Answer: It depends.  On a lot of things.  Your transportation costs are going to be a big one.  Plane tickets, train passes, and the associated taxes, fees, and extras are going to eat up a considerable portion of your budget.  

But it’s not impossible to travel cheaply.  That’s what the point of this is.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a good time.  In fact, sometimes the budget trips–staying in a hostel, eating from grocery stores, and using every student discount you can get your hands on–is the most profound, fascinating trip experience.  

When planning your trip, you need to remember that there are more than just the actual trip cost.  A big chunk of change is going to be gone before you ever get to the airport.  

Pre-Trip Expenses

Passport: Unless you already have one, a passport is going to run $97 if you are a U.S. citizen, plus $10-20 for pictures. Be sure to get your passport at least three months before you plan to leave, as processing is taking up to ten weeks in some cases.  You can get it faster with expedited service for an extra $60.  

Travel Guides: varies. With the recent rise in book prices, you will probably spend at least $15 for one guidebook, and I recommend having more than one.  Estimate $15-70 for your guidebooks.  

Backpack: If you’re going to backpack, you need a good one.  Don’t spend more than $250.  Make sure it fits comfortably and is not too big.  You don’t need an enormous wilderness backpack–you’re not carrying all of your food, tents, etc.  If you are, then consider something a little bigger.  A decent backpack will probably run about $85-110.  

International Student Identification Card (ISIC): $20.  Provides discounts that are well worth the $20 it costs you.  

Airline Tickets: This is going to be a huge one, and getting larger every day.  It’s hard to average this one, because there are so many variables.  When you fly, where you fly, round trip v. one-way, airline, state of the economy, gas prices, and whether or not you found the best deal.  Generally, though, you can expect to shell out a big one for a round trip ticket–if you get a good deal.  I will not even venture to guess what airline prices will be in the future.  This is one that needs to be researched carefully.  

Train Pass: If you’re planning on traveling for any length of time and/or going a large distance, then you should definitely consider a train pass for $400-$800.  Again, this is trip specific, but you should expect to spend about this amount on travel even if you end up buying individual train tickets, bus passes, etc.  

Random Things: Allot about $30-$200 for other expenses like: good clothes, hiking shoes, first-aid kit, toiletries, rainjacket/poncho, socks, etc.  Also consider a sleeping bag, bed liner (buy one for $20 or make one by sewing a sheet together,) small bags, sewing kits, cooking utensils (pick up backpacking pots, pans, cups, silverware, for easily packable items.)  For entertainment on long trains or flights, consider an iPod or other MP3 player if you don’t have one already.  You can get an iPod shuffle for under a hundred dollars.  It hold plenty of music and if it gets lost, stolen, or broken, it’s not that big of a deal.  

TOTAL: $1300-$2500

Some of this expense can be either reduced or eliminated by cleverly asking for these things for your birthday, Christmas, graduation, etc.  If you already own a passport, make sure it isn’t going to expire within six months of your estimated return date.  You might already own some of the smaller things, and it’s possible to get better deals on plane tickets–at least at the moment.  

Don’t get discouraged if this seems like a lot.  There are ways to cut it down, and remember–this includes your transportation costs. 

Now for some ON THE ROAD COSTS

Food: Restaurant prices in Europe are ridiculous. Unless you have the money, buy your food at grocery stores or markets and eat at a park.  Try limiting yourself to two meals a day: breakfast, and a late lunch/dinner.  You can get by on about 10-20 euros a day this way.

Lodging: Hostels are going to cost a lot more in big cities like Paris and London and a lot less out in the country and in Eastern Europe.  Estimate 15-50 euros a night for lodging; the high end for big cities and the lower end for everywhere else.  

Incidentals: You’ll probably occasionally want to take a bus or subway, go to a museum or other place that charges admission, have a snack, or buy new supplies.  For this, depending on your spending habits, where you are, and what you’re buying, estimate 10-30 euros a day.  

In general, multiply the number of days you’re going to be there by 50-70 euros.  If you’re planning on being in Europe for two weeks, multiply 14×50=700.  Of course, this depends on what level of living you’re planning on having, where you are going, and what season.  The bust summer months are probably not the best idea of you’re looking for relative solitude and a good deal.  And everything’s a bit uncertain now with the fluctuating stock market and raising prices.  

 


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