One of the most common questions Lisa gets around this epic once-in-a-lifetime European adventure is…
Are you doing this on a budget?
And the answer is ABSOLUTELY yes.
So, in this episode, Lisa breaks down how she is galivanting around Europe, with 3 kids in tow, and not breaking the bank.
Is it possible to travel the world and not break the bank? You’re about to find out.
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Prefer to read? Access the transcript here.
Hey, everyone. I am recording this. It’s been a while since I’ve actually recorded a Fresh podcast episode, and that is because it has been a pretty busy time.
We had such a fabulous two weeks in Ireland. So, so fabulous. I will be sharing more about that. I had literally jam packed days in London and I was definitely getting the feeling I mean, it was obvious to me the kids were getting really quite tired and so was I, to be honest. But we did as much as we could in that fabulous city and we’ve now arrived in Munich. So we are staying with a friend of mine, a very good friend of mine and her family, and we arrived and there’s a room for the kids, there’s a room for me. We have our own bathroom, we actually have our own floor in this house. It’s crazy and it just felt like a big exhale.
There’s a trampoline out the back for the kids that you have stacks of room to move. My children love hanging out with her kids. It’s fabulous. So, so happy to be here and it just gives us all a little bit of a chance to regroup. And so ends the first part of the trip, which was the planned part, which was all of the bits that were already organized and mostly paid for. And I hadn’t wanted to continue booking things, as I’ve shared in a previous episode, because I didn’t really know how we’d go, I didn’t know the pace that was going to work for us, the types of experiences that we were going to want to have. And I did need to book us return flights. So there’s just this gap now between now and October.
It’s 19 or 20 when we fly out and we’re flying home via Thailand, where we’ll be for a few weeks and then home. And I’m really glad I did this. I’m really glad I did it this way because I’ve already learnt so much about how we roll as a group and people’s energy levels and the types of places that we really like to visit that I can definitely see levels of enjoyment. I’m noticing the places that they say they remember and that they like, and the days where they’re like, that was the best day ever. They’ve had a lot of best day evers, I must say, which I think is fabulous, but it really has given us a good sense of what we as a group want. And I’m including them in this next planning phase. There’s definitely places that they know that they would like to go to. That’s brilliant.
But what this has also given me the chance to do is see how much this traveling thing costs, where costs get leaked, and what sort of places are more expensive than others. I thought I would share a bit more about that in this podcast episode. So I have been asked by lots of people how I budgeted for a trip like this and I guess what it’s all costing. And it’s a funny thing to kind of share about. And I won’t give all of the different ins and outs what I’m going to share, which I think would be most helpful if you’re thinking about doing something like this for yourself, is some of the things that I’ve learned so far. And I guess just to give you an initial outline of what really needed to fall into place to be able to make this happen and make me not feel like this was just going to chew money. So what I generally have planned for is to not spend more money than I would at home. That’s kind of my vibe.
So, you know, obviously I’m still working while I’m away. I made that decision because it felt good to me. There are a few projects that I still hadn’t finished and wanted to get done, but there’s a lot of space for me to actually brainstorm and get my creative energy back and really sort of look with a bit of perspective at the work I’m doing and the work that I want to do moving forward. But recording this podcast episode, keeping connected on socials, and there’s a whole heap going on behind the scenes as well. I was happy to do that because I have always worked around my children. When I first started the business, I had three kids at home with me and I would just be ninja in their nap time. So, I mean, I got them all sleeping at the exact same time. So I’d get two, two and a half hours every day to work.
Or I’d work when they’d gone to bed. Or sometimes I’d get up early and do things. So it’s not as though this is particularly unusual for me. It feels quite normal for me to be sneaking in some work time around kids, but that’s not to say it’s actually been easy. And like for the last week in London, there was no way I could I was finding it trickier than usual. There just wasn’t much space. The days were really, really full. But that was sort of my original plan.
But in order to do that, there were two key things that happened and one of them was being able to find friends who were going to move into our rental and we subleeased to them. So when I knew I wasn’t going to have to pay my rent, at home that was like, oh, okay, maybe this can happen. And then I decided to go and get a quote for flights. So there was all sorts of things that I had actually wanted to do on this trip, as I think I shared. I wanted to do a month in each different place. I have a cousin who lives in South Africa. I had wanted to come home via South Africa and see where she lives. I wanted to do cruise in Norway, up the fjords.
