How much does it cost to travel all over Europe for 3 months during peak season? Less than $8,000, you say? YES! It can be done. Read on and I’ll show you how I was able to travel for 3.5 months for under $8,000.
In this post, I’ll reveal the following:
- how much I spent on my trip
- which countries I visited
- how I got to a spot in life where I could take this trip
- how I saved up money beforehand to fund my trip
- exactly how I lived while I was in Europe
By the end of this post, you’ll know exactly how I was able to travel throughout Europe for 3.5 months and how you can take your own extended trip to any country in the world!
How Much I Spent
I kept good track of my costs. I began my trip in late April 2018 with 1 week in New York and completed my trip in August 2018, clocking in at a total duration of 3.5 months and a total spend of around $8,800. However, there were some extenuating circumstances in my case, namely the fact that I had signed up for a 10-day guided hike called the Tour du Mont Blanc (cost: $1,600). So for all intents and purposes, I will be excluding these costs from my cost breakdowns below, because I doubt the majority of people reading this post will also shell out the money to do this trek on their 3 month journey abroad (but if you are interested, I would highly, highly recommend it! See my separate post on the TMB here.)
Total spend for 3.5 months in Europe = $7,200
Summers In Europe Are Not Cheap
I was really worried about how much I had saved because I had never spent a summer in Europe. Previously, I had only visited Italy in the winter, and Paris/Amsterdam/Bruges in the fall. I kept hearing from everyone that accommodations would be more expensive, attractions would be more expensive, etc etc. Looking back on it now, I did find the prices to be higher than other seasons, but totally doable. The amazing sunny weather, long summer nights, and warm swimmable beach waters were totally worth it.
Before I get any further into it, I’d like to note that this isn’t a post where I tell you to travel exclusively to Central/Eastern European countries (cheaper countries) to get the most bang for your buck. Central Europe was definitely amazing and it was significantly cheaper than Western Europe, but I did enjoy a bit of both worlds (most of my time was spent in Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Croatia). So first off, let me note the countries I visited: Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Switzerland, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Poland.
Among the most expensive were Italy, Switzerland, Italy, and France.
The cheapest countries were Hungary, Czech Republic, and Poland.
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
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
How I Was Able To Go On This Trip
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).
Getting all of these items in order was critical for a smooth transition. I had decided to quit my job in April, move all of my stuff from Los Angeles up to my parents’ house in Northern California, and leave my car with my dad. With all this in place, I was free of any financial obligations here in the USA and was ready to take off. In terms of saving up for the trip, I did a lot of money-related things here and there, some strategically and some very randomly.
Read More: 16 Simple Ways To Grow Your Travel Fund
What I Did To Save $10,000 For Travel
Yes, I actually saved more than I spent on this trip! Being a naturally frugal person, it really wasn’t too hard for me to save strategically. I cut costs where I could and stockpiled money away while I was still employed. From each biweekly paycheck, I would throw $500 into savings or investments, and $100-150 into my travel savings account. Whatever was leftover was all I had for groceries, gas and frivolous spending for the two weeks.
About a year ago, well before I decided to quit my job to travel, I realized that I wanted to stop feeling guilty about spending my hard-earned money on travel. I was traveling so much already (ie. weekend trips to other states, going on two international trips per year with a full-time job). I had the grand idea to start an income stream to fund my travels exclusively. I treated it as “extra” money that I allowed myself to spend on whatever I like. It’s a reach to understand the mindset, but it did free me of the guilt of “you should be saving more and not spending it on frivolous things”.
I ended up joining Postmates and Lyft, signing up and participating in a ton of paid focus groups, and becoming my coworkers’ go-to dogsitter/housesitter. My old company happened to reach out to see if I was available to do part-time remote work summarizing medical records for doctors (6-8 hours/week) and I seized the opportunity. I sold the clothes and shoes I didn’t care about on Poshmark. I told you, it was random.
Whenever I had a couple of free hours on the weekends or on weeknights after work, I would engage in one, maybe two, of the channels listed above. By doing this, I made over $6,500 guilt-free “travel dollars” for my trip.
Budgeting To Spend Under $7,000
I budgeted to spend approximately $7,000 even though I had well over that amount saved up. Remember, I was still jobless. Wouldn’t it be nice to end my trip with leftover money so I could afford to live once back in the US— of course! Before I took off for Europe, I ballparked how much I was allowed to spend each day based on my $7,000 budget. This ended up backing out to about $60 per day, including lodging costs). That meant that including my hostel/hotel for the night, food, and paid attractions, I wasn’t really allowed to go over $60 a day. Cool, this sounded doable, and it was.
