I’ve been thinking about creating an itinerary post for our Europe trip such as this one for a long time. When we initially went on this trip, I had not truly considered how unusual it was to spend such a long time overseas, especially in western countries, without spending a fortune.
It was only in speaking with friends who asked how much we spent, and in seeing their reactions when telling them, that I began to see that perhaps we were onto something here.
It has never been a better time to travel. With the internet, amazing programs such as Airbnb have allowed people to travel overseas without paying for expensive hotels, or sleeping on couches.
I seriously LOVE Airbnb and the service they provide. We stayed in 6 different Airbnb’s throughout our trip and every single one was an amazing experience.
Since our trip, Airbnb has grown considerably and many more people are aware of it. This makes me feel so hopeful for the state of the world because I truly feel that traveling makes us better, more complete, more expansive people, and our world needs that right now more than ever.
Use my link here to get $40 off your first Airbnb stay!
We used Kayak.com when booking our flights because it automatically finds the least expensive options across all different airlines and other travel sites. I also added links to the airlines that we ended up flying, as suggested through Kayak.com.
I attached links to all of the places we stayed because I stand by those hosts and those homes as everything they are advertised and more. We got so lucky with the places we chose and I would not hesitate to recommend them to anybody.
some notes on this post:
I listed the prices in such a way where you can see the total that my boyfriend and I spent as a couple, and how much that worked out to be for each of us separately. We divided this trip down the middle financially, which allowed us a ton of freedom. Travelling with a buddy cuts all lodging expenses in half, which is arguably the largest expense depending on the length of your trip.
Our trip being so inexpensive has a lot to do with the fact that we went during the off season. Many of our Airbnb listings were less expensive when we were travelling versus the summertime, and flights are most definitely less expensive. If you’re ambitious and not shy of occasional cold or rainy weather, you can save a ton of money by going during the winter.
In the more expensive cities we tended to book rooms in a family home as opposed to booking an entire home to ourselves to save money. This initially seems like a sacrifice, but it was actually SO much fun to meet and stay with locals who know the area and can recommend activities and restaurants that are off the beaten path. This is not something that you can get from a fancy hotel, and it is way more fulfilling.
The $2,500 budget mentioned in this post includes what we spent on lodging and transportation between the places we stayed. As far as food expenses and excursions, we kept our budget relatively low. This had a lot to do with the fact that in many places we had the ability to cook our own food, or we chose less expensive options than restaurants to eat in such as street vendors.
1st Stop: Copenhagen, Denmark
Flight: Scandinavian Airlines October 30, 2014
- 2 round-trip coach tickets + taxes + fees = $1,609.88
- $55/night x 7 nights Airbnb in Copenhagen, single room in family home + service fee = $451
Total for flight and stay in Copenhagen = $2060.88 ($1,030.44/person)
Even though we had access to the kitchen in our Airbnb, we never ended up using it. With a 25% sales tax, eating in restaurants in Denmark can be really expensive. We ate a lot of vendor food, especially for lunches. Shawerma in particular was a favorite – if you’re not vegan it’s like heaven in a pita pocket and super cheap. It’s basically Europe’s fast food – not the healthiest but delicious and filling.
You could also go very traditional and get a Danish hot dog and chocolate milk from a street vendor. We only did this once – just to say we did. It tasted exactly as you would expect.
We found refuge from the cold in cozy little coffee shops, tap rooms, and bars lined with blankets, heaters, and candle lighting. Basically all the things in life that make me the happiest.
We got around on bikes provided by our Airbnb listing so we paid virtually nothing for transportation within the city, which saved us a huge amount of money. The city is flat as a pancake and is regarded as the world’s most bike friendly city. I have honestly never felt so safe riding a bicycle anywhere let alone a major city.
Copenhagen was the most expensive city we visited but we could’ve potentially spent way more money if we didn’t want to eat vendor food. At the same time, we could’ve saved even more by taking up our Airbnb host family on using their kitchen to cook.
