When you think of a European travel budget, you might thing, “NO way.” Right? We recently took our four kids on a trip to Germany and Austria and as we started planning, we were actually surprised at the price of many things–much lower than we had expected.
In this post, I’ve broken down all the specific costs of our trip to Europe: flights, hotels, food, and travel.
I’ve also included some tips I picked up along the way on saving money on flights and food. I hope this is helpful! And if you need more ideas for your European vacation, check out our itinerary and how we planned our trip.
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Setting a European Travel Budget for Families
Saving for a big trip can seem like a goal that will never happen. But I was so surprised when we started checking airfare and rentals for different places at how places in Europe were very reasonable. We had already been saving for quite a while for a vacation somewhere when we jumped on some great airfare tickets to Frankfurt, Germany.
I’ve found that being intentional for saving for a trip like this is the biggest hurdle to get over. The money won’t save itself! We cut down on eating out, were really picky about extra activities–knowing how much they would cost, and didn’t have cable for a verrrry long time. Little changes like that can really add up fast.
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When we knew a ballpark of how much money we had to spend, then we could start planning the where! We searched tons of sites, read tons of family travel articles, and asked friends tons of questions. Having a dollar amount helped us pick where we could go and we decided to go the farthest we could on that budget.
How to Keep Costs Lower and What to Purchase First
I have a few theories that have helped us travel for less many times:
- Be flexible with your travel dates and
- Travel in the off-season
As homeschoolers, we can travel mostly anytime. This saves a ton of money because we can really play with dates and find the best rates on airfare.
Traveling in the off-season is so great because the crowds are smaller, tickets are cheaper, and availability for everything is more open.
The first thing I always buy are the plane tickets. This is generally the largest line item in a travel budget. If I can get locked in to a great price on tickets, I can do some serious searching for rental homes or hotels and usually save a lot of money reserving in that order.
Note: We flew with Iceland Air and they were amazing! We’d never flown with them before, so I was a little nervous about how it would go. Their service was so good and we found great deals on our flights!
Tips on Cheap Flights
Speaking of flights. I have a few things that have really helped me find deals on flights.
- Google Flights. This is the best way to scope out dates and compare different dates with different airports.
- I start by inputting the destination and length of time we’re thinking we’ll be gone. With that info, I’m able to view a chart showing the price changes over the next twelve months.
- You can change the length of the trip to see the changes in price. Warning: it can be really addicting!
2. Kayak. I love booking with Kayak because there’s always great deals. Just check often! It seems that Tuesdays are a great day to buy tickets.
Tips on Saving Money on Food
For sure the best tip on saving money on food while traveling is by making a stop to the grocery store first thing before checking into your hotel or rental home. Most hotel rooms have a mini fridge in the States, but not so much in Europe, so you may want to check ahead on that.
Grab things that don’t require much prep or cooking…no one wants to be in the kitchen cleaning and cooking for too long while you’re on vacation.
We obviously wanted to experience some of the local cuisine too. Here’s what our vacation days looked like so we were mindful about how much we were spending on food:
- Breakfast at our rental home
- Packed snacks for the day in our bags/backpacks
- Lunch out
- Coffee and Cake (kaffee und kuchen) each afternoon at a cafe
- Dinner back at our rental home
We found that by eating out for lunch and coffee in the afternoon and the other two meals and snacks from the grocery store was a great way to keep costs down.
Rental Car vs. Euro Rail
Lots of people told us to take the Euro Rail and we really thought that would be fun. But after price checking it, we decided to go with renting a car. Yes, we had to pay for gas in addition to the rental, but it was still more expensive for six rail passes.
Also, we wanted to keep things more flexible and not be tied to a train schedule.
Our European Travel Budget Breakdown
- Airfare (x6 tickets): $2,286
- Rothenburg rental home (x3 nights): $321
- Salzburg rental (x4 nights): $828
- Mainz Guesthouse (x2 nights): $486
- Rental car (we had a full-sized van/ 9 passengers): $810
- Gas: $250
- Food: $950
- Nazi Rally Grounds in Nuremberg: $20
- Nuremberg Zoo: $37
- Hohenschwangau Castle: $50
- Mozart’s Birthplace: $23
- Berchtesgaden Salt Mine: $68
- Fraulein Maria’s Sound of Music Bike Tour: $140
- Dachau Memorial: $20
(Note: total does not include any souvenirs or random trips to the store for things we forgot, etc.)