Travel Cost Breakdown From Our Time in Europe

“I really want to travel around Europe, but it’s so expensive!”

We have heard this comment many times since we have been traveling the world. Yes, Europe is expensive but we are here to help you learn what kind of hit your wallet should actually expect.

Dan and I wrote down every penny we spent (converted from Euros to pennies using this app), put together a kick-butt spreadsheet, and are here to break it all down for you.

Molly examining trip expenses in our travel notebook

Calculating trip expenses in our travel notebook

We spent a total of 72 days in continental Europe. Our average cost per day was $140.58. That’s $70.29 per person. A totally reasonable amount, if I do say so myself. Here is how it all breaks down:

Europe Expenses Graph

Europe Expenses Pie Chart

In Europe, our biggest expense was lodging. (Just like it was in the UK and Ireland!) Housing came out to an average of $49.68 per night. We almost exclusively used AirBnB in Europe and had a private room every night. For a couple, AirBnB is a very effective cost saving strategy since the price is usually per room and not per person like it is at hostels. Also since most AirBnB listings are in someone’s actual home, you get the added bonus of access to a kitchen.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

We usually went out to eat for lunch, but cooked most of our own dinners. This is a fabulous way to save money as groceries are definitely cheaper than meals at restaurants. By eating out for lunch we still got a chance to try all of the fabulous vegan restaurants around Europe at lunchtime prices. This is how we got our food expenses down to $39.35 per day (total for both of us) while eating out about once a day.

The next biggest expense we had in Europe was transportation between locations. One thing we did to bring down the cost of travel around Europe was to buy a Eurail Pass here in the US before traveling to Europe. It’s important to think long and hard about what kind of pass you will need before making a purchase, though, as unused trips are just wasted money. We went with a Benelux-Germeny pass of 10 trips over a two month period. We did spend over a month in the rail pass area, but it turned out that we mostly used the pass in Germany. Germany is probably one of the most expensive countries to travel by train in Europe, so the pass worked out well for us. We loved seeing Germany by train, but you could probably get around Germany for even cheaper by taking buses or using car-sharing websites.

If you are interested in traveling Europe by rail and are headed to Italy, be aware that trains are pretty darn cheap in Italy. Don’t waste your money on a rail pass in Italy! Just buy the tickets as you go. In Italy, the prices for all non-highspeed trains remain the same even as the travel date approaches.

We did not fly once while we were in Europe. We avoided flying by taking a city-to-city approach to Europe. We started in Paris and we knew that we were flying out of Europe from Rome so we planned between those two dates. If you are planning to hop around Europe, though, there are many cheap airlines available. Our favorite site for comparing flights in Europe and around the world was SkyScanner, but we cross-checked all prices with Kayak to make sure we were getting the best price.

Our “entertainment” section covered mostly museums while we were in Europe. Again, we kept the cost of museums down by checking if a museum has a free or pay-what-you-wish day online before heading anywhere, and by using our student ID cards. We also took free walking tours all over Europe and enjoyed every single one of them. Be sure to tip your guide! They are all so fantastic and live off of the tips they earn.

The miscellaneous section is always our smallest, as we had no room for souvenirs in our bags, but every so often we would mail a postcard or gift, or buy some painkillers. (Ibuprofen is SO cheap in the UK compared to Europe or anywhere else we have been. Just a tip!) As a result, this makes up the last 4% of our Europe expenses pie chart.

I hope this has been informative and helps you plan your trip to Europe. Please let us know if we left out any information you would find useful in the comments section below!

Also, check out the post Dan wrote about our cost breakdown from our time in the UK and Ireland! If you are having trouble deciding what to pack for your trip, check out my post on packing light for long term travel!

A Cultural Day in Amsterdam

On Saturday, September 14th, Dan and I had plans to visit the Anne Frank house. Possibly the most famous thing in Amsterdam, other than the red light district and the “coffee”shops, it had been on our agenda for our week in Amsterdam but we had left it towards the end due to the fact that we knew the visit would be less than uplifting.

