How do you know when you’ve saved enough money for a trip like this?
It’s a tough question to answer, except to say “you can never save too much”.
But since that’s no fun, here’s a rough breakdown of how I calculated how much to save for 4 months in Europe:
First I looked at a map of Europe and created a loose itinerary of all the cities I wanted to see. Who knows if all those dates will hold up, but it provided the backbone to figure out how much money I’ll need.
The Schengen Zone Countries
I also wanted to incorporate the other factors that will affect my trip, such as the Schengen restrictions. As an American tourist, I can cumulatively spend a max of 90 days in the Schengen Zone countries. There are some conflicting reports on how seriously this is enforced, but it is good make the effort to comply versus risking it and getting fined thousands of euros. Fortunately Croatia, Romania, and the UK do not count towards the 90 day limit so it won’t be too much of an imposition.
The dates also helped to get a good guess for when to activate the train pass since we only have it for 3 months. Note that the chart does not account for travel time between cities, but I didn’t feel like inputing that much data.
The “Fun Stuff Multiplier” is a method to get a more accurate cost over the course of the trip. I took the estimated cost per day from a few travel websites and multiped it by the FSM to account for extra spending at bars, sporting events, etc. This way if I have a day or two each week where I drop $100 on a soccer game or concert or whatever, it’ll be absorbed by accounting for a higher average daily spend for the other days. If I want to see what the total cost would be to really party, I could raise it up to 1.5 (or higher). Conversely, I could lower it down to 1.0 to see the daily cost without any frills.
Keeping the FSM at a modest 1.4, the total spits out about $12k, which feels right. I’m sure the estimates will be way too high or way too low depending on the city, but hopefully it will average out to be pretty accurate. Either way I now have the benefit of a grounded benchmark to use for my spending.