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Cynthia Harriman
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Portsmouth, NH 03801
Tel: 603-436-1608

All information on this website is © 2005, Cynthia Harriman, unless otherwise noted.

Budgeting Your Trip
excerpted from Take Your Kids to Europe

You know you want to take the kids to Europe. But how can you afford it?

That depends on what "it" is. "It" can be a one-month house-swap. You lend your house and car to a family from overseas, and they let you borrow theirs. You have no hotel costs, no car rental costs, and you avoid restaurant costs by cooking at home and picnicking, using only the money you would have spent on groceries if you'd stayed in the US. That leaves you with no expenses except airfare-and a lower total cost than a typical vacation at home. Think about what the average family spends for a week in Florida at Disney World!

Buying Picnic Supplies at Local Markets Saves Money

On the other end of the scale, you could eat out almost every night, stay in lots of hotels, rent expensive villas, and put yourself in hock for a decade.

Your trip will likely mix a little of each: lots of cost-cutting, with a few fun splurges thrown in. In this chapter, I'll give you a rough idea of what each component of a family trip can cost, so you can assemble the package that best suits your family and your finances.

Throughout, I'll stress the low end of the budget scale, emphasizing the least possible you can comfortably pay. That way, if you're scraping by and taking this trip only at great sacrifice, you'll feel comfortable. If you're better off, I'm sure you can figure out how to pay more without any help from me!

4 Best Ways to Cut Back

You can stay in clean, conveniently-located hotels, eat nutritious and delicious meals, and visit all the important sites in Europe without spending an outrageous amount of money. I know-because our family has done it, and so have many of our readers.

How can you do this too? What factors can blow your budget the fastest? Don't spend time debating whether to take the rental house for $1100 or the not-so-nice one for $950. Spend your time instead on the four major categories that will make or break your budget:

(1) Airfares

Airfare from the east coast of the U.S. to Europe is likely to cost you anywhere from $275 to $900, depending on special fares in effect when you go. June 1 to October 15 will be most expensive, and West Coast fares are usually $200 more. You can easily save $300 to $500 per ticket by shopping carefully. Total savings in the thousands for the typical family of four.

(2) Car rental

Rentals vary wildly from one company to another-and from one country to the next. And leasing and purchasing plans sometimes make more sense than renting. It pays to invest several hours of your time in calling around. Details are explained in Chapter 2, "Planes, Trains, Boats and Cars".

(3) Hotels

Guidebooks call a $75 double "moderate" or "inexpensive." Yet if you booked two of these every night on a six week trip, you'd waste over $4000 compared to staying at youth hostels for $12 per person. How do all the options stack up for a family of four? Camping will cost perhaps $20 per night; youth hostels about $48; and budget hotels-cheaper than "moderate"-from $45-$120 for two doubles (cost depends heavily on country). See Chapters 8 ( "Youth Hostels" ) and 9 ("Budget Hotels") for in-depth information.

(4) Restaurants

Meals will almost certainly be the biggest single category in your budget. If you eat out-even at modest restaurants-it's not difficult to spend $6 per person for breakfast, $10 for lunch and $25 for dinner. Instead, follow the plan we advised in Chapter 7, "Restaurants." Buy breakfast at a neighborhood bakery, raid a grocery store for a picnic lunch, then eat where the local folks eat for dinner. You can easily do it all for under $25 per person per day- a savings of $1300 on a three-week trip. And the savings may actually add to the fun of your trip!

Our chapter called "Can We Afford It?" goes on to:

  • detail the other general expense categories you'll encounter
  • advise you on ways to cut back without compromising your vacation
  • include fill-in "Ballpark Budget Estimator" forms

With our Budget Estimator forms, you can plug in the size of your family, the length of your stay, which countries you're visiting, and several other variables---and get a good approximation of what you might expect to pay traveling the Take Your Kids to Europe way.

This is just part of the information on budgeting in Take Your Kids to Europe. In fact, there are money-saving hints throughout the book. I'm frugal by nature, and readers say our money advice is one of the parts they like best about T.Y.K.E.

If you'd like more, click here to get information on ordering the book.