Budget

Hey Rick- I stumbled upon your website and have been reading through it is a super helpful site, however seems like the discussions about a budget are kind of outdated. I want to go to Europe for about 3-4 weeks this coming summer (July) and I've been wondering what would be a rough budget to have.
I want to go to London, Paris, Madrid and Barcelona and maybe somewhere Italy and Berlin. I have places to stay for free in the first 3 cities. How much do you think I should a budget for each day???? I'm not high maintenance at all, so I won't be doing a lot of fancy stuff or shopping.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

After paying for airlines tickets, going and coming, we plan for $200 per day. Sometimes its over, sometimes its under. Western Europe is more expensive than eastern Europe. The $200 works for us in western Europe.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

The question gets avoided because everyone does it differently. It's the single hardest question to answer. I guess you could say, how much would I spend it I spent a week in LA or Boston or NYC with my friends (food, hotel, gas, tickets to what ever,etc). Add it all up and then multiply by 1.5 for pounds London (Northern Europe), 1.33 for euros in Western Europe (France and Italy and Germany). Call it even for Southern Europe (Span, Portugal) and Central Europe (not on your list); and figure maybe 80% of the cost for Eastern Europe (also not on your list). Just make sure you know where the West, Central and East begin and end. That should keep you safe I would think for budgeting but you should really do the research and plan the trip.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

hi, i booking my flights and hotels now for my sept trip. Its not to where youre going but my numbers show up approx 200 USD/Day. that includes flights/trains, lodging and the activities i will be doing. My trip last year it was approx 150 USD/Day and i covered London, paris, Amstredam, Dublin, Scotland. happy trails.

Posted by Mari
San Jose
2 posts

$200 including a place to stay? Or on all other expenses? Any advice will be GREATLY appreciated! :)

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Here is the problem with the question. You can rent an apartment or stay in a hostel in most of europe for as little as $50 a night. At best it might be a 30 minute walk from that part of town you really want to be in, but the walk is okay for some. Again, in most of Europe you can probably find a 2 or 3 star hotel (basic in Europe) for $150 a night but it will be well located. You can eat a McDonalds in the areas you want to be or in a local restaurant a kilometer away for as less than $10 a meal. OR, you can go to a great Bavarian Sausage house for under $20. You can take a cab from the airport in under 30 minutes for $50 - $75 or you can use public transport for under $20 but it takes an hour. Walk or transit system? Opera or Bar? Museum outside or Museum inside? Day trip or no day trip. Trinkets or no trinkets? Night club or bed? You could get by on $100 a day but $400 would not be excessive if it works with your interests and enjoyment. After all you just spent a couple of thousand to get to Europe it would be miserable to go so cheap you cant enjoy the things you went for.

Posted by Mary
Reno, NV, USA
145 posts

Hi Mari, Before you travel to Europe, calculate the airfare, look at what hotels you want to stay in, what museums you want to see, cost of local transportation or rental car or train, do the hotels offer free breakfast?, figure about maybe $10 a day for lunch and snacks pp, and what you plan to spend on dinner is up to you (a hot dog from a stand or high end dinner). The prices/costs for all of these can be found on the web or in a guidebook with the exception of lunch and dinner. My husband and I get by with about $15 to $20 a day for lunch and $50 to $75 for dinner (including wine). Make a list, add it up. It's not hard to do. Our average 2 week trip including airfare is about $7,000 to $7,500. It all depends on how high end you want to go.

Posted by JS
Bay Area
2081 posts

Follow RS guidebks for places to stay and you can easily work with $150- 200 per day as a single lodger and should incl all other usual expenses. If you can travel with a friend to share your room then prob you can save . Reserve your lodging for sure for July as it is peak season.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

@ Mari, $200 including a place to stay? Or on all other expenses? Any advice will be GREATLY appreciated! :) Both of my prices included: Flights/trains, Lodging and activities. YOur Milage May Vary (ymmv). I say YMMV because my likes/activities may not be the same as yours. Also, i choose to stay in inexpensive places. Someplace to sleep, poop and take a shower. As long as its clean, secure and somewhere central to where i want, then im happy. travel, you can do some quick price checks on various web sites for airlines and trains. It doesnt have to be exact but you will get an idea on what it will cost you. Just so you know, sometimes WHEN you fly can make a difference. Example if you fly out on a weekday vs weekend. as mentioned, do some homework on the back of napkin calculations or however you want to do it. look at what you want to do and see and list them down. a spreadsheet makes it easy. if youre the pen/paper type, jot down the info and add them up. happy trails.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

