For the past few years, my family and I have been fortunate enough to travel Europe for extended vacations. Traveling, especially abroad, is such a passion of mine that at one time felt completely out of reach because of just how expensive it can be. That’s when I started researching alternative ways to travel affordably and much to my delight, it can be done! In fact, this will be our 3rd European vacation in 3 years and it wont break the bank! I’m really excited to share will you all how my family and I are traveling around Italy for 17 days for an affordable price.
I know that it can be totally uncomfortable to talk about prices and money and how much people are really spending on things, but this new series of mine is going to be totally transparent because I want you to see that if I can afford this type of travel, so can you. I want you to picture in your mind a vacation that you want to take, now come up with a realistic price you think that trip would cost. Now think about my trip coming up, you know the destination is Italy, we are a family of 2 adults and a child and you know it’s for 17 days. Can you guess what my budget is? $10,000+ would be a reasonable guess I suppose. But nope, nope, nope! Flights, stay, rental car, food and fun for a budgeted price of $4500. Isn’t that shocking considering it seems impossible to get flights to Europe for 3 people no less than $1000 a seat? What if I told you I got flights for $1100 total for 3 people. It really can be done.
My process is pretty simple and one I’ll go more in detail of each step in a specific blog post but here’s the overview.
- Pick a budget and stick to it. You can only afford what you can afford but I’m telling you, there are ways to make money stretch and budget vacations feel luxurious.
- Have the money in hand before booking anything. This is my most important tip. Have the money already set aside for the vacation you are wanting to take. This is crucial because to get deals, you can’t spend days thinking about it, you have to jump on the opportunity. You’ll feel much better about your split second decision on whether or not to book a flight or hotel if you have your entire vacation “prepaid” for.
- Book your flights first. This is especially helpful if you have flexible dates. I am constantly getting airline deals texted and emailed to me. The dates are all over the place, so we wait until a deal corresponded with our schedule and book it right away.
- From there, you can go ahead and start finding places to stay. Sites like Homeaway, FlipKey and AirBnB are amazing resources for budget travelers. I pick a budget and stick to it. You can use their filter tools to select your price limit and it wont show you other options out of your price range. The second you look outside of your price range, you’ll be wanting more – so trust me on this one, don’t do it.
- Start building your itinerary and pricing out attractions. When we first started travelling internationally, I was surprised that prices for attractions were all over the place. Example, the Eiffel Tower is pretty expensive to take the elevator all the way to the top, however, if you walk the first two levels by stairs it cuts the cost almost in half. I budget out every item on our itinerary that way I know exactly how much things cost and there are no budget surprises when we’re there.
- Pick one meal to eat out a day. I always recommend renting apartments or bed and breakfasts that have a kitchen. You can save so much money by packing a lunch, cooking a dinner and just having simple breakfast items on hand. Additionally, some places offer a free breakfast with the price of stay and that’s like a big win in my book. By eating 1 meal a day out, you don’t lose that vacation vibe. We’ve never felt like we were missing out on an experience by packing a picnic lunch or retiring back to the apartment for dinner. In fact, we really actually enjoy packing a picnic lunch and then splurging on a snack later in the day.
- Don’t discount the little things. Some of our all time favorite things to do abroad are completely free and no we don’t feel like we are missing out. A picnic in front of a fountain, hiking the cliffs of Etretat, walking the shops in a tiny town are all free and so much fun.
- Have extra cash on hand for emergencies but don’t plan on using it. Just because my trip is budgeted at $4500 doesn’t mean something wont happen were I need more money. One time we locked ourselves out of our rental apartment and lost some of the security deposit and had to call a locksmith. That was our mistake and it cost us. Have extra cash on hand but don’t be tempted to use it unless absolutely necessary.
That’s how I start planning a very affordable trip for my family. This strategy can work for domestic and international travel and for budgets of all size. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be going more in depth with my strategies and break down how I find my deals. If at anytime you have questions about planning a trip internationally, I’d love for you to reach out and I will be more than happy to help you. If I don’t know the answer, we can figure it out together.