Traveling throughout Europe can actually be quite cheap if you do your research and reserve/buy certain things in advance. Here’s a rundown of the costs for my two week trip. We spent 3 nights in Brussels, 2 in Amsterdam, 2 in Köln, 3 in Munich and 4 in Strasbourg. I paid for one hotel and all major train tickets in advance to take advantage of lower prices and special deals.
Hotels: I try to stay in apartment or residence hotels that have a kitchenette, mostly because I hate eating in restaurants all the time, but also because it is much, much cheaper to buy your own groceries. For example, we stayed at Citadines in Brussels for €39.50 per person per night and at Citéa in Strasbourg for 37.50€. If you can’t find any apartment hotels, you can always try private rooms in hostels that have access to a guest kitchen, like at Flying Pig in Amsterdam, or book private accommodation at regular apartments owned by individuals. Staying in dorms at hostels is obviously a cheaper option (some places are only 8-10€ for a bed), but not such a good idea when you have severe insomnia and are a huge germaphobe (that would be me). Couchsurfing is of course the cheapest option of them all (free!)
Total price for hotels for 14 nights = 575€
Trains: Buy long-distance train tickets 3 months in advance for the lowest price. This means you have to be prepared and know your exact dates, but it is worth it. For shorter trips on regional trains, the price doesn’t change so you can just buy it at the station (such as a day trip to Bonn from Köln). I made sure to buy all of our train tickets as soon as I possibly could and these were the prices:
We also rented a car in Mannheim to use for a week while we were in Munich and Strasbourg and the price was 111€ per person, plus we both paid around 70€ for gas and NOTHING for tolls since Germany does not make you pay to drive on their roads (unlike France, or Switzerland or Austria with their stupid vignettes). I think we paid around 75€ for other trains for day-trips to Bruges, Bonn, Düsseldorf and public transportation in Brussels, Munich and Strasbourg.
Alternatively, I could have met Michelle in Brussels instead of Paris since there’s an Easyjet route from Geneva for as low as 25€. But I would have to factor in another 18€ for the trains to Geneva airport, whereas my train to Paris was 22€ and I could take as many liquids as I wanted. Not having to deal with other air passengers, metal detectors and the liquid ban is worth an extra 4€ to me.
Total transportation costs = 440€
Food: Because of the kitchenette, we always ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel and a few of the places actually had free breakfast included. For lunch, we would usually just buy something light, like sandwiches, especially on days when we would be on the train heading to a new city. Every once in a while we did have an actual meal at a restaurant, but I never spent more than 10-12€. Buying breakfast and dinner at grocery stores was incredibly cheap and I would say we never spent more than 8-10€ for those two meals each day.
Total estimate = 250€ (this is probably a bit high)
Admission: Admission to Mini Europe was 13,10€ and Europa Park was 35€, which were our biggest expenses. Anne Frank House was 8.50€, the waterfalls in Triberg were only 3.50€ and Dachau was free. The rest of the time we stayed outside since we’re more into architecture and nature than museums. We did do a bus tour when we were in Köln (because I had blisters!) for 11€ but normally we walk everywhere.
Total = about 75€
Souvenirs: Stamps to the US from Germany are 1€, from the Netherlands 0.92€, and from France 0.85€ so I’d recommend mailing your postcards from here unless you really want stamps from other countries. I didn’t buy too many things to bring home because my suitcase and backpack were already full.
Total = about 60€
…which brings us to a grand total of about 1,400€ for 14 days away from home. I basically saved 115€ per month for the year to pay for the trip. We got to explore 12 cities in 4 countries (sorry Luxembourg, maybe next time) so to me, it was definitely worth it.