RTW Budget Update: Europe

We’ve shared our RTW budget previously and now that we’re a few months in, it’s time to check-in. I’ll spare you the heartburn if you’re curious about the end result – we went over budget. But that’s okay. I’ve got explanations (or excuses) on why we went over budget. Learn from our mistakes and plan accordingly.

Part 1: Major Transportation

  • Estimated Expense: $1,400
  • Actual Expense: $1,002
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse): +$398

Good news! Transportation in Europe is all it’s cracked up to be. Comfortable, clean, fast, efficient, and relatively affordable. We’ve faired much better than expected due to the great decision not to purchase a rail pass. I’ve mentioned before that we were on the fence on purchasing a Eurail pass and I’m glad we didn’t. Here’s how it would have worked out for our route (all prices quoted for 2 people):

  • Cost of Travel with Eurail Pass: $2,170
    • London to Paris via Eurostar (not covered on Eurail): $132
    • Paris to Florence to Cinque Terre to Bologna to Venice to Ljubljana to Budapest: $1616 (the cost of a 10-day saver pass for 2 people)
    • Budapest to Istanbul via Wizz Air: $277
    • Istanbul to Cappadocia and back via Pegasus Airlines: $145
  • Cost of Travel without Eurail Pass: $1,002
    • London to Paris via Eurostar: $132
    • Paris to Florence to Cinque Terre to Bologna to Venice to Ljubljana to Budapest: $448 (the cost of point to point train and bus tickets for 2 people)
    • Budapest to Istanbul via Wizz Air: $277
    • Istanbul to Cappadocia and back via Pegasus Airlines: $145

Part 2: In-Country Costs

So we started our analysis on a high note. And now to the bad news. I’m breaking it up between Western Europe and Central / Eastern Europe due to the large differences in costs.

Western Europe

  • Estimated Expense: $2,520 (14 days at $90 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $3,957
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse):  -$1,437

Whoa! That number looks bad. We must have spent all our time blowing dough along the Champs-Élysées in Paris or sipping wine at 5-star resorts in Tuscany. But no. We didn’t do those things. There is a simpler explanation. We spent more time in Western Europe than we had originally planned. Our original budget called for just 14 days (2 weeks), but in reality we spent 21 days (3 weeks).

So – because all things numbers can be fudged around to make things seem better or worse if you want them to, I’m going to do just that. With an adjustment to the budget based on our actual time spent.

  • Adjusted Estimated Expense: $3,780 (21 days at $90 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $3,957
  • Adjusted Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$177

So what happened? Even if I try to mess around with the numbers, I can’t fix them. We overspent. We spent too much on cozy apartments in Paris and Bologna, we visited tourist hot spots like Cinque Terre and Venice, and we had far too many apertivos, bowls of pasta, and gelato in our near two weeks in Italy. But that’s okay. We were comfortable. We ate well. And we’d say it was well worth it.

True Cost for Western Europe: $94 / day / person

View from our apartment in Paris booked from Airbnb
View from our apartment in Paris booked from Airbnb

Central / Eastern Europe

  • Estimated Expense: $2,520 (21 days at $60 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $2,766
  • Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$246

But of course, I need to mess with the numbers again. This time it’s going to work against me though, as we fell a few days short of the originally planned 21 days in Eastern Europe.

  • Adjusted Estimated Expense: $2,160 (18 days at $60 / day / person)
  • Actual Expense: $2,766
  • Adjusted Variance (+Better / -Worse): -$606

With the $450 we dropped on the hot air balloon in Cappadocia, good eats in Ljubljana, and free flowing beer in Budapest, we overspent just a bit. Woops.

True Cost for Central / Eastern Europe: $77 / day / person

Getting ready to fly with Butterfly Balloons in Cappadocia
Getting ready to fly with Butterfly Balloons in Cappadocia

Venice: Same S***, Different Way

Venice is otherworldly. The canals, the lagoons, the arched bridges, the eroded front steps- lapped endlessly by the waves. It is something out of fantasy come to life. But if you take a closer look, the ordinary still exists in this extraordinary place. If there’s one continuous ribbon that runs through every civilization it is that of work. Buying, selling, fixing, building, meeting- working. These activities are everywhere, but in Venice the difference lies in the how. It is all out in the open air, laid bare in the water- not boxed up in semis screaming down the freeway. It’s puttering around in the waves, being muscled down the sidewalks, carried through alleys to its final destination. It’s in your face. Venice allowed me to discover its nuts and bolts and reminded me that no matter where you are, people make their homes, routines take shape, and life goes on.

