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25th Wedding Anniversary

My wife and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next year. I am looking at traveling in June to Europe for about three weeks. This would be our first trip to Europe. The one place that we MUST VISIT (wife’s bucket list) is Paris. We would like to visit several cities and countries while we are there. I was thinking of Belgium, London, The Netherlands, and Paris but we are pretty much open to visiting any other part of Europe. My wife is very big on aesthetics and good food. We are both educators so we do not have an excess amount of money- lol. We will be flying out of Atlanta for this trip.

This is a tentative breakdown of our budget (about $5,000 to $7,000):

Flights - $1000 x 2 people = $2,000?
Hotel / Hostel / Bed and Breakfast / Airbnb - $1,000 per week (grand total of $3,000)?
Dining - $100 per day?

I don’t know if all this is feasible or not but I am open to suggestions on airlines, places to stay, dining options, traveling between different countries, sites to see, etc…

Thanks so much in advance.

Posted by
5124 posts

Your budget may be possible if you stay in hostels. But hotels in major European cities during tourist high season for less than €200/ night might be hard to find. You might want to look for Airbnbs (or their equivalent) for lower nightly prices and having your own cooking facilities to keep your food budget down.

You also need to budget for transportation, both in cities and between them. Once you decide on an itinerary you can read up on local transportation options (bus, underground/metro, Uber, taxi) as well as trains, which (along with buses in some places) are often the least expensive way to travel city to city. The Man in Seat 61 website is the place to read up on everything to do with European train travel.

You also need to budget for attraction tickets. And many places will require advance reservations and timed tickets.

As far as deciding on an itinerary- that's something only you 2 can do. But don't go overboard trying to cram in too many places in your 3 weeks. London and Paris could easily eat up a week each, and you still would have only scratched the surface. But when doing your planning, consider the efficiency of buying a multicity air ticket, where you fly into one city, then fly home from your final one ( for example fly into London, train to Paris, train to Brussels, train to Amsterdam, fly home from A'dam)

Posted by
1808 posts

It is always tough to define a budget until you start shopping airfares and hotels. Dining is easier to control once you are there. I would say because you are headed to London and Paris I would budget $6.000-$7,000 total. Don't forget you will have other expenses like sights and transportation. Your cities are great choices.

Posted by
332 posts

If you flew into Amsterdam & out of London you could use the Eurostar (train) to get between these cities. AMS-Brussels_Paris-London. Frankly I would trim one of these cities. But if you have to make it work it could be a bit "rushed". You will lose a day in traveling between each city. So your 3 weeks is now more like 17 days. 4 days in each city.

I assume you want summer travel. I found a flight middle of april- first of May at about $2000. That is about as far out as flights come on schedule (330 days out) You still need a budget for traveling between cities. If you are going to book flight tix start at the 330 day mark. Look at combinations of each of these cities.....cutting AMS, or cutting London..or cutting Brussels. Fly in one & out another.

I would double my lodging budget. Perhaps in smaller cities it could work. These are major cities at the height of tourist season.

Your dining budget....$100 per person? Otherwise double and that (for us) is a bit light

Remember you don't have to see it all "this time". Assume you will return
Good luck

Posted by
11497 posts

Hotel / Hostel / Bed and Breakfast / Airbnb - $1,000 per week (grand total of $3,000)?

When we had our 25th anniversary, my wife would not have tolerated the thought of staying at a hostel. If you folks are fine with that, the $1000 per week might be achievable. $1400-$1600 per week average might be more realistic, given Paris and London are not cheap.

Dining - $100 per day?

Per person or total?

Adding in costs to get to all your desired destinations after getting to Europe and admission fees to museums and such, I think for a 3 week trip, $7-$10k is a more real world target of what you will need/spend.

My wife is very big on aesthetics and good food.

This statement leads me to think your wife would not enjoy hostels, or other lodgings in the bargain basement price bracket..

Happy travels

Posted by
893 posts

davidpmesser2,
Congratulations on your anniversary!

