Wednesday, January 23, 2013

{European Travel} On a Budget

In case anyone forgot, we are going to Europe! A 17 day adventure of a lifetime, in 99 days no less! (If you've been around me at all in the past month there is no way you have forgotten, as I have talked about it on an annoyingly consistent basis. I'm not sorry.)
One of the first questions I am always asked is, "How did you get off work for so long?!" And it's mainly because my boss became uncomfortable with my begging and tears.

But the second question I get is, "How much is that going to cost?!" (Obviously, I have really forward friends)

Surprisingly, traveling to Europe can be accomplished on a tight budget. More specifically on a one-income**, paying-for-school budget. The trick is being smart with your money.

The most important factor is how you view money. What is your philosophy? The Clark's belief is that you don't spend what you don't have. I've talked about this before, but we have a monthly budget that we (*cough cough* I) are fairly strict with. Utilities, groceries, entertainment, giving, school, health care- all things we keep track of each month. We know where each dollar goes- simple as that. And each month we are consistently spending less than we make, thus saving money. This reason alone has made this trip possible.
If you currently do not have a budget, I strongly urge you to make one. Look at your spending for one month and see where your money goes. My guess is that you will be surprised. "I paid how much for take-out this month?" After that initial month, you can make a plan that works specifically for you and save money in the process. Who knows, maybe in a year's time you'll be planning your Europe trip too!
But let's be honest. No matter how much you save, Europe can still be ridiculously expensive: plane tickets, travel between countries, hotels, eating out every day, sight seeing. It all adds up quickly. But the price tag really depends on how you want to travel. Do you want to be in the fancy hotels and touristy places - the outside looking in; or do you want to stay in small local rooms, visiting the corner cafe for breakfast- in the middle of it all.

Josh and I agree that we want to be in the middle of it all. We're not fancy people and don't typically enjoy doing 'touristy' things (i.e.. tours, group activities, etc). And lucky for us, that is the cheaper option.
Now don't get me wrong, going with groups or on tours can be wonderful. Guides are often very knowledgeable and you can get a lot done in a short amount of time. But that scene just isn't for us. We want to spend a day visiting the local market shopping for lunch, relaxing with a picnic while mesmerized by the Eiffel Tower, then catch a night ferry along the Seine River to see the City of Lights at its best.

The best resource I have found is Rick Steve's Europe: Through the Back Door.
Not only is it a general guide through some of the best places in Europe, but it has practical and tangible ways to save money. (I also have Rick's guide books for London, Paris, and Florence- I'm a little obsessed).

Good 'ole Rick believes that the budget savvy traveler can experience true Europe with $150 a day- that is $300 a day, per couple. I hope to do it for a little less. (That does not include getting there- which is another post for another day). That means planning ahead and spending time doing research, which is something that any of us can do.

I hope this has led you to realize that if the Clark's can pay for a 2+week Europe trip, then you can too. It just takes self-control, lots of excitement, and a Type-A spouse who loves to plan! (Sorry Josh, you knew I was like this when you married me.) And a European trip may not be your goal; maybe you want to pay off all those school loans, buy a new car, or travel around the US. Whatever your dream is, a budget can get you there!

Happy saving!

**My husband would like to add that he is working part-time at Best Buy. His money obviously goes toward our trip, and his unhealthy obsession with entertainment/technology.


  1. I really appreciate your reality based post on this. I will admit that everytime I see on someone's facebook status that they are taking some kind of fun trip, the jealousy in me is awakened. How can these people that are the same age as you able to afford this?! My problem is I would rather take any extra that's in our budget and pay towards getting rid of school loans and that doesn't leave as much in savings. We have a decent savings account but it could be bigger if I wasn't trying to get rid of these school loans. We keep trying to look ahead to all the fun things we can do once we get these school loans out of our lives and can really spend our earnings as we choose.

    I'm glad somebody that is actually living on a budget and being smart about their money is getting to go on a trip like this. Excited for you guys!!

    --Rachel Callihan

  2. Stupid expensive higher education! Congrats for working off your loans though! This trip will be 3 years in the making....lots of saving and patience :) Everyone has different financial goals, and budgets are what get you there.

  3. I'll admit I was one of the friends who asked about cost!! I have no appropriateness filter. But you did help light a spark in me that I can do it and convince my husband it won't break us!!

  4. Ha Shelley! I'm a pretty open book so all inquiries are welcome!

  5. That looks like its going to be a fun trip. My husband and I live in Bath now (but i think we may have gone to the same university from your comment I read over at Hopeful Wondering) if you have any questions about England, Germany, Italy, or various other places hit me up. I grew up in Europe.

    Bonnie Rose | A Compass Rose