How Much Did That 6 Week European Road Trip Cost?

This is the question many of you have asked and I bet many of you wanted to, but didn’t want to invade our privacy. How much did your European Road Trip Cost?  Don’t worry, if you have a question for us, just ask!  We are sharing our experiences, stories, budgets with all of you.

Summer European Road Trip Cost

Not only to keep a record for ourselves, but to show you it can be done.  We want to share it all with you for inspiration, to help you prepare, plan or even think differently about your dreams and desires.  So ask away, don’t be shy.  Okay, so now let’s get into the 6 week road trip cost as we traveled around Europe, the ride of our lives.Toulouse France Ferris Wheel

Just FYI,  I love spreadsheets and analysis!  So we are going to get into some pretty boring stuff for some of you.  Just look at the pictures and you will get the general idea.  If you are a number cruncher like me, read the text.  I researched each location and did the number crunching in advance. I first “estimated” cost of living and mapped out the miles to guess the fuel and toll charges for our road trip.

Going into this, it was a family agreement that we didn’t make this into a “how cheaply can we do this” holiday.  Alan requested that I give on the budget so we can have a comfortable and fun holiday.  I agreed and hate it love it when he is right!  That said, he was a little more budget conscious than usual, so it was a great compromise.

My rough calculations put us at about €7000 for 6 weeks.  I guessed on average we spend about €500/week for accommodation, €1000 for fuel and tolls, €1500 for food, €1000 for activities / public transport and an extra €500 miscellaneous or anything I just forgot.

I was in shock that it came out to just about that.  I have 2 different spreadsheets for estimates vs. reality.  I didn’t even look to compare until a week before returning home.  I guess all of the hours of researching and estimating paid off.

Where did we go?

In 43 days we covered Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, Andorra and back to Spain.  Here you can see the detailed map and summary of our 6 week European Summer Road Trip.

Total Road Trip Cost of our 6 week (43 days)  European Trip €6,627  ($8,682)Actual cost of 6 week European Road Trip

6 week European Summer Road Trip Costs

Notes:

  1. This is for a total of 43 days for a family of 4 during the high season of Summer 2013.  We left June 24th and returned Aug 5th.
  2. We drove our own car 7,658 km (4,758 miles).  The total for our car fuel, parking and auto tolls is in purple above with a total of €1159 ($1518)  18% of spend.
  3. The Euro to USD exchange rate during our trip June 24 – Aug 5 varied from $1.28 – $1.33 to one Euro.  For these calculations I am going to use $1.31.
  4. Food – Eating out and Groceries were separate line items in blue, as we wanted to see cost of eating out and eating in.  Total for these 2 line items together €1621 ($2124) or 24% of spend.  The groceries also included any items we would purchase for daily living (i.e. shampoo, toilet paper, plastic dishes as well as food).
  5. Communication – We purchased SIM cards in Italy and some of our accommodation choices didn’t include free WiFi, so we had to pay per hour or day.
  6. Accommodation – Our priorities were 2 bedrooms, AC and WiFi.  Then it was location, and sometimes pool was a requirement as there was a crazy heat wave hitting this part of Europe at the time.  See where we stayed on our 6 week European Road Trip.  We share the cost of each and every hotel, campground, guesthouse, apartment.
    6 week European Road Trip Accommodation.  We share all of the places we stayed during our European Summer road trip and the costs too.  Read more on WagonersAbroad.com
  7. Average total costs per day is €154 ($202).  We counted everything from a tube of toothpaste to a new pair of shoes for Lars.  Every toll, activity and gelato is in here as well.  

Fuel Costs   Each time we fueled up, I made note of the price per litre.
(1 Gallon = 3.785 litres)

Price of gas in Europe as of Summer 2013

6 week road trip fuel prices

Now Let’s Get Into Cost by Location

This is a rough guide as it includes our travel day to that location.  On travel days, we tended to eat out more often and included fuel and auto tolls as well.  You can view the breakdown below to see how it would cost out per category.  I will try to call out any anomalies.  As you will see the fuel is random and really should be taken out of the location, but I guess I was just lazy.

