A reasonable daily budget for a trip to Europe

In this post I'm going to be discussing how it is that we can pay for a 6 1/2 week trip to Europe on a limited budget, and how you can economically plan for your own trip to Europe as well.

A lot of people have asked us, "How can you afford a trip like this?" "Where did you get the money?" "How long did it take you to save?" 

It's been no surprise to our friends & readers that the large majority of our funds from this trip came from renting out our home for the summer on Airbnb. Since our home was nearly fully booked for the entire summer, we obviously had to go somewhere. Europe it was.

However, is renting out your home on Airbnb the only way to afford a 6 1/2 week trip to Europe? No. Is renting out your home on Airbnb a surefire way to make money? No. Our home happens to be in the epicenter of wine country and summer tourists have flocked to the area for weddings, couples' weekends and half-marathons which made us fortunate to have a place located conveniently for these things. If you have genuine interest in trying to rent your home out on Airbnb to travel someplace while guests have it booked, you should definitely try. We were shocked with how quickly ours booked and were certainly not counting on that being our "Europe fund" money. It just ended up working out that way and for that, we are grateful.

Regardless of how you come across funds for a trip to Europe or how long you choose to stay, your budget and experience is entirely up to you. We are actually on a relatively tight budget, which might sound like a lot per day, but I will break it down for you.

Our budget is $150 total per day in Europe, which includes everything except our car rental and our plane tickets. 

Daily Budget

$150 a day is very doable for two people-- especially if you rent a room in a villa or an apartment for a week or two and don't city-hop like we are. How we came up with our daily budget was that we took the amount of money we were going to make from our Airbnb rentals and divided that number across 47-- the amount of days we would be in Europe. We came up with $150 per day, which did not include anything we had already paid for ahead of time during our planning months.

We average:

$100 for lodging
$40 for meals (We often have free breakfast at our locations, picnic or home-made lunch, and share dinner out or cook at home. Totally doable.)
$10 for transportation (fuel)/miscellaneous/entertainment/etc. (This is sometimes a lot more, and sometimes nothing at all, depending on what we've chosen to do each day)

We have had cities where we have gone significantly over-budget (all through Switzerland and some parts of Sweden) and cities where we have been very under-budget, not spending any money during the day (parts of Germany and Italy).

$150 a day goes by VERY quickly in Europe, so our $150 applies only to actual spending during this trip, NOT to anything we pre-booked when we were at home.

For lodging, we try to look for places that are under $100, and try to be creative in how we hit that target. For example, there are some places we have stayed that were free (Couchsurfing, with friends & family, etc.). That added onto our "lodging budget" for future cities when we needed the flexibility to spend a little bit more on a room. We also have stayed in room rentals through Airbnb, which tend to not be over $100. (Room rentals average around $60-$75 for two people). We pre-booked a few apartments early on last year ahead of time while the Airbnb rates were still low (the popular and economically priced apartments book up rather quickly) and then we "carry over" whatever we did not use that day to apply towards maybe a more expensive dinner, a touristing outing, fuel, parking fees, rooms in more expensive cities that are not Airbnb and other unexpected costs. Other ways we've saved on lodging was to use a couple of free nights with credit card points we had saved up, used some Airbnb travel credit and even a free hotel room voucher from a family member in Amsterdam.

We don't beat ourselves up if we go over budget, either, because there are always things that are out of our control. Am I going to miss going up to the top of the Santis mountain with my high school friend, just because it's going to be 80 Swiss Francs ($90)? No. But what that will mean is instead of renting a water taxi on Lake Como or taking the tram in Gimmelwald everywhere, we'll need to either walk, share lunches, pack a picnic, or cut costs some other way. We're splurging on a cooking class in Tuscany because seriously: Why not. We have also cooked at home 3 of the 4 nights in Como, so there's that.

With our budget Timothy and I have agreed not to pass up any "must-see" or "amazing" opportunities just because we are trying to stick to a budget. If it's something one of us really, really, really wants to do (take the meal we hired the chefs for on our patio last night...) we go for it. If either of us are indifferent or "meh," we skip it.

