Have you ever wondered what a 3 month trip to Europe would cost? Wondering if you could ever save enough, take the plunge, and swing one of your own?
Thankfully, I meticulously documented every expense during my 3-month trip overseas. Why did I do this? So I could make sure I stuck to my budget as closely as possible. Without a constant source of income, going over budget and living/spending frivolously beyond my means was something I was concerned about.
Luckily for you, this post sheds insight on how exactly I spent my budget over the 3-4 months of travel, including my monetary savings from credit card points as well as sunk costs from flights I never took and rooms I couldn’t cancel. Each country I visited includes a breakdown of costs by accommodation, activities, food, and transportation.
If you happen to be considering an extended trip abroad, I hope you find this cost breakdown useful to better set your expectations. Please learn from my mistakes and deploy some of the money-saving strategies described in this post so you can spend more wisely on your own trip!
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MY 3-MONTH TRAVEL ADVENTURE: OVERVIEW
Where I Went
- Italy: Reggio Emilia, Parma, Cinque Terre, Bologna, Venice, Florence, Rome, Italian border villages on the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Czech Republic: Prague
- Hungary: Budapest
- Poland: Krakow, Zakopane, Tatra National Park
- Portugal: Lisbon, Sintra, Porto
- Spain: Seville, Barcelona, Sitges
- Croatia: Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Plitvice National Park
- France: Annecy, Chamonix, French border villages on the Tour du Mont Blanc
- Switzerland: Geneva, Swiss border villages on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Trip Duration: 105 days, equating to 3.5 months.
How I Did It
Many things had to line up to make this trip happen. I had to:
- Have no debts or other financial obligations
- Save enough money to survive without a full-time job for 3 months
- Not be constrained by rent, car lease, children
- Find a place to put my car and belongings (this is where my parents’ house came in handy).
With all of these things in place, I took off and had the time of my life!
Want to know more about how it all happened and what it took to get there? Read more about my 3-month Europe trip here.
TOTAL TRIP COSTS
- Accommodation: $2,466
- Activities: $911
- Food: $2,312
- Transportation: $1,252
- Guided Trek: $1,600
- Gear: $309
GRAND TOTAL: $9,154.83
As you can see, transportation and lodging made up ~50% of my overall spend in Europe. No surprises here, since flights, train tickets, and nightly hostels/Airbnb’s are very much required for any trip. And since I was moving around quite a bit, these categories added up. Alone, transportation above is showing that it made up only 17% of my out-of-pocket costs–I actually would have spent a lot more on flights, but a lot of it was covered with credit card point. More on that later.
In the chart above, I did not include my guided trek (to give a more realistic expense breakdown of what an “average” 3-month trip would look like), but it is listed in the bullet points and was used to calculate my grand total costs.
Note: The totals here reflect only what I paid in cash, or out-of-pocket expenses. It does not include some of the other additional “expenses” I would have had to pay had I not used my credit card points to help pay for some if the trip.
SAVINGS AND SUNK COSTS
These savings were entirely as a result of travel hacking! I was able to save a good amount of money by using existing credit card points as well as opening up new cards right before my trip to offset some of my travel costs. If you want to learn more about how I was able to achieve this, check out this post here (how I saved up over $10k to travel the world).
Total Balance of Chase Ultimate Rewards, SPG points, and points from my Barclay Arrival card:
- Chase Ultimate Rewards: 83,000
- SPG Amex Points: 13,000
- Barclay Card: 45,832
Free Travel Redemptions
- Flight – California to New York: $200
- Flight – New York to Milan, Italy: $400
- Activity – Colosseum Tour in Rome: $50
- Activity – Auschwitz Tour: $40
- Flight – Krakow to Lisbon: $137
- Accommodation – Lisbon Hostel (4 nights): $113
- Accommodation – Barcelona (6 nights): $250
- Accommodation – Dubrovnic (3 nights): $200
- Flight – Geneva to California: $1200
TOTAL SAVINGS: $2,587
The following listings are the things I paid for such as flights or paid reservations, but just ended up not using for one reason or another. Some of these are totally a function of poor planning, while others were due to changes in my original plan. Sad.
- Airbnb – Milan: $138
- Flight – Paris to Milan: $73
- Flight – Krakow to Milan: $72
- Accommodation – Krakow apartment: $66
TOTAL SUNK COSTS: $349
I had originally planned to go to Paris as part of this trip, but after determining that I could explore Poland for a fraction of the cost, I decided to abort the mission and ended up spending a few days in the Tatra Mountains in Poland. In some other instances such as those Milan flights, I had made plans with my now ex-boyfriend, who lived in Milan. Needless to stay, we separated after I had already booked non-refundable flights through Ryanair.