Mari, here's a personal example for what it's worth: I spent last July & August in France and my final expenses averaged $164/day. That included everything - airfare/ hotels on the road and an apt in Paris for a month/ 5 train fares/ 21 days rental cars with gas and tolls/ meals/ sightseeing/ souvenirs - the whole shebang. I traveled solo so didn't split costs with anyone. What helped me stay in that budget was careful planning. I stayed in small family run hotels or B&Bs on the road and my apt in Paris was bare-bones but in a good location. Breakfast was either included at hotel or picked up in a bakery or market, lunch was almost always a picnic, dinner was usually also a picnic or street food or an occasional pizza or dinner in a budget priced restaurant. No big hotels, no fancy restuarants, very few alcoholic drinks (an occasional wine). In my apartment in Paris I cooked (read heat up soup or warm something in the microwave) and made sandwiches for picnic lunches. I was able to go everywhere I wanted to go and see everything I wanted to see. If you take out airfare and having free places to stay in the priciest cities you're going to you could budget well under my $164/day for the rest.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1972 posts

Mari: My wife and I live a frugal life every day, and we don't use budgets. And when we travel to Europe, we are the frugal travelers. A year ago visiting Italy, we spent 70 euros per night on rooms by staying 20 miles outside of Florence and Rome. We did have a rental car and went on regional day trips. Moving from city to city can get expensive, and should be minimized to one time per week of travel. We ate heavily at free continental breakfasts, skipped lunch and just paid for one meal per day. We're also quick to picnic, since we don't eat as heavily as Italian restaurants serve food.
Even with going to the famous museums and tourist sights, a conservative traveler can make it on $150 per day.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

You can do better or worse than any anecdotal numbers, but here's mine: A. We can travel year-in and year-out for a hundred bucks per person per day, including intra-European transportation if we stay out of Scandinavia and Switzerland. We eat well at night and don't average anywhere near seventy euro for accommodations. What we don't do is visit the first-timer museums since we've seen those so many times we could puke. B. Back in the fall I was running alone in Scotland, staying in twenty buck a night hostels, eating pub or communal food for supper and stuff out of the sack in the back seat for breakfast and lunch. I had some pretty stiff ferry tabs. I averaged just under eighty-five bucks per day. I had a car the whole time. C. During the above trip I was summoned home early to go to London. With a seventeen hour home airport-to-home airport turn around, I was back in the UK for two more weeks. This time we stayed in an apartment in one of the more spiffy hotels in town and ate over half of the evening meals in Michelin-starred joints. Those aren't the kinds of numbers I like to tally and average, but we were easily burning through two grand a day. Probably more, since we held on to the London place while we went to Paris for a few days. Wild guess, since you have a place to stay in the more expensive spots, but those are offset by some pretty hefty transportation legs, and you're as green as a hornet, is that you can pull it off for an average of one twenty-five a day.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

I hate to get into vacation costs. I am not a rich man but I also don't go on vacation with the idea that I will make it cheap as possible or carry on the plane all my luggage. If I have to go cheap maybe I shouldn't go at all or wait a few more months a save a little more. We stay in 100 euro hotels, drive cars, eat in decent places for maybe a few dollars more or stay a few days less. I have friends who won't stay in anything less than 5 stairs but that is their style mine is middle of the road with the eye for good drinks and great food.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2529 posts

Mari, I travel for long periods of time and on a pretty tight budget. When looking at other people's advice, don't pro-rate the airfare - your airfare cost per day for four weeks will be twice as high as someone's two-month trip. I always use booking.com for research and for some reservations (2-3 star properties). I eat one meal per day in a restaurant or trattoria and one is a grab-and-go from a deli (take-out) or street-food vendor. Breakfast is included with the hotel room or I spend a few euro for coffee and a roll somewhere. I try to pre-book train tickets to get super-saver fares, and go to all the museums and archeological sites (sometimes with a pass if it is cheaper). I'll pop into a grocery store to buy cold bottled water for half the cost of buying it on the street (and saving €2 or more per day adds up on a long trip). My costs per day average €100 (about $130) without airfare, if I'm going to one country, a bit more if it's a multi-country trip. The main thing is to do research if you want to stay on budget.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1509 posts

