Traveling to 6 Countries in Europe on a Budget
I usually like to plan out my trips and create an itinerary down to where I am eating, but this time I decided to “wing it” as much as my type-A personality would allow.
I couldn’t afford to study abroad in college so after graduation I decided that I would take the cliché post-grad and self-discovering Eurotrip for two and a half weeks to live a little before choosing a full-time 9 to 5 job and or graduate school. Europe was the perfect place because, as an American, traveling around the EU would not be a hassle and inter-country flights would be cheap. After talking to my financial advisor — really a friend of a friend who works in finance — I decided that instead of a travel loan, and a failed GoFundMe, that applying for a credit card would be best. I applied, got a credit card, and was on my way.
I didn’t want to do a group tour like EF Tours because, they were expensive and while I wanted to meet people, I wasn’t only there to party; which their reviews suggested. I wanted the freedom to roam, I had to go it alone.
Side Note: Instead of using the money I had in my savings — especially after graduation — I thought it would be more financially responsible to get a credit card, start building credit (time to adult) and pay it off ASAP within the first year to avoid the interest fees. I already knew I had a good base and would work for a little bit after my trip to help take care of the “money” I spent.
First, Just Get There:
The first step was to get a cheap flight in the summer to get me somewhere in Europe and back to the States. The time frame for planning has to be pretty flexible if you want to get the good deals. A trip there and back was approximately $700 USD ($300 USD to Paris and $400 USD Back to the states from London).
Second, Break it Down:
I was happy with how cheap the first two flights were and did an estimated breakdown of the following for the two weeks:
- $300 for the inter-country flights and train
- $400 for my room and board — even less if you go the hostel route
- $600 for food and day to day — or $250 per week
Anything more would have to include my actual money. I don’t believe credit is real money that you possess so it was hard for me to spend it.
I love the price of a hostel but I need my space. So I booked three Airbnbs totaling to $20–40 a night, which is approximately $100 USD each city. I wasn’t in a city longer than four nights and in three of those cities I stayed with friends for a total of seven nights of the 2.5-week adventure.Alternative: If you don’t know anyone in Europe, use the Couchsurfing App. I know — get out of your comfort zone, read their reviews, and carry mace with you.
I would say bring roughly $200 cash. I didn’t have cash on me and for some traditional cities like Florence, Italy, it was hard to get a bus, but I walked around — its better for you and free.
Also, don’t charge anything on your card in USD but instead in the currency of that country (i.e., €). I was charged additional exchange fees and taxes on top of what I was spending. I originally thought, USD would be best but they ultimately charged me more.
Third, The Cities:
- London (then to Iceland and back to the U.S.)
I did a counter-clockwise loop around the countries in western Europe starting in Paris and ending in London (and even stopped in Iceland during my layover). “Traveling geographically smart” is the most affordable way and each flight between the European countries was approximately $40–60 USD.
(Also I missed one flight to Barcelona and the second was still affordable)
I felt like flying was a faster way to jump around the cities but I did take two trains, from Amsterdam to Brussels and from Brussels to London. Those were $30 USD each — booked the day of or a day before. Getting to two out of the six cities were only $60 USD [*high fives self*].
Fourth, What Really Matters:
Alcohol — especially wine and beer — overseas is cheap so I won’t elaborate. I would splurge on a fancy meal here and there and access to museums and attractions like a festival or concert. In most of the cities, I rarely used Uber and would only take a taxi to and from the airport. Public transport is your best friend, actually, your feet are if you can manage to walk around. You find amazing restaurants and stumble upon cool places this way.
If you don’t visit for the food, and you really want to save, then go to the grocery store and get a couple things that you are okay with eating.
If you are lucky your Airbnb host cooks for you! In Florence, I was greeted with breakfast.
Fifth, Tourist Attractions:
Most of these are free…
Paris: Effiel Tower, Arc De Triomphe, Louvre, Champs Des Lysee, Sacré Coeur”, La Seine (boat ride), Grand Palais
Barcelona: Las Ramblas, La Sagrada La Familia, Museum Picasso, Park Guell (You can walk the outskirts for free and have essentially the same view)
Florence: David, Duomo, Palazzo Pitti, Piazzale Michelangelo
London: The Eye, Westminster Abbey (you can sit in on a session for free), Big Ben, Buckingham Palace
Amsterdam: Red Light District, Van Gogh Museum, Jordaan Canal (take a boat ride), Anne Frank House
Brussels: Grand Place, St-Gilles, Peeing Boy, Atomium
I had little time and money to pay for group tours. There was so much to see so I was satisfied with seeing the attraction then going on my merry way. I wanted to see art and history so I focused on museums in order to get a good overview of where I was at.
Overall Tips for Travel:
- Google Flights is the GOAT.
- Use Airbnb or hostels if you are trying to save.
- Carry cash, make sure you are charged the country’s currency if using credit/debit card and not the USD.
- Lonely Planet helps to plan out attractions.
- Ask locals where to visit and eat.
An International Plan: Shout out to Sprint for giving me an international text plan from the U.S., International Value Roaming while I was there. I was able to use GPS, reach my family in the U.S. daily, and google translate on the spot. If it’s your first time out of the country, your phone service provider may already have a deal for you and may waive fees.
I hope my experience in Europe will help with your trip-planning.