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!

Affordable Activities in Dublin

So, I’m not claiming that Dan and I are Dublin experts, but we did spend 6 days in Dublin searching the nooks and crannies for affordable things to do.

The very first thing we did in Dublin was FREE. We actually came to Dublin to support my friend Sarah and her sister C.J. while they ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dublin half marathon.

That's Sarah in the middle. Go Sarah, go!

That’s Sarah in the middle of the picture, at the start of the race. Go Sarah, go!

Sarah is actually planning on running another half marathon right around Halloween this year to benefit the ASPCA! What a do-gooder! Help her out by supporting her and and the ASPCA HERE.

While they exerted themselves, we walked around a very quiet Dublin as this was relatively early on a bank holiday.

We went to St. Stevens Green which was right next to the race start, and like all of the parks in Dublin, free. We had breakfast while watching the birds.

This cutie sat next to us at St. Stevens Green. Looking for a snack, perhaps?

This cutie sat next to us at St. Stevens Green. Looking for a snack, perhaps?

According to our AirBnB hosts, Claudia and Kevin, Phoenix Park in Dublin has lots of cool animals to see including rabbits and deer! We didn’t have time to go check, but it is free and the biggest city park in Europe, so maybe you can go check for us. Also, while you are there you can go to the free Irish Museum of Modern Art, right nearby. We obviously didn’t get their either, but if we had had one more day, we would have gone to Phoenix Park and the art museum.

Now on to cheap and free things in Dublin that we actually did do. My number one recommendation would be Dublin Castle.

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle

Don’t get over-excited, it isn’t really a castle. Well, it was at one point in history, but most of the castle part is now gone. It is, however, an extremely historic and important site in Irish history (and present). Every Irish president since the state became independent has been sworn in here.

Where every Irish President gets sworn in.

Where every Irish President gets sworn in.

Our guide was great. He answered all of my inane historical questions and entertained the group. The cost of the hour or so long tour of Dublin Castle is 4.50 Euros. Honestly, I was really under-informed about Ireland when I got to Dublin. This tour on my second day there helped me feel a little more knowledgeable and informed.

Two free things to do in the main tourist area in Dublin (at or right near Trinity College) are the Science Gallery, and the National Gallery of Ireland. There is currently an exhibit about illusion at the Science Gallery which was fun, and it’s free so you really have nothing to lose be spending some time there. The National Gallery had some lovely paintings by Irish painters, but it wasn’t my favorite national gallery ever. I did appreciate that it was well organized, though, and small enough that you didn’t feel guilty for only spending an hour there.

Also, all of the National Museums of Ireland (3 of the 4 are in Dublin) are free!

Finally, Dublin is home to many churches. Let me help you navigate which are worth the cost and which aren’t (in my opinion, obviously). Dublin’s two most famous churches are St. Patrick’s Catherdral and Christ Church Cathedral. St. Patrick’s is 5.50 Euros and Christ Church is 6 Euros. We reviewed the reviews on Trip Advisor (since I can see those without internet access. Again, I highly recommend the Trip Advisor app!) and took a peak into each church and decided that the church we were going to pay for was Christ Church. They both have fabulous history (and you can get into both for free for services), but Christ Church has a crypt full of cool things (and a cafe in the crypt. What??).

Christ Church interior

Christ Church interior

But then, as we were walking down the street from Christ Church, we spotted another church which looked mighty old. We walked down the steps of St. Audoen’s Church just to see what the deal was and it turns out it is run by the state and free to get into and view.

St. Audoen's Church

St. Audoen’s Church

We just walked around and read some of the info ourselves (we had had a long day at that point. I believe I told Dan that I was all read-out at some point), but apparently the staff will tour you for free if you ask. It really is a beautiful and interesting place.

St. Audoen's from the inside - kind of...

St. Audoen’s from the inside – kind of…

So, those are my recommendations. I’m sure I only touched on a few of the affordable things to do in Dublin (for instance, there is a ton of free outdoor stuff happening in the summertime in Dublin, plus it stays light out until after 9pm!), but I just wanted to give you a glimpse into the activities we chose to do on our limited budget. Did we miss anything big that you, dear reader, would recommend to future budget visitors?

Iceland: The Golden Circle

Molly and I wasted no time diving into Reykjavik and the surrounding countryside after a very uncomfortable and sleepless flight on Iceland Air.  We booked our tour through iCHighland and set out in a 16 passenger van (filled only by Molly, myself and three other Americans) on the highly recommended ‘Golden Circle’ tour.  iCHighland offers tours for around 10 USD cheaper than its competitors and other tours we encountered filled entire charter buses. Contrary to my initial misconceptions of the ‘Golden Circle Tour’ being a Chinese food entree, it is in fact a guided tour of some of Iceland’s most beautiful sights within a few hours’ drive from Reykjavik.

One of the many highlights of the tour was a stop at Golden Falls (if you are working on your Icelandic – ‘Gullfoss’).

Golden Falls – Gullfoss

With an average flow rate of 140 cubic meters per second (which from the looks of it, is a lot) it is an impressive sight to behold.  Such power churned up a chilly mist that helped to cool off an uncharacteristically hot and sunny 70 degree day.  The falls are made all the more impressive by the abundance of mountains that surround the site, containing immense glacier formations.

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Golden Circle – Glaciers

If glaciers don’t float your boat, perhaps geysers launching boiling water into unpredictable winds will do the trick.  The famed and reliable Strokkur geyser (which erupts regularly every 4-8 minutes) was a sight to behold and bephotoed.  I can confirm that the small dots at the bottom of this photo are in fact people.

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Golden Circle, Strokkur Geyser – Who put all of these sights so close together??

Departing the geysers, we ventured to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Þingvellir.  I Þlan to incorÞorate more ‘Þ’ characters into future Þosts. (If you are playing at home, the ‘Þ’ is actually pronounced ‘th’.)  I now understand why UNESCO made this worthy selection.

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Golden Circle – Þingvellir

In addition to being the sight of the first parliament in the history of man, Þingvellir is the home to naturally filtered glacier water with a clarity and cleanliness that would embarrass your kitchen sink.

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Golden Circle – Þingvellir (Yes, our feet are submerged in this photo)

Clean water and a monumental achievements of the human race are both great things.  However, continental plates are much bigger and it just so happens that the split between the Eurasian plate and North American plate run right through the middle of Þingvellir, and are moving apart at a rate of 2 cm per year.

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Golden Circle – Þingvellir (Eurasian and North American plate divide)

In closing, Iceland and its sights are built to last.  Mountains, continental plates, and great plains with hardly a tree in sight.  On our tour we visited a half dozen other sights along the way and each would easily be a  ‘crown jewel’ of tourism if located in most any other city or town worldwide.  The fact that so many of these sights exist so close together is astonishing.  The Golden Circle tour is a must if you find yourself in Iceland, even if it is at the top of your daily budget.

Stay tuned for tomorrow when Molly will break down some of the best vegan food options in Reykjavik!

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Golden Circle – Molly with Alaskan Lupine flowers that grow all over the countryside