Hey everybody! Welcome back.
Last week, we took a look at the itinerary for our 18-day trip through Europe. As a reminder, we’ve already made a short stop in Germany, moved on to our 10-day stay in Italy, and we’ll round out our experience with a few days in the Swiss Alps. We’re currently hunkered down in Rome, and it’s been nice to stay put for a few days!
While Holly and I have been to Italy before, this is our kids’ first time here. Yep, we brought the kiddos along, and they seem to be enjoying themselves. So far, there’s not much that a promise of gelato can’t fix! We also brought Holly’s brother with to help us keep an eye on the kids, which has been a big help.
Of course, bringing 5 people to Europe isn’t cheap. The most expensive part is just getting there, which is why we decided to take an extended trip in the first place. Still, there are some serious quirks and hefty bills that come with taking 3 adults and 2 kids on a European vacation. True to form, we’ve made a conscious effort to save money wherever we can. Here are a few ways we’re cutting costs on our 18-day European journey.
7 Ways We’re Saving in Europe
We paid for our flights using airline miles.
As I mentioned earlier, just getting over here is the most expensive part. We knew this going into the trip, so we planned ahead – like waaaay ahead – to earn enough miles for our flights. In fact, we redeemed 200,000 American Express Membership Rewards (which we earned using our AMEX Platinum Card®) for Air France miles. This made our round-trip flights FREE, minus the $400 in taxes and fees.
That’s a shit-ton of points (#technicalterm), and we definitely put them to good use. Had we booked these flights with real money, it would have cost us over $9,000 alone. So yeah, thank you points and miles!!! Use the banner below to find this card and start earning points of your own.
We used credit card portals to book our tours.
Last time we came to Italy, Holly and I used the Rome and Vatican Pass. We thought it was a good deal and considered using it again. However, since the plan was to travel a bit slower this time and we’re were also hoping to cut costs by using as many points as possible, we started looked around for alternatives.
Instead of paying out of pocket for the sightseeing passes, we decided on using our huge stash of Chase points to book tours through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® Portal. By using our Chase points, we saved hundreds of dollars in entry fees. We also get a tour guide at most of our stops, which is an added bonus.
We booked three nights in hostels.
Since we usually don’t spend a lot of time in our hotel room, it didn’t make sense to book something super swanky. Besides, as is common throughout much of Europe, many of the hotels we looked at only allowed 2 people per room. For us, that meant booking 3 rooms at certain stops – which was clearly not a good use of funds.
As an alternative, we booked 3 nights at two different hostels – one in Munich and one in Switzerland. We booked private rooms, even paying for a 6th person in Switzerland, so we wouldn’t have to share a room with somebody we didn’t know. This saved us hundreds of dollars a night, which was a huge boost to our savings on this trip.
We booked Airbnbs at our other stops.
Since we were having trouble finding hotel rooms to accommodate 5 people, we booked Airbnbs in Rome, Florence, and Verona instead. Although renting apartments didn’t save us a huge amount of money, it did save some. Most importantly, these apartments have allowed us to do laundry and cook a few meals – saving us even more.
This isn’t the first time we’ve used Airbnb or VRBO when traveling internationally. We’ve rented a couple of times while traveling with the kids to the beach. They aren’t always as fun as a 5-star hotel, but they’re definitely worth it if you’re looking for something more budget friendly. Plus, you get to live like a local for a few days, and I love doing that. And since we basically just need a roof over our heads to sleep, we’re almost always willing to save a few bucks on lodging if needed.
We’re eating breakfast at the apartment.
I mentioned this above, but I think it deserves its own section. By renting an apartment, we were able to save on at least one meal a day. So far, we’ve eaten all of our breakfasts in-house. When you’ve got 5 people with you, eating in for just one meal a day can save $40+. Over 18 days, that’s $720 or more!
When traveling, I always suggest eating in for at least one meal a day. We usually search for hotels which include breakfast. That way, we know we’ll have at least one meal a day that is included. It doesn’t have to be much, but every dollar helps.
We’re carrying snacks with us.
In addition to saving money on breakfast, we’re also carrying snacks with us during the day. My kids ask for 3.75 million snacks a day, and I can’t afford to buy them something every time they complain for food. I mean, we could sit down for a gigantic dinner, and they’d ask for a snack 15 minutes after we eat. So, we have to plan ahead.
This is also helping us save on lunches. Again, we’ve got 5 people to feed. The less we spend on snacks and lunch, the more we can save throughout the trip. When we do eat out for lunch, we try to eat at cheap local joints or buy food from street vendors. Sure, we’ll splurge for a few nice dinners, but every meal doesn’t need to be the greatest culinary experience we’ve ever had.
We’re renting a car in Switzerland.
Folks, prices throughout Switzerland are crazy expensive. We’re taking a train to our first stop in Grindelwald. Then, we’ll be renting a car to make the journey to Lucerne.
We priced out some rail passes as well as individual train tickets, but they didn’t make sense after looking at rental cars. The price difference was negligent, like within $10, plus we’ll get the added benefit of having a car. It’s a lot easier to get to the alpine slide in Kandersteg, and we don’t have to worry about finding transportation from Lucerne to the Hotel Villa Honegg. All in all, the money is a wash, but the convenience is a huge bonus – at least that’s what we’re hoping.
No matter how you look at it, bringing 5 people to Europe is gonna cost a lot of money. And since we included Switzerland in the plans, the price could have easily gotten out of hand. We’ll still spend a few thousand dollars on this trip, but we could have easily spent $15,000-$20,000 had we not taken the measures above.
I hope we’ve given you some ideas on ways you can save on a family vacation to Europe. We’d love for you to follow along with our trip on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Thanks so much for reading. Until next time, happy traveling!