How To Travel Europe on a Budget: Cost of 1 Year of Full-Time Travel

We spent 1 year traveling to 20 different countries in Europe for less than $1000 per month without hitchhiking, staying in hostels, or spending all of our time in super cheap countries.

Here’s how we did it and you can too!


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1 year of full-time travel

We used to think full-time travel was impossible! We fell in love with Europe on our 2-week Swiss honeymoon and dreamed about returning again. But it was expensive. Jana was a nanny and Brett was a gymnastics coach, so we didn’t have piles of money to spend. And we didn’t have visas. And we didn’t want to sell all of our possessions.

Yet in 2016 we took the leap and spent 19 months traveling Europe! Since then we’ve spent more than 2 years traveling to 30 European countries — and now we both work online too.

We found out how to spend a full year traveling Europe in 2016 for less than $1000 per month. Ready to see how we traveled for one year on less than $1,000 and saved nearly $30,000 on travel expenses? Let’s go!

how to travel europe on a budget aplins in the alps

Lodging

We DIDN’T stay in hostels, couch surf, camp, or sleep in airports.

We DID sleep in our own bed in our own private room every single night of the year!

How? House and pet sitting!

We used Trusted House Sitters to find families who needed sitters to watch their home and pets while they were away on vacation. This provided us 8 months of free accommodations!

Use this link to sign up for your own membership with a 25% discount! Here’s a snapshot of how to get started:

  1. Sign up through our link for 25% off the membership fee.
  2. Complete your profile. Be sure to add photos and videos to share your personality!
  3. Apply for sits all around the world.
  4. Meet the families during an interview.
  5. House and pet sit anywhere in the world!

This experience is about more than just free lodging. It introduced us to new friends in local neighborhoods and allowed us to live like natives!

In total, we estimate that we saved well over $12,000 just by pet and house sitting!

GRAND TOTAL for 1 year of lodging: $1,550.89

$4.25 per day | $129 per month

Transportation

Most people will tell you to hitchhike, backpack, or stay in the same cheap country the whole time. We spent a year traveling and took:

  • 11 flights
  • countless trains, buses, and metro rides
  • 3 rental car bookings
  • In 20 different countries!

How’d we do it? Credit card points and miles!

We built up hundreds of thousands of points to earn FREE flights, train rides, and car rentals throughout our year in Europe.

And we estimate that we saved way more than $7,000 just on transportation alone!

GRAND TOTAL for 1 year of transportation: $2,504.99

$6.85 per day | $209 per month

P.S. If you want to see what’s possible with points, check out this video about how we flew Turkish Airlines Business Class for nearly free with credit card points:

Food

We’re foodies. So we didn’t live off Ramen and McDonalds. But we did grocery shop and enjoy cafes!

In fact, our biggest tip to save money on food is to shop in budget grocery stores and to eat in cafes instead of restaurants.

My favorite grocery store is Aldi! Its prices are super affordable and the quality is much better than other stores.

And if you’re going to eat in a restaurant, opt for lunch instead of dinner because it’s always cheaper!

Also, cafes can be a great deal for snacks and drinks (and are usually a welcome potty break during a busy day of sightseeing).

We did splurge on a few meals for our anniversary and birthdays, but we still had a reasonable food budget for 1 year of full-time travel.

GRAND TOTAL for 1-year of food: $5,031.59

$13.75 per day | $419 per month

Searching for more ways to save money while you travel? Read this: 70+ Ways To Save Money While Traveling Europe

european food in europe food tour aplins in the alps

Sightseeing & Entertainment

We saw 20 countries in 1 year! And we didn’t spend all of our time in cheap countries or avoid the tourist hotspots. But we also didn’t pay money to see things just because other people said we should. (Louvre? Nah!)

Often, it was more than enough for us to enjoy amazing places from the outside. Here are some examples from our year in Europe:

  • Picnic by the Eiffel Tower
  • Eat gelato by colosseum
  • Visit Christmas markets
  • Watch the sunset in Dubrovnik

But we did pay for specific experiences that we knew we would love and be worth it, like a private historical tour in Bosnia and a handful of WWII museums.

Wherever your travels take you, find the free and local experiences you know you’ll love, and skip the rest without guilt!

GRAND TOTAL for 1 year of sightseeing and entertainment: $603.23

$1.65 per day | $50 per month

Other expenses

Most high-level travel budgets are going to include the four categories above because that’s where the bulk of the spending comes from.

But for the sake of transparency, we wanted to show you EXACTLY how much it cost us to travel Europe on a budget for one year. So we’ve included this final category, creatively titled “everything else.”

For us, this was mostly toiletries and personal care items like shampoo, deodorant, and sunscreen. Remember that you already buy this stuff at home so it’s not necessarily an added expense related to traveling.

But the majority of this category was spent on travel insurance because we didn’t have health insurance at the time. Figure out if you need traveler’s insurance before you travel to help plan your travel budget.

GRAND TOTAL for 1 year of other expenses: $2,196.94

$6.02 per day | $183 per month

travel europe on a budget aplins in the alps

GRAND TOTAL FOR 1 YEAR OF TRAVELING EUROPE

Your travel goal isn’t to spend as little as possible. You could spend nothing and see nothing, but that’s not why you travel, right!?

So before we share our grand total for the year, remember this isn’t about traveling like Jana and Brett. We just wanted to share our experience so you can craft your own travels!

Overall, we estimate that we saved at least $30,000 — and spent less than we do for our middle-class life in Tennessee!

GRAND TOTAL of 1-YEAR OF FULL-TIME TRAVEL IN EUROPE: $11,887.64

$32.57/ per day | $990.64 per month


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HOW TO TRAVEL EUROPE ON A BUDGET!

We know it can be expensive to travel, but we hope that these tips will help you plan an affordable European vacation.

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Jana

Jana is an SEO copywriter and content editor plus travel YouTuber. Beyond work, she loves all things gelato, sunshine, and words. Her perfect day? Tossing on sunglasses to read a book and catch some rays, then dinner with her husband and friends. In her free time, Jana disciples teen girls and makes homemade pasta.

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