Mari, When you read between the lines of the responses here, you get an indication of the impossibility of your question to answer in a way that fits your situation with any certainty. I infer from your question that this is a first-time visit to Europe for you. I also infer (for no particular reason) that you are on the younger end of life. Given that, I further infer that going on the cheap is more important to you than the middle-aged I've-got-more-money-than-tolerance-for-inconvenience approach of the majority of posters here. I infer all of this - but I could be wrong. For what it's worth, our entire family of five has done several trips like this and done it for around $400-500/day, all-inclusive. You can't really divide that number by five to get a total for one because we have children who get some discounts and it's always cheaper to be in a small group than to be alone. Never-the-less, you should be able to replicate what we do for $150/day or so. But that's only if my inference above is correct and that includes some willingness to stay at hostels and eat on the cheap. Having places to stay already set in three major cities should help a great deal. It's already late to be getting airfare for this summer. We have never paid more than $1000/pp for US to Europe flights in the summer. But then again, we buy very early and we sometimes get very "creative" in our routing. Good luck (and don't let the big-$ responses here scare you off) P.S. I just returned from a solo trip to New Zealand for two weeks. That's expensive to fly to and a shorter time frame in which to spread out those expenses, but even so, the whole thing cost me "only" about $230/day.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

You addressed your question, Hey Rick-
I stumbled upon your website You should know that "Rick" if by that you mean Mr Steves, doesn't frequent this Helpline. We are all just fellow travelers like you.

Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
805 posts

Rick doesn't frequent this website? Are you sure? Didn't he used to post on here under a different name? Maybe it was He Who Shall Not Be Named! :) Re the original quesion, James from Frisco makes a good point. Why spend so much money to get to Europe if you are going to live like a pauper when you get there. Figure out how much you can afford and then plan your trip, not the other way around.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"Didn't he used to post on here under a different name? Maybe it was He Who Shall Not Be Named! :)" I can't think of a worse way to insult RS than to imply that he was He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

But but but but.........HWSNBN was so knowledgable!

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Interesting question and my answer might be well off since I don't stay in London as a tourist much. But if you already have your accommodation covered then for a 3 or 4 day trip, I think you could survive on $50 a day and have change. Say $10 for transport within town, $15 averaged out for tickets (I'm assuming you mix so called "free" places and priced ones), $20 to eat reasonably, if not lavishly, and the rest on drink. That is per person and doesn't include much float. In Madrid we probably spent 80 euro, exl accommodation, per day, but including a day trip to Toledo.

Posted by Susan
Columbus, USA
68 posts

Hi Mari, When we were planning our trip, this is how we planned our budget. After figuring out where we wanted to go, we went to www.booking.com and kind of got an idea of how much hotels were in the area. That might help you with budget for lodging...

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

Mari, It all comes down to a matter of choices, preference, priorites, travel style as regards to a travel budget, ie., what you're willing to tolerate and put up with if you plan on a shoe string budget or however you define your level of luxury in the everyday traveling. Where you are going is certainly a factor. The cheaper places like Berlin will offer you more choices, where a very expensive place like London limits your choice. Even the YHA hostels in London are very expensive relative to those in Germany. I'm not refering to staying in private rooms here but dorm rooms. There are numerous, numerous ways of cutting corners to reduce the budget when it comes to eating (aside from doing a picnic, which I seldom do) and accomodations. That's the easy part, esp. since you see yourself as not "high maintenance"...all the better.

Posted by Michael
Griffith, IN, USA
440 posts

Mari: Be very very suspect of what you may read here. One person is saying she did it all for $164.00 per day with airfare,car, hotel, etc. Not at all possible. Airfare to europe in the summer is at least 1500.00 car 21 days 700.00 we are over 100.00 per day with no gas, hotel, food etc. Europe is expense period. If you are a first time traveler it will be more expense due to the lack of experience. I would figure 250.00 per day without airfare. Remember traveling by yourself makes somethings more expense like car, gas, hotel.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

