Many of you have asked…how can we afford to be gone for two months? In Europe and Africa? On a two-week cruise through the Mediterranean? How is it affordable?
Truthfully, it’s because I’m an obsessive planner. Well, at least in part. You see, I scour the internet for hours, that lead to days, and keep notebook pages full of fares and hotels, until like a puzzle, I’m able to fit all of the pieces together.
But because you asked ME, about THIS trip, I’ll just spell it all out for you. Maybe you’ll be able to see that you can afford it too, or, at the very least, be able to pull together parts of it to make your own trip attainable. That’s what I really want…YOU to get to see the world, too. And if my transparency in numbers helps get you out there, then I’ve done my job.
So let’s get started.
Our airfare was the first expense. I had been carefully watching fares to Europe, waiting for special deals. It didn’t really matter to me what the entry point was, as low cost carriers make getting from any point in Europe to another a steal. The trick is finding the lowest cost transatlantic ticket, and going from there. We bought tickets from DC to Paris, via Iceland, for $350 each, roundtrip. That is less than a roundtrip ticket for me to get from Houston to Roanoke. There are almost always discount fares from DC or NYC, so if your airport is too spendy, consider a low cost flight into one of those two areas, and then purchase the transatlantic tickets. You can almost always get to Europe from the US for $500-600 each. Just keep an eye out! (This is the part that most people tire of- but I like keeping track of things like this.)
Now, once we had our tickets to Paris, I booked the rest of our airfares. EasyJet and RyanAir are two of the largest low cost airlines in Europe, and I’ve used them for years. No frills, and you’ll pay for checked luggage (it’s not much to add on carry-on bags, only a few bucks, but you get better seats, too) so I enjoy these airlines. We booked seats to Marrakech from Paris, with space for our carry-on bags, for $45 each.
We also booked flights from Marrakech to Rome, again with bags, for $45 each. Finally, we booked from Venice back to Paris (to catch our flight home) for $45. All total for airfare? $485 each.
Now, if you’ve been following along, you know that we did NOT stay in Marrakech as planned, and bolted early. The cheapest place to fly into on our impromptu exit from Africa was Budapest. So, booking last minute, we still only paid $45 each with the baggage fees. It was worth every penny to be relaxed and comfortable again…Marrakech just wasn’t for us anymore. I wish it had been, but, sometimes it’s better to just admit it and move on.
Our lodging in Marrakech was inexpensive, so at least that was a good thing. We ended up staying there 17 nights, for a total of $510. That included occupancy taxes and daily breakfast, so a pretty good deal. I had negotiated with the owner in advance, in order to get our rate to that, but, full price would have been closer to $700. She discounted us because we were staying so long, and most AirBnB owners will do this as well- they like knowing someone is staying a long time. It’s definite money to them.
For food, while in Morocco, we had a budget of $30 per day. Sometimes we spent less, sometimes more, but in the end, we ended up exactly on track at $30 per day spent. We also had $100 budgeted for taxis to get to and from the airport, and for getting around town. All told, we only spent $60, as most of the time we walked.
We walked a LOT.
Once we decided to abandon Morocco, we purchased our tickets to Budapest. Rusty found a great studio apartment in Pest (the good side, in our opinion!) that was very centrally located and in a great old building. We had a big kitchen, living room, bathroom, and loft, and it was decorated very nicely. He negotiated 8 nights there for $360…a steal in this gorgeous city.
Again, we kept our food budget at $30 per day. We did opt to use the supermarket for a couple of meals, especially breakfast, and we were able to stick to the numbers. We did NOT deprive ourselves though! Two nights we had amazing duck breast at a wonderful bistro. We treated ourselves to deep fried candy bar waffles. We went to cafes and Italian restaurants, we had gelato whenever we wanted. We just didn’t waste money. Budgeting is tricky, but it works!
Once more, we had taxi money budgeted, and we stayed just under budget. $50 got us from the airport to our studio, and from the studio to the train station. Not bad.
The train is where we ended up splurging a bit.
We purchased first class tickets in a sleeper car from Budapest to Florence, with a 5 hour stopover in Vienna. Sure, we could have flown. But hitting the airport 2 hours early, going through customs, paying for our luggage, and then, paying for a hotel versus being on a moving train…we weighed it out and made the choice to just enjoy the train travel. We spent $470 for this. We figured the air would be about $100, the taxi difference about $50, and a hotel night would be at least $100. Paying an extra $230 to relax, get to see Vienna, and not have to deal with the airport was just worth it.
Once we got to Florence, we made our way by train and bus to Poppi, a small Tuscan town we fell in love with. Those tickets cost us only $15 each, so, $30. Our 11 night farm stay (which I will be writing about!) I negotiated down to $400. I feel kind of bad that I did this, because I ended up loving the place so much, and the owners so much, that I felt we took advantage! But, she did offer, and it IS the off season, so, perhaps it was a good deal for her, too. In any case, it was AMAZING, and was exactly what Rust and I needed.
Even though we kept our $30 per day food budget, we didn’t come close to touching that. Our owners gave us great breakfasts each morning, offered us all of their fresh fruits and vegetables to eat and cook with, and even invited us to a couple of dinner parties. The rest of our meals, we cooked in our apartment. We spent $100 at the supermarket and that was the entire food bill for 11 days. We had pasta for the most part, but steak and potatoes a couple of times as well. We were not deprived!
After Tuscany, we booked train tickets ($40 each) to Camogli, a seaside town on the Italian Cinque Terre coast. I stumbled onto a great deal, including breakfast and taxes, for $150 per night. Trust me, for the Portofino area, this is CHEAP!! We loved our hotel, which was right on the sea, and we did still manage to stay on budget with the food. For the two nights there, we kept food to $65.
From Camogli we took the $10 train to Genoa, where we boarded our cruise ship. While a 12 night cruise may sound like a splurge (and kind of is) it’s well within budget!! I happened to find this cruise was on a super sale. I’ve always told folks that if you can find a cruise for under $100 per person per day, you aren’t overpaying. We snuck into this ship for $1800…or, $75 each per day. We figure that 12 nights of lodging in seaside towns would cost at least $100 per night, and food, even with the low $30 a day budget, means we are really only about $240 over what staying in one place would have been. This way, we get to visit 5 different countries and 9 different ports. Greece and Malta and Spain will offer us some different scenery as well…worth the money we think! We do need to add $250 in tips here, $150 for sucky internet, and we have $250 budgeted for “fun” – like excursions or whatever.
Lastly, after the cruise, we take a train to Venice ($40 each) and have two nights there. Another huge deal- I got us two nights and breakfast in a great hotel near San Marco for $70 per night. Our food budget in Venice I upped to $60 per day, but who knows if we will go over. I also allowed $50 in taxi/vaporetto fares.
So, what’s the total breakdown for two months abroad, including this huge cruise? (And, running away from Morocco which wasn’t in the original plan?)
Under $7000. $6650 to be more precise, but I’m allowing us a little freedom.
In Texas, our mortgage and utilities alone were $3000 per month. Not including food at all. Nor gas to get around, nor our phones, or any other activity we may have done. $3000 a month. We guesstimate with food, we would easily be at $4000 a month. So, this trip worked out for us!!
While we know not everyone can just pack up and abandon their homes for two months, or three weeks, or a year, we just wanted to break it down for you to show you how WE did it. Luckily, we had a renter in our house paying all the bills- which is huge. But, if WE can arrange for that to happen, so can you! Airbnb is a great way to rent out your home, or a room in your home, and that rent money makes it so much easier to travel! So, if you’re thinking about it, or have questions, email me!! I’d be happy to help you if I can!