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!

Madurodam and Miniatur Wunderland

The Hague’s Madurodam and Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland are big attractions in their respective cities. They take historic buildings and skylines and break them down into accessible miniature replicas. The architectural accuracy of the models alone at both sites makes them worth visiting. However, they each have a number of additional features that you will remember for years to come.

Madurodam is pretty straightforward as a tourist attraction. The models there focus exclusively on The Netherlands and will give you a great representation on the architecture across the country. I can tell you this; many people had a lot of fun putting together Madurodam.

Madurodam, The Hague

Madurodam, The Hague

Scattered around the park are dozens of videos (in Dutch, but with English subtitles) that explain buildings, Dutch culture and weird facts. The humor really strikes a tone with all ages. Even if you think looking at scale replicas isn’t your thing, you will be pleasantly surprised. You can try your hand at a simulated flower-auction, purchase a pair of mini-clogs delivered by truck from a mini clog-factory, watch model boats go through fully functional locks and lift weights that look like cheese wheels!

Madurodam clog factory

Madurodam’s mini-clog factory!

Madurodam, Dike

Madurodam – Molly is holding back the flood!

I personally enjoyed the birds wandering through the outdoor site clashing in scale with micro buildings and vehicles. Tons of fun. Pro tip: Don’t go when it’s raining.

Madurodam, Binnenhof

Madurodam, Model of Binnenhof in The Hague

Madurodam is a great way to feel like you’ve seen all of Holland in about two hours. Just a note, it took us three hours. We were simply having too much fun.  If you want to see more of the world in miniature, you need to head west to Hamburg.

Miniatur Wunderland – e.g. ‘Miniature Wonderland’ – is Hamburg’s most popular attraction for good reason. It is the largest model railway in the world! There is a good chance your first reaction will be “Who had the time to put this whole exhibit together?” As the truth would have it, there are many people spending a lot of time painting and crafting these convincing scenes.

Miniature Wonderland - Switzerland exhibit

Miniature Wonderland – Switzerland exhibit

The level of detail is astounding. Figures just millimeters high are bursting with character. It’s like playing a huge 3-D version of Where’s Waldo without knowing exactly who you are looking for.  The scenes themselves also have their moments of levity as well if you look closely.

Miniature Wonderland - Santa and Frosty!

Miniature Wonderland – Santa and Frosty!

Miniature Wonderland - Rabbits in School

Miniature Wonderland – Rabbits in School

Miniature Wonderland Tractor Race

Miniature Wonderland Tractor Race

Miniatur Wunderland has permanent exhibits which feature Switzerland, Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, and the United States. (Coming soon – Italy!) The models effectively capture some of the most recognizable features of these regions. Authenticity of these regions is also enhanced by day/night cycles. Speaking of authentic, the working replica of an Airport is a wonder to behold.

Miniature Wonderland Carnival

Miniature Wonderland Carnival at night

In addition to these giant exhibitions they also have several rooms devoted to special exhibits which capture historical moments in miniature form. You can spend the entire day looking at miniatures and still feel like there is more to experience. We spent 6 hours at a very crowded Miniature Wonderland!

We enjoyed both of these museums and would highly recommend a visit to one or both. You will be surprised how compelling and engaging something so small can be!

For more pictures of Madurodam and Miniatur Wunderland, please check out our new Travel Gallery page!