@Michael - It is "absolutely possible" because I did it. My total expenditures for my 2 month trip last summer were $9973 (I keep very accurate records) and when you divide that by the 61 days I was there it comes to exactly $163.49/day (I rounded up to $164). Airfare on Iceland Air was $1200 last summer; my apt in Paris was $1860; hotels and b&bs on the road averaged $70/night($2100) and they were all nice with ensuite baths and all included some kind of breakfast; rental cars came to $1000; gas and tolls approx $450; train tickets $212 (purchased well in advance); food averaged approx $30/day; the rest was misc transportation, entrance fees, wine splurges, souvenirs, etc. In my favor was a better airfare last year and a better $/euro exchange last year. Considering that the OP has free places to stay in 3 of her cities I still say should could easily get by for $150/day (excluding airfare). I hope giving you more details helps explain how I did it. edit: also in my favor was the fact that I was there for 61 days so the per/day amount was a lot less than it would have been for a much shorter trip.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Michael you're correct. I generally try and throw out my two cents and then go away but I want to know the secret to cheap travel. I would bet you could pull off three weeks for $150/day if you wanted to. I just wouldn't want to. I wouldn't even want to do this: I just checked airfare San Jose to Paris 10 July out and 31 July return. The best fare was $1,600.00 and the best fare never works. But using it you come up with $76.00 a day. I can't imagine a place I would want to stay that cost less than $75 a night, so now we are up to $151 a day more or less. Basic Food is going to be $40 a day if you stay on a diet and don't make the food part of the experience of the trip. Now you are up to $190 a day. To that add one "activity" a day at $10 (museum, funicular, dancing girl). You might want to hop the transit once a day for about $3.00. Now we are $204 a day. One beer per day, $207 Unless you are going to sit in one city for 21 days you have land costs. Let's say Prague, Vienna and Budapest. That would be about 70 euros on trains or roughly $100, laundry maybe once in three weeks? $20. Transit system to and from the airport (you cant afford a cab) maybe $50 total. Three souvenir t-shirts (my friend went to Paris and brought me the crummy shirt) at $60 for the lot. This averages out to another $11 a day. So the sort of bare minimum is $218 a day. If its London it might be $260 and if you stick to Central and Eastern Europe you might have enough left over at $218 a day for a second beer each day.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Three weeks at $218/day = $4,578. If you prorate the airfare out to four weeks you pick up another $18 a day (two dancing girls or a cheap bottle of wine) but naturally the overall cost goes up. I would make it a Two Week Trip with the same $4,578 budget and have a great time. But like i always say there is no right or wrong, its all about what floats your boat.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

'Be very very suspect of what you may read here..... Not at all possible.' It's getting pretty cheeky to call somebody a lair. I already stated what my usual, low, and high price examples were. They were all without trans-Atlantic airfare. You can't average in the airfare since it will skew the number depending on the number of days gone. That said, I try to go for longer periods - - it's like walking five miles for a beer, walking back home, then deciding you want another one, walking back . . . . I have in my paw a RT ticket to Edinburgh with a Manchester return bought a couple weeks ago for eight hundred bucks. Not where you need hotels, but your most expensive cities nonetheless: my usual Paris hotel has a room for two tomorrow night for eighty bucks for two people (same price for just one); my usual London hotel, with the same arrangements, will put me up tomorrow night for sixty-five bucks. I can pick up a car tomorrow at Heathrow for three weeks at a cost of $334, at de Gaulle for the same period for $355. Not that you'd have a car, but gas is about $8.50 a gallon which would get you forty miles - - which means it would cost less than two hundred dollars to drive from Paris to Rome (tolls extra). I wouldn't know how to figure out an advance train ticket price if I had to, but walk up prices for two are generally pretty close to driving.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

In London a bap is less than two pounds, a Nero double expesso one and a half. I can't eat them, but a Pret sandwich is about three. Call that six, so if you're shooting at twenty that fourteen left over for supper and beer. Thirty bucks a day for grub. Keith says you can do better, so I'll bow to him. I can easily shave a few bucks in Paris since the beer sucks rocks. I can shave a heck of a lot in Madrid (ham museum)and Berlin (street food), maybe not in Barcelona unless lunch was at the market and dinner in places that would give a first-timer the willies. Like Nancy, I keep meticulous records (it's almost a game) but chunk them at the airport on the way home once I see I hit or beat the mark. Only once, except for the exempted countries and the really high trip cited earlier, did we bust two hundred bucks and only by ten percent or so and that was when we made a Marrakech detour and left the car sitting in Spain for a few days on top of some last minute plane tickets.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

There are several ways people travel - - it might be a once in a lifetime, once a year, or once every few years - - these folks tend to spend more, I think. Anyway, it seems that they put a lot of thought and planning into it. I don't - - we pick up and go and decide what we're going to do when we get there while we're enroute - - sometimes, when we land, we go in an entirely different direction than what we'd talked about on the plane. The Scotland ticket mentioned earlier I snagged a few weeks back when the price looked good. I don't know exactly what I'll do, but there's a batch of stones I've never seen and a few miles of trail in Wales I still need to walk - - the decision will be made based on the weather outside the car rental counter. But that's weeks away and there's two more trips in between (to be refined enroute), plus my initial post on this thread was made from an airport on the way home. I just about commute and don't give a rat's rear bumper about a 'hotel experience', 'best gelato', 'quaint b&b' 'economy comfort leg room', 'private guide', 'car and driver', etc. I'm not exactly inexperienced - - in the last twelve years (funny way to keep track of things, but that's the time with the current Mrs Ed) I've spent between three and four years in Europe and the United Kingdom. The grand total is probably three or four times that, but I've no way to figure it out. I still say you can do it for $125 average per day and have a ball.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

