How to afford a trip to Europe?

The question of how to afford a trip to Europe popped up recently. I opined about priorities in life (blah blah blah) and not all agreed. This morning, I had a conversation with a person living in a large city and paying $150/month for Internet/TV services. This got me thinking about affording a trip to Europe as the annual cost of Internet/TV in this example could well equal airfare to Europe. By sorting through needs versus wants, more folks could afford a trip to Europe. What's your opinion?

Posted by Leslie
Orange, USA
151 posts

More folks, yes; all folks, no. And some people would rather watch TV than go to Europe, though I'm certainly not in that group! We don't have cable, don't go to Starbucks, don't smoke, put your favorite expensive habit here, but we still can't afford to go to Europe every year. That doesn't keep me from setting aside money so we can go occasionally, and hoping that once our last son is through college we can go more often. :-)

Posted by Melissa
Naperville, IL, USA
12 posts

I think if you make traveling a priority you can find a way to afford it. I sacrifice other areas in my life so that I can travel because that is the most important thing to me. I'm also not buying a house or spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a wedding like many of my peers. Like the saying goes, if there is a will, there is a way.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

While some people who say they cannot afford to go to Europe might be able to make some lifestyle changes to make the trip, there are tons of people who give up those things already because they simply do not have the money. So, they give up those items for a better car, or health care, or many of the necessities in life rather than a trip to Europe. It's true that many people might choose not to go to Europe, there are plenty who would go if they had the income for such a trip. The group on this website is in the minority and it is a bit arrogant to assume most Americans could go to Europe if only they didn't fritter away their money. As far as Internet, it is close to a necessity these days... not so for cable, but that is usually about $60-90 per month...won't get you too far in Europe, so maybe the closest lots of people will get is watching RS and his ventures. Lots of Americans live on little more than minimum wage and I don't know any way to make those numbers work for a trip.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

A proper education may prevent Terry K.'s last sentence and allow Melissa's last sentence. Travel provided by my parents provided my motivation to achieve and also travel.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

@Jim... I long for a country where all children can receive a proper education and parents who can afford to pay for them to travel...

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

Yeah, I agree with much of what is said. I work with some very smart people who will not be able to afford to travel even cross-country, let alone intercontinental, because they are saddled with student loans at 6 1/2 percent interest. And many of them think a better way is to go back and get their masters/PhD while borrowing another $100,000 (advanced degrees in nursing usually require strict full-time attendence while a nurse anethnetist degree requires absolute full-time attendance with no outside employment for over 2 years.)
Really, the only other reason besides no student loans that I can travel as much as I do is the fact that I do not own a car. While I rarely eat out or buy my lunch or coffee at work, there's only so much that will add up. Now, I do have many people who ask me in amazement how I can afford to travel while wearing their Prada sunglasses holding their daily lattes, but for the most part, the people I associate with are just paying a lot of bills.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
648 posts

The way I afforded it at the age of 31 was to sell almost everything I owned and add that money to my savings. It was that important to me. I have friends and relatives who have enough money, but have absolutely no interest in traveling anywhere at any time. I have friends and relatives who live on the edge financially and couldn't possibly afford to go anywhere. And then there are those friends and relatives who say they want to go, but have tons of reasons why they can't, money being the primary one. I think that people do what they want to do, and that you can tell what's important to them by how they spend their money and their time. My husband (with his car racing "need") and I (with my travel "need") often joke that we have way less money than many of our friends and we do way more with it.

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1176 posts

My opinion is a trip to Europe most definitely falls under the "wants" category and is certainly not in the "needs" category, and never will be a "need". Whereas, for those under 67 and still working, for the unemployed actively searching for employment, or for families with school aged children, the internet would be a "need". We only have internet service - we have no cable television. We still have to pay $80 a month for just internet. We have suburban friends who think we pay too much for housing in the city. But because we gave up the yard and the space of a large home in the suburbs for a small place in the city, we don't need to own a car (no car payment, no insurance, no gasoline or maintenance costs) and we pay less for utilities as we live in a third of the space our suburban peers have. In the end, we pay the same, or even slightly less for housing than our friends who commute 30 to 60 minutes into the city each day because of what part of the U.S. we live in. If we lived in Montana or someplace with no reliable public transit system, a car would be a "need" and not a "want". It seems arrogant to try to stick one's belief system into someone else's finances. What they want to do with their money is their business, not yours. If having a state of the art kitchen, new living room set or a top line entertainment system installed in their house makes them happy, then good for them. This "how to afford a trip to Europe" thread pops up every few months here. Mostly because a friend or relative makes some stupid comment to the poster about how they must be rich if they can afford a trip overseas. But to lecture someone back on how to be frugal the "right way" (aka "your way") is just as stupid.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

@Ceidleh... you are so lucky to live in a place you don't need a car. After being afraid I could no longer count on my 1997 VW Golf I had to break down and buy a car. So I bought the cheapest thing that worked for my lifestyle, a KIA Soul, but every time I make that car payment and insurance I think about how that could go toward a trip to Europe:))

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

I think it is a matter of priorities. And I'm not saying travelling abroad should necessarily be a top one. For some people, it is a dream they would go without Internet for a year to help pay. For me, it isn't: Internet is the most basic utility service for me after electricity, water and heating/cooling. I'd never thimk of dropping Internet (which I access directly or as stand-by 70-80% of the time I'm awake) for traveling.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Several years ago I took serious stock of my daily expenditures. I used to enjoy a stop at Starbucks for a venti latte and a muffin every day. I did the math and realized I was spending about $1500 a year at Starbucks and I had nothing to show for it. I bought a cappucino maker and learned to make my own. For every day I didn't go to Starbucks and enjoyed a home-made latte instead, I put $5.00 in a jar. After a year I had about $1500 in that jar. As I said, it was several years ago when a flight to London or Paris could be gotten for about $750. I used the jar money to pay for airfare for 2 trips; today with high fuel surcharges and other taxes and fees it would pay for only one ticket. I proved to myself it could be done by making small trade-offs in my daily life, re-orienting my priorities, and finding less costly alternatives for some of my favorite indulgences. The surprising thing was: after about the first week I didn't even think about going to Starbucks.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