One piece of advice, don't make your Paris trip any less than one week. Longer, if you can. There is no more romantic city than Paris. To my mind, London is more expensive than Paris, but it is another city with tons to see and do. With three weeks, and being your first trip to Europe, I would pick two cities and split your time between them. If Paris/London, evenly; if Paris/Amsterdam, 2 weeks and one week. If Belgium, whereabouts in Belgium? Personally, I would skip Belgium this trip. Of course, you could split it three ways...Paris, London, Amsterdam. Just remember that you lose a day moving from one place to another.
Re expenses. all three places are not cheap, but with diligence some (relative) bargains can be found. And somewhat cheap eats are available if you are willing to try some of the many tasty ethnic food options out there. They are not to be sneezed at!
For lodging, mine this forum for recommendations, letting people know your budget. Things have gotten so very pricy nowadays, alas!

I don't know if this is still an option, but in England many universities have rented out some of their student rooms in the summer. I don't have any specific references, but try the mighty Google. In Italy, we have stayed in simple rooms at convents. A plain breakfast was included. Maybe something like that can be found in other countries.
Be sure to budget for entrance fees to museums, etc., and for transportation within the cities and between them.

(FYI, in 1974 we took a three-year delayed honeymoon to Europe for 4 months. We had been saving for three years, sublet our apartment, sold one car and ordered a VW to pick up in Wolfsburg, Germany. We did pretty much everything on the super cheap. There were a few times we slept in the VW bug, once waking up to cows peering in at us. One time, near the end of our trip when we were almost out of money, we stole some apples from an orchard to have something to eat. We bought cheap sleeping bags for about $5.00 each in Marseille, and they made do in lieu of a hotel room sometimes. Back then there were rooms to be had without an ensuite bathroom. Showers were down the hall, sometimes at a small extra fee, but rooms always had sinks in them and sometimes a commode. It wasn't so hard. We were 30m and 31, so young, tough, and a little ignorant. My point is, search out the bargains if you need to. You will never forget this journey! Amusez-vous bien!)

Posted by
893 posts

davidpmesser2,
For comparison with my first trip in 1974, last year we spent 4 weeks in France, to celebrate our 52nd anniversary (Covid put the kibosh on the 50th in 2021),
We treated our kids and grandkids to time there as well. Son and his significant other came for almost three weeks, daughter and two grandkids came for 10 days. We stayed with family for a good part of the trip, but when all seven of us were together we rented a house in the Dordogne for 10 days. It was a bargain for $3000.00 for ten days for seven people, and we had breakfast there every day, and dinner there about half the time. We had to rent 2 cars, and airfare for seven in premium economy wasn't cheap, but after 49 years since that first trip, it was worth the splurge!
If you have to pinch some pennies this trip, look at it as part of the adventure. More deluxe times will probably come, and I bet you will cherish the memories of your first trip as much as the subsequent ones! Don't let us older folks who have come to need and expect and relish the pricier comforts discourage you from your trip due to your budget. Somehow you will figure it out, tweak your plans, and have a memorable trip!

Posted by
893 posts

davidpmesser2,
Rereading your post, if you can find a way to sock away some more money for this trip, it would go a long way to satisfying the penchant for good aesthetics and food.

Posted by
2663 posts

We would like to visit several cities and countries

Heads up: where is the budget for the travel costs between several cities and countries?

very big on aesthetics and good food

Copenhagen is the automatic answer which came to my mind. Danish designers are famous for their iconic aesthetic design of furniture, art and fashion and you can visit several workshops, shops and also museums about it. Maybe you will find your own approach of "hygge" and of Danish happiness. The choice of special and hand-made food is very manifold in Copenhagen's food scene - the traditional Smørrebrød you will find in dozens of versions. The various pastries taste very delicious.

we do not have an excess amount of money

Berlin can be a budget-saving option - it offers comparable cheap prices and has so much to explore. A lunch or dinner in the Sphere restaurant of TV tower is very exclusive (not over-expensive). The inner platform turns 360° per hour. The very good news is that star cook Tim Raue is taking it over from spring 2025 on. The food variety in Berlin is huge and very affordable. For aesthetics do not forget to visit a few of our museums and galleries and especially the World Heritage Potsdam palaces.

