For the 4 months from mid-April to mid-August 2016, we explored a healthy portion of Western Europe.
We started our journey in spring in the South and worked our way North as summer arrived. Our plans were very loose… we had only booked flights from Asia to Portugal (via Amsterdam) and from Iceland to the US. Everything in between we made up as we went along.
Our main goal for the trip was simply to enjoy some fine European cuisine. If we happened to discover a place that we could later happily spend months or even years, that would be a nice bonus. We definitely accomplished the former, and perhaps even the latter.
Roughly speaking, we spent a month each in Spain, Italy, and the UK / Ireland, and a week or less in the Netherlands, Portugal, Czech, Germany, Denmark, and Iceland; 10 countries in total.
Not surprisingly, this cost a bit more than our excursions through Latin America and SE Asia. Here is the full cost breakdown:
|Daily Expense||% of total|
|Food & Alcohol||$9,931||$86||34%|
|Insurance & Healthcare||$ 756||$7||3%|
With a total cost of ~$83/day, housing comprised 1/3 of our total outlay.
In total, we stayed 115 nights. 77 of these were spent in Airbnb apartments (more detail here) and 14 in paid hotels. A total of 24 nights were completely free, 16 in hotels booked with rewards points and 8 with friends (all friends we met after we started a life of full time travel!)
The cost of housing varies widely between different countries. Paid nights ranged from a low average of ~$67/night in Portugal to ~$175/night in the UK.
Nightly cost in other countries: Ireland ($81), Czech ($95), Spain ($102), Italy ($113), Iceland ($122), Denmark ($147.)
We used hotel points in Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Northern Ireland, which saved us ~$225/night.
Food & Alcohol
Total spending on Dining Out, Groceries, and Alcohol was ~$86/day, more than we spent on housing. At least it is clear where our priorities lie.
As is our custom, most of our meals were eaten in restaurants. On average we spent $69/day dining out. I wouldn’t be shocked to find that most of this was spent on gelato, cappucinos, and croissants.
If we did dine at home, it was usually for breakfast. In addition we would always have fruit and vegetables handy for snacking and for Jr, for a grocery bill of ~$12.50/day.
Our alcohol expense was roughly $4.50/day. The majority of this was in regions where it is customary to have wine or beer with meals. For example, throughout Spain prie fixe menus include a glass of wine.
Like housing, food prices are significantly different between countries and even regions. While not a perfect apples-apples comparison, our daily total food expenditures were: Czech ($61), Portugal ($61), Denmark ($66), Iceland ($78), Italy ($84), Spain ($90), Ireland ($93), UK ($97), and Germany ($99.)
One of our main priorities for housing is location. Ideally we are in the city center and near public transit. We like to explore a city on foot and I’m sure we walked 10 km or more on most days.
Of the ~$50/day spent on transportation, more than 90% (~$46/day) was spent on flights, trains, and rental cars (in Ireland & Iceland) and associated transit to get to an airport or train station. The remaining $4/day was for intracity buses, subway, or taxis.
Our flight to Europe was paid with airline miles, but all other transportation was paid in full.
At ~$18/day or 7% of our total spending it probably isn’t fair to call it “miscellanous” any longer.
26% of this ($4.5/day) are child related expenses, including diapers, formula, clothes, and toys, but also Jr’s sweet race-car car seat ($88) that we ordered before staring our UK road trip.
21% ($3.6/day) are for clothes, shoes, lotion, and jewelry for Winnie. As the weather became cooler/warmer, we added clothes to our belongings.
10% is for a new suitcase. When a wheel fell off our old beast of a suitcase in Germany, we picked up a new lightweight one.
10% is for new camera gear (light filters, screen protector.) This is primarily a business expense (see Instagram.)
6% is for gifts. We routinely gave simple gifts to our favorite Airbnb hosts, and of course left nicer gifts for our friends who were kind enough to host us.
5% ($0.75/day) is for SIM cards so we had data access as we moved from country to country.
5% is for clothes for me. This includes 2 hats that I promptly lost. I’m a bit sad about that, especially the Guinness hat with a bottle opener built into the brim.
4% is for Traveling Mailbox to express ship me a new driver’s license (95% of this cost is UPS for express international delivery.)
The remainder is for truly miscellaneous and random stuff.
We spent ~$8/day on entertainment. This was primarily in the form of admission to historical sites, plus a couple bicycle rentals. We also enjoyed climbing big hills, playing in parks, walking around new cities, and spending time in nature.
Insurance & Healthcare
Winnie & Jr are covered by Taiwan’s National Health System while we are in Taiwan. I self insure.
To provide coverage while traveling abroad we all purchased travel insurance, Winnie & Jr through a Taiwan insurance company (4 months, $309) and me through World Nomads (4 months, $238.) Insurance accounts for 75% of our total health expenses.
In Porto, Portugal, Winnie paid a visit to the Emergency Room. She was discharge a couple hours later with a bill of 90.5 Euros (~$102.) A couple months later she saw a Doctor in Florence, Italy, and she was given a prescription. The bill was 50 Euro for the Doctor and 10 Euro for the scrip (~$68 total.) We are in the process of applying for reimbursement for these two bills.
Maybe one day the US will have similar medical costs.
Some of you are probably thinking, “WTH!? $250/day!?”
We had discussed just renting a place in Barcelona, Spain or Florence, Italy for 3 months. It would have been nice, more relaxing, and significantly less expensive… probably even half price. But we wanted to roam a little wider.
In the big picture this uptick in spending is not a big deal. Sure, it is more than the $75/day we were spending in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but when it is averaged out our total cost of living for our first 4 years of early retirement is only ~$137/day, which could be supported by a $1.25 million portfolio based on the 4% Rule.
Time spent in lower cost of living countries balances time spent in more expensive parts of the world. Geographic arbitrage works.
Points & Credit Cards
I was recently asked how much Credit Card rewards points impact our total expenses.
On this trip we booked business class flights to Europe at a cost savings of $5,200. We also had 16 free nights in hotels for a savings of $3,600, based on room pricing at the time of booking (average $225/night.)
The ~$29,000 spent on this trip generated an additional 47,000 rewards points (80% of total spent on credit cards, 2x points for hotels, airbnb, and dining out.) I could exchange these for $470 cash immediately, or trade them for ~$800 of future travel.
This is approximately $9,600 or 25% off the total trip.
25% off just for paying with some credit cards? Yes, please!
We traveled across a large swatch of Western Europe for 4 months at a total cost of ~$250/day. We could probably cut that in half if we were to stay in one place, something we are considering for future travels.
In total we explored 10 countries, bringing our lifetime total above 40 and Jr’s to 17.
Thank you Europe! We had a great time.
(See Instagram for more photos.)