Trip Recap: Our Summer in Europe

BF and I have been back from our 8 week European adventure for a few weeks now and I’ve had some time to reflect on our trip. Today I’ll share some details of our travels and how much our grand adventure cost us!

Trip Recap: Our Summer in Europe

Living in Paris
During our time abroad, we were primarily based in Paris. We were able to find an apartment to rent on Airbnb, and we were lucky enough to stay in the heart of Paris’ “hipster” neighborhood – Le Marais. The location was perfect because there were tons of great restaurants within walking distance of our apartment and we were also well connected to the metro, which allowed us to get around the city easily and quickly. Between the metro and the great bike sharing program in Paris, Velib, we didn’t take a single cab for trips within the city.

Sunset at Notre Dame

Sunset at Notre Dame

Unlike my days in Cambridge, which consist of waking early, working for 8 to 10 hours, coming home to cook dinner and then relaxing until bed, my days in Paris were much less structured. BF would go off to school each morning and I was on my own until he came home around 4 or 5 pm. I would usually exercise (some combo of the Scientific 7 Minute Workout, a long walk and stretching), practice Portuguese (although much less than I should have) and work on the blog. It was nice to have days that were so flexible and free-form, although I found that because I could always stop to watch How I Met Your Mother re-runs on Netflix, I was somewhat less productive than I am in the office. But that’s OK, I was supposed to be taking a break.

The roof of the Centre Pompidou

The roof of the Centre Pompidou

When BF came home in the afternoon, we would usually head out to do some exploring around the city. We did a pretty good job of covering the city, visiting nearly every arrondissement. I simply can’t cover everything we did/saw in Paris – there is just too much to do in that city! We went to amazing museums, saw some great shows, visited beautiful parks, and ate at incredible restaurants.

One of my favorite aspects of our trip was the pace at which we were able to explore Paris. I typically want to see as much as possible on my 7 to 10-day travels, which means that the pace is fast and I am exhausted by trip’s end. In Paris, we had the luxury of taking our time to explore each neighborhood, forgoing the major tourist attractions in favor of an appreciation of the culture of the city. By the end of our trip we had become very familiar with our neighborhood and had a few places, like a bakery around the corner, which we liked to go to regularly. It was fun to feel like a local in a foreign city!

The Paris Opera House

The Paris Opera House

I was previously somewhat lukewarm on Paris, based on two other visits, but now I am firmly convinced that it is one of the greatest cities in the world. I was worried that I might be lonely or homesick during our eight weeks away, but we were so busy with fun activities that I didn’t have time for loneliness!

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Travelling around Europe

I’ve covered our side trips in separate recaps (including Normandy, Lisbon, Budapest, Vienna, and Provence/the Cote d’Azur), so I won’t go into detail on those trips here. We really benefited from being based in Paris, which allowed us to easily, quickly and cheaply get to each of these destinations. During college, I chose to study abroad in South America, unlike most of my friends who studied in Europe. I always felt that I had missed out on the opportunity to do a “Eurotour”, so this trip was something of the fulfillment of my college dreams.

View of the Eiffel Tower from atop the Galleries Lafayette

View of the Eiffel Tower from atop the Galleries Lafayette

In addition to our longer trips, we took a couple of day trips to areas around Paris. We spent an afternoon at Monet’s gardens in Giverny and took the train to Reims to visit a champagne maker. A friend and fellow architect came to visit Paris, and we took a pilgrimage to architect mecca: Villa Savoye designed by Le Corbusier. I didn’t cover much about these side trips on the blog, but you can check out my Instagram for some pictures!

A fountain at the Jardin du Luxembourg

A fountain at the Jardin du Luxembourg

How much did our summer in Europe cost?

The short answer is: a lot. Ha. While we did save money by renting out our own condo in Cambridge, travelling cheaply within Europe and taking advantage of credit card rewards, we still spent a pretty penny. Unfortunately, this was compounded by the fact that I took the summer off from work, un-paid, so on top of spending a lot I also had no income. I was able to handle this because I save aggressively, so while it was slightly painful to watch my net worth go down, I didn’t actually feel any financial strain.

Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY. We had an incredible trip that was worth every dollar we spent. Here is a breakdown of exactly how many dollars that was:

Summer in France Budget Summary

Some thoughts:

  • Paris might be an expensive place to stay, but apparently Cambridge is even more expensive! We actually came out ahead on the rent front, which helped offset some other costs. Granted, the apartment we rented in Paris was not as nice as our condo in Cambridge, but it had an A+ location and had everything we needed for the summer. We also sublet our place in Cambridge for a longer period of time (thanks mom and dad for letting us stay with you!) so we could bring in a little extra cash.
  • Changing your flights is a rip off. We originally planned to travel to France for a typical, 10-day vacation. When our plans changed, we incurred a huge cost to change our flights. I’m not sure we could have done anything differently in this case, but in the future I will do everything I can to avoid flight change fees.
  • Eating out is expensive. We’re usually pretty good about eating at home, but between our small, poorly equipped rental kitchen and the amazing French cuisine just outside our door, we fell off the wagon big time this summer. And we paid for it. Just to highlight how excessive our restaurant spending was, I looked back at how much I spent eating out in the last year. Turns out that I actually spent less eating out all of last year than BF and I did in two months this summer. Oops! While we had some great meals, if I was doing a trip like this again I would cook at home more. Not only would it save money, but at some point we just really got tired of eating out. We’re glad to be back to home cooking now that we’re home.

My advice about long-term travel

If someone asked me if I would recommend an extended trip of this nature, my answer would be “ABSOLUTELY.” This trip was a great break for me, a way to re-charge and become re-invigorated in my daily life back home. I may only be five years into my career, but five years is a long time to go without more than a week off at a time. I felt that this trip refreshed me and made me excited again about my work. It was also great that it gave me time to work on a side project – this blog – which is something I had contemplated starting for a long time.

We were able to make this trip happen by being opportunistic – taking advantage of a research opportunity for BF and a lull at work for me. While a trip of this nature might seem infeasible for many people (I would have said it was for me, too!), I think that there are ways to make it happen. You could consider working remotely for a time, or taking time off between jobs to travel. The circumstances will surely be different for each individual, but an amazing experience is guaranteed for all.

Have you ever taken an extended trip like this? What was your experience like?

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42 thoughts on “Trip Recap: Our Summer in Europe

  1. Sandy Hicks says:

    John& I just read this wonderful, wonderful blog. Great descriptions & writing! We feel as if we’ve had an extended vacation in a world class city with our financial advisor! Great blog. Love & Hugs

  2. Thanks for sharing your Paris trip. We did a similar trip last summer for 2 months, but we visited a few more places. We stayed in Paris 2 weeks, then went to many areas of Spain and even attended the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. From there, we went to Italy then Portugal.

    Trip blog:

    You are right, it is expensive but I would prefer to spend money on life experiences than material things.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Wow, your trip sounds amazing! There are so many incredible things to see in Europe that we definitely could have traveled a lot more while we were there, but it was fun to really get to know Paris.

    • Thank you – it was a great trip! No more travel plans as of now, but we’ll likely head to Brazil to visit family for Christmas.

  3. I think it’s so awesome that you took advantage of the opportunity to take your extended travels this summer! Once you have kids, doing things like this becomes very difficult, if not impossible….both physically and financially lol. I’ve had fun following along on your big adventure this summer! 🙂

    • I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to take a trip of this nature with kids! So much more complicated and SO much more expensive! I’m really gad we did it while we had the chance!

  4. Your trip sounds amazing. What a lovely image of having all those unstructured days in the Marais — plus your side trips! And even though you spent a lot, less than $100 a day each is pretty good for Europe. Thank goodness for your Cambridge rent offset! It’s great you guys took the time to take this trip. It only gets harder as you get older and move into more senior positions.

    • It was really wonderful to have unstructured time while traveling! We really couldn’t have done the trip without getting some income from renting out our place.

  5. Wow! That sounds like an amazing trip. When I looked at the bottom line that sounded like a lot of money but when you broke it down per person per month, that’s pretty reasonable! It’s pretty much like the amount of my regular budget/month anyway.

    • It does seem much more reasonable when broken down by month and person. The top line kinda made me crazy but I’m OK with the broken down numbers. It was well worth it!

  6. AMAZING TRIP! And again, kudos on coming out ahead on the rent. That’s a great deal! And as you said, totally worth the expenses on everything else. An experience like this is exactly WHY we save aggressively! Experiences far outweigh other spending.