COST BREAKDOWN BY COUNTRY
USA (New York) – 6 days
- Travel Gear: $309
- Food: $515
- Transportation: $58
- Flights: $6
- TOTAL: $888
Prior to my trip, I had two main travel gear expenses– my new all-time favorite travel backpack, the Osprey Aura 65, and some Europe-appropriate clothing that I was lacking (dresses, light jackets, shorts, etc.)
My 3-month journey abroad began in New York. I was born in New York (moved to California when I was a mere 7-year old child), so with half of my extended family still residing here, I decided to pay them a visit for a couple of days shy of a week. I was able to stay with my cousin, which meant I incurred no accommodation costs. Since New York is one of the ultimate foodie destinations in the USA, most of my budget went towards food. (They literally have everything—many restaurants overseas will open their first US location in NY. You can easily imagine how I blew through so much money.) As gratitude to my cousin for allowing me to stay with him, I also covered some of his meals.
ITALY – 4 WEEKS
- Accommodation: $1,154
- Activities: $143
- Food: $681
- Transportation: $203
- TOTAL: $2,181
Italy was by far the largest portion of my budget since I had stayed for 4 weeks, exploring the likes of Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Parma, Cinque Terre, Venice, Florence, and Rome. For a portion of my time there, I stayed with my friend in Reggio Emilia. He had access to a car as well as a bike that I borrowed to get around, thereby saving me some money on both accommodation and transportation costs.
The accommodation piece was the largest struggle for me here in Italy, since I ended up in some pretty touristy places with limited accommodation options such as Venice and the sea-side villages of Cinque Terre. This was partially my fault as well since I didn’t book early enough like I typically do. And I really, really splurged against my will in Rome when I booked a bed and breakfast for 2 (with the anticipation that my friend was going to join me but bailed). Rome’s accommodation costs totaled $550, ouch.
See More: In Photos: Italy
In terms of food, each meal at a sit-down restaurant averaged around $15-20, which was a lot more than food in some of the other countries, as you’ll later see. Italian restaurants don’t really do “takeaway” food, so many times there really wasn’t an option—sit-down restaurant it was. Since I was staying with my friend, I ended up paying for a few 2-3 person meals in order to pay him and his family back for their generosity.
Oh yes, and the sheer amount of coffee I drank here was uncountable. But hey, what’s 1 euro (a simple dig into the pocket—voila! Enough money to get you another shot of espresso). Nevertheless, staying with my friend for a couple of weeks really did help offset some of the day to day expenses in Italy.
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY – 2 DAYS
- Accommodation: $75
- Activities: $45
- Food: $120
- Transportation: $42
- TOTAL: $281
My old coworkers had joined me in this leg of the trip, so a lot of costs were shared costs (thereby making it slightly more expensive since we ate more, took taxis instead of trains, stayed in more luxury accommodations, etc.) During our time in Budapest, we did a boat tour, drank a lot, stayed at a very nice Airbnb rental and went to the bathhouse.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – 3 DAYS
- Accommodation: $61
- Activities: $45
- Food: $65
- Transportation: $55
- TOTAL: $208
My old coworkers had joined me in this leg of the trip as well, so a lot of costs were shared, slightly elevated costs. Nevertheless, the food was so unbelievably cheap. Though they had hipster coffee shops and swanky-type bars/restaurants, the prices stayed relatively low. Since our Airbnb was actually located in Old Town, we spent a bit more here than some other rooms would have cost in Prague. Transportation included an overnight sleeper train which was a great experience in itself, to my surprise. It came with bottled water, slippers, toothbrushes, and a breakfast box—for the low cost of $55, it was pretty darn worth it.
POLAND – 9 DAYS
- Accommodation: $225
- Activities: $38
- Food: $114
- Transportation: $88
- TOTAL: $465
My time in Poland consisted of 3 nights in the Tatra Mountains at a little mountain town called Zakopane, and 6 nights in the bustling city of Krakow. Poland was by far one of the cheapest destinations of my trip, if not the cheapest overall. Beer was no more than $3 per glass/pint, and meals cost under $5-7 regularly. In the mountains, I “splurged” a bit and booked a bed and breakfast (double occupancy room with an amazing free breakfast every morning) for a whopping $25/night. I told you, Poland is so, so affordable.
