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  • Writer's picturebrooke willenbring

10 days in Europe on a budget

How do I plan a 10 day trip to Europe on a budget? Well, let's break it down. 

What I will be covering: 


Section 1 - destinations

Sections 2 - flight

Section 3 - transportation

Section 4 - accommodation 

Sections 5 - food + activities 

Section 6 - sample itinerary + cost


Section 1- destinations 


My trips are all about value for your money. Cities that are not only affordable, but have amazing food, history, architecture, activities, and all around beauty. Just because a city is popular, doesn’t always mean it is worth the money. I will be listing what cities may not be so budget friendly, and alternative destinations with similar features and greater value for your money. 


The most expensive destinations: 

Paris

Dublin

London

Milan

Oslo

Reykjavik

Rome

Positano

Amsterdam

Santorini

the entire country of switzerland…


That's not to say you shouldn’t go to these places, some of them are completely worth the price. I would more so recommend to spend 1-2 days there as opposed to 4. 

If you are trying to stick to a budget you may want to avoid these places, but here are some you may want to consider:


If you like Positano, you’d also like Camogli

If you like Milan, you’d also like Budapest

If you like Dublin, you’d also like Ghent or Bruge

If you like Reykjavik, you’d also like Ljubiliana 

If you like the greek islands, you’d also like Malta


Other cities that have great value for your money: Lagos, Seville, Granada, Genoa, Vienna, Krakow, Madrid, Munich, Sliema, Lisbon, Prague, Athens, Bucharest, Ljubiliana, Zagreb…



Section 2 - the flight


You ever see those videos of influencers saying “here is how I took a round trip to Europe for $300. Unfortunately that is not the reality for most people traveling from the midwest, or other southern states. Flights will likely be the main expense of the trip, but I have a few tips for cutting costs when it comes to booking your airfare


  1.  Use google flights. Through this browser you won’t be brought to third party sites like expedia, and you can book directly through the airlines. I also recommend viewing in a private tab. Due to browser tracking, if they see you are consistently looking at flights to a certain destination, they may increase prices or show the more expensive options first. They, as in the airlines and their algorithms.

  2. Select the city you are flying out of, then select 2 week trip, and the month you would like to go. Set the destination to “anywhere”, click view on map.



  • It will look something like this Regardless of your destination, I recommend flying into a larger port city. For example if I wanted to go to malta, I would fly to Dublin ($604) or Madrid ($622) then fly to Malta for $42. (Spend under $700 for what could’ve been a $1000 flight with 2 very long layovers). Even if Spain isn't your final destination, its good to have a “home base” that is cheap to fly out of, especially since a lot of flights would have a layover in one of those cities anyway. 


  1. Once you’ve picked out a few potential destinations, go to the calendar to see which days of the week are the cheapest for arrival and departure. Some weeks out of the month are cheaper than others for the same airline, flight time, and destination.


  1. Skymiles are probably the best way to cut down your airfare cost. I’m not the most knowledgeable person on this since my credit card doesn’t have many travel benefits. But did you know you don’t have to have a credit card to get miles? You can actually purchase them, think of it like a Costco gift card: spend $80 for a $100 card. By committing to booking a trip with a certain airline (buying their miles) you can save a pretty considerable amount on your trip. The one downside is that you are limited to booking with that airline. 



Section 2: transportation 


flight prices may be intimidating, so you may be thinking.. How am I actually saving money? Well, renting a car in the US is about $80 a day which means $800 for 10 days (more than a round trip flight to most European destinations) Girl math.. right? In all seriousness, it is very cheap to get around once you are there, and you don’t have to worry about renting a car to get around.



  1. Avoid taxis and Uber when possible Once you arrive at the airport, it may feel like the easiest option to bite the bullet and spend $50 on an uber to city center, but the metro is just as easy and only costs about $3 for a ticket. My last trip I spent $20 on metro passes for 13 days.