The money we saved on transportation within the city gave us some extra breathing room when it came to other excursions like taking the ferry into Sweden for the day or even eating out occasionally at a nicer restaurant.
2nd stop: Nice, france
Flight: Norwegian Air November 7, 2014
- 2 coach tickets, 1 way + all taxes and fees = $222
- $69/night* x 5 nights in Airbnb in Nice, entire home/apartment + service fee = $388
* At the time I’m writing this post I noticed that the owner is only charging $40/night for this same listing, almost $30 less/night than what we paid!
Total for flight and stay in Nice = $610 ($305/person)
Total spent on trip so far = $2,670.88 ($1,335.44/person)
This flight was particularly awesome as we were flying at the perfect time to chase the sunset the whole way there, it was gorgeous and perfect.
There was also free wifi on this flight, which I’ve never seen before. So that was kind of cool.
Restaurants in Nice were expensive, but they had a beautiful farmers market that we would stop by every morning to pick up our days’ groceries. We had a full kitchen to cook in and a warm sunny balcony to eat on (even in November). Picnics at the beach were a staple (lots of wine was obviously present).
We also didn’t spend anything on transportation here – everything was within walking distance.
3rd stop: Barcelona, spain
Flight: Vueling November 12, 2014
- 2 coach tickets, 1 way + all taxes and fees = 40 EUR ($44.74!)
- Entire apartment* for 14 nights x $53/night + service fees = $774
*Unfortunately the listing that we used is no longer available.
Total for flight and stay in Barcelona = $818.74 ($409.37/person)
Total spent on trip so far = $3,489.62 ($1,744.81/person)
Barcelona was where we really started to embrace some local food on a whole new level.
We stayed in a super cute, loft style apartment that had its own kitchen, so we were able to shop and cook when we wanted to while we also had the opportunity to eat out because it was so affordable. It was in Barcelona where we experienced the best of both worlds in regards to food.
We survived on tapas more than anything when eating out. While many places just stick to the traditional tapas of the region (patatas bravas, atun, and padron peppers), some places got more creative. Most tapas range in price, the cheapest we found were 1 EUR each.
We had two whole weeks in Barcelona so we had an amazing opportunity to really feel at home there. We became familiar with the subway system almost immediately – it is very straightforward and safe. We were able to prepay for unlimited rides during the course of 7 days, which ended up being really affordable as we only had to purchase them twice.
La Boqueria – Europe’s oldest open air market – was a daily thing. It was every foodie’s dream, especially if you love to cook and are able to do so.
We even splurged on a FCB football game, which was convenient because the stadium happened to be just a couple of blocks away from where we were staying.
4th stop: rome, italy
Flight: Ryanair November 26, 2014
- 2 coach tickets, 1 way + all taxes and fees = 49 EUR ($54.80)
- Private room in shared family home for 7 nights x $65/night + service fees = $512
Total for flight and stay in Rome, Italy = $566.80 ($283.40/person)
Total spent on trip so far = $4,056.42 ($2,028.21/person)
Our Airbnb in Rome made for the most memorable one of the entire trip.
Seriously, if you find yourself in Rome, and if you only listen to one thing I say in this whole post, use the link above and stay with Massi and Lisa through Airbnb.
They were the sweetest people and staying with them comes with a homemade breakfast of your choosing every morning. They made us feel so at home and so welcome.
We ate well in Rome, even beyond breakfast. We didn’t do any of our own cooking however eating out was not expensive for the most part. There is so much to do in Rome as far as excursions, however we limited ours to seeing the Vatican museum (don’t miss, worth the hype) and just a couple more activities.
We took a look at The Colosseum from the outside and decided that we didn’t feel like spending the 30 EUR or so to go in. This is clearly a personal decision – if you intend to see everything there is to see in Rome than I would definitely suggest budgeting for that.
