My husband’s job has given us the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming opportunity to live in Germany for the last three years. We’ve been able to make our travel dreams come true on a limited monthly travel allowance. Here’s how we saw nine countries on a $700 per month travel budget during our three years overseas.
Our $700 Per Month Travel Budget
In order to travel, we set a family budget and we stuck to it. We knew that traveling was one of our highest priorities, so we prioritized our spending and tightened our belts accordingly.
Where, exactly, did we cut expenses? Two of the biggest places we saved money were on cable TV and cell phones. Over the last three years, we’ve saved more than $4,500 by opting out of smart phones, data plans, and cable TV.
That savings, when combined with a little money from our paychecks, gave us $700 to spend on travel each month. Some trips were more expensive than others, but because we only traveled once every few months, it all balanced out in the end.
Nine Countries in Three Years
We visited Paris, France; Budapest, Hungary, and both Milan and Venice in Italy. We spent a long weekend puttering around Interlocken, Switzerland, and we took trips to Innsbruck and Kitzbuehel in Austria.
We spent Christmas 2015 road tripping in Slovenia, and we took the trip of a lifetime to see the Aurora Borealis in Tromso, Norway. We went wine tasting and beach lounging along the Mediterranean Costa Blanca in Spain, and, of course, we traveled all over “home” country: Germany.
We’ve seen waterfalls and we’ve been to the tops of mountains. We’ve swum in the sea, driven on the Autobahn, and skied in the Alps. We’ve watched a Venetian glass maker practice his art, seen the Mona Lisa, and sought out cake at a family’s in-home cake shop on a hill overlooking beautiful German farmland. In short, we’ve used our travel budget to have an absolutely amazing time.
We haven’t stayed in luxury hotels or visited fancy spas. Instead, we’ve found inexpensive accommodations through websites like Hotels.com that offers the tenth night free. Our most expensive destinations were Switzerland and Norway, so we stayed in a hostel in one and a bare-bones budget hotel in the other.
We never spend much time in our hotel room, so our philosophy has been not to invest in fancy hotel amenities that we’ll never use. A free breakfast is a nice perk, but beyond that, we simply look for a clean and safe location in a relatively convenient part of the city we’re visiting.
Saving Money on Food
We love to taste the foods and drinks of the countries we travel to, but that doesn’t mean that we eat every meal at a nice restaurant. We’ve rented hotels and apartments with kitchenettes so that we can cook in our room, and one of my favorite memories of Switzerland is of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich picnic beside a beautiful mountain lake.
We pack our own snacks and we keep our eyes peeled for street vendors who offer local flavor at a fraction of the cost of a sit-down restaurant. An added benefit of street food is that you can eat while you walk through the amazing city you’ve traveled so far to see.
Transportation on the Cheap
Whenever we can, we drive to our destination. When we have our own car we can pack a cooler full of food, and we save a pretty penny on plane tickets, too. Once we get to the city where we’re staying, we set out on foot. There’s no better — or cheaper — way to get around a European city than to get out and walk.
Traveling in Europe doesn’t have to break the bank — especially if you can find an ever-elusive, pinch-me-I’m-dreaming opportunity to work overseas.
We’ve seen nine countries on a $700 per month travel budget during our three years here by setting a family budget, sticking to it, and looking for inexpensive transportation, accommodation, and food options along the way. Our travel dreams have come true, and I hope that yours will, too!
Melissa Gilliam Shaw is a marketing professional, a writer, a wife, and a mom. She has lived overseas twice, and she has visited more than twenty countries on three continents.
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