Posted by
1259 posts

Davidmesser2

I would suggest that you come up with your dream itinerary and then see what it would cost you if you were to do that dream trip in July, 2024, which is next month. You would be paying high last minute prices, but this will give you a very good idea of what your realistic budget should be for next June.

I always prepare a high budget and then research to find deals so that I end up well under budget. I make my wife happy because I was always prepared to spend more and I make myself happy because I end up spending less than expected.

I think that your current budget is probably unrealistically low. You will probably end up going over that budget which may make you unhappy and still leave your wife wanting which may make her unhappy.

Paris and London are expensive. I would make a preliminary budget of USD$300 per night for accommodations and about USD$300 (food, fun, transport) per day for 2 people. That would work out to be about USD$12,600, plus airfare for the both of you.

Compare Rick Steves Best of Europe 21 day tours which are about $6,300 to $6,500 per person, plus air fare. So, my initial budget is not a bad guess.

Having said that, I have always been able to spend considerably less compared to any organized tours and come under my budget. I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from planning and saving money on my vacations.

Just learn to average down. You can stay at a four-star hotel in Paris as long as you're willing to stay in the odd two star hotel.

Adding breakfast to your hotel stay could add €20-25 per person per day. Why would you want to eat breakfast in the same place for 4 or 5 days? If you want to eat at a Michelin star restaurant, just get by with cafe au lait and a croissant at a different street cafe every the morning.

Booking trains in 1-3 months in advance can yield big discounts.

You could also add some cheaper countries to your itinerary. Spain or Portugal are very affordable compared to France or the UK.

Book direct with each hotel, sign up for hotel membership and send a brief email letting the hotel know that you are celebrating your 25th anniversary and really looking forward to your stay. You may be surprised by extra hospitality gifts, especially if you have booked a longer stay.

Good luck.

Posted by
795 posts

Hey there, lots of good advice above, and congrats on your anniversary! I too would consider only staying in 2 locations, gives you a chance to sink into the atmosphere. And will work out to be more cost effective and also doesn't waste 1/2 a day getting to another destination.

I don't know if this is still an option, but in England many universities have rented out some of their student rooms in the summer.

Yes, it's still available and a good way to save some $$ while staying in beautiful colleges. I adore Oxford and have stayed at Keble College a number of times, if you're interested in any university accommodation, here's the link for booking, (only during school holidays). But I've not stayed at a London college. I find the rooms basic, but the atmosphere and dining rooms are often exquisite! https://www.universityrooms.com/en-GB/city/london/home/?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAjw65-zBhBkEiwAjrqRMDY6xTx5NqYpxNX9vxZwSwIvmIYhgTdv5CcsqktMdDhHML5e9sw1sxoCZXsQAvD_BwE

Another way to save on accommodation is to travel in the shoulder season, I suspect May (after the late Easter end of April next year) might be cheaper, but I've heard Sept is very expensive in Paris. The only problem with checking July prices in Paris is the Olympics, hopefully prices will be less next summer.

@CWSocial has some great ideas on London / England costs & places to stay that are reasonably priced. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/10-days-in-london-finding-new-things-to-do

I tend to do all our travel planning, but run it by the hubby for his take on it, especially about accommodation. Good luck sounds like a great trip!

Posted by
2512 posts

Good advice so far. I'd also suggest using Google Flights to track prices for flights you might be interested in taking for specific dates (e.g., in to Paris home from London June x - June y). You'll soon realize that flight prices change a lot and not necessarily in a predictable pattern. If you see a price that looks affordable, book IMMEDIATELY, as they often disappear in hours. Since you're going in June prices will be higher because it's peak travel season, though you might get bargains from ATL as there are many direct international flights (my home airport not so much). You'd be quite lucky to find round trip tickets in June for $1000 each.