So at 4 in the afternoon on Saturday (they are open everyday until 9pm!) we headed over. And what do we see on the door but a “closed for Yom Kippur” sign. Now, I knew it was Yom Kippur, but seeing as they are open every Saturday, or the sabbath for Jews, I just assumed the museum would be open on Yom Kippur as well. In fact, later that night when we were back home the internet confirmed that Yom Kippur is the only day of the year that they are closed! Woops.

So to rescue the afternoon, we walked around the corner to the Old Church (or Oude Kerk in Dutch). When we got there we were handed a little booklet that did not explain anything about the church but instead explained that September 14th and 15th were “Heritage Amsterdam” days, which meant all kinds of cool buildings around the city were free and open to the public. We were running out of time on Saturday as all of the monuments close at 5 on these two days, so we made a plan to go and see some on Sunday as well, not wanting to miss out on such a cool event.

I will only highlight one “monument” and the Anne Frank house because 1) my mom asked me to write about them because she “may never get to see them” herself and 2) Yom Kippur had just passed the day before so it seems appropriate.

The morning of September 15th Dan and I headed out on a bright but blustery day to see the monuments. Our first stop was the Portuguese Synagogue.

Portuguese Synagogue interior

Portuguese Synagogue interior

The brief background that I’ll give about the synagogue is that it was built in the 17th century during the Dutch “golden age” by Jews expelled from the Iberian peninsula during the inquisition. The Netherlands was known for allowing freedom of religion, which is why so many Jews migrated there. At the time of its construction, it was the biggest synagogue in the world, and I can confirm that it is very big. More info can be found on the Wikipeidia page. We particularly liked the high, barrel-like wooden ceilings. Many of the benches are also original to the synagogue, dating to the 1670’s. It was amazing to think that the previous day this synagogue had been filled with hungry, repentant Jews. It was so quiet when we were there!

I was certainly glad to have seen the synagogue, but I am especially glad that it was on that day where many famous spots in the city were free. Admission to the Portuguese Synagogue is normally 12 euros. In my opinion, that is ridiculous. In fact, the sticker prices on most monuments and museums in continental Europe are insane. It means I have to choose museums carefully so I don’t leave the place feeling stupid that I just spend $20 to see nothing of value. Okay, end rant.

After the Portuguese Synagogue we walked clockwise along the Prinsengracht canal to the Anne Frank House. For those of you who have not read Anne’s book, you should. I was – when I read the book in middle school – and still am amazed that a 13-15 year old could have written so eloquently about a time and experience that my 27 year old brain cannot really comprehend.

The museum and house itself were interesting, but not new to anyone who has read the book. In 1960 Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only person in the family who survived the war, turned the house into a living monument to what World War II did to a family from Amsterdam. He decided to keep the actual “secret annex” where the Frank family and 4 others lived empty so a visitor can experience the loss as well. Dan and I understand why that choice was made, but in a way it made it harder to immerse yourself in the story while walking around empty rooms. The part that touched me the most was after you walked through the annex, you went to a museum of Anne and her family, their deaths at many different concentration camps, and a room dedicated to Anne’s actual diary. Seeing her words written in her handwriting (though, I couldn’t understand it as it was written in Dutch! Luckily, the museum added English translations next to each page) really moved me. It was the physical diary that made her real to me.

The last thing Dan and I really like in the museum part of the house was the room where they give you examples of various situations happening around the world relating to racism and extremism and you have to pick what the “right” thing to do is. Often these relate to first amendment rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Do people have the right to express hatred of others, or say things that could incite violence? Where do we draw the line on our freedoms? Germany has many anti-antisemitic laws on the books, including a law making it a criminal offence to deny the Holocaust. But Germany also has laws meant to suppress neo-Nazism, such as that certain combat boots with white laces are illegal. Where do we draw the line on freedom of expression? It was an interesting debate and I appreciated it being there.

Sorry for the lack of pictures from the Anne Frank House. They do not allow pictures inside, so I will leave you with a picture Dan took of me while we were waiting on line to get in.

It's a little windy out. Anne Frank House Museum in the background.

It’s a little windy out. Anne Frank House Museum in the background.

And on that note… We will be back soon with some more travel posts!