It was roughly a 9 hour drive from Almuñécar to Barcelona.  We decided to stop just short of Barcelona and stay at a hotel.  This also includes our ferry trip from Barcelona to Italy (1 car, 4 passengers and 1 exterior room with 4 beds).  Travel days are highlighted in BLUE

Summer_Road_Trip_01

 

We went camping in Rome and rented a 2 bedroom, 1 bath mobile home with AC.  We opted for the free activities.

Summer_Road_Trip_02

 

We actually went camping in Montopoli as well with a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom mobile home with AC.  Montopoli is a small town between Florence and Pisa.  We took day trips to Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre from this location.  The activity on our travel day was the beautiful waterfalls of Marmore and we stopped for lunch in Perugia.

Summer_Road_Trip_03

 

We stayed one night in a hotel in Bologna and 4 nights at a 2 bedroom apartment with AC in Reggio Emilia.  We took day trips to Modena for the Pagani and Balsamic Vinegar tours, to Carpi for the Cheese tour and to Verona for the Opera.

Summer_Road_Trip_04

 

We spent 3 nights camping at Lake Garda in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath mobile home with AC. Also a day out on the lake in a boat rental.  We met up with our cousins in Lake Como and Sandi allowed us to crash with them, so this really helped the accommodation budget!  Thanks Sandi!

Summer_Road_Trip_05

 

We stayed 3 nights in a very spacious 2 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment in Oriago, Italy. (15 min city bus ride to Venice). Loved this place!  We will write about it sometime soon and place a link here.

Summer_Road_Trip_06

 

This was a very last-minute decision to go to Austria and we are so glad it was.  We fell madly in love with this place!  The free tourist card was a dream as the gondolas, city bus and swimming pond were all free!  I am sure there was more free, but we were only there 2 days.  I love saving money!

Summer_Road_Trip_07

 

Switzerland was crazy expensive!  It may not show here as we landed a great deal with accommodation.  It was very difficult finding anything even close to our budget.  I was in communications with several apartments, campgrounds, hotels and hostels.  Even the hostels were going to be above our budget.  One campground in Interlaken (Manor Farms) had a mobile home 2 bed, 1 bath no AC, but it was €460 for 4 nights, and our budget was closer to €240 for 4 nights.

Switzerland just wasn’t going to let us find anything close to this price.  Then the day prior to leaving Austria I received an automated email from the Manor Farm Campground.  It stated that they sent me a price quote the day prior and it was going to expire after 24 hours.  There was a survey asking me why I had not yet responded or booked.  I replied with “Your accommodation looks very nice, unfortunately it is nowhere near our budget.  We were hoping to find something all-inclusive for about €60/ night (including cleaning fees etc.)”.  I sent that email off not hoping for anything and within 1 hour I had a reply from the owner.  He said we could stay there for the price we desired!  Score!  I guess it pays to respond and be nice and honest sometimes.

As far as activities, we took the funicular up Niederhorn and also the cogwheel train to Schynige Platte.  These were pricey activities, but well worth it.

Summer_Road_Trip_08

 

We moved around France a bit and stayed one night in an apartment in the mountains, 3 nights camping in a 3 bed, 1 bath mobile home and 3 nights in a 2 bed, 2 bath apartment.

Summer_Road_Trip_09

 

Ah back in Spain!  Oh it feels good to be home.  We stayed 3 nights in a hotel with kitchenette and one bedroom, 1 night in Madrid at Novotel and then HOME!

