Yes, we did! We’re flying to Europe for 2 weeks.
$1,622 per person for flight, accommodation, and transportation.
I’ve been dreaming about going to Europe since I was in high school. Unfortunately as a student you don’t really have much money, and my parents were pretty protective of me so solo backpacking on a budget was not an option.
Between school happening and life happening, we finally said it’s now or not until a long time later, especially if we were to have kids in the near future.
It’s a lot shorter than I wanted since Mr. Song doesn’t get a lot of flexible vacation days in a year, but it’s probably for the best as it helps keep our expenses at a modest level.
Girl, Free Trips Using Points???
There are a lot of money hacks and travel-for-free posts online. People are flying for free by taking advantage of credit card sign up bonuses and reward points. They accumulate these points and trade it in for free flights and accommodations.
We were considering booking our flights using points, but because of some self-imposed requirements it was more financially beneficial for us to save up those points and simply pay for our trip.
One of the requirements that we had, because of our limited vacation time, was we don’t want to fly in to a cheaper country simply to have to take another flight out to our destination. The other one was we didn’t want to fly in and out of the same city, because we didn’t want to waste time backtracking.
We have a pretty ambitious travel plan that will end up with us hitting England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. Flying in and out of these countries using reward points result in a pretty high fuel and tax surcharge.
I looked on United for a sample cost of roundtrip Seattle to London. if I were able to book on days that offered Saver Award premium cabin, it’d be 30K points + $5.60 flying in, and 30K points + $160 flying out. Otherwise it’d be 65K points per flight. That’s a ridiculous amount of surcharge. Flying out of Paris would be slightly cheaper at 30K + $77.56.
Using the cheaper prices, a flight for one person to Europe and back would cost: 60K points + $83.16. If I redeemed that 60K for cash, I’d get $600. So a round trip ticket is essentially costing me $683.16. And these tickets aren’t even direct flights.
Book Directly With The Airline
We’ve learned the hard way to always book directly with the airline instead of 3rd party.
By booking directly with the airline, you avoid any possible service charges that the 3rd party may add.
Also, when issue arises you won’t get into those crappy situation where the 3rd party tells you “Sorry we are unable to help you with this issue. You need to contact the airline directly”, in which case you contact the airline and they tell you “Sorry we can’t help you since you booked through a 3rd party.”
If you find a cheaper price from a 3rd party site, you can always try asking the airline to match the price. Some times they will even beat it!
For our Europe trip, we booked directly from Icelandair, roughly 3 months before our vacation date. They had the cheapest price with a reasonable 1 stop overlay.
We’re flying into London, UK and flying out of Zurich, Switzerland.
The price? $533 per person. That’s $150 cheaper than if we had used points!
I admit, we splurged.
No we did not book $300/night hotels. But we’re not living in hostels nor budget hotels either.
I wanted to experience the different architectures and designs Europe has to offer, so I booked with Air B&B.
Our accommodation cost could’ve been way lower if we simply rented out a room in someone’s house. But because we value our privacy, we only booked places where we could have the whole house to ourselves.
Luckily right now USD is quite strong, so the exchange rate from USD to Euro is 1 to 0.93.
We’re spending 2 nights in London, 3 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Rome, 2 nights in Florence, 2 nights in Geneva, and 2 nights in Zurich. Zurich was the most expensive at $172/night. Florence was the cheapest at $89/night.
In total we’re spending $1616 for 14 nights, which comes out to roughly $57.7 per person/night.
Since we’re travelling to multiple cities in different countries, transportation ends up being a big cost as well.
All of the intercity and cross country transportation we’re booking in advance. Some are cheaper if you book in advance, especially if you can get the special economy deals. But I’m doing this mostly because I don’t want the stress of figuring out how to go from point A to point B when we’re in Europe.
Now, if you’re in Europe for an extensive amount of time, you might consider a Eurail Global Pass (Rick Steves) to travel between different countries. We did some calculations and it wasn’t worth it for us. So instead we booked all our tickets separately.
London → Paris: Eurostar $59/person + $7 credit card fee
This is one of the book early to get cheapest price.
Paris → Venice: Trenitalia (Thello) $59/person
We booked overnight in a 4-mixed Couchette. So we actually saved accommodation cost for a night. Book directly from Trenitalia site. When I tried booking from thello.com, I had issues with completing the order. The site said something on the lines of “unable to process the order because the passenger wasn’t a registered member.”
Venice → Rome: Frecciarossa $46/person
Rome → Florence: Frecciarossa $37/person
Florence → Geneva: Frecciarossa/EuroCity $73/person
We have to take Frecciarossa to Milano Centrale, and then transfer to Eurocity to get to Geneva.
Total cost: $281 per person.
I haven’t quite figured out how we want to get from Geneva to Zurich yet. I’m debating between whether to take a train that goes straight to Zurich, or take more time travelling across Switzerland with a more scenic route.
You probably noticed that transportation expenses within a city wasn’t included here.
I’ll update when I finalize the details and publish post-travel thoughts and expense reports. So stay tuned!
If you have any suggestions for us I’d love to hear them!