In 1985 at age 23 my friend and I travelled to Europe for almost three months. We both worked at low paying jobs and hadn't finished college. We constantly heard our friends tell us " how lucky you are ". Baloney. We worked our butts off. We did not go out night clubbing . We did not own cars( gas and insurance $$) and sometimes I walked 3 miles to work to save bus fare on nice days, ( I was thin then and now I realize why, lol ) I did not own a stereo. I did not own a Walkman. I didn't even own a bike. I did not get my nails done, nor did I buy lunches out. I took my lunches to work. I bought most of my clothes second hand, I had to dress up for work. I was POOR and saved my money like h*LL . The last three months before our trip my friend and I gave up our apartments and moved home, this saved us three months rent, and was the only "gift " we got from our parents. Unless you have medical bills or huge previous debts to deal with I maintain most people with any job CAN save for a trip to Europe ( or where ever ) IF they sacrifice some other things. Of course if you get knocked up at 17, quit high school and have 3 kids before you are 21 and develop a drinking or drug expense then good luck to you, thinking your trips won't be happening till you are in your fifties or sixties, if you live that long .
Conversely if you come out of school with 50,000 in debt, and then run to get married and buy a 700,000 dollar house, well good luck to you to.. more important to have that double car garage and double sink ensuite bathroom then saving for trips. That is fine but don't cry poverty .

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1508 posts

To avoid inspiring self-righteous castigations let's eliminate from the discussion anyone who struggles to make enough money for basic needs. They aren't going to Europe or anywhere else. Then let's factor out those who have no real interest in travel. Let them spend their money any way they want to. What you have left are people who make a bit (or more than a bit) more money than they need for basics AND they "...wish they could afford to go to Europe". For THOSE people we all have a number of strategies to offer for saving money. None of them are rocket science. They ought to be pretty obvious. For us, the first basic rule is this; LIVE SIMPLY. Nowhere is it written that every enjoyable experience in life must come with a price tag. The problem for most people is that they live just barely within their means whether they make $30k, $60K, 90K, or 120k per year. The amount really makes little difference. They coordinate their lives and behaviors to consume every cent they make. When faced with the question "How do we afford a trip to Europe" they are left thinking it's impossible no matter what their income is. Some of the most financially strapped people you will ever meet have big incomes. In our own case, we made the decision 15 years ago to live on one income so I could stay home with our then-young children. We were FORCED to scrimp. Then, between 2002 and 2005 for various reasons, our income went up by about $10,000/year. Instead of using that money to buy a bunch of stuff, we started devoting it to travel. Part of the reason I favored that choice was precisely because I knew that if we didn't have that target to save for, the extra income would simply evaporate in a sea of little forgettable splurges that added up to nothing.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Ceidleh I agree everyone is entitled to their lifestyle choices, my beef is people who WANT IT ALL,, they want all the bells and whistles and the trips and travel and their income will only go so far. THEY have to make choices and not complain. I found its my friends who had the most "things" ( nice apartments with new furniture, not free stuff poached from the curbs like my friend and I had) nice cars, who then look at me and say "aren't you lucky " .. luck has nothing to do with it.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2176 posts

As for people mentioning that Europeans travel more to other countries, that is really a function of geography. Just remember it is as easy, if not more (no hassles with mailing train ticket overseas or dealing with chip-and-pin card application), for residents in Europe to cross borders than someone coming from Europe. Countries like Netherlands are as large as a small US state. Just compare trips to Canada for people living near the border: not really a big enterprise to visit Vancouver from Seattle or Windsor from Detroit. And crossing the Canadian-American land border is much more cumbersome than crossing borders by land, as EU citizens, of any EU or non-EU country on the region, except Belarus.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8757 posts

To try to give an anecdotal answer to Rose's tangent question. I associate with about 150 work and religious colleagues and the odd couple of dozen close and distant relatives all around England. I don't know of more than a handful who take what is now called by the British press "Stay-cations" every year. I only know of a very few who take caravan holidays every year to Dorset, Devon or Cornwall. Virtually all the rest go somewhere overseas for at least 2 weeks of their minimum 4, no matter if they are minimum wage or managing directors or somewhere inbetween. Most that I am aware of go to Spain, the USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia, Maldives, France, Netherlands or North Africa. Easyjet started in the UK, at Luton, mostly carrying British holiday makers. They are now bigger than BA. Ryan-air, our weird cousins from across the Irish Sea, started much the same way. That's where, in Europe, budget airlines came from. Southwest in the US had it first and most of their flights are domestic. Europe is awash with budget airlines and virtually all of their flights are to a different country.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

Ignoring finances(even though that is the question) some people want to travel to Europe and some would rather get a new car every few years.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2508 posts

My first trip to Italy was with my parents when I was seven. For my father it was going home for a visit, not a vacation. I assumed that I would always travel back to Italy, and as an adult I did, skrimping all the while, but travel was my passion. Imagine my shock when I couldn't afford to go back for twelve years! I earned a doctorate with student loans, which I will be paying off until I get out of purgatory, got a job teaching at a small college, and for the past several years I've been able to feed the travel need. I still pack lunches to work most days, drive an eight-year-old Kia, and go out with friends two or three times a month. While my salary is not high, it makes travel possible with some careful budgeting. Not everyone can afford to travel, it's a lucky choice to have.