Summer_Road_Trip_10

I was a little leery of sharing the costs, but I keep thinking of what we spent on vacations in North Carolina.  We would easily spend $2000-5000 for just one week away in Utah, California, Florida, Jamaica and here we were gone for 6 weeks in Europe!  I think we did great.  Of course costs will always vary by season and your choices of accommodation and eating out.  I just hope this helps you with planning any road trip you may be thinking of in your future.  Do let us know if this is helpful to you, so we can be sure to share again in future travels. Also Walking on Travels has detailed out several Family Travel Budgets.

We hope by this has been useful for you and I think we have answered the question, “How much did your road trip cost?”   This is only meant as a guide for you.  We provided prices in Euros as well as US Dollars, as the exchange rate can fluctuate. We will eventually write about all of our accommodation and experiences, so you can see where we stayed and what we did.  If you are curious about something just ask in the comments.

If you want to learn more about the reality of traveling Europe with kids, you can read all about it here or just click on the image below.
Road Trip Europe - The Reality With Kids. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

Quirky fact:
While writing this post, I listened to the full Phantom of the Opera double-disc twice! Love it! I even found myself singing aloud at times and had to catch myself.  It is just addicting.  Oops sorry to the neighbors, as I was sitting outside on the terrace.  Not sure Alan and the kids noticed as they were watching Lord of the Rings inside with volume up.

Other Road Trip Info:

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  1. Thank you for sharing all the (personal) financial details of your awesome excursion. I too am a spreadsheeter so I was loving it! I am always looking for ways to squeeze in amazing trips without putting our family into debt – it was great to see you did it and did it well! Can’t wait to read about the places you went in more detail.

    • Oh Emily, I love other ‘spreadsheeters”! I can’t live without excel. I keep track of everything and love creating them. This one was a quick and dirty spreadsheet, but it worked for our trip and we logged our spending each night. It really helped with letting us know when we could really splurge and what needed to be a low key time. It is really difficult to share such personal info and everyone has their opinion of it being good, bad, expensive or not. It worked for us and just want others to know what is possible.

  2. Wow, I love the detail here; I find travel cost posts so fascinating! I think you did well considering you travelled in Europe; I can’t believe how much the tolls and parking cost though – insane! I also remember how expensive Switzerland is from visiting when I was 18.
    Amy recently posted…Exploring Kuala LumpurMy Profile

    • Thanks Amy. I think they are fascinating too. The tolls weren’t too bad in Italy, but France, Switzerland and Spain really zap it to you. Not much of that was “parking” and I now think I should have separated the two. Oh well.

  3. You are probably the only person I’ve found who has been able to do this so thoroughly, so as an aspiring traveler, I appreciate all the detail. Sounds like you had a great trip.

    • Thank you Anne! I now have a big smile on my face. I do hope it helps as a guide. Of course it wouldn’t be exactly the same for anyone else, but it can give you something to work from.

    • Jess we say “yikes” every time we fuel up. We try not to convert to $ and then tends to help the mind, but it still hurts. We do all have different styles of travel and this one was a bit unique for us. We usually go much slower and avoid high season, but we gave it a go anyway.

  4. i love it that you are so organized and know where your money is going. definitely a powerful virtue is having more options with your finances, and definitely something we are awful at. i see your numbers and it helps me gauge what life will be like when we move to spain….. and then i think, ‘oh no, heidi won’t be there once we arrive!’
    gabi
    Gabi @The Nomadic Family recently posted…Adventurous Mum to Tackle Everest Base Camp- For Our Mental Preparation for The Annapurna Circuit HikeMy Profile

    • Thanks Gabi! You never know where our two paths shall meet. This was a “splurge” trip for us as we felt we needed to cover more of Europe while here. Now time to tone down the budget for next few months to make up for it and balance us out for the year.

  5. I wish I was so good at planning. I’m just so……. well let’s just go and see what comes up! Well that actually worked for us throughout a 10-day holiday in Morocco once, actually. Every day we arrived at a new city and we had NO idea where we would be staying that night. “No planning” also let me take a tour of France that only cost me 200€ once! But of course that was in those pre-baby, I’ll-bed-down-anywhere days, I’m not too sure how I’d do it now with 2 kids in tow.

