Today I’m stoked to share a post from my good friend Steven. He spent over a third of his summer in Europe and while I was extremely jealous being home in Canada I’ve loved talking to him about his travels. He’s shared with me some amazing places I must see next summer and it’s getting me really excited for my trip!
I recently came back from a whirlwind 45 day long tour of Europe with my best friend. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I met amazing people, saw amazing sights and spent an amazing amount of money. The most popular question I’ve gotten from people since I got back has been “how much did you spend EXACTLY?”
Well, truth be told, I went into this trip with the intention of tracking all of my spending down to the penny. For the first few days I did this, then, as the days turned into weeks I realized something. That something was this.. “HEY, you’re in freaking Europe with your bestfriend and you’re sitting on your iPhone crunching numbers?! What is wrong with you?!?!”.
For any of you who have been to Europe, I’m sure you can understand my thought process at that point. I realized that I was spending too much time thinking about every little purchase I had made in the last 24 hours than actually spending my time enjoying my surroundings. So, for those of you looking for an exact number of how much I spent on this trip, I have a vague idea (somewhere in the neighbourhood of $6000 including replacing my stolen phone and my roaming fees) but the point of this article is more the “dos and don’ts” of traveling as a money conscious 20-something.
I used RBC Avion points for my long-haul flight to and from Heathrow Airport so I ended up only spending about $400 on my flight. The awesome thing I found out about my two 9 hour flights was that all of the food and alcohol was free! So when you’re wondering “why is this flight so expensive?” when you’re booking a trip just remember… free booze.
Once we got over to Europe, traveling from country to country was relatively inexpensive. Provided, of course, that you actually make your flights! It’s not a Euro Trip until you’ve missed on of your flights. When we missed our flight from London to Paris it ended up costing us nearly £400. I won’t get into the details of why it cost us that much because I’ve suppressed the rage I felt that fateful night. We actually found that flying to our destinations ended up being more economical. Flights in Europe are dirt cheap but you have to be careful. A lot of discount airlines offer you cheap base fares but then charge you up the you-know-what for anything and everything they can! Make sure you can print out your boarding pass before you get to the airport (especially if you’re flying with RyanAir) or else they will charge you something like 60 euros JUST to print it out for you. Checked luggage will also cost you.
Hostels. Hostels. Hostels. We stayed in some AWESOME ones and some seriously questionable ones. The best advice I can give you is to use Trip Advisor when looking for a good hostel. The wifi will likely cause you to throw your computer out the window, but the people you’ll meet will make up for it. I found that the smaller hostels are usually the better ones because you end up getting to know almost every one who is staying in them. However, the smaller ones tend to be a little bit more expensive. Most hostels have some sort of a kitchen and bar in their lobby or lounge room.
Food and drinks
You can’t really cheap out when it comes to getting good food. Fortunately, most restaurants in Europe (with the exception of a few) are very affordable. The nice thing is that cuisine that would cost you an arm and a leg back in Canada is everyday food in Europe. Ask around and find the places that the locals go to. If it’s full of tourists, chances are it’s not as good as a place that’s a little bit off of the beaten path. Explore! As for alcohol, well, you can get pretty much anything for under 5 euros. In fact, you can buy enough alcohol (beer and wine) for a group of 6 people and spend no more than 30 euros and you’ll probably end up having leftover alcohol (not in my case, I love my beer and wine).
I guess the main point that I’m trying to get across is this: just live. When you’re traveling abroad be smart with your money but don’t let your money rule everything you do. If you have to ask yourself “can I really afford this?”, “will this fit in my back pack” or “can I justify spending the money to ship this back home” chances are your money is going to be better spent else where. And hey, if you’re good with your money like I was, you can blow it all on the last day of your trip shopping. Blame it on the fact that you’re depressed and don’t want to go home.. or you know, don’t. Whatever you want to do goes, you saved up the money. It’s your trip. Do it right!
Steven McCaskill is a 20-something currently pursuing a Finance Degree in the Bachelor of Business Administration program at NAIT. Born and raised in Edmonton, he currently works part time at a local family owned shoe store. On top of school and working, he keeps up his training in contemporary, jazz and ballet at Shelley’s Dance Company. In his spare time, he has began to keep a personal chronicle of his thoughts, financial triumphs and woes. Outside of school Steven enjoys interior design, cooking, tea and red wine. Things are still up in the air for the future, however. Steven hopes to one day own his own company. As a type A and slightly ADD personality he has to have many things going on at once to keep things interesting.