    • YES – I didn’t really know that I was saving for this particular trip, but saving aggressively is what allowed me to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself.

  7. I love Paris so I’m so jealous. I’d love to do something like this in Europe once my cat is no longer with me. I just think it would be hard with him. In any case, I would love to savor the experience instead of feeling like I’m rushed trying to hit all the tourist spots.

    • I would love to get a dog but when we took this trip I was so thankful that I didn’t have one, because it would have been nearly impossible with a pet.

  8. I am posting the costs from our 2014 trip to Switzerland soon, and they bear out similar to your numbers. I think it was $1,700 for 8 nights total. That includes virtually free flights and some free hotel nights. Train travel and food costs drove the total up.

    I think about that a lot too, how in retirement, renting an apartment in another country might not be much more expensive than just staying at home. To do a month here, a month there, that’s the dream.

    • I agree that spending a month in this country and a month in that country would be amazing. I’m just not sure I want to wait until I retire to do that!

  9. How very cool! I looooove Paris. And our month spent volunteering on a farm in Italy was one of the defining experiences of our life. Slow travel FTW.

    • Oh wow, a month on a farm in Italy sounds amazing! I would love to do an extended trip based in the countryside or a less urban area.

  10. That’s awesome that you had the opportunity to go for a long-term trip! I really don’t think it’s in the cards for me with the career I’ve chosen (combined with my wife’s grad school & career), but you never know what the future holds. It would be great to just sell 1,000,000 copies of my book next Spring and be free to pursue long-term travel without worrying about income 😉 But in all seriousness I do hope to go to Europe for a 2 week trip at some point over the next five years. The biggest challenge would be trying to decide where to go – so many options!

    • I never thought I would be able to travel long-term like this with my career either, but an opportunity presented itself and we made it work! It was so worth it. Two weeks is a good chunk of time too, and definitely worth a trip to Europe!

  11. Hi Ali,

    It looks like you had a fantastic time in Paris! It is expensive so I am not surprised you ended up spending quite a bit of cash, but I think it’s great you were able to sublet your apartment is the US to help cover your spending in Eurore!

    I live in London and since Paris is only a 2 hr train ride away, I’ve naturally been there many times and I love it! One day I’d love to do what you’ve done and spend a few months in Italy which I love the most! 🙂


    • I am so envious of people who live in Europe – it must be so amazing to be able to hop over to Paris for a quick visit! Italy sounds like an amazing place to live for a few months. So much delicious food!

  12. That sounds amazing! We went to New Zealand for a month this winter, which was pretty amazing as well. My total cost was ~$6,800 and my boyfriend’s was similar. You guys saved a ton by renting out your place in the US while you were gone! I would absolutely love to do a similarly long trip again in a few years!

    • Oh man I would LOVE to go to New Zealand. I think a future extended trip to New Zealand/Australia is definitely on my bucket list!

  13. Hey Ali,

    I just found your blog, and as someone who is into travel and finance, I am already hooked :). I agree that travel can be expensive, but I never regret a single penny I put into traveling. It looks like you guys did well and managed to accomplish a lot, especially given what you spent!


  14. Hey Ali,

    I just found your blog via Financial Samurai’s comments. I’m glad you had a good time in Europe. I only covered the main sites in Paris when I was there so I’d love to go back and see more of the city. I’m going to Vienna and Budapest (also Prague) next week so I will have to check out those reports as well.

    You mentioned credit card rewards, but what did you use them for? I was a bit surprised the flights cost you so much. I used 60k Ultimate Rewards to comp my roundtrip flight and Arrival Plus to pay my airline tax and Prague hotel.


    • We used credit card rewards for a few trips within Europe – round trip for two from Paris to Lisbon and then from Paris to Budapest. Our flights to Paris ended up being quite expensive because of the change fees. Lesson learned there!

  15. I’m jealous of you and so many friends and acquaintances that have been visiting Europe lately. It is something I have always wanted to do. When the time finally does come for me I don’t think I’d do an extended stay like you did for your adventure. Got to believe any trip would be fascinating. Were the Parisians friendly?

    • I’ve been to Europe for shorter periods of time before and it is always so worth it. The Parisians were pretty friendly, and seem to have become more accepting of English-speakers.

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