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Europe Trip

August 31st, 2017 at 06:50 pm

I had a rough estimate in my head that we would spend about 100 GBP per day, or about $1,500 total incidental spending (with some rounding up and pre-trip purchases). Though I wasn't going into this trip with a super frugal mindset. Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so if it cost more then it cost more.

I mentioned in my last post that we were never very hungry. We also pre-paid some tours which included food, so between all that we kept food down to $50 per day. (That's $25/each for three meals a day. Though we certainly splurged on some nice meals out, for the most part the food was much less expensive than I imagined. We also pretty much never buy drinks out, but it was reasonable enough and part of the culture that we did buy drinks with most our bigger meals. Lord knows we could have spent a LOT less if we really wanted to).

My accounting is still somewhat rough at this point, but we paid for the airfare and hotel long ago with our regular vacation budget. All of the tours were paid for with credit card rewards and snowflakes. The rest came out to about $1,200: transportation (Tube), Bus, Theater tickets, admissions, tips, and last minute tour change. Not bad considering that we were at about $1,100 before the last minute change.

I was planning to take $1,000 from savings and then throw MH's first paycheck back ($500) towards the trip. In the end I might lean more on his paycheck and would only have to pull $700 from savings? Will see how it pans out. My checkbook is a total mess right now because I am doing like three BIG credit card rewards at once. So I may just have to pull $1,000 anyway to make it all balance. In the meantime I come up with roughly $1,200 cash + credit spending during trip and this seems to be close to my spreadsheet. ($1,200 spending would be for *everything* except the flight and hotel).

Here's the cost breakdown:


$1,929 per person! Our flight was non-stop and the room rates were so good that we didn't even look at anything with less than 5-star reviews. Our hotel was REALLY nice. Nothing we'd ever splurged for before (paying cash). We did pre-pay because the exchange rate was SO LOW when we booked (it was a refundable rate though). In the end this saved us about $50. Exchange rate was 1.25 when we paid (a historical low) and 1.29 during most the trip.

My parents live right by the airport. We garaged our car at the in-laws house (since they were at our house). In-laws handled kids/pet/house so we didn't have any of those type expenses to worry about. I do usually pull from grocery/gas budget when we travel but we had to drive 250 miles or so to/from airport and left a fridge full of food for everyone and so I can't say we saved any money on those fronts. Lord knows what the electric bill will be like. In-laws are super frugal but they aren't used to our heat.

This is what we accomplished on our trip:

Tower of London @ opening. Our hotel was near here the Tower and MH had the last minute idea to just go there at opening. It was not crowded at all so that was our MO for the trip. So this is a lot of how we were able to get some off-peak time in. In contrast, the in-laws had skipped the crown jewels (when they were in London) because the line was too long. There was no line when went.

Some random shop front:


Hop On Hop Off Bus



We were pretty lazy this first day and only got off the bus for Hyde Park. LOVED it and had a lovely lunch there.


Westminster Abbey @opening ~ beat the crowds and had the cutest tour guide.

National (Art) Gallery **FREE

British Museum (we did this over 2 days) **FREE
We did a free foot tour from some unaffiliated group, which was okay and we did pay a tip for that.

Our hotel had a restaurant and had free drinks/free concert one night. It was the night before Paris so we didn't stay long, but it was neat that we could enjoy some of the concert. We frantically did laundry during the concert (had a washer in our room).

One day in Paris: river cruise, lunch @ Eiffel Tower, and 2 hours at the Louvre.



On Day 7 I decided to sleep in and have a nice brunch @ St. James park. MH wanted to fit in all the free museums he could find. I can see this now as I piece together our itinerary. After getting a very late start and enjoying a leisurely lunch... We went to a free art museum (it had some Roman ruins in the basement), Churchill War Rooms (er, not free), Museum of London, etc. At the Museum of London I parked myself in the cafe with food and wifi, while MH looked around.

We did a free walking "ghost" tour that night. I was surprised MH wanted to do that and it was pretty dumb. But we saw some really neat parts of the city so I did tip the guy. Definitely was worth it from that angle. (I would totally like a ghost tour, but just don't think it was the best tour. MH usually just makes fun of me that I would like a ghost tour, so no idea why he thought it was a good idea. Big Grin ).

I loved St. Bartholomew:


Dover Castle & Canterbury Cathedral (free tour; paid for with rewards). I really loved Dover Castle and we were able to hear the pipe organs in the Cathedral. WOW!

On our last "free" day we went back to British Museum. We went to the Globe to pick up show tickets but unexpectedly their museum was closed. Frown We walked by the Tate and MH didn't want to go in because it cost money. He peeked inside and I guess it was free after all. It worked out kind of perfect because we had time to kill and were pretty tired on this day. (I think we did a million steps at Dover, so yeah. I am remembering why we were so beat this day and not wanting to walk even to the Tube). The Tate had really great views of the city on the top floor. They did ask for donations and I let go of some of my change since I thought the museum and the view was worth something, and we were trying to spend down our cash so we wouldn't have to exchange any. We saw some Picasso, Warhol, Pollock, Salvador Dali, etc. A very unexpected treat!

We saw Much Ado About Nothing that night and it was awesome. Really a neat experience in the old Shakespeare theater. You could pay just 2 GBP (I believe?) to stand in the middle of the theater, but we knew better than that and spent over $100 for some really good seats. (I just knew we wouldn't be up to standing for a few hours!) So that was money well spent.

I mentioned in my last post that we had booked a Stonehenge/Avebury tour, but they canceled it rather last minute. MIL (who is very pushy) was very pushy that we must see Windsor! So when frantically trying to find our way to Stonehenge, I noticed an available (albeit pricey) tour that started at Windsor first thing in morning. I was sure Windsor was lovely but all the reviews were pretty meh re: summer crowds. But we decided if we could do Windor first maybe it wouldn't be so bad. (It wasn't bad, but it didn't do much for me. Maybe expectations too high after MIL went on and on and on about us not going. By then we had seem a million old castles, right?).

Windsor Castle


Stonehenge we knew we'd love it or hate it. It was a really hot/sunny day when we went. I LOVED it. It is just a bunch of rocks, but it was neat to see up close.



We ended that day eating in an old pub. Someone took MH's dinner (mis-ordered or something) and so he waited forever for his food while I waited forever for the bathroom. But they had some of the Harry Potter movie locations in this little town and it was definitely worth a stop. So yeah, we squeezed a lot in that we weren't planning to.



Oh, and we just used wifi so didn't have any phone charges at all. Were able to call and text the kids over wifi. (Mostly hotel wifi, but most of the museums, buses and the Eurostar had free wifi so we had a fair amount of phone access).

We REALLY lucked out with the weather. It was mostly cloudy and never really rained. Very mild. We had a little bit of sun during the second half of the trip.

2 Responses to “Europe Trip”

  1. Trying to get ahead Says:

    Glad you had a great time! We went in May and we definitely are making plans to go again. This time to include a day trip to Paris.

  2. rob62521 Says:

    Your trip sounds fabulous! Thanks for the photos!

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