    • Yes, there was loads of planning to be able to just show up and blow with the wind. We had to over plan all options, just to be flexible in the moment and be able to decide where we were going next on the fly. It was stressful, but fun. How did you like Morocco? We really want to go. Found some cheap flights leaving from Seville, but that is a bit of a drive just to fly.

  6. Oh wow I could sure take some tips from you. Next time we have a trip I will have to take care to plan it a bit first (or even over plan it hehe). We always went to Morocco on the ferryboat, there is one from Almeria and one from Algeciras, I don’t know if there is one from Malaga because I never took it here. The ferryboat is a lot of fun and you can see dolphins in the strait. I’ve never been with kids though and you know it is not the same to travel with a group of (supposedly) responsible adults who can each take care of themselves! Every day when we arrived in a new city we popped out the travel guide and a lot of change for phones and just started calling.

    • Thanks Serena. Oh dolphins following the ferry? That sounds wonderful. We will need to get to Morocco for sure. It is a bit different with kids as they tend to be a little more vocal about “likes/dislikes”. I am willing to wing it just for me, but it is fun trying to find that family balance.

  7. So I need to show this to my husband who also loves spreadsheets (you should see our shared google doc files for everything and anything)– it would put him and his budget planning spreadsheets to shame 🙂 Having said that- as the resident- non planner in the family when it comes to finances (although I realize that I need to be doing this more)- It is always interesting to think about and then see the realities of travel like the tolls and gas and everything in between.
    Elena recently posted…Talk to Children About GivingMy Profile

    • Too funny Elena. I guess as long is someone is looking after the budget that is all you need. No everyone can be a planner and at times it is a curse! 🙂 It is fun and I love when we do better than expected, but there are times when it swings the other way. We just needed to explore more of Europe since we are living in Spain and we felt this was the most cost effective way for 4 people. Back in the backpacking days, public transportation was the way to go. If you are 1 or maybe 2 people, but with 4 the entire game changes.

  8. Hello Heidi, ,my query might be coming in a bit late but I couldn’t find the cost of entertainment/activities at venice, spain, rome and austria. I believe entertainment or visiting tourist destinations wouldn’t have been free of cost in these areas.

    The breakup is very well organized and exactly the way I would have done it :).

    • Hi Bilal, Thanks so much and it is never too late. This covers everything we did.

      In Rome we walk outside the colosseum rather than pay 60 Euro for the 4 of us to enter. It was the high season and every attraction was packed with tourists, to the post of just having to shuffle through things. We really enjoyed the sights and splurged on activities in Switzerland. I will email you my planning sheet which has the cost of activities, but many we didn’t even do.

      The boys went to the Pagani factory tour in Regio Emilia and the Vinegar and Cheese tours were free. We went to Pisa, but didn’t go inside the building etc…In Verona we did attend the opera and that is factored in her as well. I believe it was 125 euros for the 4 of us and we rented a boat for 1/2 a day in lake Garda for 100 Euro. Venice we didn’t spend money on attractions. We took the city us to Venice and we went the entire day walking around and just enjoying it. We didn’t ride on a gondola. As far as entering cathedrals and monuments, the kids were pretty burnt out on entering things as they all start to blend together over time. We focused on what we needed to see, not to mention Alan and I had been to some of the locations before kids.

  9. Hi Heidi, Thank you so much for going into such detail about your trip. I’ve looked through a ton of websites for some idea about the cost and planning and yours really cleared things out.
    I’m planning a trip with my family in April next year and I’m sure prices would have changed now but I was wondering if you could tell me where you booked your vehicle, and whether that’s included in your costing as well..?