  1. A common scam to avoid when you arrive at the airport is buying a ticket for one of the bright green trains. Specifically the ones that have big desks and people handing out flyers. Can you? Yes. But you will be paying $17 for what should be a $3 ticket on a standard line. Aside from that, you can rely on your feet to get you everywhere you need to go with the exception of an uber if the weather is not on your side and you don’t want to deal.


  1. If you plan on visiting multiple cities + multiple countries you will hear many people say trains are the best way to get around but it will likely be the most expensive option. Bus is my favorite way to get around in Europe (and the most affordable). I’ve gotten bus tickets from Lisbon to Lagos Portugal - 4 hours for $15. A bus from Brussels to Paris is as little as $7. Check flixbus, or Omio. Omio will allow you to compare bus, ferry, flight, and train fares. 


In case you aren’t sold..


Bus = no TSA

Bus = no paying for bags

Bus = arrive in the city not 10 miles outside of it

Bus = a really good nap

Bus = good views

Bus = comfy seats +nobody sitting next to you

Bus = cheaper 

Bus = options to leave every hour of the day instead of having to get to the airport at 6 a.m with no back up plan if you miss it



  1. For multi country trips, or if you’re going long distance look at flights over trains and buses. Budget airlines like Ryanair have non-stops to most cities and are typically pretty affordable. You can use the same method on google flights, click one-way, and the date you plan on departing from your base city and explore options. 


  1. If you’re ready to really deep dive. Write out a list of your ideal destinations and how many days you would like to spend at each. Then rearrange the list, different cities on different days, and put them into google flights and compare costs for each itinerary variation. Remember that the most affordable itinerary may not be the most chronological one. If I want to go to Belgium, Malta, Vienna, and Italy, I write out each variation and compare prices. You may find that the only flight from belgium to malta is over $100 and leaves at 6 a.m, but going to Italy first is only $23 and the flight is at 11:00 a.m. 


Section 3 accomodations 


Tip one: Off season. November-April 


  1. Flights are ½ the price during these months. November is my favorite month to travel because there are a pretty large handful of destinations that are still within the 60-70 degree weather range which is very comfortable for touring. The crowds are few and far between, there may be some lines in front of the most popular sites, but the cities themselves are pretty quiet. 

  2. Accommodations are cheaper in these months! From hostels to airbnb’s to hotels, you can expect an additional 30-40% off during these months. 


Tip 2 - hostels.


I did a deep dive on hostels in another post so feel free to check into that page for more info.

But I’ll give you the rundown. If you are under 25 and just care about seeing the world, meeting new people, and don’t plan on spending a lot of time in your room. Book a hostel dorm. They are $25-$42 a night, have lots of amenities, planned activities, some have free breakfast, free luggage storage before and after check in, I could go on. If privacy is one of your concerns you can book private rooms from $50-$120. This will still be cheaper than a hotel and some airbnbs, you have kitchen access, and have the added benefit of luggage storage. I still prefer airbnb’s to hotels as well for the price and amenities. 



Section 4 - food + activities 


  • My one piece of advice I’d give to anyone budgeting whether it be your wedding or a trip to Europe: pick your buckets. Pick which things are most important to you. indulge in those things, then cut back on the others. You can splurge on food, adventure activities, nice flights, nice hotel, drinks, classes, cultural experiences, museums, ect.. but only invest in the ones that are most important to you. 

  • Food: avoid restaurants with english titles, they will be more expensive since they are meant to draw in tourists, and less authentic. Avoid restaurants in the main square or along the canals. Not to say that the food will not be good, but so much more expensive than the rest of the city.

  • if you have access to a kitchen, make 1-2 of your meals a day. I love eating out at restaurants, but 30 meals out of the house is a little excessive (and very time consuming). 

  • Going to the grocery stores in other countries is a cultural experience in its own, and the quality of their ingredients are a lot better than in America since they regulate it🫣 Take advantage of it! Look for the chain “lidl” specifically.