To get an idea about lodging choices, you can use Booking.com to do searches. Some of their listings include apartment rentals. You're going to have some difficulties in large cities finding accommodations in that price range and an apartment would allow you to cook meals instead of eating out. Your spouse may not want to do this on an anniversary trip however so you would need to adjust your dining budget accordingly (or cut days off your 3 weeks to save $).

As has been suggested, pencil out your dream trip and do a bit of window shopping for prices. If your budget is indeed that strict, you may need to lop off time from your three weeks and make it a two week trip and fewer locations. As you plot out your itinerary keep in mind you lose about 1/3 to 1/2 of your day to travel. Once you have a more specific itinerary, start a new post in the forum with specifics (dates, locations, planned route) and folks can give you more suggestions about places to stay, dining, etc. for your choices.

Posted by
437 posts

Congratulations and have fun travelling! As a retired educator, I understand a June trip as opposed to the 'shoulder' seasons...alas, harder to find bargains.

Great ideas above. Perhaps plan a splurge meal or two in each location and then look for more reasonably priced "good food" for other meals---picnics, markets, "ethnic" restaurants, etc. My husband and I cut food costs by having yogurt, muesli and fruit (if you have a fridge in room) for breakfast, a larger meal for lunch and a light evening meal. Sometimes we had the main meal in the evening, but the expense goes up at that time. Also, if we had hearty breakfast included with the room, we usually snacked thru lunch and had a more substantial meal later in the day.

Posted by
2397 posts

I think you really need to either adjust your budget or go for two weeks. Your 7,000 top range allows for no transportation between and in cities or any attraction costs. Perhaps start with a week in London staying in a university room then Eurostar to Paris for a week. Rework the budget that way. I wouldn't want to be stressed out having to scrimp and watch every penny on the trip. Good luck.

Posted by
5147 posts

We just returned from Belgium and the Netherlands (April 2024) and found prices quite reasonable. We did stay in Leiden and Haarlem instead of Amsterdam, and enjoyed each town in its own right. Sometimes you can balance out prices by mixing high cost and low cost areas.
Do note that college dorm rooms may not have air conditioning, and England has been having very warm summers. My daughter discovered that the hard way one summer in Oxford.
Have a great time planning!

Posted by
545 posts

I would do Paris, Belgium, and Amsterdam (any order) for a few reasons.

1) London, while amazing, is super expensive. So is Paris. So pick one of the two, and clearly it's Paris. You can easily spend a week or even a lifetime in Paris. (and I say this as someone who adores London and who doesn't feel the need to return to Paris).

2) Flights. Delta and its partners (KLM, AirFrance) have something like 5 direct flights per day to Amsterdam and at least 2 or 3 to Paris from Atlanta. That gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of air travel on both ends. Fly into one, end in the other. I would recommend looking online, then contacting Delta, KLM, and Air France directly. Be sure to use a private browser window.

3) Aesthetics = Belgium. Bruges gives you the smaller, old city, and it isn't super expensive. Ghent is also great. We did a Brussels-Ghent-Bruges trip for 8 days and felt like we got a good sense of each. They are easy access from one to the next--just a very short train trip. All very different, all interesting and pretty. Do a beer and chocolate tour for sure!

4) Amsterdam itself is great. But try off-the-beaten-track a bit with places like Haarlem or a Frisian town like Hindeloopen for a likely cheaper and definitely less crowded experience. Haarlem is bigger, easier to reach and get too and from Amsterdam, and is bigger. Hindeloopen is a quaint Frisian village, and they are quick to remind you there that they are not Hollanders--they are Dutch, but they also have a somewhat different language and culture. There are likely other similar villages you could visit, maybe even one of the East Frisian islands--we just went to Hindeloopen with friends, so I know it.

5) Food--obviously Paris, but Amsterdam is surprisingly good. They colonised Indonesia, so their food from that region is really good (or it was last time I went, which was, admittedly, awhile ago). And the aforementioned beer and chocolate in Belgium. Certainly London wins the food scene (imo even over Paris), but it is so expensive. Also, even after a week you would barely scratch the surface of London and feel like you needed to go back.