Posted by Judy
Adelaide, SA, Australia
802 posts

A thought provoking thread. One thing to come out of the replies is the seemingly high cost you pay for your internet service. My monthly account for my internet (5gb), mobile phone and land line averages out to about $130. Because I have my internet, mobile and land line with the one provider, my monthly internet charge is reduced from $49 to $29.
Then again it costs me a helluva lot more to get to Europe than you guys!!!

Posted by Maryam
Washington, DC
562 posts

Yes, if you have disposable income, then you can change your priorities and afford that trip to Europe. However, lots of folks do not have that wiggle room.
Just read an article that stated that 23% of Americans do not get paid vacations (not a guarantee for us like other countries). For almost a quarter of us, shifting priorities will not be enough to get a decent vacation. Imagine you get minimum wage, and then have to forgo about a paycheck to travel. It just doesn't work that well. My husband and I are lucky to be in the part of the pie chart that can take multi-week trips. I am always grateful for that. I specifically went into a career field that would allow me to take extended time off (however, I gave up the high salary thing). Again, I made that choice because I could, lots of folks just do not have that luxury.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Thinking more about this topic made me remember an article I read last fall that contained some interesting statistics and analysis: The Great American Passport Myth: Why Just 3.5% of Us Travel Overseas! If you have time, read some of the comments. One was from a woman who had an unpleasant experience involving a French-speaking policeman in Montreal and vowed she would therefore never go back. She wrote: It takes money to travel. With so many people unemployed, traveling is the last thing on their mind. Besides, traveling on the internet is easy. Street views are available of cities or small towns... If you do not speak their language, stay in the United States. I am more concerned about being safe than worldly. Arm-chair traveling via Google Street View as a substitute for actual experience - priceless. Excepting students working minimum-wage jobs, and those who are forced to work low-paying jobs because they lost higher-paying jobs during the Recession, I think much of the demographic that earns minimum wage is probably not highly educated and would not be inclined to travel to Europe, even if they could. It would be interesting to know if the corresponding British or European demographic travels much outside their native country.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Rose, its a lot easier for a kid in France to visit Germany, its may just be two hour car trip, same with many youth or less economically well off in Europe. Travel within Europe is a lot cheaper for them, they automatically have no 1000 dollar or more airfare to figure in.. they may already own a car.. or have friends or relatives living mere hours away to stay with , but in different countries. So yes I think Europeons can and do travel more inter europeonally ( sorry I know that's not a word , lol ) then the rest of us .

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

It would be interesting to know if the corresponding British or European demographic travels much outside their native country. That isn't comparing like with like. Being less than 3 hours flying time from much of Europe, with budget airlines and cheap package holidays in the sun means that often it can be cheaper to holiday abroad than to stay in the UK (e.g. this afternoon I see I could book 5 nights in Majorca in June, 3 star hotel, including flights from Birmingham for £198 per person, or 7 nights at a 3 star all inclusive resort in Rhodes for £379 including flights from Gatwick). For what it's worth, almost 80% of Britons have a current passport. I'd hazard a guess that more of them are used for the kind of package holiday I mentioned above, or for short city breaks, than for the kind of travel we tend to discuss here.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I understand about the logistical aspects that make travel between countries in Europe easier than having to cross an ocean. That's obvious. It's similar to people in America sometimes traveling to other U.S. states on holiday. It's more the demographic aspect I'm interested in. Does the lower-paid ('blue-collar' as it's phrased in the U.S.) segment of society in the UK and European countries seek to travel outside their own country for pleasure, or do they tend to stay closer to home, more within their own national boundaries? I also know there's no absolute or clear-cut answer. I'm only interested to see if any Brits or Europeans who frequent the Helpline may care to comment.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
680 posts

I agree with Randy, there are those that are barely surviving life, and those that don't care to go. I have friends that say they could never afford Europe, but go to Hawaii every couple years, buy new cars, remodel their house etc. It is all about priorities. We could never afford it either, that was until we took a cheap Europe trip visiting friends. We fell in love! So now, yes we can afford it about every three years. Our income has not changed, our spending habits have. We keep track of every cent and our vacation account is as important as paying our mortgage. It is funded every month, but we have to cut other things out. We spend every penny with a purpose and a goal unlike before when we would generally spend what we wanted or needed with no specific goal in mind, but had no extra travel money. Life is much more satisfying reaching our goals on a budget than living day to day with more money, but not accomplishing anything...especially a trip to Europe!

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
279 posts

Living in the U.K., I agree with everything that Kevin has written. Among our own friends and relatives, there are one or two who do not have passports and have not travelled, but the vast majority do travel, or did when they were younger or in better health. "Where are you going on holiday this year" is a common way of starting a conversation, as the reply could be anything, with many travelling to Europe and others going to Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the United States. Caribbean islands are popular, and the more adventurous go to South America, India or the Far East. The UEFA Champions League soccer final was held in London last week. The two teams were both from Germany, so there were many Germans who travelled to London to see the match, or just be there when it took place. They thought nothing of it, just as the other sports fans following their teams or the national side think nothing of going all over the world. I suppose the surprising thing is that Americans, who we all imagine are wealthier and more sophisticated than the rest of the world, are apparently reluctant to travel.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

