Planning Two Months in Europe; On a Budget!

This past summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend two and a half months traveling around Europe with my boyfriend. It was an amazing experience that required a lot of planning and organization. Whilst researching possible itineraries, we found it quite difficult to find set itineraries that met our requirements in terms of time frame, interests and, of course, budget! Therefore, I decided I would share the itinerary we created with you. I know that a lot of people are beginning to plan their big summer trip so I hope this post helps some of you with the planning process and inspires you to visit some of these incredible cities!


STEP 1: Itinerary Planning

  1. Write up an extensive list of cities you’ve always wanted to visit
  2. Do your research! (I recommend using books such as the Lonely Planet or Rick Steves throughout this process. They will allow you to gain a little more insight as to what there is to see and do in each city)
  3. After doing some proper research, narrow down your list in order to fit your time and budget constraints
  4. Plan your start & end destinations
  5. Figure out the most economical way to travel from one city to another and in what order (Keep in mind your start & end destinations)
  6. Plan out how many days you will spend in each destination in order to determine your travel dates (this will come in handy for the next step as flight fairs will vary from day to day, week to week and month to month)
  7. Research prices of flights, train fairs and bus fairs from one city to another to make sure that the itinerary you mapped out in the previous step makes sense and fits with your budget (I recommend using Skyscanner for flight pricing)

Additional tips to keep in mind…

  • Travel blogs can also be great sources of info, but, it’s important to remember that everyone has different opinions and experiences…. so take what you read with a grain of salt! 
  • I recommend at LEAST 4-5 days in each city in order to get a really good feel for it! Anything less will simply feel as though you are quickly passing through. Obviously the time you spend in each city will depend on its size. For example, in my opinion, you need to spend at least  a full week in London in order to get a good feel for the city but 3 days in Amsterdam should suffice.
Once you have completed this first phase of planning, you should have a great itinerary put together! It’s a lot of work, but I promise, it will pay off!

OUR ITINERARY

Paris: 5 days, Madrid: 5 days, Porto: 5 days, London: 5 days (but I would recommend more!), Edinburgh: 4 days, Amsterdam: 4 days, Prague: 5 days, Vienna: 5 days, Budapest: 5 days, Zagreb: 2 days, Plitvice Lakes National Park: 1 day, Split: 3 days, Hvar: 3 days, Korcula: 4 days, Ljubljana: 4 days, Munich: 6 days, Strasbourg: 4 days and back to Paris: 1 day


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STEP 2 : Transportation

Although transportation is something important to think about, it isn’t necessary to stress too much about it prior to departure. Aside from the flights we booked ahead of time, most of our traveling was done by bus for which tickets can be purchased on the spot.

  • Use Skyscanner to find budget flights with Ryanair and Easyjet 
  • Bus tickets can be purchased at the city’s bus station or on the bus line’s website
AVOID TRAINS IF POSSIBLE!

Although travelling through Europe by train may be the most comfortable and scenic experience, it is not the most economical option. We found that taking a train was SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive than taking a bus or even flying! For example, it would have cost us €90 for a 6 hour train ride from Ljubljana to Munich. Instead, we paid €26 euros for a 5 hour bus ride. I mean…. the choice seemed obvious to us! Even purchasing a Eurail train pass would not have been beneficial to us. Given that we visited so many cities widely spread across the european continent, none of the options Eurail provided worked for us.  


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STEP 3 : Accomodation

When it comes to accommodation, you have several options with varying price points;

  • Hostels ($)
  • Apartment rentals through AirBnB, VRBO or other various websites ($$)
  • Hotels ($$$)
 Although hostels would have been the cheapest option, I preferred to avoid these. Although it is possible to rent private rooms, I still didn’t like the idea of sharing a bathroom, shower and kitchen with strangers. So, we opted for the next best thing: Apartments! I HIGHLY recommend using Airbnb to find apartment rentals! We were able to find tons of great apartments in every city at prices that fit within our budget. I was honestly so impressed at how affordable and incredibly well located these places were!
For example, we spent $42(CAD)/night for a fully equipped, centrally located apartment in Budapest! Seriously, if you are willing to spend a little more money on a place to stay that will provide you with privacy and all the necessary amenities, I strongly suggest looking into apartments. You won’t be disappointed! Just be sure to pay attention to the reviews.

*  Whilst researching places to stay, it’s also really important to pinpoint specific neighbourhoods within the city that seem appealing to you. Perhaps you would like to be located near the city’s main attractions or close to an airport, for example. Our priority was to ensure that we were within a 10-20 min walk to the city centre or at least be within a few steps of a metro station. 


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Budget Tips

Obviously, before starting any of the planning process, you want to have a good idea of how much you are willing to spend on your trip. Considering we chose a slightly less budget friendly accommodation option and wanted to make the most of our time in every city, we decided $100 (CAD) a day would be the amount we would attempt to stick too. This number included accommodation, food, activities and transportation. Of course, there were days we spent less and others we spent more depending on what we had planned for the day. We found it very easy to stay well under budget in most countries but we did end up blowing our budget in the United Kingdom. The British pound was quite hard on our Canadian dollar! However, in the end, it balanced out fairly well. 

As I mentioned earlier, we really wanted to make the most of our experience in every city and that included splurging on food! We grocery shopped for our breakfasts and lunches but we tried a new restaurant for dinner almost every night! If the culinary experience is not your thing and you’re on a bit of a tighter budget, another perk of staying in an apartment is that you have access to a full kitchen to prepare your own meals, which will save you a fair amount of money! 

Although sticking to your budget is important, I also think depriving yourself from once in a lifetime experiences because you’ve already exceeded your budget for the day would be a shame. Keep in mind that you may not get the opportunity to go back to the places you’ve visited and its important to take full advantage while you’re there. In my opinion there are certain experiences that  are essential for getting a good feel for a city. If you feel like you may be taking on a longer trip than your budget can handle, make it a slightly shorter trip and really get the most out of the cities you’re visiting!

Packing tips

Packing Tips

I traveled with a small suitcase. To be completely honest, I don’t think its really necessary to travel with a backpack.  My boyfriend decided to travel with one because he wanted to avoid having to check his bag on all our flights. However, keep in mind that it was only a 40 litre backpack as this is the maximum size airlines will allow you to place in the overhead compartment. Anything larger than that needs to be checked anyway. Two months an a half is definitely a long time to be traveling and I didn’t want to be constrained to having to fit everything in such a small backpack. Even if I had chosen to bring a larger backpack, I was concerned that I would have difficulty lugging it around on my back for long periods of time

Another concern I had about traveling with a backpack was keeping things organized. I didn’t want to have to go through the hassle of throwing all my clothes in compression bags everyday.

With that said, I brought along a

  1.  National Geographic (4) suitcase that was a few cm larger in height than a carry-on luggage
  2.  Eagle Creek (1&2) packing cubes (I HIGHLY recommend using packing cubes in order to keep everything organized and compact. It makes life so much easier considering you’ll be moving around every 4 to 5 days!)
  3. For cosmetics I brought along this (fairly large) “roll-up” bag by Sonia Kashuk (5) (I have to admit I’m not exactly low maintenance when it comes to cosmetics so I would definitely recommend using something a little smaller if you can)
  4. As a carry-on item, I brought a little black day bag (3) ( I recommend that you make sure your backpack is secured with a zipper. The one I used  only had a snap closure which, I know, isn’t very safe!)

I really hope this has inspired some of you to tackle your Eurotrip planning and that you found reading about my personal experience helpful!

I plan to go into further detail about each city in future posts, so let me know if there are any you’d like to hear about first.

Safe travels!

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