There was all sorts of things I kind of wanted to do and had ideas for. And when it came down to just I couldn’t afford to do certain things. So including South Africa on a round the world flight almost doubled the prices. It also meant insurance. Travel insurance went up a lot. I think the same goes in America. I chose the places we were going because I knew that there was good health care, but also because of the budget. So here’s a handy tip to anybody.
I had no idea. So we’re flying FinAir does direct flights from parts of Asia to Helsinki. And if you followed along, you’ll see that we landed in Helsinki and we got a flight to Copenhagen when we were heading to Sweden. The Helsinki thing, I mean, the flights, when they came in, I had kind of thought for the four of us, we flew to Brisbane, from Melbourne to Brisbane to Sydney to Tokyo, and then we were going to Europe and then back to Bangkok and Melbourne. I had sort of thought people had told me it might be around 20 grand for us to do that, especially as I was booking so late and I was really sitting on whether that would just eat way too much into the budget. I worked with a travel agent, which was a brilliant investment to make. It was just a really small fee. She ended up coming back with a plan for those flights.
So it ended up being Melbourne to Brisbane. To Sydney to Tokyo to Helsinki and then Copenhagen and then Helsinki to Bangkok and Melbourne. And for all four of us it cost twelve and a half grand. And to me oh, hang on. No, it also included I think that that also included no, I don’t think it did. Oh, now I’m getting a little bit muddled. I think basically all of those were included in the two and a half. We also got flights from Stockholm to Oslo.
I decided to save some money and we got the ferry from Oslo down to Copenhagen. Overnight trips on ferries are a way cheaper option to travel than many other things I highly recommend. And it’s such a novelty for the kids. And then we got a flight from Copenhagen to Dublin, dublin to Heathrow, and Heathrow to Munich. And that was way cheaper than I thought it was going to be as well. So for twelve and a half grand to get us all the way to Europe. And stopping in Asia I thought was a brilliant thing. So that happened and I went, okay, yeah, we’re going.
The rent was covered. Okay, we’re going. And I had this rough idea of budget in my head, but the other thing that I had working for me and have the whole time is that oftentimes we’re staying with people. So I didn’t have expectations. There were people I wanted to see, there were places that I wanted to go so I could go and visit people. And everyone has been so outrageously generous. We are four people. That’s not a small amount of people to have in your house, often quite small houses.
But having accommodation is the biggest expense by far. And because we’re a crew of four individuals, it’s not a couple and two kids, it’s four individuals that’s sort of different when it comes to a lot of the accommodation options. But the fact that I reckon for half of the time we haven’t had accommodation expenses, that’s a huge, huge saving. And I’m always very grateful to the people who take us in, and I find ways to make sure that we show our appreciation. But it really has changed the game. Now that I’ve sort of shared those major things, I just want to share a few things that I have learned and then I’ll talk a little bit more about the accommodation that we have had to pay for. So just straight up, I’m not shopping on this trip. There’s been a few things that we’ve bought, but the kids know this is not a big buy.
All the souvenirs buy new clothes, we’re not out shopping. I am not spending money on much except for accommodation, food and experiences. But here’s the thing, food will completely blow your budget if you let it. And there has been places that we’ve stayed that haven’t had a kitchen and whoa, it’s really, really interesting what ends up happening. So being unprepared with food each day is going to bite you. There’s nothing worse than hangry kids or a hangry Lisa. So the first thing that I always do whenever we arrive somewhere new is find a supermarket and I just buy, I guess my go to at the supermarket, we would get some carrots and cucumber and tomatoes, and we would get things like a bag of apples. It’s summer over here, so beautiful summer fruits are available, so getting berries or melon and that kind of thing.
Also trying to keep up the oranges and all of that sort of stuff. So we usually get some fruit and veg. There’s some very simple fruit and veg and then bread and butter and breakfasts have been trickier than I thought. I mean, we’ve had a lot of eggs. Eggs would be the other thing that I would get. And maybe some bacon. I have one tricky eater. I have just had to really, really let go and just think it’s not worth trying and experimenting with a whole heap of stuff.
We’re keeping things very, very simple. If there’s bagels, we’ll get bagels or croissants, we’ll get croissants because yeah, I mean, a good breakfast matters, but sometimes it’s just toast with butter. Sometimes I’ve had to fry that bread because there’s no toasters in places, and then put an egg on it and we are done. We’re not having gourmet experiences at all. But the kids understand and they know and look, they’re pretty easy going characters for the most part. Often I’ll get some rolls or wraps and look, just some deli meat, some sliced chicken or ham or something like that, and some cheese and we’ll wrap that up or put them in rolls for the next day for lunches. Then I’ll just get something like musli bars and a packet of chips or something, or some cookies. And there’s just always got to be food on standby because if people are really hungry and you can just tell when they’re getting depleted and hungry and cranky and you need something to go into kids, I mean, just little rice cakes, giving them those or some crackers or stuff like that.