Many of what we decided to do actually worked out to be free of charge. St. Peter’s Basilica (awesome in its purest definition) is free to enter, and although the line can be long in the summer we didn’t have to wait any time at all.
This was the part of the trip where I really soaked in some history. The entire city is a historical landmark – there are ruins literally everywhere. Just walking and exploring can be an excursion in itself.
We did a lot of walking in Rome while occasionally taking an above ground train or the subway. Transportation was not a large expense for us while there.
5th stop: bellano (lake como), italy
Train: ItaliaRail Dec 3, 2014 from Rome to Milan
- 2 standard tickets, 1 way = $70.00
Train: Trenitalia Dec 3, 2014 from Milan to Bellano (Lake Como)
- 2 tickets, 1 way = 13.40 EUR ($15)
- Private (huge) house with gorgeous view for 6 nights x $58/night* + service fees = $388
*At the time of writing this post the price for this same listing is $69/night. This is most likely due to the season, we went in the middle of winter and we are currently going into the summer months, where a lake house would be more sought after.
Total for trains and stay in Bellano, Italy = $473.00 ($236.50/person)
Total spent on trip so far: $4,529.42 ($2,264.71/person)
I mean seriously, how gorgeous is this place?! Bellano, a small village on the coast of Lake Como in northern Italy was the perfect place to wind down our trip. It was calm – very calm. With it being the off season we were basically the only foreigners there. The town was small enough that we felt confident in this conclusion despite having no data to prove it.
We had a huge house all to ourself on the top of the hill that overlooked the whole village. The 2 balconies came along with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding snow peaked mountains. I spent my fair share of time on the upstairs balcony wrapped up in a blanket and sipping tea while soaking it all in. It was surreal, frankly.
The lack of transportation really became apparent in this case as it was a steep climb down a cobblestone path to the village to do anything, including buying groceries. A steep downhill walk to pick up groceries requires an equally steep uphill climb with said groceries shortly after, of course. The novelty of an old-world cobblestone pathway loses its charm real quick under these circumstances.
At the time it seemed rough, but in hindsight after 5 weeks of indulging in anything and everything we wanted the exercise most certainly did us more good than harm.
We cooked a lot on this part of our trip and relaxed at the house during most of the day. The money we spent on groceries was virtually all we spent, which was very little.
Oh, and with Christmas approaching the village was nothing short of something out of a fairytale. If you looked up “quaint” in the dictionary a picture of the Bellano town center during Christmas should be there. It was ridiculously magical in the purest way possible.
I still have dreams about this place.
6TH STOP: BACK TO COPENHAGEN
Train: Trenitalia December 9, 2014 from Bellano (Lake Como) to Milan, Italy
- 2 standard tickets, 1 way = 13.40 EUR ($15)
Flight: Easyjet December 9, 2014 from Milan, Italy to Copenhagen, Denmark
- 2 tickets, 1 way = 76.58 EUR ($85.65)
- 1 night stay in shared room in family home in Copenhagen x $46/night + service fee = $66
Total for train, plane, and stay in Copenhagen = $166.65 ($83.33/person)
Total spent on trip so far = $4,696.07 ($2,348.04/person)
We spent our last night of the trip in Copenhagen again before flying home. It was incredible how much colder it had become there in just 6 weeks time. We were happy that we decided to make it the first stop of our trip.
We had shawerma for our last meal in Europe in an almost ceremonial fashion.
Flight: Scandinavian Airlines December 10, 2014
- 2 coach tickets return flight already paid! (See top of post: San Francisco to Copenhagen)
Flights/trains/lodging for 6 weeks in 6 locations = $4,696.07
So there it is, folks. I hope to have provided clarity as well as inspiration to start booking your own adventure. I did my best to recall the details of our expenses as well as our spending habits in each country to provide as much information as possible.
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This year’s trip is to South Africa. Let’s gooooooooo.
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