How to Plan Your European Travel Budget
Figuring out how to plan for an international trip can feel a bit daunting, so let’s start at the beginning! Before you go buying plane tickets and booking rooms, you would probably like to have an idea of how much money you’re going to need to pull off this trip you’ve been dreaming about. Since Europe is my specialty, and potentially one of the more expensive places to visit, I’ll show you the tips and ideas that have worked for me, so you can learn how to plan your European travel budget.
I’m the type of person who likes to plan for the high end of the budget and then be pleasantly surprised when I come in under. All the dollar amounts I’m going to share with you are the more expensive end of the budget travel spectrum, and you can totally put these trips together for less!
Flights to Europe
I always start with flights! This is usually the most expensive one-time outlay of cash for the trip. I have some tricks for putting together affordable flights that help me keep my tickets from Salt Lake City well under $1,000 per person on average.
Flights: $1,000 per person
Accommodations in Europe
This varies based on where I’m going and who I’m traveling with, so I’ll go through a couple of different options. When I’m traveling alone, I usually look for a hostel with a female dorm and get a bed there. I try to do a dorm with six or fewer ladies, just for a little quieter.
Sometimes I like to treat myself to a private room, but that totally depends on where I’m visiting and how much wiggle room}” there is in my budget. If it’s a more expensive area, I’ll usually stick to the hostel because I’ll be out sightseeing most of the time anyway. If I’m traveling with my husband or a friend, we’ll do a private room in a hostel, stay in a B&B, or find an apartment.
One great option for saving on accommodations is to use a credit card that gives you points toward hotel stays! I have a Best Western card since that’s toward the top end of what I’ll spend for a “splurge” – usually about $100 per night. I use my credit card for everything and then pay it off each month. I’ve already used two free nights, and have two more booked for the trip to Norway I’m taking with my mom later this month. I’ll still have enough points left over for at least two more nights pretty much anywhere! Since I always budget for my credit card spending, I like getting free rooms rather than just paying off a portion of my bill.
Hostel: $25 – $40 per night
Private Room: $75 – $100 per night
Transportation around Europe
There’s such a variety of transportation options, so you can definitely find one that fits into your budget! If you’re primarily visiting cities, trains are a wonderful way to get around Europe. Most of the stations are in the middle of the city and prices are pretty reasonable for covering that much ground. Buses typically offer the same routes at much lower prices, but they may take a little longer. There are places connected by ferry as well, and those prices tend to be similar to train tickets.
If you want to get out of the cities and into the countryside, like I always do in Scotland, then renting a car is your best bet. It gives you the ultimate flexibility, and can be affordable, especially if you’re sharing costs with your travel companion. There are some great flight deals as well, if you want to see places that are further apart. Ryanair and Easy Jet are two super low-cost airlines and flights are usually well under $100. They do have a lot of restrictions, so make sure you read all the fine print or you’ll end up spending WAY more than you anticipated.
Bus & Train Passes
Europe also has flexible options for both trains and bus passes. These let you hop on and hop off for a certain number of days so you can go at your leisure. The Eurail Pass has a number of days, countries, etc. available, but I have to be honest, it’s not my favorite. It’s fairly expensive for a handful of days, and the one time we used it, it was really a pain in the ass. We missed a train in Milan because the rail company required us to go to the counter and get different tickets, which were covered by the pass, but we stood in line for an hour to get them. It was one of my first trips to Europe, so it’s possible that I just didn’t know what I was doing, but it wasn’t as user friendly as I’d hoped.
I typically buy point to point tickets, but the pass may be worth it, depending on your route and timeline. The Eurolines bus pass is a much better value for hopping from place to place at roughly $350 for 15 days worth of travel during high season and about $250 for low season. The same Eurail pass is closer to $500. Personally though, if I have 15 days, I’m not trying to see 5 countries. I like to take it a bit slower and enjoy each place.
Here’s the breakdown for prices from Amsterdam to Paris, as an example, for mid-July. If it were me, I’d either do the bus or rental car. 🙂
Daily Metro pass: $10
Bus: $30 (Amsterdam to Paris in 6.5 hours)
Train: $70 for the same route in high season (3.5 hours)
Rental Car: $164 for 7 days from Amsterdam + gas
Flight: $200 one-way on non-budget airline
Sightseeing in Europe
This is another area where there’s a huge variation. Almost every major city has really amazing sights that are free or very cheap. The iconic attractions in major European cities like London, Paris, and Rome usually run about $20 to enter places like Westminster Abbey, the Eiffel Tower, and the Colosseum.
Personally, I like to leave lots of time for random wanderings and explorations so I only plan to do one or two big things per day. This lets me keep my cost down and enjoy anything I come across that sounds fun or interesting.
Most of the major cities do offer City Passes. These typically include the major attractions you’ll want to see, especially if it’s your first time visiting. The pass bundles them all together, and many times has the option to include public transportation around the city. It’s usually a better price than buying each entrance individually and some places it even lets you skip the line!
Daily Sightseeing: $40
Now, this is where I’ll happily spend my money! I won’t pay $100 a night for a room, but I’ll drop that on an amazing dinner, no problem! I certainly don’t do that regularly, but again, there’s so much room for variation when it comes to the food budget.
If the accommodation doesn’t offer breakfast, I’ll grab a pastry and coffee in a little bakery or, if we have a kitchen, make something myself from grocery store ingredients. Street food is usually my “go-to” for lunches and dinners, and one of my favorite things about Europe is the availability of AMAZING options in this zone! From frites in the Netherlands and Belgium to Doner Kebabs and Currywurst in Berlin, you can try some great eats for easily under $10.
For a sit-down restaurant, lunch is a great value. The portions are a little smaller than dinner and so are the prices! One other thing we do regularly is hit up the grocery store for picnic supplies. European cities have beautiful parks! Relaxing with a bottle of wine, bread, cheese, and fresh fruits while watching the world go by is one of my favorite ways to have dinner.
Budget: $30 – $50
10-Day European Travel Budget
Trip Total: $2,150 per person
- Flights: $1,000
- Accommodation: $400
- Transportation: $200
- Sightseeing: $150
- Food: $400
This covers the basics of your expenses while traveling, so when I’m looking at how much I need to have prepared, this is where I’ll start. Of course, there’s souvenirs, pubs, and specific tours you can plan for if those are experiences you’d like to have. I typically plan for about $3,000 but come in closer to $2,000 for a 10-day trip.
My actual spending doesn’t change too much, regardless if I’m traveling alone or with another person. The only difference is typically the accommodation we choose, but my portion is usually close to the same as I’d spend alone. These prices are based on the most popular destinations in Europe, but if you’d like somewhere more affordable and less touristy in Europe, check out these spots!
If you wanted to take a trip next summer, and saved $200 a month, you’d have $2,400 by this time next year! Here are some ways I save money for travel! I’ve created a Travel Budget Planner for you to use so you can decide for yourself what areas are most important and which ones you’re willing to spend less on. Get yours here…
How have budgeted for trips in the past? Are these estimates higher or lower than you expected? Which area usually takes up the majority of your travel budget?