgium
- Antwerp, Belgium
- The Hague, Netherlands
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hamburg, Germany
- Krakow, Poland
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Vienna, Austria
- Bratislava, Slovakia
- Budapest, Hungary
- Zagreb, Croatia
- Split, Croatia
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Venice, Italy
- Rome, Italy
A full month of our trip was split between Spain and Portugal due to those being countries where we had potential interest in staying longer term someday. Spain and Portugal are also generally less expensive than other countries in western Europe, which made them good places to spend some extra time on this trip.
We used airline miles (American Airlines and Delta) for our flights to and from Europe, which significantly decreased costs but still amounted to $290 each after taxes and fees. This was higher than last trip but still wonderful compared to the cash price of the tickets. We also redeemed a hefty number of hotel points and free nights in order to decrease our lodging expenses.
Whitney and I split all of the shared expenses and kept our expenses separate for everything else, so the expenses I’m going to discuss here are just the totals for my portion of the trip. Whitney didn’t keep track of her expenses throughout, but she likely spent a decent amount more than I did due to buying more things and opting for more expensive meals frequently, but her overall costs were still relatively low due to saving on the “big ticket items” of lodging and transportation. I was relatively frugal on this trip compared to the average traveler, but I still didn’t hold back when it came to getting the most out of each place we visited as mentioned above.
Below are my expenses listed by the different areas in which we traveled. You can see my total expenses came out to $4,720 for the entire trip, which is about $46.75 per day!
I’ll break down the expenses below and explain how we were able to keep costs so low in each category.
Accommodations: $1,380 spent (my total only)
The majority of our accommodations were spent in AirBnB’s, and I usually work hard to stock up on AirBnB gift cards prior to our trips and am usually able to get a discount on these gift cards through various deals online. This time when calculating my total expenses, I didn’t include the discount I was able to achieve by buying discounted AirBnB gift cards. I wasn’t as lucky with finding deals on the gift cards as I was on the last trip, where I saved about 15% on average, but I was still able to shave about 10% off the accommodation total. I think long term travelers not putting in a little effort to get those discounted gift cards are really doing themselves a disservice. In addition to the AirBnB stays, we got a total of 26 free hotel nights from redeeming points and free night certificates thanks to taking advantage of credit card rewards! Besides free nights with credit card rewards, we did not pay for any hotel stays on this trip.
In total we used:
- IHG annual free night certificate
- 1 night in Paris at Intercontinental Paris Le Grand (possibly the fanciest hotel we’ve ever stayed in)
- 50,000 Marriott Points
- 2 nights in Brussels
- 112,000 Hilton points
- 5 nights in Hilton hotel near the Airport in Amsterdam (28,000/night with 5th night free)
- 40,000 Hilton points
- 5 nights in a Hilton hotel in Krakow (10,000/night with 5th night free)
- 40,000 Hilton points
- 5 nights in a Hilton hotel in Vienna (10,000/night with 5th night free)
- 40,000 Hilton points
- 5 nights in a Hilton hotel in Bratislava (10,000/night with 5th night free)
- 10,000 IHG points
- 1 night in a Holiday Inn in Budapest
- $250 resort statement credit for AMEX Hilton Aspire
- 1 night in the Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Resort ($240/night)
- 15,000 IHG points
- 1 night in a Holiday Inn in Rome
In total that’s 307,000 points, 1 free night, and a $250 statement credit redeemed! That probably seems like a lot of work to get all of those free nights, but in reality the majority of those free nights came from just one credit card sign-up bonus, the AMEX Hilton Aspire. It also got us access to many airport lounges throughout the trip which was an added perk!