I am a London junkie. It's one of the few cities where I could see myself living if I ever left Hamburg, and I never feel like I have enough time there. And still I would think for this trip, you should consider skipping it for the reasons stated above.

Just to add--you will have a great time wherever you end up going, and it is sure to be perfect because you are doing it together.

That's my thoughts. I can try to find the hotel where we stayed in Bruges. It was good enough to recommend, though I don't remember the name. If I find it, I can post it.

Posted by
18775 posts

Your budget may be possible if you stay in hostels. But hotels in
major European cities during tourist high season for less than €200/
night might be hard to find.

Unless you go to Budapest, where the nice 4 star hotel might be $125. And a nonstop flight to Paris starts at about $50.

As for anesthetics, Google most beautiful cities in Europe and see how many times Budapest is on the list.

For food, I suspect you might find cities as good, but not better.

Posted by
7452 posts

Congratulations on your upcoming milestone anniversary! My husband’s first time to Europe was our 25th anniversary twenty-one years ago, and we had a wonderful time!

Since it’s your first trip, you definitely want to see the bigger attractions like Paris. Since your wife specifically mentioned that one, put it halfway in your itinerary, so you’re anticipating it and also over any initial jetlag.

If you decide the number of countries later on doesn’t matter as much, you might enjoy adding some of the close places to Paris, such as 4-5 nights in Paris & a few nights heading to the Loire Valley to see the beautiful chateaus and bike ride along some of the lanes. Staying in smaller cities outside Paris will be cheaper on lodging & food.

There’s so many videos on YouTube now to see which cities appeal to you. England is definitely more expensive. Any interest in Austria or Italy? Both are very beautiful and your money would stretch further. There’s inexpensive flights with EasyJet or similar to reach another city if you want to hop to a non adjacent country.

Searching on Booking.com can give you a reasonable idea now of what hotel budget you want to plan, depending on your criteria. The $1000/week is very low for popular cities, especially Paris, Amsterdam, London, etc. Paris hotels are tiny, so don’t let those comments in reviews dissuade you. My advice for picking lodging is to go slightly lower in quality in larger cities where it’s more expensive and you tend to spend less time in your room. Splurge on some where it’s a smaller city, so the price difference doesn’t hurt as much, and the place is more memorable.

I also get a good idea of restaurant prices just doing some TripAdvisor restaurants in a city.

Posted by
489 posts

A different take from some of the responses above (which is the reason for this forum).

  1. Paris and London are the two superstars of Europe. Travel between the two cities is a breeze. If this is your first trip to Europe, I would definitely visit both.

  2. I find the two cites are comparable in price. One reason some might find London more expensive is the pricing of the quaint smaller hotels that RS and many on this forum favor. I find the pricing of many of those properties absurdly high. In London, I would at least check out the pricing of the hotels run by the major hotel chains like Hilton. I would also check out the Premier Inn properties. In those two cities, I would budget hotel costs for the week at $230 per night for a nice hotel. Less expensive options can be found, but something I have found is that I have never regretted paying too much for a hotel, but I have regretted paying too little.

  3. I like Amsterdam. I do not put it in the same category as London and Paris and do not recommend it for a first visit to Europe. It is extremely expensive, especially lodging. However, I disagree with those who recommend staying in Haarlem if you go to Amsterdam. If you go to Amsterdam, stay in Amsterdam. There are less expensive hotel properties in the city that are 10 minutes by tram to Centraal Station.

  4. A smaller city I love is Bruges. A caveat is that I have not visited it in June.

  5. A possibility for a few days between Belgium and Paris is Strasbourg/Colmar.

  6. If you decide to focus on London and Paris, there are many side trips where you can spend two nights or so--Strasbourg/Colmar, Normandy, Bath, and Oxford or Cambridge.

