As most people know, we’re leaving Tuesday for a trip across the pond.  We’re slightly nervous about the long plane ride, but mostly just excited to get the ball rolling.  Recently, I was drafting up our zero-sum budget for November when Greg asked me how much we were budgeting for our trip.  Sadly, I hadn’t even thought much about it.  I’ve been so busy with life and everything else that our vacation budget had become an afterthought somehow.

So we sat down and figured it out.  Here’s what we came up with:

Paying for the Big Stuff with Credit Card Rewards

First of all, I’ve been paying for some of our bigger expenses with credit card rewards all along.  This was mostly made possible by the fact that I’m currently on my fourth business rewards card where the signup bonus is worth $590 ($500 bonus plus 2 points/$1 spent on $4,500 minimum spending requirement).  Yes, you read that right.  I’m on my fourth one…which means I have already earned around $1,800 from them and am rounding home base toward the $2,400 goal.  <I’m not naming the card type here because I’m trying to keep it on the down low.  They keep sending me preapproved offers.  I think it’s a computer glitch or something>

Anyway, I’ve been using those funds to pay for some of the big stuff on this trip and others we’re taking.  Here’s what I’ve “paid for” so far:

  • Train ride from London to Paris on Chunnel
  • Two Tickets to see Les Miserables
  • Two London Passes Plus Transportation for 2 days
  • Daytime Bus Trip to Bath, U.K. and Stonehenge

I would have to dig deep to find the total costs of all of those items, so I’m just going to estimate that the total came in somewhere between $1,000 and $1,200.  FREE.

We also paid for our hotel stays and the majority of our flights with credit cards rewards.  For example, our flights to Europe were 80,000 AA miles and a total of $197.  We paid cash for the $197 in airline taxes and fees.

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Our hotel stays were completely free thanks to the two free nights from my Hyatt credit card and the stash of points I racked up with my Starwood Preferred Guest American Express.

Budgeting for Everything Else

But we obviously need to budget for everything else.  And since we’re visiting two of the most expensive cities in the world, we don’t expect bargain basement pricing.  Here’s what we figure we need to plan for at this point:

  • Lunches and Dinners (breakfasts are free at both of our hotels for our stay)
  • Transportation in Paris (public transportation passes for two days)
  • Attractions in Paris (I don’t believe we plan to visit anything that costs money other than the Catacombs which cost about $13 USD per person)
  • Souvenirs (a Christmas present or two for the kids)
  • Airport parking for 7 days (@$9 per day)

How Much Should You Budget for a Trip to Europe?

Let’s start with food.  We’re fortunate that we’re getting free breakfast every day we’re there, and my plan is to milk that situation as much as possible.  In other words, I’m going to pig out.  I’m talking eating until my belly hurts and my pants are tight then stuffing some rolls in my purse for later.  Yeah, I’m not above it.

But we’ll still need to eat the rest of the day so we need to plan for it, right?  Since we’re not bringing nice clothes for something fancy and we don’t eat meat, I’m guessing that $60 per day will do the trick.  Hopefully less.  I’m perfectly happy skipping lunch if I eat a big breakfast anyway.

According to this website, it looks like a 2-day train pass in Paris is around $22 in USD.  That means $44 for the two of us.  Airport parking will cost another $64, and I decided to budget $100 for Christmas presents or souvenirs.

So, where does that put us so far?

  • Food: $420
  • Transportation: $44
  • Catacombs: $26
  • Gifts: $100
  • Airport parking: $64

Total: $654

Since I like to err on the side of caution, I went ahead and decided to budget $750 for this trip.  However, remember all those business card sign-up bonuses I was talking about?  We plan to use #4 during this trip then cancel out some of the purchases when we get back with the cash-back we earned from the sign-up bonus.  I plan to use $500 in cash-back to pay for this trip, so that means we just need to budget for the other $250 that is left.

Will it cost more?  Will it cost less?  I honestly don’t know at this point.  I’ve been so busy with work and everything else that I’ve barely had time to do any research or plan anything.  I think I’m on the right track and I made the best effort I could.  We’ll just have to see what happens.

Did I leave anything out?  What would you budget for if you were going?  Have you ever had a Citi AAdvantage card?