In case you missed it, we recently went on an eight day family road trip in Europe with two kids in tow. I meticulously kept records of every last penny we spent on the trip to see exactly how much it cost us in total. In this blog post I will share with you a breakdown of how much our trip to Europe cost as a family of four.
I will also share some tips on how to save money when travelling on a budget in Europe later on in the blog post.
Travel spending diary – 8 day Europe road trip
Of course a trip can cost as much or as little as you want, depending on your needs and itinerary. Our aim was to keep the trip as cheap as possible and find lots of free things to do in the cities, but with a boat tour of Amsterdam and a couple of meals out. The ultimate aim was to visit my husband’s gran in Germany and to stop in Amsterdam on the way and Bruges on the way back.
We’d usually fly, but flights can be as much as £200 each with Flybe from Birmingham to Hannover being the flight option. Then we add on car hire and accommodation and before we know it we’ve spent £1500-£2000 on booking a trip to visit family in Germany!
Our aim this time was to see if we could do a road trip to Europe on a budget and make it cheaper than flying over to Germany. Plus we’d get to visit two European cities to make it into a proper holiday.
Our original budget aim was very adventurous at just £1000. We actually ended up spending £1400, but this included £200 of European breakdown cover and travel insurance which will last us a whole year. So technically this trip could really have come in at around £1200 which I think is pretty amazing.
Breakdown of costs for Europe road trip as a family of four
I kept a notebook with me the whole time and jotted down everything we spent money on. Some things are annual, like insurance, so we can use them again for more trips. We also had to buy a few items such as a camping kettle which we can obviously use on more holidays. We had to buy them for this family holiday so I’ve included them in the total costs for this holiday, but you could disregard them really.
Here’s a total breakdown of the costs for our 8 day family trip to Europe:
· LV= Britannia Rescue £142
This was a pretty crazy cost! I went mad trying to find us European breakdown cover as our Mazda Bongo is 24 years old and most companies would only cover cars 10 years old or younger. Some would cover up to 15 years for an additional premium.
Luckily Ben is a member of a Mazda Bongo owners club and we were able to find what other people use for breakdown which led us to LV= Britannia Rescue. We even found them here on Top Cashback for £10.10 back.
This breakdown cover will last us one year, so we’d better make some more trips to Europe in the Bongo to make the most of this staggering cost.
Luckily we didn’t breakdown at all which is good as we’ve spent so much money repairing the van since we’ve had it!
· Medical travel insurance £55
Again this is an annual cost so not just for this trip, but typically our last annual cover ran out the week before so we had to take this out before we travelled. Reuben has a heart condition so we always have to pay slightly more for a medical travel insurance, so you can probably find a cheaper insurance if you don’t have a pre-existing medical condition.
· European travel car kit £28
It’s a legal requirement in many European countries to have a European car kit with certain items such as breathalysers, hi-viz vests, a warning triangle, spare bulbs, headlight deflectors and more. As it was our first time driving our UK car to the rest of Europe we had to purchase a travel kit.
Many countries give an on-the-spot fine if you don’t have the items in your car so it’s worth getting one. I found an entire kit on eBay that had everything we needed.
· DFDS return ferry £161
We travelled from Dover to Dunkirk and then back again on our return. It was cheaper to go to Dunkirk than Calais for our travel dates, plus it shaved 30 minutes off our road travel time each way.
· Camping in Amsterdam £76
We camped for two nights in our camper at Camping Vliegenbos. It was a ten minute walk to a free ferry that took two minutes to cross the water and we were in the centre of Amsterdam. I thought this price was amazing for a camper for two nights. Tents will be even cheaper!
· Airbnb near Bruges £120
Our Airbnb in Bruges was only £60 per night and we stayed two nights. It was actually a 25 minute drive from the centre of Bruges and we stayed on a farm! I had been looking at central hotels last minute and they were around £300 per night so we made a great saving with Airbnb. We stayed in an area called Wingene if you’re looking on Airbnb. It was a two bed split level apartment.
· Supermarket food shops £187
We took a lot of food with us that we’d bought in the supermarkets in England before we left. We also made around three small supermarket shops whilst away. We took as much dry food with us that didn’t need refrigerating so we could make ourselves packed lunches each day. I’m going to share another blog post soon on food ideas for a road trip when you don’t have a fridge! To save even more money at the supermarket for your road trip then check out this handy list of supermarket reduction times.
· Restaurant bills £190
So again, we didn’t need to spend this much on eating out and on-the-go, but we did. We could have cut costs even more by totally eating from the supermarkets and making our own foods, but we did want to treat ourselves a little.
These costs include some food on the ferry both ways, two meals out in Amsterdam, one meal out in Bruges, a round of drinks at a bar in Germany, plus a Burger King meal at some services during an 11 hour drive! Not going to feel guilty about that meal after such a mission of a drive!!
· Diesel £308
We drove 1700 miles in total in our Mazda Bongo which is diesel. We stopped for fuel six times.
· Amsterdam boat tour £47
We booked an Amsterdam boat tour via online company Viator to be sure we had tickets, plus to get some cashback rather than paying on the day! It was totally worth it and I really recommend Flagship Amsterdam cruises.
· Random items £30.50
We needed to buy some items for this trip that will also be for future trips and use too. They were a 5L kilner for taking more of our own water with us, a travel night light for the kids, a camping kettle and a bed sheet for our futon mattress in the camper.
· Tram £15
We used the tram in Amsterdam twice. We could have walked and saved this money, but the kids did walk 14km that day (ages four and seven!)