What I Did To Minimize Costs Abroad
Using credit card travel points
The points I had saved up over my years of travel hacking ended up paying for about 20-25% of my trip. It covered my main flights from CA > NY, NY > Italy, Switzerland > CA, and saved me $500 in Airbnb bookings and inter-Europe flights, as well as $150 in attraction costs.
Staying in hostels
For the most part, hostels were my accommodation of choice. There were certainly times when I splurged and went for private B&B’s or Airbnb rooms when I wasn’t feeling social or when I just wanted some peace and quiet. Not only was I paying $20-40 per night at hostels, but I had a whole community of like-minded travelers within my reach. I found it to be the best, most effortless way to meet new people.
Strategizing my meals
Many times, I bought groceries at the supermarkets and cooked breakfast and dinner at the hostel. Since I wanted to remain relatively healthy in the mornings, my breakfasts consisted of fruit, eggs and oatmeal, which I purchased in bulk. These items don’t cost very much to begin with. I allocated my lunch meal and snack times for eating out at restaurants, bakeries, food trucks, etc. More often than not, I would end up getting too full from all the small bites, pastries, and ice cream from snack time, that I didn’t have much of an appetite for dinner (I’d end up getting something small, filling, and cheap to munch on). I’d say I ate out 10% of the time for breakfast, 90% of the time for lunch, and 30% of the time for dinner.
Walking and public transportation
I really enjoy working out and do it about 4-5 times per week in my normal life. Since I wasn’t working out abroad, I took any opportunity I could to walk instead of using public transportation. I knew I would be eating whatever I wanted on this trip, so it only made sense to substitute working out with walking. There were times when the distances were too far to walk, in which case I would take the trains or buses for super cheap. I can only think of 3 instances where I took an Uber or taxi (getting to the airport at 4 am kind of instances).
To be honest, I only did this once during the last few weeks of my trip. Only because I wasn’t confident enough to do it earlier in the trip… my one regret! I could have met so many cool people, building long-lasting relationships and saving money at the same time!
Not buying many souvenirs or unnecessary items
I definitely spent some money upgrading my wardrobe a teensy bit while I was abroad (how can you not, these European sales in July are irresistible!) but was constrained by the fact that I had to carry everything on my back. I only brought back a few gourmet food items for my friends and family, but that was about it. Very little money was used to purchase useless garbage. I had no room, and my personal belongings were already so heavy.
Buying alcohol from grocery stores
Instead of always going to bars. Pre-gaming (pre’s, as some in Europe would call it) is a thing worldwide because wherever you go, especially in Western Europe, club drinks and bar drinks will cost more than if you were to buy it from the grocery store. Beer and wine is so cheap there and come in huge portions, so often times I would only need to buy one or two portions and be happy for the night.
Limited the attractions I visited
Of the attractions I did visit, I took advantage of student discount on entrance fees. I purposefully chose not to enter the majority of paid attractions, and my reasons are three-fold. First, I’m not all that interested in museums or churches, unless it’s extremely spectacular, right up my alley (such as the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the Musee des Arts Forains in Paris), or it’s a castle. Second of all, I knew I would return to these cities eventually, meaning I didn’t have to knock them all off or cross them off any bucketlist of mine. Thirdly, I didn’t want to spend most of my time indoors when there was an entirely new city waiting to be explored on foot.
I really took advantage of the free walking tours in the major cities I visited. Not only do you learn about the history, food, people, and culture of the city from a local’s perspective, you get some really good exercise! These tours are tip-based, so they are pretty affordable, compared to the formal paid tours that typically charge anywhere from $30-90. Among some of the most interesting I participated in was a free tour all about Gaudi’s works in Barcelona, Spain and a free night tour about the dark side (murders, ghosts, macabre) of Krakow, Poland.
Limiting the amount of city hopping I was doing
Traveling from city to city/country to country is expensive, both on time and your wallet, even if train travel and budget airline travel exists. Not to mention, it was just so tiring and a huge hassle to pack and unpack. I slowed down my traveling, spent more time in each city, and ultimately got more out of it.
Of course, there were times when I did splurge. I had many seafood dinners for one in Venice, Cinque Terre, and Barcelona; I booked a double occupancy B&B for 4 nights in Rome; I went to a music festival in Croatia. No matter what I did, I managed to stay within my overall budget. It’s really all about moderation here.
I hope this information has helped you gain a deeper understanding of the travel lifestyle of someone who is taking an extended trip rather than traveling for 1-2 weeks. It’s a completely different ballgame!
Are you heading to Europe soon? Check out my Europe packing guide, full of tried and true gear that I used on my trip!
- How I Saved Up Over $10,000 To Travel The World For 3 Months
- The Ultimate Packing Checklist For 3 Months Of Travel
- 10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My 3 Month Europe Trip