Hi, If you are relatively young, have no health issues, single, willing to make sacrifices such as postponing having a family, reset your priorities to traveling on a shoestring budget, solo if need be, willing to rough it (staying in dorms, dorm rooms in hostels, taking night trains, eating in train stations, hostels, Asian and ethnic foods, etc), and a host of other factors, you can do a trip for at least 3-4 weeks, if not 2 months, if you omit from the itinerary Switzerland, Scandanavia, Part of the problem is finances, part of it is attitude. You have to feel that you so desperately want to go where you are willing to make more than just superficial sacrifices in your life style here., ie, denial here, reward over there. If you want privacy that means additional cost. If you're willing to give up privacy as regards to hotel rooms with en suite facilitie, or a Sleeper on a night train, that's less cost. For some that's an easy decision. After all, you're the one setting the priorities if you want the trip to materialise.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

I always found that so interesting that most Europeans know where they plan to travel in the next few years... maybe we should start that trend here and ask everyone where they intend to go on Holiday this year??? I can only imagine the blank looks one would get from a majority of the people. However, I bet most people here have a clue where they might be going.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

My wife and I know where we are going to travel in the next few years, and why.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

@Kevin - your mention of the way British people and other Europeans tend to travel within Europe is a good point. Because they already live in Europe, they can "afford" to take shorter vacations. I guess it's similar to the way many North Americans travel in the U.S. and Canada. My sister and I were talking about going to Montreal for a few days. But I wouldn't consider going to Europe for just a few days - it would have to be a minimum of a week to make the travel time and plane ticket price worth it. Likewise, I don't know if many people from Europe, Australia, or Japan would consider visiting New York for just a few days and then returning home. The cost and time to get there is a big factor in how long a trip is and where you go.

Posted by Dawn
Dunstable, MA, USA
20 posts

We love to travel, but extended European visits would be out of the question with college costs looming large. We decided to try home exchange. We found two families, one in England and one in Paris with whom we will exchange our home with this summer. It is allowing us, a family of 4 to stay for 3 weeks with no lodging costs! We did join a home exchange "club" that has an excellent rating. Our exchange families are experienced and we've been in contact with them via email, phone and Skype so we feel like we know them!
I'll let you know how it worked out when we return!

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
713 posts

I'm slightly jealous of my sister who moved to the UK 5 years ago. I'd be country hopping all the time if I could get $100 flights (as opposed to $800-1200)...but of course, for her with 4 kids and all the expenses of moving (citizenship and whatnot) she can't do it too much. It's so much easier and cheaper over there. But I suppose you get Europeans asking about the expense of planning a trip to North America as well.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I can't believe there are so many people overlooking the basic geography of the question. The U.S. is HUGE. Honestly I don't think I quite realized how huge until I lived in Europe. I'm returning to the states and will be taking a road trip through the southwest with my family for a week and a half. I made a route through Europe based on the same milage and driving hours, and ended up with a trip that took me from Stuttgart through Rome, Madrid, Paris, London (!!), Amsterdam, and back to Stuttgart. Meanwhile my U.S. trip will only take me from Sacramento, CA to Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Rapid City South Dakota, and back via Yellowstone. Maybe roughly transversing a fourth of the U.S. In Europe, that trip took me literally through almost all the "world class" cities of Western Europe. Factor in a bad Euro to Dollar exchange, the fact that most European countries are simply more expensive than the U.S. in terms of lodging and food prices, and the extremely high cost of airfare and the time involved in flying (especially from the West Coast) and it's not really a surprise that most Americans can't afford a several week jaunt to Europe every year. This isn't rocket science and it's not a matter of just giving up Starbucks. Frankly, in terms of travel value, it makes much more sense for Americans to travel within the U.S., to Canada, Mexico, the Carribean, or even parts of South America and Asia depending on where in the U.S. you are than to Europe, especially given that in many of these places travel expenses are a bargain compared to European prices. Continued...

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Furthermore I think people are underestimating how easy and cheap it can be to travel within Europe when you live here. Budget flights and holiday destinations in sunny places with VERY attractive pricing (assuming you don't mind being crowded in with tons of Brits and Germans) make it easy for someone living in Europe to holiday around the continent once or more times a year. But most of the Europeans I know don't just jaunt off to North or South America, Asia, or Africa often, if ever. They seem to view a trip to say, the U.S. as a big exciting trip, the kind you might take once every 5 years if you can afford it - much the same way most middle-class Americans could only afford to travel to Europe infrequently as well. I just flew a relatively expensive flight to Copenhagen - $300 r/t, the most I've ever paid for airfare within Europe by a wide margin. Where would $300 r/t airfare get you in the U.S.? Almost certainly not to another country - maybe Canada, if you found a great deal and didn't live all that far away. Geography, people.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

Bruce, I totally agreed with your position in the other thread and, in this thread, I am very much with Randy from Minneapolis. I also thought one commenter from England's statement that folks in England across the economic spectrum (whether minimum wage or managing director) take vacations to be very telling (the caveat is that most places in Europe are close and trains, buses, and budget airlines meet a lot of traveling needs while holding down costs). It's sad that young people in the US are so saddled with university debt that they cannot afford to travel after college (except on a shoestring) and families with kids are so saddled with childcare/healthcare/kids college expenses, that those factors totally eat into discretionary income that could be directed at travel. Also, there are lots of folks in the US who simply do not live close to competitive flight markets so every trip is an expensive one (and the train system sucks, it's nonexistent in most places save for the coasts). So the result is that financially secure and/or retired folks (who are financially secure)are in the best position to do this, whereas in Europe, a broader spectrum of society can take trips because they don't have huge private costs (expensive college tuition, healthcare, childcare, etc) that eat into their buying power - those things are paid for through higher taxes and don't become a private albatross. And then there is the work culture here that doesn't comprehend or readily accommodate extended vacations. to be continued...