PORTUGAL – 8 DAYS
- Accommodation: $105
- Activities: $45
- Food: $151
- Transportation: $10
- TOTAL: $351
Portugal was relatively affordable, though not as cheap as some parts of Central Europe, like I had just witnessed with Poland, Hungary, and the CR. By far, they had the best hostels I’d ever experienced on this trip. Each hostel was extremely affordable while upholding modernity and aesthetics. In each city I went to (Lisbon, Porto), I had a bed in a 3-person room, which cost me less than some of the 6-8 person rooms I paid for on this trip. Food was more of an expense for me here, but hey, Portugal is known to have great food. Since I have a burning love for seafood, I found the need to eat fresh seafood almost every meal with the exception of breakfast.
Check out my photos of Portugal here.
SPAIN – 10 DAYS
- Accommodation: $71
- Activities: $152
- Food: $290
- Transportation: $106
- TOTAL: $751
Spain (Sevilla, Barcelona, Sitges) was nothing short of mind-blowing and awe-inspiring. The food, the people, the vibes, the culture—all of it made for a super splendid time. Lodging costs were low here since I had redeemed ~$150 worth of credit card points for accommodation. The food here was also a large expense, but really, how can anyone deny splurging on food in Spain? I’ll admit, the razor clams, shrimp dishes, squid and paella really got me—take my money! Tapas and seafood for life.
Check out my Spain trip, in photos, here.
CROATIA – 14 DAY
- Accommodation: $306
- Activities: $156
- Food: $225
- Transportation: $350
- TOTAL: $1037
Croatia was definitely not as cheap as I imagined it to be. Some cities were more affordable than others. With the influx in tourism stemming from the popularity of Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik, while still beautiful, was severely overpriced in my experience. Specifically, the restaurants in the Old Town were very expensive compared to other countries I had visited so far.
My activities costs stayed relatively low, since I mostly hung out on the beaches, worked on setting up my blog (yes, this blog was born in Croatia!), and made a few trips to a few national parks. The one splurge activity here worth calling out—I went to 2 days of Ultra Europe, an electronic music festival that occurs once a year. Totally worth the spend. As the national parks were a bit a ways away from the main cities, transportation expenses added up.
TOUR DU MONT BLANC – 11 DAYS
- Guided Tour: $1,600
- Accommodation: $88
My 10-day Tour Du Mont Blanc guided tour was only $1,600, which was a complete steal compared to some other name-brand tour companies out there. Nevertheless, I ate well, slept well, and had a blast with my friends (who flew out to join me for this leg of my trip), my guide, as well as all of the eclectic members of my tour group. This was definitely a walk of a lifetime, and for such value! Costs also include an extra night of accommodation at a beautiful alpine resort in Chamonix.
Read more about my TMB trip experience here.
MISCELLANEOUS – MILAN & HOME
- Accommodation: $195
- Activities: $265
- Food: $150
- Flight Back Home: $60
- TOTAL: $670
This category captures some extra spend that I incurred as I made my way over from Croatia to Switzerland, stopping in Milan for 1 night. A portion of the fees here also went towards accommodation and food while in Geneva for a few days before our Tour Du Mont Blanc guided tour begun. It also includes my flight back to Los Angeles from Geneva, Switzerland (which valued at $1200, but due to credit card points usage, I only paid taxes and fees for).
If you’re planning an extended trip abroad, you should strongly consider investing in yourself by getting travel insurance. Remember, your medical insurance plan from your home country will more than likely not cover you when you’re traveling internationally. Travel insurance is especially important if you plan to be more active, engage in adventurous activities, or even want to get outdoors. Travel insurance certainly gives me peace of mind whenever I’m traveling for over 2 weeks, knowing I’d be covered if anything went sideways.
I recommend World Nomads for insuring your extended travel adventure. They offer comprehensive packages for ‘standard’ or ‘explorer’ levels, covering anything from bodily harm, lost/stolen bags, and even 200+ adventure activities (this usually needs to be purchased separately anyway). For the Tour Du Mont Blanc, I had to make sure I was covered for Emergency Evacuation before going on the trek. World Nomads has a great customer service team, is considered one of the best options in the market, and is priced very reasonably.
Hopefully, at this point, you have a better understanding of how much it costs to travel for 3 months or longer. I had a few decent savings, but I certainly did not make the best financial decisions 100% of the time on my trip. Everyone’s trip will have different costs depending on varying interests, travel styles, and comfort levels. Good luck on your very own adventure!