How I Travelled Europe For 5 Months On $100 A Day

I went on my first trip to Europe when I was 22 and spent $15,000 over four short weeks. Yep, it was the classic Contiki and Topdeck trip (#noregrets). I’m now 25, and recently came back from a five month travel adventure throughout Europe and the UK which cost my boyfriend and I less than $20,000 each. So before you book a few weeks in Europe for the price of a (very nice) car, ask yourself: “Wouldn’t I rather go for five whole months for only a few grand more?” Of course, you would. Here’s how I did it.

See ya later, full time job

It was a particularly bad day at work which inspired me to shout YOLO (in my head, of course, because introvert) and book tickets to Europe. At least this is what I like to tell myself, and it definitely was NOT because I was turning 25 and having some sort of quarter-life-crisis…but hey, the reason for the trip is irrelevant, right?

20,000 dolla dolla bills, ya’ll

We each handed over 20,000 of our hard earned dollars and in exchange spent five whole months traipsing about Europe and the UK. We visited 18 countries, took 12 flights and went on 5 tours, and had countless once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Personally, I think it was a pretty good trade.

For anyone toying with the idea of a similar trip, here’s a breakdown of where that $20k went:

Pre-trip costs: $5,000

  • Return flights to Europe – $1500: For weeks on end, I stalked flight comparison sites like a crazy ex-girlfriend on Instagram and eventually scored a bargain on Skyscanner. We then, cheekily, sent these to our travel agent offering to book through her if she beat them by 5%, which she did.
  • Busabout pass – $1400: This was probably the best purchase we made for the whole trip (excluding the 4,000 gyros we ate in Greece, naturally). Transport in Europe can be really expensive so to get a comfy coach and not think about how we’re getting from one city to the next was money well spent.
  • MedSailors tour – $1200: This 7 night sailing trip through Croatia was expensive for a one-week tour, but being able to say we’ve sailed a yacht through the Adriatic Sea? Priceless $1200.
  • Contiki Oktoberfest tour – $450: Because, beer.
  • Travel insurance – $450: This one was for mum. I was glad to know it was there.

Daily budget of €65 – about $100 Aussie dollars

The pre-trip expenses meant we had AUD$15,000 for everything else. This worked out about €65 a day, which is pretty tight considering tickets to the Moulin Rouge, for example, were €120 each.

I would tally what we spent each day in the calendar on my phone. It became strangely addictive, almost a competition with ourselves, and recording a cheap day was extremely satisfying.

We allowed ourselves €25 each a day for accommodation which was usually a private room in a hostel, cheap hotel or Airbnb .The beauty of travelling in a pair meant it was usually the same price for our own room as it was for two tiny beds in an overcrowded dorm.

We also met our small daily budget by spending very little on public transport. When we could walk, we would. Google maps says it’s a two hour walk to our hostel? No problem. I kid you not, we didn’t get one single taxi the entire trip.

Travel meals

Whenever our accommodation had a kitchen, we’d cook big batches of pasta for €15 that would feed us for 2-3 nights.

When we couldn’t cook we’d look for cheap (but, delicious) food options like €4 kebabs and the €2 gyros in Greece – shutupandtakemymoney! We’d always try stay at places with included breakfast where we’d eat heaps and take some fruit and pastries for later in the day. Yes, we were those people.

We even went so far as to take bread from the buffet and make our own vegemite sandwiches. But we couldn’t always rely on this. Our hostel in Amsterdam that loudly advertised free breakfast provided a loaf of bread for the guests to share…no toaster or spreads, literally just a loaf of bread. When we couldn’t take snacks from breakfast we’d buy bags of nuts and muesli bars to have throughout the day.

The scrimping was totally worth it

Spending less than our daily budget of €65 allowed us to pay for unexpected costs along the way without having to take more from our savings to cover it. And believe me, you WILL be faced with these unpredictable expenses. For example when we flew into London Stansted airport and bought train tickets to Oxford the lady behind the counter asked for 80 pounds each… “Um, are you kidding me?” (I did not say because, again, introvert).

Our daily travel budget enabled us to climb the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre, ride horses in the Irish countryside, relax at the Budapest baths, sail a yacht through Croatia, do a paella cooking class in Spain and taste wine in Bordeaux. Although this constant scrimping was really hard at times (especially when I was tired and hangry), it’s how we could afford to do all the amazing things we did, and I highly recommend it to anyone dreaming of taking a similar trip.

Alison is a banking and investment journo by day and freelance writer in her spare time. She enjoys helping others manage their finances instead of dealing with her own.

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