In 2011, my husband and I got married and we decided that we wanted to go on an epic honeymoon. Unfortunately, I was really worried about the budget for the trip. Regardless of being so concerned with the budget, we decided to go to Europe.
Starting to Plan the Trip
We started off with brainstorming ideas about places that we could go to, we weren’t explicit about specific cities or even a specific order. It really helps when researching the most cost effective ways to not have a really specific order/location.
I love spreadsheets, naturally I already had a wedding spreadsheet with about 20 tabs and started the honeymoon planning with just a tab in that spreadsheet. I quickly realized that I needed a new workbook for it.
Getting There (and Getting Back)
Look at cities that are close to the Atlantic Ocean/coast to fly into from North America. They are always significantly cheaper. I knew the dates that I wanted to go, so I narrowed it down to London, Paris and Amsterdam had the most flights, and the most reasonable costs.
We chose to fly into Amsterdam and out of Paris, as these were the most appealing, affordable options.
Getting Around Europe
Trains, planes, automobiles. Take a look at EuroRail Passes, compare the fare between your desired cities. Look at a map and making a ring or loop so that you aren’t travelling back and forth across Europe. For airfare, plan to pack light and you can get some absolutely amazing airfare deals on RyanAir. There are no frills involved and you pay for absolutely everything, just be aware and pre-plan by buying the max. luggage at booking to avoid absurd overage fees. Also, be aware that you Ryan Air doesn’t fly to the major airports, which may mean that you have to take a shuttle bus or rent a car to get into the city. Even with these fees, it can be cheaper to fly.
Amsterdam-Its such a fun, vibrant, unique city. The one thing that you have to be aware of is hotel rooms are, let’s put it nicely, unique. The rooms are small, don’t get anything fancy, it will not be worth it. We did a small room, it had a shared bathroom, at first I thought it was very odd but it turned out not to be. You are never in your hotel room anyways, so there isn’t a point in getting anything fancy. Go for affordable in a good location.
I researched the costs of hotel rooms in each of the desired cities, this was the last thing that I worked on booking. I have a few hotel brand points and decided this was the time to use up some points. I didn’t have enough points to cover all of the hotel rooms in every city, or even enough to cover an entire city (bummer). IHG points have a points plus cash option, the points required depends on the city. I picked the cities that had the most expensive hotels per night, that I couldn’t find affordable options and decided to do the points with cash option. Using some of my hotel points plus $40 US, gave us affordable rooms in cities like Paris.
We rented cars in both Germany and Italy. Both countries, we wanted to see much more than one city. It was worth it and very enjoyable to be able to see the country by car. Get the smallest car possible in most countries, parking is very creative, and you will often find yourself driving down the narrowest streets and then trying to park in tiny little spots. Forgo luxury for practicality. You will thank me.
I booked a BMW in Germany, specifically because we wanted to drive fast on the Autobahn. I was very disappointed when I got to Sixt and they informed me that the vehicle I had booked was not available and they were offering me an upgrade. The upgrade was a Ford Focus. I was crushed. I did not come all the way to Germany to drive an American car. I wanted to drive a German car on the Autobahn. It included navigation, which meant that we did not have to pay extra to rent one, so I gave in and decided to take the car. Within a few minutes of driving, we realized that this was one really nice Ford Focus ST ecoboost and at the time was nothing like what they currently have in North America. We drove it up to 220kph on the Autobahn, in the rain. So it definitely performed. It included backup camera, so that really helped with parking but I would have preferred a smaller car for a majority of the maneuvering.
I had a very strict budget set ahead of time for food/shopping/attractions. Once we got there, I started paying no attention to the daily budget, I was just mindful of how often I ended up going to get money out of the machine. Every night did not have to be a fancy dinner, and some of the places that we were going to were in the outskirts, so dinner had much more affordable options.
Day 1: Fly to Amsterdam
Day 2: Amsterdam Site Seeing
Day 3: Amsterdam Site Seeing
Day 4: Travel to Duren, Germany by train, pick up car rental and drive to Cochem
Day 5: Sightseeing multiple castles (Burg Eltz and Cochem), eat schnitzel
Day 6: NURBURGRING!
Day 7: Drive 600km to the Autobahn to Wolfsburg
Day 8: Tour Autostadt (which is amazing!)
Day 9: Drive back to Dusseldorf and take Ryanair to Venice, Italy
Day 10: Sightseeing in Venice
Day 11: Pick up car rental and drive to visit family
Day 12: Drive to Pisa and Florence
Day 13: Sightseeing in Florence
Day 14: Drive to Rome and drop off car rental
Day 15: Casual sightseeing around the city
Day 16: Visit the Vatican
Day 17: Visit the Coliseum and other attractions
Day 18: Fly from Rome to Paris on Ryanair
Day 19: Tour the Eiffel Tower, eat lots of crepes
Day 20: Visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, catacombs and Triange d’Or
Day 21: Fly from Paris to Home
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Check out my Weekend Getaway Packing Post here.