Renting an apartment in a slow-paced city as a home-base ahead of time for a few days has been wonderful for our budget because it has allowed us to cook our meals at home, relax and enjoy the views without going anywhere, and really "pay back" some of the budget that we over-spent on in Switzerland the past week. Our daily Europe budget is a constant ebb and flow, borrow and pay back. And it works.

Pay in Advance

Something I'm really glad we did was pre-booking and paying in advance for as much as we could ahead of time when we had extra money lying around. This included:

*Airbnb rentals (they charge your credit card upon booking; might seems like an annoyance at first but you'll be very grateful that you don't owe any money upon checking in)

*Tour tickets (Most tours charge you ahead of time, including bike tours, museum passes, cooking classes, Viator day trips, etc.)

*Reservations for trains, spas, etc.

That way, our $150 a day budget could apply solely to what we are spending in Europe on a day-to-day basis, with the pre-purchased items being extras as we prepared for our trip. The reason being, $150 goes by very fast each day in Europe-- especially in places that don't use the Euro.

How long to stay?

If you are on a budget, $150 can work very well as long as you are willing to stick with it. Obviously our daily amount would have been higher the shorter we stayed in Europe. The catch being for us is that our home was rented all summer, so we had to be gone for 6 1/2 weeks. We also had the budget that we did for our trip because of our Airbnb rentals all summer, so the daily amount went hand in hand with our budget and how long we needed to be gone for.

If you are intrepid enough and have the fortitude to be explore all around Europe, renting a car and driving around for 6 weeks is highly recommended and is much cheaper than taking the train (unless you're a solo traveler). If you'd rather stick to a home-base and explore just a few cities, you can easily have a great trip in 3 to 4 weeks. If you're only planing on seeing 1 - 2 cities, a two week trip will suit you just fine.

If you'd rather have a higher daily budget to allow for nicer accommodations, more sight seeing and more dining opportunities, you could shorten your amount of time you spend in Europe, increasing your overall daily budget.

Skipping certain countries if you're on a tight budget

I might receive some flack for this, but if you are desperate to travel to Europe but are really on a tight budget like we are, I might advise that, for now (unless you Couchsurf), skip a couple of places that are very expensive and hard on a strict budget: England and Switzerland. Currently the British Pound is at an all-time low compared to the American dollar (1.50 USD for 1 GBP); however, that means you are still paying 150% for each thing you purchase. Switzerland has higher prices for everything overall, which translate to even higher prices for US travelers. (Think: $35 for a pizza, $8 for a cup of brewed coffee at Starbucks.)

If your travel dreams are destined to take you to the UK, the good news is there are loads of things to do in London for free (think: Parks, museums, galleries, etc.). You can also pick up fresh take-away meals at many grocery stores and share food in pubs with your travel partner. Tube rides are very spendy but London is walkable if you're up for it. There are also city bikes available for rent that can also take you all around the city if you don't want to shell out 2.30 GBP ($3.50) for each one-way ride on a subway. If you must get to Switzerland, look for an Airbnb rental that comes with a kitchen (and maybe a bike!) and buy groceries to prepare your meals at home to cut down on some costs.

Right now, the Euro is amazing ($1.09 USD for $1 Euro) which is the lowest it's been in years. It's a great time to travel to Europe if you're on a budget, and France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Austria and Spain all use the Euro. Also, the prices in these countries are also relatively low, which means you'll get a great bargain many places you choose to stay and eat compared to even some US prices on hotels, B&Bs and restaurants.

Depending on where you want to go, what you want to see, what you want to do and how long you want to be gone for, a $150 daily budget, while tight, can be done with two people. If you've got a few more dollars to spare in your budget each day, go for it. $150 a day has gotten us some incredible experiences so far, and at no point was our safety, cleanliness or comfort (except Gimmewald!) jeopardized. Plus, we've stayed in some out-of-the-city-center locations which we actually discovered that we much preferred, compared to the expenses (and crowds) being directly in the city can bring.

If you have any questions about our planning and budgeting process, feel free to ask!

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