Europe Trip Planning Update (Estimated Costs)

19 May

carte-europe-300x211I’ve been slacking on the “travel” portion of this blog, and since I spent all yesterday immersed in Europe books and websites, I thought it would be a good time to give an update on our Europe trip planning.

For readers who don’t know, my husband and I have been planning  lengthy a trip to Europe for the last six months as a sort of “honeymoon.” We initially settled on about a month, but because of all the things we want to see and do, it’s lengthened to about five or six weeks. We were initially planning on going at the end of 2013, but due to joblessness for the last three or four months, our savings plan was put on hold.

Which brings me to the first update: Cal has a job! He’s getting 35k a year plus some pretty generous bonuses based on sales targets achieved. This is excellent news for the Europe fund. Last year we were basically living on his part-time earnings of ~$400/week and putting my full-time earnings into savings. We plan on putting a huge chunk of his full-time earnings plus my part-time earnings into savings now, which got me thinking: what’s our cap on Europe?

We have other things we’d like to be saving for as well, you see: our own house (we currently rent) and children several years down the track. We’ve been told different prices for Europe: one source estimated $13,000 for two people for two months. A family member said we’d need $10k each, for a total of $20k. We set up a new, high-interest savings account with an initial goal of $10,000 knowing we’d want to go over that amount to feel comfortable. Trip costs are so variable based on where you want to go, when you go, and what you want to do, that it was really going to be impossible to judge until I felt like jumping in and estimating expenses for every leg of our journey.

With the earlier joblessness, I was trying to stay away from Europe planning so that I didn’t get excited for something that was out of our reach. With Cal’s first paycheck a few days away and heaps of free time yesterday, I finally got around to estimating… and it’s looking pretty good, to be honest.

We’re now planning on going in November/December 2014 – January 2015. I think this helped the budget a lot, because it isn’t really peak season. We’re planning on going to Finland, the UK, Paris, Italy, Munich, and Amsterdam. While some of these cities/countries are more expensive than others, the off-peak season means cheaper hostels and travel costs. We’re also not opposed to staying in big mixed dorms in hostels, though we are planning on staying in private rooms in hostels or a hotel every so often so we don’t go crazy–he’ll probably be okay, but I am a very light sleeper and have difficulty sleeping in dorms! We also plan to make our own food more often than not, which cuts down on costs, and neither of us are into drinking/partying, so we won’t be paying for tons of alcohol either.

So–my calculations? Overestimating/rounding up every accommodation, flight, and train cost that I found, with a very high/dubious train from Munich to Amsterdam estimation, and based on prices for December 2013, the total comes to $9800… including roundtrip flights from Brisbane for both of us, a hefty allowance for food, and an additional hefty allowance for attractions/entrance fees/souvenirs.

I sort of gaped at the total for a while because it’s lower than anything we estimated. Keep in mind, this doesn’t cover trip insurance, health insurance, or our backpacks/gear which we still need to get. Another big cost will be possibly boarding our cat (or two cats, if we get a kitten soon!), depending on our living situation/willingness of housemates to care for them, etc.  At the same time, it does cover our exorbitant three days in the glass igloo hotel in Finland and  a relatively expensive five-day guided tour of the Scottish Highlands. We could be doing this for a lot less is what I’m saying.

I do need to get in and sort out the attractions/entrance fees that we’re going to see and how much everything’s going to cost. I’m sure I’ve put enough money into the budget for them, but I’d like to know. I have looked into “The London Pass” which covers most of the popular London attractions and comes with an option for unlimited travel between zones 1-6 and sounds like excellent savings–does anyone have any experience with this? Last time I was in London I was there for three months for study abroad, so such a thing wouldn’t have been practical, but if we have a week in London and want to see as much as we can, is it worth it?

After going through all travel options for inter-country travel, we’re also thinking about getting a rail pass. Right now, it looks like the best option to take a train from Rome to Florence, Florence to Venice, Venice to Munich, and Munich to Amsterdam. We’d need to do a 4-country pass since Italy doesn’t border Germany, so we’d probably add Austria in there as well and perhaps spend a few days in Vienna or Salzburg. With the “I don’t think this is accurate” price for a train trip from Munich to Amsterdam it would definitely be worth it, but it’d save us a few bucks otherwise too. A train would take longer than a plane, cutting into time we could have to explore, but I like it because we can see the landscape rather than clouds.

Anyway–I suppose what this update boils down to is that we’re pretty certain we can do this six-week trip to Europe for under $10k for the two of us. We’re planning on trying to save $15k before putting money aside for a house fund, and hope to come back with most of that excess $5k. It’s rough to plan because flight/train/accommodation costs will certainly vary in the next year or so before we’re able to book them, but I figure we’ll be booking about six months or more before actually going on the trip, which allows time to save extra if we find we need it. If travel/accommodation costs end up being higher than estimated, six months gives us plenty of time to save more for attractions and the like.

We still have quite a way to go to reach our goal, but with money flowing into our bank accounts once more we should be able to manage it no problem!

Have you ever taken a lengthy trip through Europe? What did your budget look like? What are your recommendations for must-see cities and sights? Or, if you haven’t been to Europe, what’s the top thing you’d like to see in Europe if you go? I’d love to hear your stories! =)

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3 Responses to “Europe Trip Planning Update (Estimated Costs)”

  1. Gwen May 19, 2013 at 1:14 pm #

    I’m an American who lived in Europe for 5 years. My favorite cities to visit were Amsterdam and Rome. Also, don’t discount Belgium. It’s kind of the sleeper country of central Europe, a little off the beaten path, and for this reason very much worth it (the cities of Brussels and Brugge are must-sees, in my opinion). Florence and Venice are beautiful, but expensive and over-rated (again, in my opinion :)) If you think this may be the only time you’ll ever visit Europe in your lifetime, then it may be worth it. But do try to include some smaller villages on your tour, or the Italian countryside, rather than the flashy touristy cities. It gives you a look at the “real” Europe, away from the costly attractions.

    • inkhearted May 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Thanks for the advice! We were actually considering Belgium for a few days (and then taking the train back to London to fly home) but I worked out a different route that was a bit cheaper in the long run, and it unfortunately came at the cost of Belgium. Nothing’s set in stone yet, though–so we’ll add it to the top of the list of extras to do if we have the time/money!

      This definitely won’t be our last time in Europe. I still haven’t been able to make it over to Spain, which I desperately want to see. I’ve been to Venice and quite liked what I saw, but I was only there for a few days and didn’t get to see the other islands, so that’s why we’re heading back! If we get this rail card though, it should be easy to hop off at other locations along the way, so we’ll do a bit of research and add in a few smaller towns as well.

      Again, thanks for your advice!! Love hearing about what other people recommend. First-hand accounts are so much more trustworthy than something I read in a book or on a “Top Ten” list.

  2. Karmen August 7, 2013 at 12:51 am #

    Many think that Europe is an expensive trip but it doesn’t need to be if you budget properly.

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