Food/Drink/Miscellaneous: $1,305 spent (my total only)
Keeping food and drink costs low in Europe can be tough. We did our best to get cheaper food at grocery stores when possible, but the options are very limited when you aren’t able to cook at most of the AirBnB’s/hotels. We’d often get a baguette and deli meat along with some chips to make lunch, and then eat out somewhere for dinner. In some cities it was nearly impossible to keep expenses reasonable in this category, but we tried to make up for it when we could. In addition to eating out quite a bit, we also enjoyed no shortage of local beers and wines throughout the trip. After all, when in Rome…
Throughout this trip, we used all of the tips outlined in this prior article I wrote on keeping food and drink costs lower while traveling internationally.
This category total also included “miscellaneous” things like sunscreen, bug spray, tooth paste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash.
Transportation: $1,268 spent (my total only)
I was actually really surprised at how low I was able to keep transportation expenses especially with how much moving around we did. The main factor here was the relatively low cost of bus travel from city to city in Europe. It wasn’t uncommon for us to book a few hour bus ride from one city to another for $10 or less, which we found extremely reasonable. We thought we would take more trains in Europe, but it ended up working out better and being cheaper in most cases to travel by bus from city to city, with a couple of train rides and flights here and there. While in each city, we took almost exclusively public transportation to get around and did tons of walking while exploring which saved us some money.
The biggest expenses in this category were the taxes and fees from the award flight redemption that I mentioned above. We had a few other flights throughout, but they weren’t too expensive. We also avoided additional fees on those flights (as well as some buses) by only taking carry-on bags. We packed very similar items to the prior international trip in our backpacks, and you can read about everything we brought in this post that Whitney wrote last year. If you’re thinking that there’s no way you could travel for months with only a carry-on bag, we were right there with you before our first trip. It’s really not that difficult though, and we were able to pack even less on this trip which made our bags a little lighter.
Activities: $765 spent (my total only)
We saw and did an unbelievable amount of things in this 15 week period. I won’t even try to go into detail about everything, from guided tours, to wine and beer tastings, to tickets for the top attractions in each place, but if you’re interested in reading all the details then check out the individual expense reports that I did along the way.
My total of $765 seems extremely low for all that we did throughout Europe! But we are often able to find cheap or free activities in each place, such as the Free Walking Tours in almost every major city. I’m really happy I was able to keep this cost reasonable without skimping on anything that we wanted to do!
Travel Insurance: $44 (my total only)
This cost was so low that I didn’t even include it in the spreadsheet, especially since it was more than made up for by the savings from the AirBnB gift cards that I didn’t account for. During this trip, we also had health insurance back in the US, so this travel insurance was only for catastrophic incidents– which we were fortunate enough to avoid. I’m continually amazed at how cheap travel insurance is and think that it is well worth the peace of mind for the minimal expense.
Summary of My Expenses
I was surprised and thrilled with how low I was able to keep my costs on this trip! At an average of about $47/day (including EVERYTHING from transportation, to accommodations, to daily activities and food), it certainly wasn’t as cheap as our last trip which was spent primarily in SE Asia, but it was still very affordable!
That $47/day is only marginally higher than my everyday expenses for my lifestyle while living and working in the US. The expenses were low enough on this trip that I was able to completely fund them with income generated from this website, which is pretty amazing considering European travel isn’t generally regarded as inexpensive!
With a combination of income earned from this website, TravelTherapyMentor, and some fortunate stock market returns, I was able to reach my goal financial independence net worth at the ripe old age of 30!
On to the Next Trip!
We’ve undoubtedly been bitten by the travel bug and are already in the beginning stages of planning another long international trip for next year (2020). We’ve explored many parts of Europe and Asia now, but there is still a lot to see in this massive world. Neither Whitney nor I have ever been to Central or South America, so the next trip is likely to be at least a few months traveling in that area. We’ll likely leave sometime around March 2020 with an undetermined end date. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you follow along with our travels and future financial posts! If you’re trying to travel cheaply using credit card rewards and are thinking about using the cards that we used on this trip, I’d greatly appreciate if you use the referral links to our cards included in the article above.
What travel plans do you have for 2020? Any exciting extended trips? Let me know!