  7. If you are on a tight budget, you will need to factor in train costs, tours, and especially in London theater tickets. In London, check out London Walks.

Finally, congratulations on your anniversary.

Posted by
489 posts

Last note. You may wish to check on hotel pricing before you decide what weeks you will be spending in Europe. The pricing can fluctuate greatly.

Posted by
6797 posts

You requested "places to stay, dining options, traveling between different countries, sites to see, etc…" And I understand you are looking for Romance and aesthetics on a budget. My wife and I (both retired educators) were lucky enough to make summer-break trips to Europe before retirement every few years. So here are some general thoughts and specific tips based on our own 2-3-week sojourns on a budget...

  • Don't let major cities dominate your 3 weeks. They are pricey and tend to be far apart, which ups your transportation costs. Paris + London + Amsterdam for example will set your wallet aflame.

  • You can find good food, romantic experiences, and cultural variety within 2 hours or so of your bucket-list, must-do Paris... Have a look at the compact corner of Europe where France, Switzerland, and Germany collide... the "Dreiländereck..." an area that makes experiencing 3 countries in a short amount of time pretty simple. The 2 maps below split the area roughly in half. The Swiss city of Basel can be found at the southern end of both maps.

Map of French Alsace, just west of the Rhine River
Map of the Black Forest, just east of the Rhine

Paris to Strasbourg takes less than 2 hours by direct train. Alsatian towns like Obernai and Colmar lie just to the south. Wine is huge throughout the Alsace.

Gengenbach is a lovely old walled town, a good base town on the scenic Black Forest Railway, which provides access to many other Black Forest destinations. Train outings from Gengenbach and certain other towns are free of charge when you book a room there; travel around the entire region to places like Freiburg, Triberg, Gutach and Schiltach... or to Basel Switzerland with your free Guest Ticket : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkgzMXQ7blQ

Certain Black Forest towns, like Baiersbronn, are blessed with top-end restaurants (which you can probably afford repeatedly thanks to generally lower prices, the reduced transport costs and free transport in this area.)

Museums, including art museums, are big in Basel.

Outdoor activies (hiking, biking) and spa towns are popular in the Black Forest as well.

Do some research with the place names on the two maps and the others I've mentioned. I suspect these places will suit you pretty well.

Posted by
489 posts

As I suggested above, I would not skip London and Paris. But you can reduce the number of nights you stay in both cities, though for a first visit, I would stay no fewer than five nights in either city. The hotel pricing in other cities should be less expensive, which will help you to address budget concerns.

Posted by
2497 posts

My two cents - Your budget is too small for 3 weeks in Europe. You either need to substantially increase your budget or substantially decrease your time in Europe. Would your wife be happy spending this special anniversary trip in fleabag hotels? I think not. That trip would be memorable but not in a good way. My advice is to spend a week to 10 days in Paris, stay in decent hotels (the nicest your budget allows) and splash out for a nice dinner. There is a lot to see in Paris and you can take some nice day trips from there.

Posted by
7906 posts

Your plans are extensive for your budget.

Flights for $1000 each sounds lite to me, I have two trips for this year and paid $1600 each for flights to Spain and later in July for about the same to Munich, returning from Bucharest. We fly Delta out to JAX through Atlanta. You can buy the cheap seats that don't let you pick your seats until you check in, but you might be in middle seats for the long flights.

My Wife and I love Bed and Breadfasts or small hotels. You are looking at three expensive cities, Paris, London and Amsterdam.
We did a week in Amsterdam last year at the Nadia Hotel, near the Anne Frank House and cost for one week including breakfast was $1000. The room was very small, but enough for us. There was a two story walk up from the street. Most lodgings in those large cities will cost you at least $200 per night, unless you go with a Hostel, which won't be very romantic.

Check Kayak.com for low prices for hotels.

As for dining, if you are in a BnB breakfast will likely be included, and you can snack for lunch and possibly make the $100 per day for two. Still, you also have admissions to pay for key sites, museums and such.

Further, you will need to include some cost for taxis or rail between cities.

