Our Budget Philosophy:

We prefer to add a layer of padding to our budgets when setting them.  This gives us the peace of mind that if our estimates were wrong, there is an unplanned activity that we want to enjoy, or if something happens that costs us money, we will be able to cover it without spending more than we can afford.  We definitely budgeted with enough padding in Europe, as you will see in the numbers below.

The Numbers:

Total Europe budget: $21,054

Total Europe spending: $16,011

Under Budget: $5,043

Per person, per month: $1,952

Europe Budget Categories
Europe Budget Categories

"Living" expenses by country (per person per day) - Food, Lodging, Activities

Transportation was left out as I included transportation to a country (flights, trains, etc) in the same number as public transportation, which was typically a small fraction of the spend per day anyway.

Hungary - 11

Poland - 33

UK - 34

Belgium - 41

Austria - 42

Germany - 45

Netherlands - 51

Czech Republic - 56

France - 60

Ireland - 62

Italy - 65

Switzerland - 69

Sweden - 110

There are a few things that stick out to me in the data above, let me highlight them:

  • We were $5,000 dollars (24%) under budget!
  • The per person, per month of $1,952 was close to the estimated $2,000 from my Budgeting Intro Post
  • Food, Lodging, and Transportation were all roughly the same percentage wise making a rough budget slightly simpler in the early stages of trip planning.


We learned many lessons about money, especially how to save money so you can spend it where you really want:

  • Stay with friends who live where you want to visit!  We saved an estimated $1600 from staying with friends in Stirling, Amsterdam, Siena, and Budapest.  This number had already been worked into the budget and DID NOT contribute to the $5,000 we were under budget.
  • Making our own meals instead of eating out 3 times a day.  We ate most breakfasts at our place of lodging, whether it was provided or we cooked ourselves.  In addition, we would often cook one other meal every few days.
  • Travel slower. When you travel slower, everything gets cheaper.  Overall transportation costs go down because you are buying fewer tickets in between cities.  The per person per day spending over a long trip is our primary metric for how expensive a place is, and when you travel slower, these per day numbers also go down. You will save on food costs because you will likely cook more since you have more time, and you will find better value restaurants to eat at, saving more money and getting better food when you do go out. You will spend less on activities per day, as you will usually have more relaxing days where you are not doing activities.  Finally, you willsave more on lodging because you will be able to negotiate better rates with your stays, especially if you use Airbnb.
  • Travel in the offseason.  We were primarily in Europe in late winter and spring, where summer is usually the busy time for most parts of Europe.  This also gives you some bargaining power with your lodging if there is less demand.
  • Avoid hotels. Airbnb was always a MUCH better value than hotels, and was usually a better value than hostels for two people (since hostels charge per person).  Hotels were usually two times the price or more than an Airbnb stay, and Airbnb places usually came with more space and amenities than hotels.
  • We did not order alcohol or other drinks with most meals, and brought water to places that charge for water.  I would estimate that on average, one drink would cost roughly %50 of a meal at most of the places we ate in Europe.  Some places even charge for water (even though you can drink the tap water, many places prefer to sell bottled and won't give you tap water), we would usually bring our own water and drink it to prevent unnecessary spending and waste.  We did tend to break the alcohol guideline in Ireland, Italy and Germany though!
  • It is important to set expectations about how you spend money when meeting up with other people while travelling.  People on shorter trips (or that you are visiting) will almost always have a different idea of what is a good value for food and activities; their budget for their trip will be likely be very different from yours.  Communicate with your visitors about the style of travel that you are doing, and let them know that, in order to stay within your budget, you may not do all the same things all the time.  An example of what we might say is: "We are excited to explore with you! As you know, since we aren’t working while we're traveling, we're on a budget. There may be some things that you want to do that aren't in our budget, which is completely fine!  If we do some things separately, that is no problem. Please enjoy your vacation the way you want to, and we'll join you on excursions when we can! Thanks for understanding!"

In the next budget post I will go over how we set our budget for the trip, stay tuned!

If you have any money saving tips you want to share, or any other budget or trip related questions, leave a comment below!