I understand that my $164/day figure was skewed by spreading the airfare over 61 days. But, that being said, without the airfare my costs were approx $144/day and that did not include any nights in hostels. I'm an uber-planner, do lots of research and all my bookings are made well in advance for best rates (believe me it does make a difference). Like Zoe, all of my hotels and b&bs were found on booking.com, all were 2-3* and had a review score of at least 8, in good central locations, most expensive was in Nice ($110/night), cheapest was near Dol-de-Bretagne ($45/night). My train fares were booked 90/120 days in advance and even the longest one (Paris-Nice) was only 39 euro. Most of my driving was on non-toll roads, my car was a compact diesel so got great mileage. If you want to stay within a $150/day budget (not including airfare) it can definitely be done and I don't consider it cheap travel, I consider it smart travel. If you need 4-5* hotels with elevators, a/c, 24-hr front desk service and sit-down restaurants every night, of course you will pay more. It's all a matter of style.

Posted by James
Frisco
1804 posts

Nancy, I was 100% with you until you called it "smart travel". Its smart for what floats your boat and if it works for you its 100% perfect for you. The uber planning part is what everyone should do, that's great.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2612 posts

If uber planning is what 'everyone' should do, then I guess I don't know how to travel...I tend to travel spontaneously, spur of the moment, and still keep it relatively cheap. I simply do not have the time nor the desire to micro-manage my trip before I leave home... but I would not say that is what 'everyone' should do.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
969 posts

@Terry Kathryn - I agree with you totally, nothing is what 'everyone' should do. Everyone should travel within their style, whether it's ultra-planned, loosey-goosey, or somewhere in between or with elements of each. And I wasn't trying to imply that the uber-planning style is the only smart travel, I just prefer that term to cheap travel (maybe thrifty travel would suit me better). Whatever your prefered style of travel it can be 'smart' travel if done efficiently and it works for you. Hope I didn't step on anyone's toes.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1358 posts

hi again, im dont see why people are getting upset about travel budgets and what people have have calculated, estimated or actually used. people are different just as animals their budgets wont be the same. i believe that the one thing that throws a wrench in the quesion is that the Poster can stay for free in 3 cities. WHen doing my budget, the cost of lodging is up there with travel and so far i havent had people tell me to stay in their place for free. I agree that adding or amortizing the travel into the days you are there will skew the per day cost, but im not sure about anyone here, i cant travel for free. also, when people at work ask me how much my vacation cost, if i tell them the total cost, their eyes go wide and shutup real fast, then i tell them how long i was gone and its easier to digest since they then calculate $$$/day or $$/week. So i just tell them cost per day for EVERYTHING minus eats. its alot easier for them to comprehend. I will just post what i calculated so the poster can do her own math in whatever fashion is used. caveats - no food listed. didnt stay in any HOSTEL. NO 1st class travel anywhere train or plane. All public transportation - with exception of private tour in normandy. City passes were purchased when cost of pass were of benefit. Trip 2012 - 28 days - Dublin>Edinburgh>London>Pairs>Normandy>Amsterdam. travel - 1282 USD Lodging - 1729 USD Activities - 843 USD Same caveats as above. Trip 2013 - 30 days- Leeds>London>Brussels>Bastogne>Luxembourg>Oslo>Copenhagen>Stockholm>Hamburg>Koln Travel - 2043 USD Lodging - 2509 USD
Activities - 950 USD i would think that the best thing for the poster to do is to do some simple number crunching for her own budget. happy trails.

Posted by Julia
Jericho, Vermont, USA
143 posts

I've just been reading all your posts, which makes me appreciate HOME EXCHANGE even more. Over the past 7 years (8 trips, incl Italy, UK, Ireland, Austria, Belgium) we have averaged just over $3000 for 3 or 4 weeks, total for 2 people, including airfare. We use frequent flyer miles to keep fare costs down and exchange cars as well as our home, so those items greatly reduce costs. Of course if you want to visit many different countries H.E. would not work, but it's a great way to spend time in an area you like. Julia