You need at least 4-5 days for Amsterdam, consider Brugges and Ghent in Belgium for one day each. Paris 5-6 days and same for London.

Consider some tours with Gate 1 Travel, which is an excellent budget tour company that delivers a great product. You will stay in 3 or 4 star hotels. Much of your cost is covered, although some tours are more on your own.
https://www.gate1travel.com/europe/france

Independent Package Includes

Flights New York-London, Amsterdam-New York
8 nights accommodations in your choice of hotels
2 nights London
3 nights Paris
3 nights Amsterdam
Breakfast daily
Transportation between cities via Standard Class high-speed rail with reserved seats

https://www.gate1travel.com/europe/france/2024/independent/london-paris-amsterdam-idd10dlonparamsrjfks24.aspx

Posted by
18775 posts

This is a tentative breakdown of our budget (about $5,000 to $7,000):
Flights - $1000 x 2 people = $2,000? Hotel / Hostel / Bed and
Breakfast / Airbnb - $1,000 per week (grand total of $3,000)? Dining -
$100 per day?

Okay, lets look at it.
Flying out of Atlanta. Well, its too early to check fares for next June, but looking at September 1 for 3 weeks, most European destinations will be doable for about $1000 (regular economy with reserved seats and a checked bag). September is a shoulder season and usually cheaper ,but its just a few months off so the prices will be a bit higher and might compare with June of next year bought a year in advance. But that’s a guess.

Hotels, again you are going in the high season, which might be smart on a first trip. So this comes down to where. This year has been a bit strange. Spain has been crazy busy as have a few other places and the rates reflect that. On the other hand a lot of good places have been struggling so prices reflect that as well. Your budget is $143 a day and for that a lot of Europe is available in very good 3 star and lower end 4 star hotels.

One way to get more mileage out of your money might be to spend a week in each of three locations and rent an AirBnb for $75 to $100 a night. Cheaper digs, less transportation costs.

No matter how you do it, if you stay out of London or if you do go, then balance it with a very cheap location I think your budget is doable with a little class and style.

Dining for $100 a day? Again, location. London tough, Paris okay if you waste a lot of time searching down the deals and miss all of the charm. So, again I say diversify where you go to balance the cost.

I think, if you did a week in Paris or Rome or London and a week in Montenegro or Hungary or Romania (but Bucharest isnt cheap), and then a week in a place with costs between those two categories you might make your budget work.

When searching down the locations, choose those cheaply connected. Either train or discount airline. I flew to Malta last year for $125 Round Trip out of Budapest. Malta is incredibly cheap for some reason and a really lovely destination. I paid a bit more to get to and from Bosnia a few weeks ago, but Bosnia is less expensive than Malta.

Watch a lot of travel videos. Do a place or two the has been in your mind for years, and add to it a new adventure.

I think you can do this.

This post has some interesting travel videos on it: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/back-doors-to-the-back-doors-of-europe
and of course my favorite https://youtu.be/1nd5AtZIrTk?feature=shared

Posted by
18775 posts

In a few weeks you can start checking airfare for June. That will give you some Ideas. Use Google Flights and start testing dates and destinations. It will take hours but you will end up with a list possible under $1000. Maybe into Paris and out of Podgorica? You fill in the void betwen the two later. You are going to have to cruntch a lot of scenarios balancing the known desires and the unknown experiences.

And come back here with idea. If you were to write on a country forum that you want to spend 10 days and this is your budget, odds are someone will step up and help you make it work. I would.

Posted by
489 posts

I would still suggest that you include both London and Paris because for me they are the highlights of the continent and usually the least expensive cities to fly into and out of. But I make that suggestion based on what I like, and I agree with much of what Mary above wrote.

You are going to have to make some compromises and hard decisions--whether it be to increase how much you are willing to spend, to change how many days your overall trip will be, or to change where you intend to go.

For instance, there is often debate on this board on whether to spend money on hotels or food. With lodging, I do much research to find the right hotel and look for value. But I insist on a good location and from experience will not go cheap. However, I spend less on food than many others because I look for inexpensive restaurants and pubs and often buy street food.

