A European vacation is something that I never thought would be possible in my life, let alone at the age of 24, but when my wife and I started doing some research, we found that it could be just as cheap as a vacation stateside as long as we were smart about it.
In the past, I had briefly looked into flights to Europe and whenever I looked, they were about $1500 round trip per person. For me, that just seemed like too much to spend, not to mention that my wife and I share finances so we would be spending $3000 just on airfare alone, then we would have to have all of our spending money while over there, and it just wasn’t feasible at any point in our lives. After that I basically eliminated the thought from my mind until this past summer when we had one of my old high school buddies and his fiancé come to town. They currently live in England and have for the past 5 years or so. We were all hanging out at our house talking about how they loved it over there and how we wanted to take a vacation to Disneyland in California around Christmas time, but that it was pretty expensive so we were just trying to figure things out. We had done some quick math and discovered that the whole trip was probably going to be about $2500-$3000 total, for flights, Disney tickets, hotel, food, and other spending cash. When we told them how much we thought it was going to cost, they said “you could literally come to Europe and spend less than that traveling to multiple countries.” My first response was “there’s no way, I’ve checked tickets and flights alone would cost that much.” Then Irene(my friend’s now fiancé), pulled up her phone and opened up an app called Skyscanner. She put the dates in early December and looked from Seattle to London(Boise Idaho doesn’t have international flights) and my jaw just about fell through the floor. Flying out of Seattle to London on December 3rd and coming back on December 13th, there was a round trip flight for $465 per person. My wife and I looked at each other, and on the spot said “deal, we are going to go to Europe in December.” After talking some more with our friends, we determined that the whole trip to go to Europe was going to be about $2000-$2500 total(we’ll talk about actual cost towards the end of the article), which is obviously better than a Disney trip that is only one state over from us.
After deciding that we were going to go to Europe, we had to start getting the details planned out. Lucky for us, our friends told us that they would book all of the flights/hotels while in Europe, we just had to pick 3 countries besides England that we wanted to visit, and they would even travel with us to make things easier. This blog is more focused towards the tips and tricks of traveling, then i’ll make another post later on detailing out our actual trip.
So where did we go? My dad’s side of the family is from Portugal, so I knew that it was a must see for me. Then we decided on Spain and Rome for the other two. Once we gave our friends the details, they started looking into flights and Air BnB’s(basically hotels for anyone who doesn’t know.) They told us to download the Air BnB app and look into places in each of the countries and send them recommendations that we liked and they would see if they were in good areas or not. Air BnB’s in Europe are just as cheap as around here for the most part, if not cheaper, and they’re extremely popular. We paid on average about $50-$70 a night and then split the cost between the four of us. Air Bnb’s work great because you’re able to spend way less than a big hotel and they’re usually quirky and show you more of the culture in each country.
For flights, our friends handled all of this besides our initial flight over to London from Seattle, but I asked them some more details once we got over there. To keep it short and sweet, flights to other countries once you’re actually in Europe are extremely cheap. Our flight from London to Barcelona, Spain was 12 Euros per person. Which is roughly $15 US Dollars. I think the most expensive that we had was from Rome, Italy back to London was around 45 Euros per person, which still isn’t bad considering it was a 2 1/2 hour flight. The main tip here is plan ahead as much as you can to book these flights, and then make sure to give yourself some time in case of flight schedule changes. Our friends booked these flights a couple months in advance, and we did have a couple of changes, but nothing too major.
After our 9 hour flight to London from Seattle, we were both amazed at the differences of being in another country(I’ll cover these more in my next post) and we just wanted to immediately start exploring. Another tip for flights; Try to get an overnight flight since it is so long and hopefully you can get some sleep. We left Seattle at 12:30pm(ish) and got to London at 6:35am the following morning, so we had the entire day to explore.
I think my biggest tip for exploring all of these countries, would be to try and find your Air BnB centrally located and WALK EVERYWHERE. You are going to experience so much more of the cities if you try to walk everywhere you go. There are cafes and shops all throughout the little streets that you would never see if you were driving. If you are going somewhere that is a little out of walking distance, then you can either Uber or use their public transportation systems(metro, above ground train, buses, etc.) My wife was also about 6 months pregnant during this trip, so using public transportation helped anytime we had to go up hills or a lot of stairs. Plus the public transportation was very cheap. Trains/metro/buses usually had a 24 hour pass that would be like 8 Euros per person and you could interchange them and travel all over without paying more, but you could also buy single trips for about 2.50 Euros.
A tip I have for before a trip like this would be to try and walk a ton before you go. While in every one of these countries, we walked about 10 miles per day. If we both weren’t already pretty active, we would have died. Our feet and legs were still pretty sore the first couple of days, but after that our bodies were used to it and we were good to go.
While walking around, make sure to pop into the small cafes and try the large variety of different desserts, food, and coffee. We typically would eat 2 bigger meals per day(lunch and dinner), and have smaller meals for breakfast and snacks throughout the day. I’m big on desserts, so I wanted to try all of the pastries and snacks that we came across. We also learned that sometimes the more expensive meals do not mean better food. We had two different times where we spent $60+ on dinner/drinks for the two of us and the food was not even good, whereas we could spend $12 and get food for both of us that was amazing. But trying all of the different foods was well worth it, even if the food wasn’t fantastic.
Overall I think my biggest tip that I would suggest, is to budget more than you could expect. We originally budgeted $800 total spending cash for food, events, and souvenirs and we burnt through that within the first 4 or 5 days. But we got to the point where we realized that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we could spend a little more that we had set aside. As long as you’re not going above your means, you should go all out in my opinion.
If you have the chance to take a trip like this, I would definitely recommend it. Just do plenty of research and enjoy yourself!
In total here are the rough numbers of what we spent, these numbers will be for two people.
Round trip flights from Boise, ID to Seattle, WA- $260
Round trip flights from Seattle, WA to London, England- $930
Hotels/Airfare while in Europe- $500(granted this was with our hotels split with our two friends, so if you went just 2 people it would probably be about $600-$700)
Food/Events/Drinks/all other spending- $2500(ish) Keep in mind this was with us going above and beyond on a lot of things. It would be realistic to spend significantly less than this, but we did a lot of random things and bought all of our Christmas presents while over there too.
In total we spent about $4190, but it was well worth it for the amazing experience. And if I could, I would do it all over again.