Friday, March 27, 2009


One of the biggest parts of taking any trip is figuring out your budget for the trip. There are a lot of different recommendations out there, but you really have to think think about yourself, your general spending habits, how much you are planning on drinking, and how much you normally eat to figure out what your individual budget is going to be. For Contiki travelers, Contiki recommends that you have at least 10 euro a day which will cover food, drinks, spending, and the optional excursions. There are definitely days that I spent way less and 100 euro and then there were days that I ended up spending a lot more than that, but again, you really need to evaluate yourself in order to figure out the best budget for you. Here are several things that you need to make sure you budget for:

  • Food (if you are a Contiki Traveler figure out how many lunches and dinners you will need to cover on your own and budget for that)
  • Drinks (if you are planning on going out every night, or even just some nights, budgt somemney for alcohol)
  • Optional Excursions you plan on doing (Contiki travelers only)
  • Entrances to Museums and attractions(figure out where you want to go before hand and research the admission prices-very easy to do on the internet)
  • Souvenirs (for yourself and others- I recommend making a list of everyone you want to get stuff for before you leave and bring it with you..this way you don't forget anyone and you don't overbuy)
  • Travel (Contiki travelers, you will need to pay for taxis and trains throughout the trip; other travelers you may need to purchase a eurorail pass to get around Europe and you may also need to use taxis and trains and don't forget to set some money aside for travel to the airport)
  • Lodging (if you are a non Contiki traveler you will need to make sure you have budgeted for your lodging each night)
  • Tips (for anyone local tour guides you use and for your tour manager and bus driver-generally you should budget 2 euros per day for each of these individuals)
  • I also recommend having some money set aside for "emergencies"
Now that you have a basic idea of what you will need to budget for, you can start figuring out how you are going to handle spending when you are in Europe. There are also several different ways to do this.

  • Spend spend spend without caring...take money out whenever and charge whenever as well (I really don't recommend this one)
  • Pull money out via the ATM whenever you need it keeping track of how much you spend, but not having a limit (I don't recommend this one, because I think you need a limit)
  • Pull money out via the ATM and know the limit to how much you can take out
  • Use a preloaded debit card so you can only pull out what is on the card
  • Figure out you budget and exchange it prior to your trip
Most people on our tour used their ATM cards throughout the trip to just pull out money whenever they needed it. This is something that works well, however, make sure you get money when you are in larger cities, because it may be hard to find ATMs every place you go. Also, make sure you go to the ATM with another person so someone can block you just in case. I would recommend that you do have some sort of budget so that you aren't just pulling money out like crazy and then get home and realize you are broke. Also be aware that your bank will have foreign transactions fees, so find out how much that will be before you leave. Because of this, you may want to pull out large amounts at one time, rather than doing a lot of small transactions and racking up fees.

An important note, if you are going to be using debit or credit cards when you are overseas, be sure to contact your bank and credit card company a few weeks prior to your trip so that they can put a note in your file that you are going to be out of the country. Make sure you give them the exact time you will be out of the country and the different places you will be. This will help when you use the cards because transactions will go through smoothly.

It is also really important that you write down all the numbers of the cards you have with you as well as the phone numbers to each card in case your wallet or credit cards should get stolen. There may be an international phone number, so make sure you look for that and write it down rather than the number to call from your country.

Now that I have gone over the basics that you need to know for budgeting and spending, I am going to explain in detail how I arranged my budgeting and spending. This may be complicated and I realize I was very very detailed with my budget and spending, but this is what worked for me. I should also explain that I am a spender. So I spent almost everything I took with me. Unless you like to shop like me, you will be fine with less money than I had.

I made the decision to exhange all of my money prior to the trip. I did this because I wanted to know exactly how much money I would have to spend and also because I didn't want to deal with ATMs in Europe. I had a lot of cash with me which I realize may not have been the safest thing, but it worked for me and I had no issues at all, but I also used some safety measures to ensure that which I will discuss at the end of this post.

So, to figure out how much money I was going to have for my budget I based everything around two main things. First, I wanted to ensure that I had the recommended 100 euors a day and second, I looked at how much money I currently had and how much I needed to stay afloat when I got back. After both of those details, I figured out I had $2800 (US) that I could go ahead and exchange. This roughly figured out to be 1705 in euros; 100 British pounds and 100 Swiss Francs. Now that I knew exactly how much I had, I broke my money down by day to I knew how much I could spend each day of the trip.

This is where things may get a little confusing, but hopefully it will be helpful. If after reading this you have any questions, please please email me and I will be more than willing to answer them.

The first thing I did was figure out which optionals I wanted to do and go ahead and set the money aside for those. I wanted to do all of the optionals so I went ahead and set aside 280 Euros (this is not the total cost, but from my webinar I had $100 excursion dollars so I did a rough exchange and accounted for those in my budget). The second thing I did was set aside money for tips. I originally only set aside 40 euros for tips (I increased this later). The with the remaining euros, I divided them by each day of the trip.

I had day one (London) and day ten (Lucerne) already covered because the currency for those days were separate. Next what I did was create stacks for each day so I would know which city each stack went with. Then I determinded the following:

  • Each day I needed to buy lunch, I set aside 10 euros to cover lunch
  • Each day that I needed to buy dinner, I set aside 20 euros to cover dinner
  • For Innsburck (because it was new years) I set an extra 60 euros aside for drinks
  • For every day of the tour I set aside 30 euros for alcohol (just in case I drank every day)
  • For Amsterdam, Venice, Rome, Florence and Paris I set aside an additional 20 euros for entrance fees to museums and sites as I knew I would be visiting different attractions I need to pay for on those days.
  • Then I evenly split the rest of the money with any extra going to Paris

So, in going with that plan, I ended up with the following budget in each city/for each day:

  • Day One London- 100 pounds
  • Day Two London to Amsterdam- 130 euros
  • Day Three Amsterdam to St. Goar- 110 euros
  • Day Four St. Goar to Munich- 130 euros
  • Day Five Munich to Innsbruck- 210 euros
  • Day Six Innsbruck to Venice- 130 euros
  • Day Seven Venice to Rome- 130 eruos
  • Day Eight Rome- 150 euros
  • Day Nine Rome to Florence- 140 euros
  • Day Ten Florence to Lucerne- 1oo francs
  • Day Eleven Lucerne to Paris- 110 euros
  • Day Twelve Paris- 145 euros

As you can see, I had well over the recommended 100 euros a day and like I said, there were some days when I hardly spent anything and other days that I spent well over the 100 euros a day. I know myself and I know my spending habits, so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of money. I had also budgeted an emergency 250 euros that I could put on my credit card if necessary.

So how did I carry all this money around? Well, once I figured out how much I had per city, I got little envelopes and divided my money up by day, so each envelope held the money for a different day. On the plane ride I carried all the envelopes with me as carry on. In Europe, I locked all the envelopes in my suitcase with the exception of the current day which would be in my wallet and then the next day (for in case I spent over my budget) in my day bag (purse). Any left over money from one day would be put in the envelope for the next day.

I tried my best to also keep a record of what I was spending my money on and how much I spent each day. This got messed up near the end of the trip. I came home with a little over 100 euros and 40 Swiss Francs, so I did end up spending most of my money. My next post will break down what I have record of spending my money on and will include pictures of many of my souvenirs.

One other recommendation when it comes to spending money in Europe. I usually just had a wallet and a purse, but it bigger cities like Rome and Paris where pickpocketers are infamous, I did use a belt wallet that tucked into my pants to secure my passport and money.

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