    • oh you are very welcome. We owned our own car in Spain and used that, so it doesn’t include the cost of “renting” a car, but does cover all fuel, parking etc. There are a few long term rental and lease options in Europe for you and can vary in price depending on the length of the contract. I know one family 3 years ago who used one of the lease programs and paid about $700-$800 a month and that was inclusive of full insurance as well. Again I am sure prices have changed, but the US dollar is so strong now. When we did our trip 1 Euro was about $1.38 and now a Euro is about $1.10, so that is a big savings just based on exchange rate alone. Of course it is only meant as a guide, as everyone has different comfort levels with accommodation and eating out. Here is a link to renting cars in Spain, but it would apply to any other country in Europe as well.

  10. Hi Heidi, Great advice and budget planning tips! I was wondering how much and where you purchased your car insurance from as I am assuming you were unable to use your US insurance in Europe? Thank you!

    • We owned our car in Spain and have Spanish car insurance for about 500 euros a year. So no the US insurance wouldn’t work. If you are renting a car you can add insurance for a high price. I would also highly recommend looking into the long-term lease programs with Citroen or Peugeot for 3+weeks. Those programs include full insurance and roadside assistance and are really perfect for a roadtrip, plus you get a new car to use. I touch on the programs briefely in our Car Rental in Spain, post with links.

      I hope that helps. Are you planning a road trip around Europe? We are heading off for another 8 week European Road Trip next week.

  11. Hi Heidi.
    Great blog and information.
    I do know that you have recently written an ebook on driving in Spain, but have you all been using your US and International driver license all this time to drive in Spain and other countries prior to this??

    • Hi Joseph, Thanks for the comment and a really great question.

      We have been using the international driver’s permit in Spain and renewed it each year via the mail. (which is fine if you are pulled over, but it technically isn’t legal after 6 months). We recently found out that doesn’t do the trick, so we are heads down for the past couple of months studying for the drivers exams here, to obtain the license. Let’s just say we know far more about driving in Spain than we care too. 🙂 between driving for several years and reading all of the info for the exams, it has been eye opening.

      In other countries, we do use our international driver’s permit where needed. We make sure we have it with us. My advices it to get that IDP when you travel. It can save you for insurance purposes etc. If you plan to be in Spain longer than 6 months, start on the license process when you arrive. (much of this is outlined in the Driving in Spain book) I hope that helps.

  12. Hi
    Great blog, really, the best , most detailed blog about cost of traveling in Europe.
    Great job.
    I wish I was so organized with keeping track of the cost.
    I am planning road trip in Europe with my wife and 5 year old daughter.

    We love road trips.
    We have done 3 months driving from San Francisco , California to Panama City, that was before we had our daughter.

    We just did 25 days road trip in west Canada, which I recommend highly.
    Vancouver , but to Kamloops , train to Japser.
    Rent a car and drive national parks of Japser and Banff. Great.

    We live in Hawaii so Europe will be a big deal and a lot of planning.

    anyone has recently done long road traveling with a child in Europe?
    Heidi, thank you for all the details and comments.
    I would really appreciate if you could suggest the best plan.

    I was born in Poland , my parents live there.
    My plan is to fly to Poland, buy a car, drive through post Russian countries frist.
    Ukraine , Bialorus, Latvia , Estonia all the way to Saint Petersbourg.
    Then to Helsinki.
    Take a ferry to Sweden, then Denmark, Germany,, Netherlands, Belguim, Check republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece
    Then go by through Croatia to Italy and Spain and Portugal.

    I am thinking 3 months.
    I am thinking $200-$220 daily budget.

    Anyone can advise? Is this realistic?

    Thank you
    I appreciate it 🙂

    • Hey Rafal,

      Thanks so much. Your plan sounds great. I would love if anyone would like to respond to this. I also have a few contacts I can send you privately, as I am cautious with the info of others we share on the blog. I am certain we have connections who can help you. We also did an 8 week road trip last summer, but stuck to Spain and France.

      Here is all of our road trip info, as we have done several.

      Thanks for commenting and we can’t wait to hear your plans, once finalized or in progress. 🙂