· Toilets £3
At the services it’s usually 50 cents to use the toilet! Make sure you take some change!
· Flowers and chocolate £12
We spent £8 on a potted flower for Ben’s gran who we visited in Germany. We didn’t buy ourselves any souvenirs or anything, but when in Belgium we did buy a bar of Belgian chocolate for £4!
· Toll £5
We only encountered one toll road in our entire 1700 mile journey! Quite amazing!
· Parking £8
We parked right in the centre of Bruges next to the Belfry Tower! It’s amazing you can just drive into the centre of the city and park on the street! This was for four hours of parking which was plenty of time for us to walk around the city, absorb the sights and grab some lunch.
Grand total £1387.50
I think our grand total is pretty impressive and some of the costs weren’t only for this trip but I’ve included them as they were needed to purchase because of this trip.
There were also lots of ways we could have made it even cheaper by not ever eating out or not taking the tram, but we did want to treat ourselves a little, especially as it was Ben’s birthday whilst we were away!
There were three nights we had no accommodation costs as we stayed at Ben’s uncle’s in Germany, however I did look into a campsite in Soltau which was 36 euros per night so not too bad a price if we had camped.
Our 8 day Europe road trip travel diary
If you want to see what we got up to for the whole eight days and all the photos then check out all my travel diary blog posts here:
- Europe family road trip day 1 – England to Netherlands / UNESCO World Heritage Kinderdijk / Camping Vliegenbos
- Europe family road trip day 2 – exploring Amsterdam
- Europe family road trip day 3 – driving from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Munster, Germany
- Europe family road trip day 4 – Soltau, Germany
- Europe family road trip day 5 – Munster, Germany
- Europe family road trip day 6 – coastal scenic drive from Germany to Belgium
- Europe family road trip day 7 – a few hours in Bruges
- Europe family road trip day 8 – back to the UK
How to save money on a road trip abroad with kids
We were really trying to do this road trip on a budget, originally £1000 then realised that was adventurous as we needed breakdown and travel insurance which was £200 before we even booked anything else! I decided under £1500 was good and amazingly we did the lot for under £1400.
Here are some travel tips on how to save money when going on a road trip abroad with kids. It’s what we did and it helped us to slash the costs of European travel.
Accommodation can really eat into your travel budget. Whilst a fancy hotel is probably my preferred option, it is a bit luxurious and especially with kids. My mind is actually changing on staying in expensive hotels as I’d rather spend less on accommodation and be able to travel more instead!
The cheapest way to travel has to be to camp. We managed to find a campsite for two nights in Amsterdam for £76 in total. I thought this was a bargain! We had to walk 10 minutes from the campsite and hop on a free ferry that took us to the centre of Amsterdam in around two minutes. We were so close. The campsite was also really well equipped and the staff were so friendly.
I’m pretty sure we’d have struggled to find a hotel that cost as low as this for one night, let alone two nights as a family of four.
My second tip is to look on Airbnb. This is fast becoming my favourite way to find accommodation when we don’t want to camp. There are so many options that are cheaper than hotels, plus you get so much more.
When we were in Bruges I found hotels were charging £300 per night, perhaps as we were booking with just over one week’s notice, but still. I tried Airbnb and found a two bed apartment for just £60 per night. What a difference!
Take your own food
The best part about travelling in your own car is you can take your own food and save a small fortune!
We did eat out a few times during our whole eight days, but the rest of the time we ate food we took or we grabbed ingredients from a supermarket.
Eating our own food saved us so much money. We did a food shop before we left and got as much dried food as possible that didn’t need a refrigerator.
Each day we made a packed lunch to take with us. This included things like: peanut butter on rice crackers, tinned pineapple, tinned sweetcorn, a fruit pouch, fruit, a dried fruit bar and so on.
In the evenings, depending on where we were staying, we either ate out as a treat (but only a handful of times and you can save more money by never eating out), cooking Naked noodles or Naked soup which just needed hot water (from our camping stove and kettle when we were camping), pasta and chopped tomatoes or beans on pitta bread (when we had accommodation with a kitchen).
We also distil our own water at home and took around 10 litres with us which lasted a few days before we had to start buying any bottled water.
Find free things to do
Luckily one of my favourite things to do is to explore places on foot. I’m also partial to a boat trip, but quite happy to mull about taking in the sights, people and experiences on foot.
When in Amsterdam we walked 14km! Poor kids! They did great. We did also get a short tram ride at one point, a free ferry and we had pre-booked a boat tour which was the only paid activity we did for the entire eight days!
The best thing about Amsterdam and Bruges are they are very picturesque cities with canals, beautiful architecture and cobbled streets. They are perfect to just wander around on foot to see the sights which saves a great deal of money!
In Amsterdam we also went to the OBA Bibliotheek which is their library. It’s obviously free to enter as it’s a library and we were given a tip to go there as on the top floor where the café is, you can see the whole of Amsterdam from the balcony. It was a great discovery and it was free.
There are also free ferries in Amsterdam so the kids loved hopping on one of these to get across the water!
We managed to make some cashback on our trip too!
You can get cashback on your DFDS ferry from Dover, an experience booked with Viator (a Tripadvisor company who we booked our Amsterdam boat tour with), European breakdown cover and even on your travel insurance.
Travelling to Europe by car can definitely be done on a budget. There are lots of ways we could have even made it cheaper and less than £1000 if we’d really wanted to or if we didn’t have upfront costs of annual travel insurance and breakdown cover for this trip.