There are no universal right and wrong answers. The right answer for you is what works for the two of you. But I do think you are going to have to reconsider your initial trip conditions as far as where and how long to go, and what you want to spend.

Posted by
893 posts

davidpmesser2,
David, have you made any decisions about your trip next year? We would like to know if our advice has been helpful. Thanks.

Posted by
8632 posts

Paris Boutique Hotel. 1/2 hostel, 1/2 hotel with en-suite private rooms. My niece has stayed here and I think I will be staying there in Sept 25. https://caulaincourt.com/

Retired Teacher. I get the budget issue!

You can save money on food if you eat breakfast at the hotel or a bakery, grab or pack a sandwich for lunch, and then go out to reasonably priced restaurant for dinner. Splurge on the 25th anniversary dinner!

Do you have any frequent flier miles that might be of assistance to you on flight prices?

Posted by
208 posts

I've got general comments and a couple specific comments.

First off, flying out of Atlanta, I would likely focus on two things if possible - considering a Delta CC if you don't already have it and setting up alerts of Delta flights to Paris (or other Euro) destinations. Booking direct is, to me, an essential part of starting and finishing any trip to Europe. It minimizes travel disruptions and reduces total travel time. We're lucky to have Delta and United with regular direct flights to most, if not all, major European cities, and paying a slight premium for direct flights (sometimes no premium) is well worth it.

For us, in our 50s, we're in the "no true hostel" ever category now. It would be different in the case of things like hiking huts, but a hostel in a major city has dropped off our list. That means "normal" to nice hotels wherever we go, and that means the budget is significantly more than $1k/week in a place like Paris or Amsterdam or similar popular cities. Maybe the AirBnB option is less, but I don't use them.

For first trip, it's a LOT of planning and executing, and to me, ends up being "too much" vs a sweet spot of just enough. Paris or London are easily worth a week on their own, so with day trips in those regions, you easily could do two hotels as home bases and explore those areas more extensively. If you need a third city, that just becomes which one is jumping out at you.

Another broad question is what your travel style in general is now? Are you happy spending a lot of time driving? Driving is a bit different in Europe - distances are different, costs are different, and parking is different (among other things) - so where most of us are very comfortable, in the US, jumping in a car and doing a road trip, that's not really apples to apples in much of the world.

In general, I really think - from an ease of travel perspective - picking a couple or three home bases and radiating out from each is the way I would do it. The RS method is more A->B->C->D->E->F->G->... to near exhaustion :) but that's a personal preference you may really like or really hate. We did it for a couple decades and have weaned ourselves from it (for the most part) and find concentrating more and more in specific areas/regions/cities is far more enjoyable.

Posted by
5147 posts

Not sure if the OP is still around- no responses since the original post 10 days ago.

Posted by
2 posts

Good morning. I must apologize for my delayed response. All I can say is WOW. I really appreciate everyone's responses and recommendations. I have been going through each response and adding the information to my planning. Thanks again!!!

Posted by
10354 posts

Bonjour David. I think you can find good hotels at a bit lower price in Paris if you look at the area around Place de la Nation. This is a nice neighborhood and not many metro stops further out. Another area to look is Porte d'Orleans, Denfert Rochereau. These, too, are well connected to sights and only a few stops beyond the heavy-traffic areas. Prices will be lower. You can find low-cost hotels close to train stations but with lesser quality for the price.

I just got home last night from a few days in Paris. I'm pretty sure we spent a hundred max on food. Look at the menu at Bistrot Vivienne to give you an idea. We load up on the hotel breakfasts. Then we eat two courses at lunch with wine and a carafe of tap water, taxes and tips are included. All prices you see are final. For dinner, we eat lightly, salad or a couple of eggs. This is how we eat at home, too. I'm not sure what is costing people so much unless they are going much higher scale or stopping at every bakery and crepe stand---which is definitely tempting.