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

continued from last response..... Having said all that, assuming one has the discretionary income, zero or few dependents, manageable debt load, and control over their leisure time, I think it's a matter of priorities and doable...for those who love travel, they'll make it happen. Unfortunately, most people are overleveraged in some way or another (although it doesn't seem like most people on this board fall into this category)

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Germany is smaller than Montana and our German friends really like that there are more cattle than people here.

Posted by Frank
Oxford, MS, United States
26 posts

It's partly a matter of priorities. I have a cousin who has more money than Carter has Liver Pills, and he simply has no desire whatsoever to leave the United States. None. . Second, there are still lots of $750 round-trip tickets out there, primarily if you fly out of New York, but other cities may have them, too. You just have to be willing to go where the planes lands and then take an inexpensive train ride to where you really want to be. . Third, almost everybody who flies is a member of a frequent flier program, but a surprising number of people who stay in hotels once or more a year aren't members of a hotel loyalty program. A guy my wife works with realized (after she told him) he was missing out on six to nine free-night certificates per year just by not signing up for the promotion that the hotel has. Many of these promotions give a free hotel night in exchange for as few as two paid nights. . For example, if you stay two nights at a Choice Hotel (Quality Inn, Comfort Inn), which often go for as little as $59, you will get at least 8,000 points under the current promotion. Choice has all of its Italy hotels "on sale" right now, so that 8,000 points will get you a room that might cost more than 300 Euros. Do the math; two $59 hotel nights gives one a free, expensive room. Yet most people don't bother to accept these savings because it's "too much trouble." They would rather leave free money on the table.
. Fourth, you have raised an interesting issue, namely the amount of money being spent on cell phones, Internet and cable TV. The TV and cell expenses are huge, and are an expense that didn't exist 20 years ago. I think they are a drag on the economy.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

True, it's a matter of priorities and finances. Flying from the West Coast is always going to be pricier than from NY, as well as the month you fly, eg, June vs October or April. Once you have the plane ticket covered, be it $900 or $1,700, from the West Coast, ie, the big inhibiting factor, traveling in Europe, say from London to Warsaw, Budapest or Helsinki, (no car) is less than in going from city to city in the US. If one has only 1-2 thousand dollars to spend, apart from the airfare, my first choice is Europe,... priorities and geography, not the US, not Asia, even if it's for only seven to ten days.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1631 posts

UK "blue collar" overseas holidays took off in the 1960s when travel companies started selling package holidays (flight, transfers, hotel and meals) to Spain. The main attraction was cheapness and guaranteed sunshine. Lots of horror stories about people arriving to find their hotel building had yet to be finished! The other downside was the decline of the British seaside towns most of which had depended on factory workers decamping en masse to the nearest coast when the factory closed for the annual holiday. Since then people have just got used to taking holidays and short breaks abroad. We have a wide choice of package deals to places all over the world which, as has been said, can be a lot cheaper than arranging everything independently. NB these are not tour holidays. For example in Sorrento, where we spend about a month a year, one travel company offers packages with a choice of over 20 hotels/B&Bs/apartments ranging in price and size. These days we use a particular apartment but if we wanted to stay somewhere else I would check with the holiday companies to see whether there was a cheaper deal on offer. PS - Florida is a very popular destination for British families.

Posted by lisa
akron, ohio
98 posts

Somewhat off topic, although it is one way to afford a great European vacation. Linda, is it possible for US citizens to partake in the great travel package deals that you mentioned the British people use? Assuming one could get a decent fare to England, could we then enjoy one of these package deals or are they only for those with British passports?

Posted by Alexander
Manhattan, KS
277 posts

I, too, get tired of hearing "you're so lucky.' I think most of us that travel abroad are doers rather than dreamers. I always defend myself in saying that it's not luck, but rather a priority. For me it's not luck: I work myself to death as a full time teacher and I'm a full time graduate student. I don't spend my money at the local bars nor do I have the latest technologies. I will travel each year to Europe as long as I can. Yes, I'm married to my work and career, but the month I spend abroad each summer makes it all seem worthwhile.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1631 posts

lisa - I don't know but some of the FAQs on passport/visa requirements imply that non British passport holders can, subject to the entry requirements of the country visited, travel with them . There is nothing said about having a UK address but that may be an issue. You can always e-mail them. Here is a list including some main travel companies (and a couple of airlines). Be aware that the majority of companies do single destination holidays although some do offer 2 or 3 centre ones (they provide a car and/or arrange travel between locations for you) but they tend to be more expensive. http://www.thomascook.com/lp/1z6-deals/#intcmp=hp_merchblock_1_package http://www.thomson.co.uk/ http://www.citalia.com/ http://www.firstchoice.co.uk/ http://www.crestaholidays.co.uk/ http://holidays.easyjet.com/italy-holidays.htm http://www.britishairways.com/travel/holiday-finder/public/en_gb You need to look carefully at what is on offer eg we would not go on a holiday targeted at families with children or ones using large resort hotels. Also look at something like Tripadvisor reviews for the destination/hotel/meal arrangements to see whether it would suit. Other than that when you arrive at the accom you are free do your own thing. No need to go around with your fellow guests or use the day trips usually offered by the local company reps who are otherwise useful as a concierge service or sorting out problems on the ground. Travel outside school holiday periods usually offers the best deals.