Here, business happens on boats. Invoices are written from the rocking boat to a man on dry land. Boats full of kegs and wine cases, docked up, their contents then trolleyed down the winding alleys. Boats full of bags of concrete with shovels and wheelbarrows- headed for repair. Boats full of luggage headed to the airport, maybe, or maybe it’s lost luggage drifting at sea. Garbage men have garbage boats. There’s produce boats going to market and refrigerated boats; even boats that deliver furniture waterside to expectant owners. Taxi boats, bus boats. Boats tugging at their ropes and anchors telling their captains to hurry on up now, it’s time to go. The winding and unwinding of ropes and knots. The undercurrent of a whole city community, left exposed.

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Burano: The Land of Make Believe

Atomic tangerine, aquamarine, Caribbean green. Purple pizzazz, razzle dazzle rose, razzmatazz. Pink flamingo, laser lemon, mango tango. Shamrock, shocking pink, and of course robin’s egg blue. These colors, unbelievably, all exist in real life- in the real life land of make believe- Burano, Italy. A tiny island situated north of Venice in the Venetian lagoon, it’s playful and quiet like your best friend from elementary school.

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Check Out Them (Door) Knockers, Florence!

We went to Florence in late September. I was expecting it to be quiet, busy season dying down, mostly locals. Boy was I wrong. Tourists everywhere- snapping pictures, gawking at buildings, “oohs” and “ahs” and lines out the wazoo, waiting for entrance to museums, churches, anything- and I didn’t want any of it. To escape the claustrophobia and the dilution of beauty that tourists bring, Nick and I decided to follow something with less known history compared to the Michelangelos and Leonardos and went in search of door-knockers. There is not much known about these door adornments other than they’re intricate, have been replaced by the doorbell, and although I was too afraid to try one, I’m assuming quite loud. Evoking power and wealth and everything else intimidating, these beautiful creations of artistic functionality allude to what’s on the other side of the door. Taking you on a winding tour all over the city, they may just hold the essence of the richness of Florence.

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Sign Hacking in Florence

Next time you visit Florence, take a look up. No, not straight up to the top of the grand dome of the Duomo, or of the fluttering rows of laundry hanging out the windows. Look at the street signs. Since the summer of 2010, Clet Abraham has been plastering stickers to the cities signs, turning something that wouldn’t get a second glance into art.

I happened to notice one sign in passing while roaming the streets of Florence. And then another and another. And then I got interested. And then one rainy morning, I stopped at another sign. Trying to figure out why the camera wouldn’t let me adjust the aperture, Kristin wandered across the street and hit the jackpot. Apparently we just so happened to stop right in front of Clet’s studio on the north bank of Florence.

The young girl inside told us Clet’s story- a french painter and sculptor who’s lived in Italy for the last 20 years. His medium is varied, but in recent years has become semi-famous in different communities for these redesigned street signs.

So often when you travel you find yourself in museums looking at old art or on the street looking at old buildings. But which locals are making their mark right here and now? Who knows, in twenty years people might be flocking to Florence to see Clet. Just remember, you saw it here first.

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People Watching In Pisa

What would it have been if the tower wasn’t leaning? If they decided to destroy it after the first story sank halfway into the ground? How much does tourism do for a city? Why are people so excited by the novelty but in all the excitement they end up acting and doing like everyone else? Would Pisa still exist to travelers without the tower? Would people come to see the city itself? Or would it just turn into a sleepy Italian town filled with more history than tourists?

I guess we will never know because they continued to build it despite the tilt. And when they pushed for stabilization their only condition was that it would still be leaning. I guess it’s safe now, at least for the next 200 years. So get your picture with it while you still can.

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