How I made my money stretch on my Month long trip through Europe.
When I completed Law School my graduation "present" to myself was month long back packing trip through Europe. I knew that I was going to be spending the next 3 months studying for the bar and after taking the Bar Exam I was going to be SPENT. So I sat down with my computer and went to my drawing board, aka Pinterest.
Create and Itinerary
Budgeting is not a shackle of spending limits. But a reminder of what's important to you.
The first thing I did was made a list of the places that I wanted to go and then figured out the best path to take to hit all these destinations. Then I looked at different itineraries for these locations to see the length of time I would need to be there and the stops I knew I would want to take. Y
Budgeting Ahead of time
1. Euro rail Pass is your friend!
Since I knew I would be going to multiple locations I spent the upfront costs of a Euro pass. I purchased the 15 days in 2 months pass for 493 euros or $596.97. With this pass I could take 15 trips within a two month time period and all I had to do is register the night before for the ride I wanted. I downloaded the Eurorail app to look up the different times. They have all sorts of deals and you don't need to necessarily buy the 15 ride pass, check out those deals here.
2. Airbnb whenever you can.
Since I had done the research on where I was going and how long I would be there I made a timeline and booked my Airbnb's in advance. My two pieces of advice with this: (1) make sure the places you pick are refundable; and (2) look at the location based off of where you want to go (i.e. just because you typed in Paris doesn't mean that it is going to give you something that is within walking distance of Paris--I learned this the hard way).
3. Keep a daily budget.
Because I had already paid for my hotels and transportation in advance I knew that now I just needed to make a budget for each day I was there. Since I was literally backpacking, I knew I didn't have a whole lot of space to spend on souvenirs and instead I spent my money on experiences and food!
A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. - Dave Ramsey
Hacks for flights and transportation
1. Only fly when you have to.
Unlike the US, Europe is so good for getting place to place without flying. Through my whole 1 month trip I only took one flight and that was only for a quick excursion for $47. Although a flight may save you time it is not going to save you money. If you have the time then going by land is such a great experience that everyone should have for themselves.
2. Travel with a carryon bag.
As I already mentioned, I went through Europe with nothing but a 45L pack and a small daypack. Not only was this economically better because I was not having to spend the $50+ fees whenever I was flying, but it was also much easier to get from place to place when all I had to do is throw a bag over my shoulder.
3. Use your layovers as an extra trip.
If your flights or train rides have a layover then utilize that as an extra trip. As much as I wanted to visit Germany it just wasn't fitting in my plan; however on my train ride from Czech to Amsterdam I knew that I would have to stop in Germany to switch rides. I decided to use this transition as a day trip in Germany and it was the best decision I made. Also when I flew in to Iceland I had a 7 hour layover and decided to take SUPER QUICK excursion over to the Blue Lagoon, this is a 20 minute bus ride and buses leave every hour on the hour.
When I was in my Airbnbs I would make sure to pull up maps of the city I was in and plot out where I was going. I would often download the google map as well so if I got lost (I tend to randomly wander) I could easily find my way back. I would walk almost everywhere that i could and not going to lie I was walking close to 15 miles a day if not more.
5. Travel overnight.
Most trains offer overnight options and though they are not the most comfortable places to sleep, if you know you have a long travel time then they are a good option because it saves you the expense of a night in a hotel!
Budget tips for eating
1. Street foods or local restaurants.
Some people think that the best food experiences are going to be in a restaurant, but I have found that some of the most authentic food that I have found is actually street vendors. If you do want a sit down place then do not get it on the main tourist strip, take side street or wander a little bit, not only are these foods going to taste better, you will also save so much money.
BEST TRICK I LEARNED: If you found a place you want to eat, look around you, and if you see any tourist attraction within a 5 minute walk then keep walking. I had a tour guide teach me this and the one time I didn't listen to him I literally looked at my travel mate and was like "we did it, we should have listened to Chad!"
2. Carry a reusable/refillable water bottle.
Water in Europe is not free! However in most places you will see water pumps throughout the city where you ca refill your water bottle. Although this water is usually very clean, I might recommend either a filter like a life straw, tablets, or some other form just because our bodies might not be used to their water.
3. Shop at local markets and Grocery stores
Shopping at local markets helps you find amazing deals on fruit and little snack for when you don't need a full meal. If you decided to find a cheap hotel or hostel usually they have a free breakfast, utilize it.
I learned so many things while traveling that has helped me budget for future trips, this is only a handful of things that I have learned. The best advice I can give you is to do your research and if you can get upfront costs out of the way then save for your every day expenses. I actually got a travel rewards Credit card to pay for my upfront costs: (1) Flights, (2) Euro Pass; (3) Airbnbs; and (4) some excursions. By the time I left for my trip I had paid off that card and used most of those rewards points for food and excursions on my trip.