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
71 posts

My wife and I own and operate a small restaurant. We have a drive-thru window and an inside sales counter, with a tip cup at both. Every penny of our tips for the entire Mom and Pop operation go to our "travel kitty" In addition to that, we have a business credit card that accumulates points; 1 point for every dollar charged. We put ALL of our business and personal expenses that we can on this card (except when they charge a fee for card use)(and we pay it off in full every month). 65,000 points gets you a free airline ticket to Europe!! We normally get at least 1 free ticket a year, and sometimes 2. Since airline tickets are usually one of the single largest expenses for any overseas trip, it goes a long way toward making the trip more affordable, and we plan to go for the 5th time this fall, since 2006. Also any other cash gifts we receive, birthday, anniversary, Christmas etc all goes in the "travel kitty" These schemes work well for us...pretty much painless. Oh, and our vehicles are 12, and 15 years old, and over 100k miles! Dan

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

The examples of using flight miles and hotel rewards programs to show that all the middle class people can easily afford travel just illustrates that people have enough money to do OTHER travel to afford their European travel. ("Business travel!" Yeah well I've not known many people who frequently travel for business who don't make seriously good money to begin with. Companies don't fly administrative assistants and the like around to conferences, do they?) And let's not forget that for the hotel programs, most hotels that offer those that exist in the U.S. and Europe like Radisson, Mariott, etc are NOT budget hotels in the slightest. Their rates are usually anywhere from 30 - 50% higher than comparable non-chain hotels or than budget European chains that don't exist in the U.S. Y'all can keep patting yourselves on the back for your frugality now and ignoring the fact that we are all actually quite lucky to be able to travel to Europe.

Posted by Bruce
Whitefish, Montana
611 posts

Good point about mileage programs. I am about to receive enough miles via a no-fee the first year credit card promotion for a free round trip ticket to a major US airport with direct flights to Europe. Alternatively, a millenial generation friend works seasonally, and then explores the world on multi-month trips. However, his frugality is noteworthy as a new pair of Carhartt pants would enhance his wardrobe.

Posted by John
Tampa, FL, USA
67 posts

We are a single worker family of 4 and we are going in July to UK for 17 days. How are we doing it? - Research, research. - We only have 1 car, I walk to work 3 miles a day. And take the bus. It sucks, especially in the Summer but we make it work. (and I have 2 teenage boys with all that chauffeuring around). Tampa is not a very pedestrian friendly city but I can do it. - Boys are going to less summer camps, etc because of the trip. - We do not have cable, fancy phone plans, etc. - We will rough it a lot-YMCA, Hostels. My boys and I are in Boy Scouts and do a lot of back packing and hiking so we learned how to travel light out of a bag. And a Hostel seems luxurious. - We will use public transport. - We are saving $1K by flying via Finnair JFK to Helsinki to London instead of a direct flight. - We are renting several apartments through AirBnB. - We are doing a lot of free and self guided tours but will pay for a lot of really good attractions and tours we can't do by bus or train.
- We will use grocery stores and do picnics to cut down on expensive dining out.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I will agree with the last poster that the single thing a person of limited means can do to afford travel is research. Almost any location can be doable with enough research and advance planning. In-depth exhaustive guidebook and internet research is how you find out about the really cheap apartments, hostels, etc; good food deals; free days for attractions or passes that save significant money on attractions; what time of year is more expensive; cheapest transportation options; and so on. Of course this kind of planning takes a lot of time - and time is money too! But it's the best way to save money. I've always found that when I didn't do enough research in advance, I've ended up spending significantly more than I needed to. I think most people are aware of how they can save money by cutting down on "wants" versus "needs" but depending on who you are and where you live, some things people are listing as "wants" ARE needs. A reliable car if you live somewhere not serviced by public transit or where distances are long, internet, and these days honestly at least a basic smartphone are all pretty important to working people. Yeah, I guess it would be annoying for someone who always has the latest, most expensive gadgets and clothes telling a frugal traveler that they're "lucky" to be able to travel but in my experience amongst those who really want to travel but can't afford to, they don't have a lot of room to save to take a trip every year or even every other year. I have friends who make just above minimum wage, are saddled with student debt, and kids cost money, too. I know they'd love to visit me here, but rounding up at least $5,000 to travel (a small budget for 2 people to europe indeed) isn't in their near future, no matter how they budget.

Posted by Frank
Oxford, MS, United States
26 posts

Hotel loyalty programs are not just for the rich. My wife does earn a lot of points through business travel, but it's also possible for ordinary people to get points. One of the best programs to get free rooms in Europe is the Choice Hotels program. This group includes Comfort Inn and Quality Inn, among others. A Quality Inn stay sometimes costs as little as $59. They currently have a promotion giving 8,000 points for every two stays. When they run these promotions they make Europe rooms available for reduced points. So, for example, I spent four nights in Paris last summer for 8,000 points per night. Had I paid cash the room would have cost 150 Euros. So two $59 hotel stays can net one a 150 Euro room. (I recently purchased 10,000 Choice points for $110. I immediately used them for an expensive weekend night in Venice that otherwise would have cost me 220 Euros. Not all Marriott hotels are expensive. Fairfield Inns often go as cheaply as $79. With the Megabonus, two stays earns a free night certificate. Marriott also has the AC Hotels chain in Spain and Italy, which is a budget-priced business hotel. You can find AC hotels in Madrid for under 60 Euros. When I visited Madrid last summer we moved every night so we would have more stays. So for roughly 120 Euros you can get two nights in Madrid plus a free-night certificate that we've found to be worth $150. This seems like something for people short of money to pursue. Last year Club Carlson offered a free U.S. Radisson night for those who spent a single night in one of their hotels. We stayed in one for $89. I'm using the free-night certificate in New York for a room on Broadway that would cost $300. These loyalty program literally rain money and some of you are reaching for umbrellas.

