In 2014, Dan and I took a trip to Europe with nothing but a backpack. It was our first big trip together and a very exciting adventure. We booked our tickets for 3 months and had a budget of $3,000 per person. Thankfully I have family in Ireland and Belgium, and at the time I had some family living in England as well, so we were able to save a lot on hostel costs by staying with them when we visited those countries. In this post, I will share a couple of ways that we were able to come home from our trip on budget. This way of traveling might not be for everyone, but for college kids and recent graduates, these might just be the kinds of tips you were looking for. Stay tuned for a more in depth post on my budget for this trip.
- Shop for flights – We looked for flights out of 5 different cities to find which had the cheapest flights to Europe, we also looked at about 10 different European cities to fly into to see which was the cheapest. Additionally, we looked at a span of about 10 days to figure out the best day to fly there and back. Keep in mind that just because it is cheaper to fly from one place, does not that it will be the cheapest overall. For example, you find a cheaper flight in a city father from you, but you also have to factor in the cost to get to that city as well. If the flight to Europe is $200 cheaper from Dallas than Cincinnati, make sure it will cost you less than $200 to get to Dallas. For us, a flight from JFK was the cheapest and we found a bus (Go To Bus) that would take us from Cincinnati to New York for $60, so this was what we chose. It was about $300 cheaper than a flight from Cincinnati. We also had friends in NYC, so it was easy to make this the first stop in our trip rather than just a layover in travel. If I were on a vacation from work, or had a time crunch I would not take this route as you will use almost a whole day in travel time. So when deciding your options, make sure to factor in the cost of your time as well.
- Only pack the essentials. You do not need as much as you think you do. Pack your bag, then get rid of half of what you packed. This will save you costs on baggage fees not only for airlines, but also buses and trains. Plus it is much easier to keep traveling with less weight. I packed 4 shirts and 2 pairs of pants for this 3 month trip.
- It’s OK to Plan as you go. I am a planner. I like to have an itinerary for each day I’m gone and a calendar that I can see an overview of my trip on. And while I think it was helpful to know the things we wanted to do in each city, I also learned that it is OK to do things spur of the moment as well. We knew that there were certain things we wanted to do no matter what: Go to a Barcelona Football game, see the Eiffel Tower, stand on the Cliffs of Moher, taste pizza in Italy and so on, but, we waited to plan when we would do each of those things until we got there. We knew that we were starting in London because that’s where our flight landed and we knew where we were going from there (to visit our family in Oundle, England) but we waited to see what our cheapest travel options were once we got there. It happened to be Ireland from there, then Belgium etc.. Doing it this way allowed us to see some countries/cities that we never planned on seeing or thought that we would such as Trieste, Italy and Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina.
- Talk to locals. You can read every guidebook (I pretty much did), every blog, and every travel site, but no one knows a city like the locals who live there. We would constantly ask the hostel clerks, the man in the park, guy on the train, person at lunch etc.. What they would recommend in their city. We ended up finding so many local eateries and things to do that we would have never known about otherwise. For example in Brussels there is this French fry place that literally has the best fries and sauces ever.
- Have something that you try in every city. We knew that we would not always have it in our budget to do every attraction and try every restaurant in every city. So instead, each of us had one thing that we made sure to do every place we went. For me, it was to try the chocolate of that county, for Dan it was to try the coffee. This gave us something to look forward to, and something to compare in each place.
I hope that you find these tips helpful in planning your next trip. If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, subscribe to my blog!