  • Drinks, get your aperol spritz on a rooftop with an amazing view, but also get wine from lidl $2.50 a bottle and  not feel sick after drinking it. I got more drinks from grocery and convenience stores than from bars and saved so much money doing so. 

  • Touring! If you book a hostel they have free walking tours 1-2 times daily. There are also free apps such as Audio Europe that have voice guides you can listen to on headphones.

  • Look up what days of the week and times there is free entry for museums. You can save money by buying your tickets in advance, and they also offer discounts for students or people under 26. 

  • Night life: certain times and days of the week there is free entry for night clubs, it is worth researching a little beforehand. 


Bonus tip

  • Only bring a carry on bag. This may seem difficult for a 10 day trip but not only would you have to worry about a checked bag getting lost on your layovers, but you have to pay per bag to go between cities once you are there. ( and trust me when I say you will not want to carry a large suitcase up 4+ flights of stairs at the metro station). For tips on packing, what to bring, and how to build your capsule wardrobe, you can refer to my other posts!



Cost breakdown 

I will be providing a 10 day itinerary for Spain using the tips listed above.


November 5th-15th 

Round trip to Madrid: $480 air canada 


6th - arrive in madrid 

Take metro to city center ~ $3.50 

Stay at green hostel $52 - 2 nights


Walking tour, plaza mayor, royal palace + cathedral, and puerta del sol. 

Get churros and chocolate at san gines $6.50

(Or tapas anywhere)

Get dinner at preferred restaurant $14


7th  make breakfast $2.50

retiro park (free) visit the vintage shops around town. 

Pick up a baguette, prosciutto and wine $4.50

Have a picnic at one of the botanical gardens $2.5

Walk along gran via, see plaza cibeles

Get tacos and a margarita at tiki tacos $8


8th make breakfast $2.50 go to airport $3.50

$28 flight to barcelona $3 metro 


Stay: Sant Jordi hostel $63 - 3 nights

explore the gothic quarter and the cathedral of Barcelona

and the kiss of freedom mural


9th use audio Europe for a walking tour of La Ramblas, and La Sagrada familia, go Mercado de la Boqeroa, watch the sunset from a viewpoint.

Get tapas/wine $15

Go to a night club ~$12 cover ~ $17 drinks


10th get brunch and a coffee $13 

walk along the shoreline, Make lunch, get paella $10-$18, go to Ciutadella park and Plaza Reial


11th make breakfast $2.50

$60 flight to seville $3 metro

U sense hostel $40 2 nights 


See setas day seville, explore the town, see cathedral de seville, get 100 montaditos $6 

Get dinner on a patio $15


12th get brunch at cala 34 $9

more exploring, walk down every street

Go to plaza españa, watch a free flamenco show, international peoples bar $12


13th breakfast $2

$14 bus to granada 3 hours

Stay at eco hostel granada $42 two nights

Make meals $10

See la alhambra $23 entry 


14th hiking + take pictures 

get cookies from one the the windows or gelato $5

Papas elvira $6

Make dinner + pick up wine $7


15th coffee and pastry $4 $3 metro

$36 flight to madrid 9:50 a.m, transfer to fly home at 12:30



10 day trip 

Nov 5th-15th

Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada


$637 for all flights + metro tickets 

$197 9 nights (hostels) 

$177 meals out + drinks + making breakfast

$37.50 activities


Total: $1,048


Disclaimer:

-This is the expected minimum cost and is accurate to start from, you can increase the budget for souvenirs, more dinners out, or if you would like private rooms. But this was built specifically for solo travelers/small groups that want to see as much as possible without spending a fortune. 


More people looking for a similar price point without staying in hostels I would recommend going with a group and splitting the cost of an airbnb (about $1300 per person for the whole trip)


I have been to Madrid and Seville. The itineraries were built directly on what I did in each city and will be the most accurate for price.


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