Posted by Frank
Oxford, MS, United States
26 posts

One more note concerning loyalty programs. Last year Club Carlson offered 94,000 points for two hotel stays. I arranged my travel to stay at cheap properties and got my 94,000 points. I'm using these points in Europe either to stay for free or pay with "cash and points." In Dusseldorf I'm paying 10,000 points plus 68 Euros for a room that would otherwise cost me 140 Euros. I've got similar savings in Trier and Brussels. Multiply an 80 euro savings by six nights and you can see I'm saving some real money.

Posted by Alexander
Manhattan, KS
277 posts

I agree with you 100% Tom. I am a graduate student and I make travelling a priority every summer: I usually end up taking a class while I'm in France to justify the trip for my education (knowing full well that my real reason for going is because I want to be there). I work my rear off during the summer though teaching an extra class and living off of cereal, but as soon as I get to France you damn well bet that I'll have my cake, as well as my entrée and plat!

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

And again Frank, you have to be traveling within the U.S. to earn those points. Business travel is not something everybody has. Many of the hotel chains you list don't exist in much of Europe. It's great if you can make them work for you, but it's not a pat answer to how people without a lot of money can afford to travel to Europe, either.

Posted by Mira
Midwest
108 posts

Some people are struggling for the basics and just can't afford it, no matter what. Some people prioritize other things, but would go to Europe if money dropped in their laps. Some people just don't want to go. As for me, I'm struggling with this priority issue right now. Next year there is money for a trip OR for some home improvement things. Nothing that is required to keep my house livable, but a few things that will make my quality of life in the house day-to-day much better. I'm already in a much smaller and less d house than I can afford, because I want to spend my money on experiences like travel not on a huge mortgage. But I'm wondering if skipping an overseas trip one year in order to pay for these home things is worthwhile. I just don't know which I value higher. That's the question...what do you value more in one particular situation, if you're lucky enough to have enough extra money to even have a choice?

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9131 posts

This only applies to young travelers, but once-upon-a-time before I had a steady income, I traveled to Europe on largely self-financed trips on 4 separate occasions. How did I manage this? By making it a priority. By not wasting money on the stupid stuff that usually drains a college student's bank account- late night pizza, eating outside the dining hall frequently, new clothes, CDs, stereos, etc. By not having a car until I has 24. By putting all the money I could get my hands on into intrest-paying accounts. By asking relatives to put money in "Tom's Eurotrip Fund" in lieu of Christmas and birthday gifts. By not blowing my money on a spring-break road trip to South Padre or Cancun. By having enough saved money to take advantage of limited-time, rent-free opportunities as they arose, like a childhood friend on a semester abroad in London, or an old football buddy in the army who was stationed in Germany. Admittedly, I was a bit weird in my young adult European obsession. But I'll take the memory of my first pint of British ale (Dogbolter, at one of the old Firkin pubs in the Bloomsbury section of London) over getting sick on much crappier beer on South Padre any day. Likewise, I think my story of getting destroyed by an ill-advised glass of absinthe in Prague is much more interesting than the tales I heard of people getting wasted on Corona Lite at Cancun... Now, the specifics of how I managed to afford trips to Europe as a college, then graduate student are probably not applicable to the majority of people on this Helpline. Hell, maybe the economics have changed so much since then that today's students couldn't even pull it off if they wanted to. But I think the principle remains the same. If you want to visit Europe, make it a priority, sacrifice, save, and put yourself in a position to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Posted by Frank
Oxford, MS, United States
26 posts

Sarah, I agree that if one can never afford to stay in an American hotel one can never earn hotel points. That being the case, one likely simply can't afford to go anywhere. My wife has a lot of business travel and we are using her points to stay at a London Doubletree and saving almost $2,000. We're also using points that we got through day-to-day travel, such as taking my daughter to language camp. BUT, suppose you never stay in a single hotel room. Why is it a bad deal to buy 10,000 Choice points for $110 and use them to get a 220 Euro hotel room. This is how money is saved. Likewise, if you are traveling to Italy or Spain, two one-night stays in an AC equals a certificate that one can use at any CAT 1-4 or 1-5 Marriott hotel on one's return to save $150 or more. What's not to like? All of the chains I mentioned have hotels all over Europe.

Posted by Karen
Atlanta
800 posts

Tom-you'll be happy to know that some things never change and yes, my grad student daughter has made it a priority to travel abroad at least every every other year. After several "free rides" in the way of family trips and a junior year abroad, she has continued to plan and take trips funded by her stipend. Yes, she lives very cheaply most of the time but she keeps her eye out for special deals (got round trip to Peru for $300!), travels with friends or family to split costs, and has couch surfed or stayed with people who will put her up to lower her costs further. I help as much as I can. For the last three years I have given both my kids a gift certificate for Christmas instead of a thing. This GC is good for travel - two domestic airline tickets, or 3 nights of hotel stay or a "special experience" like high end restaurant dining. They are very appreciative of this kind of gift.

Posted by Laura
Virginia, USA
2900 posts

I think it is a combination of priorities and planning. When I first started traveling 25 years ago, I had a very limited income. I still got in an overseas trip every other year. The savings part was very much like Tom described ... foregoing things that some of my peers were spending their money on. My first car was a budget used car. I shared a tiny rented house with two other girls to have a cheaper rent. I didn't buy a lot of stuff ... the furniture in the house was basically stuff that various relatives didn't want any more (nothing matched). But not only did I live within my means, I also traveled within my means. That meant traveling in the off season to save money, staying mostly in hostels and private homes ("zimmer frei"), eating at inexpensive places, taking a less desirable flight to save a few bucks, "sleeping" on night trains to save the cost of a hotel, etc. This was pretty much how I traveled in my 20s and early 30s. I don't travel so cheaply any more and I am grateful that I can now afford a room with a private bath and a non-stop flight. I still do look for ways to keep the costs down and I plan to make sure I take advantage of discounts (e.g. train tickets). I work out the costs of passes (like museum passes) to make sure that they will really save me money. I research foodie sites to find places with good food at a reasonable price (by the way Sarah, I tried your Banh Mi recommendation in Paris last month .... Thanks). My best recent "deal" - I got two nights at the Premier Inn Earls Court in London last month for 45 GBP per night. I've never seen the price that low before and still wonder if it was an input error.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7828 posts

