As the year begins to wind down I always like going down memory lane and reminiscing on everything I've done throughout the year. One of my top memories of this year that still stands out the most was traveling to Europe. It was me and my husband's first time in that part of the world and it was an unforgettable trip. We got to experience so many different cultures, beautiful cities, delicious foods and connect with some amazing people.
We visited 5 countries (England, Switzerland, Netherlands, France and Germany) in 12 days! If you are new to my blog you can visit the travel section and read my recaps to see photos of each place we visited.
Today I wanted to share my personal tips, advice and some insight on how my husband and I were able to travel to Europe without breaking the bank. Europe can be a tad pricey especially when compared to other vacations like the Caribbean. I promise you that we are not sitting on a bank of money or have secret offshore accounts (lol)! We are two average working people that love to travel and planned this trip in advance to make it happen without going broke.
I received a few questions on how we made this trip happen so I wanted to share this post for you guys. It's going to be a jammed packed one, so I hope you stay until the end!
Researching in advance can help you save the most time and money. When we decided we wanted to go to Europe we knew we wanted to do multiple countries at once. I personally felt it would be too expensive to only visit one country rather than visiting multiple countries and getting more bang for our buck. I mean, how soon were we going to go back to Europe after this?
Our choice of airline when we usually travel is Delta, so we decided to check their site and see if they had any packages to Europe available. My husband came across Delta Vacations, which had a section for guided tours. We came across a great tour company that partners with Delta that I'll discuss in the next section. When we did more research on the tours, we found that the vacation packages didn't have to be paid in full upfront. We had the option of putting down a booking deposit of 20% and paying the remaining balance 45 days before the trip. We put down a deposit in August of 2015 and had 11 months to pay the remaining balance. There was no specific minimum a month to pay, or a maximum amount of times you can pay, and there was no fee to make a payment. Any unexpected money we got we put towards the trip weather it was $20 or $100 because every penny always counts.
As always life never goes as planned and so having almost a year to pay off the trip came in handy. Our initial plan was to take the remaining balance and divide it by 11 months. We would then pay that amount monthly to the trip. Life happened and my husband got a new job. Thanks to his new job we relocated to another state. We spent a lot financially on the move and we also had only one income in the house for a few months. Paying for Europe took a back seat until we were able to catch up with life.
Finding packages that you don't have to pay in full and that allow you to pay as you go are very helpful. You don't have to deplete your bank account by coming up with a few thousand dollars in one shot and the extra time helps when unexpected life things happen.
Cosmo Tours was the tour company we came across on Delta Vacations. They do vacation packages all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and North and South America. If you want to do multiple countries in Europe and keep the price low I highly recommended doing a tour. There are pros and cons (I'll discuss in a bit) but for me personally the pros outweigh the cons. They had so many different packages to Europe and we ended up choosing "A Taste of Europe" to 5 countries from London to Paris in 12 days. The price of our tour came out to... drum roll... $3,250 each. Now, before you think that was too pricey let me tell you the pros of a tour and what was included in ours:
That price per person included roundtrip flight, 3.5 star hotel stays in all 6 countries, coach transportation to all 6 countries, daily breakfast, 4 dinners and approximately 10 guided activities like the Cathedral of Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower. Everything included in our package, if I were to book individually on my own, would probably be triple the price we paid and we wouldn't have had the luxury of being guided through some of Europe's landmarks! Doing a tour can save you so much money and time because the packages include so much stuff.
-the leg work is done for you - no hassling in booking multiple hotels and transportation
- if you're a first timer to Europe the guided tours give so much information on what's what and where's where. You also get time to do things on your own and not just with your guide all the time.
-you get to hang with your tour group and make friends. We met some amazing people in our tour and it felt like a little family. Shout out to our #CosmoFamily!
-Meals and some activities are included, which help you save money
-Luggage handling - your guided tour handles all your luggage transportation to each country and city
-you don't get to choose which hotel to stay in. (I was content with every hotel we stood in except for one)
-feeling rushed: I felt I had enough time in every country to do as we pleased except for Paris. There is so much to see and so much to do and 2 days just wasn't enough.
- less of a chance to hang with locals
-tight schedule: many parts of the tour had early morning wake up calls for sightseeing and to explore. If you're not a morning person this could be a big con for you.
I had a great experience with Cosmos, if you are looking into tours I highly recommend them. They have lots of vacation packages to choose from and have discounted rates for group and solo travelers.
Once the trip was about 3 months out we looked into every country and city we were hitting. We looked up currency rates, the cost of food, extra sightseeing prices we wanted to do, the cost of using public transportation versus a taxi. I purchased a travel journal and we mapped our day in every country so we knew about how much we were spending per day. This gave us a spending money budget to stick to instead of just figuring it out when we got to all these places. Of course not everything goes as planned but is good to have a plan so you're not wasting time and money.
Mapping things out and planning ahead helped us save some money. We looked up inexpensive places to have lunch at so we knew not to hit the first café we saw for a $20 burger. Some excursions, if purchased early, were cheaper in price than buying them when you get there. Also, for London we realized taking the lube (train) was super easy to get around and super cheap! We mapped everywhere on the train we wanted to go and knew how much we were spending in advance to all the tourist areas before getting there. The total cost of our Oyster cards for the lube was 10 euros each and it took us everywhere! I couldn't imagine all the money we would have spent on taxis if we would have never planned that out in advance.
"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer"
I had an amazing experience and felt it was worth every penny. If you plan ahead and do research I think traveling to Europe can be affordable. I hope you guys enjoyed this post!
If you have any of your own tips and past experiences please share below.