Laura that is a GREAT price, you lucked out, I stayed just down the road from there and loved the area.. and I paid 90 GBP 5 years ago!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2700 posts

I agree with the numerous steps one can take or has taken to cut expenses, reminds me of some of the ways I used in college and grad school to go to Europe since I was desperate to go and it was the top priority aside from finishing my education. So, you set priorities and sacrifice in every way you're willing to accept. Saving means sacrifices, planning means sacrifices and savings on expenses. You have to look at your travel style as well, solo or with others, what you can cope/tolerate to see if more expenses can be cut.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
645 posts

Yes Laura, that is a great deal! Way to go, budget traveler! My story is very much like Laura's. When I was just out of college, my grandparents taught me to scrimp and save and to live within my means. So that meant no splurges on expensive things that weren't necessities, no expensive dresses or suits, no going out to restaurants 5 nights a week with my friends. My furniture was hand-me-downs from parents, aunts and uncles. I had several roommates through the years to cut the rent bill and utilities in half. The thing that made a real difference was that although I had a full time job 9 to 5 in an office, I got a part time job to work just evenings, holidays, and weekends in a bookstore. The paycheck from my part time job went directly into savings. By sorting out "needs versus wants", as Bruce says, I slowly began to have some real money in the savings account, and began to take a trip about every 5 years. Back then, the interest (10%) on my savings account paid for my trip. How to afford a trip to Europe? Work your ass off. Cut expenses. Build a savings account by not buying all kinds of stuff you don't need.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

How to afford a trip to Europe? Work your ass off. Cut expenses. Build a savings account by not buying all kinds of stuff you don't need. And...sell the stuff you already have, don't need, and haven't used for a long time. There are a lot of needy people out there who might need/want your stuff that's only gathering dust on shelves and languishing in cupboards and closets. Put the money in your travel fund. Side benefit: Feel so much better not burdened by unnecessary stuff.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

You don't know what poor is until you've had to hump to the top of the ET (back when stairs went all the way up) on a horrible night before Christmas Eve because whatever the elevator cost meant no supper out of a grocery store. But, damn, she was a gem. Hoard and scrounge and you can do a bit better. I'm still probably the cheapest traveling sob around (most of the time). Right before Thanksgiving I was mucking around Scotland (which averaged eighty-seven bucks a day including car and gas and some steep ferries) when I was told to come home forthwith to go to London. Neglecting why I couldn't just drive down and wait, with a seventeen hour airport-to-airport turn-around, I was headed back. I went from twenty-five dollar hostels and pub food to an apartment in the Langham for a couple of weeks (which I held on to while I took the runts to Paris for a couple of nights). Most evening grub was sans-runts in starred eateries. I couldn't bring myself to keep a tally, but we were easily burning through two grand a day. It was steep, but I wasn't damaged. Last week I got back from finishing off what I'd started in Scotland. No ferries, the tab averaged out to seventy-nine dollars a day. There've been a few other trips in between. If you want to travel you will. Except for houses, I never bought anything for which I couldn't write a check. Now we're debtless, have an anti-Florida summer humidity house on the other side of the equator, and roam for the remaining six months. I've got ninety-seven country notches in my belt, but still own the four year old car I bought myself as a graduation present. Somewhere in there I put three kids through college and various grad schools. I worked my frigging butt off, plain and simple. I reaped some rewards along the way; now I'm in full-scale harvest mode.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
471 posts

So Stephen, when you save, say 40 cents a gallon, on your Safeway fillup do you actually put that money somewhere or just keep a mental tally?

Posted by stephen
Greeley, co, usa
245 posts

I posted on this forum a couple of years ago how much I saved/earned in 2011 from coupons, ebay and garage sales, etc. It was almost enough to pay for our 2 week Christmas vacation in Germany/Austria. I have continued to keep track and had good savings in 2012. This year I already have saved $445 in gas purchases with the Safeway and Kroger gas plans. That alone more than pays for the 5 days I will be spending in Gengenbach in the Black Forest. One reason people think they can't afford a European trip is that they don't know about inexpensive places to stay. I remember years ago when a business friend complained about how expensive it was to stay in Germany. I commented that I had spent about $10 a night for the hotels I stayed at. He, of course, had only stayed at the fancy hotels. When we travel in the US, we wouldn't think of staying in the house of someone who rented out a room for the night ( if there even were such a place), but in Germany, this is common and results in a more interesting experience than staying at many hotels.

Posted by Ragan
Blair, Nebraska
22 posts

What we have done that works FOR US,and everyone has to find their own way, we use our tax money to purchase our airline tickets because that is the biggest expense by far! We get back about the same amount each year so we can scout tickets starting in December and be ready to buy when the refund hits our account. We have found that tickets go on sale or are cheap at this time. Research each and every avenue for tickets. We found tickets to Germany for a little over $600 and to France for $860. The rest of our vacation money comes from cutting back when we can, we sell things on eBay, consign clothes to online sites and our etsy store. We have 4 kids and things come up and winters can be really long so we do go to the movies and have our Netflix and Hulu accounts. We just prioritize as best we can.
Hope this helps or gives you an idea of how to make it happen because it is worth all the trouble!