And fruit, just having that there, knowing that’s there in our backpack to chuck at them, to just get them a little bit further. Or if there’s long public transport waits or rides or whatever, it can honestly ruin a day if the kids are just whinging and complaining about food. So I’ve learned very quickly, just if you find a supermarket, get some fruit and veg, get something for breakfast. So make sure there’s always something for breakfast the next day. I mean, I’ve just been buying sausages. We’ll often have if we’re at home for dinner, we’ll have sausages and some veggies. Keeping it so, so simple. I’ve done the old pesto tuna pasta combination a few times.
I mean, we are back to basics because most places that I’m staying in aren’t fully decked out kitchens. Many times, to keep the cost of things down, I’m staying in one room and there might be a little kitchenette and a bathroom. It’s been more important to me to get to places that we can have a fun time in than having lovely accommodation. We’re not in the accommodation very much. We’ve been out and about now for the next part of the journey where we might spend a week somewhere. It might be more important to have a proper kitchen so we can kind of settle in. But right now it has been keeping things as simple and basic as possible so that we can have a really good time. That would be my recommendation with food, is to just have that stuff also.
Then it means that if a meal is out, then you can enjoy it because you’re not eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out. Even morning and afternoon tea out. No, it blows the budget completely in London, you’re going to a pub and having dinner or even having lunch, that was often over $100, which was crazy, which to me just feels like a lot. We have not been doing that stuff very often, also because the kids just get kids meals, which is just a lot of chips. Who care? I have really had to relax about food and I would much prefer to go to markets, try local things in every place. It’s important for me for the kids to try foods that are local to the area or special to the area, for sure. I actually think it’s a huge part of a cultural experience. It ends up getting very expensive to do it all the time.
So don’t be unprepared with food. Get your basics sorted, loosen your standards is all I’ll say. I’ve shopped at supermarkets more in the last two months than I have in the last two years. Anyway, the other thing that I wanted to say while we sort of brought up the accommodation, was that I have many times had to sleep next to a child in a bed. And I really don’t like that, to be honest. I would prefer to take one of the single beds and have the two kids smash each other with their arms and legs than be in the firing line of that. But once again, people have asked, how do you get rooms with four people? And oftentimes there is a double bed and two singles, or there’s a double bed and a single, and then you can ask for an extra one. Bookings.com and airbnb have been the two places that I have done most accommodation searching for.
In fact, Amy on my team, she was so amazing at helping me find accommodation in Japan and some of it was hit and miss. It was small, but they use space very, very effectively. But I think that that was my first initiation into, okay, I’m not going to have much personal space for my children on this holiday. How do I feel about that? Well, this is a bit of feeling like a bit of a shock. And if I had the choice, I would always take a room to myself. Always. Always. It just gets way more expensive to be buying two bedroom, hiring two bedroom places, so I’ve just sucked it up.
I would prefer to do fun things or try different foods than blow my budget so that I can have a room to myself when look, it’s really just about sleep. You can always ask for extra beds. I would say do that if you want, but it can get crampy. And look, there is only one of me and I think if there was two adults, it would probably feel really different. So do whatever is right for you. It’s been very important to have accommodation that is close to public transport. I would say that has been my number one criteria with where we stay, it needs to be walking distance from a train station. Usually we’re all carrying our loads on our backs.
And there were times in Japan where even well, it was like 100 million degrees. It means that even if it there was one place, I think it was about 800, 900 meters from the train station. But it was so hot that day and we’d been traveling for hours, and I just put us all in a taxi. And it didn’t cost all that much because it was really, really close. We could have walked it, but it’s that whole, no one’s going to give you a medal for doing this the hard way. I took an easy taxi trip that day, for sure, but making sure that where we’re staying is close to public transport is essential because we’re out and about all of the days. So that has been absolutely key. If I’ve been able to have a place that also has a washing machine and dryer, that is also super helpful.
Staying on top of clothes when you don’t have very many is perfect because we’ve stayed with people, with friends and family along the way. We’ve been really lucky with that. There was one day in Copenhagen that I had to find a laundromat. Otherwise we’ve either had it where we are well, otherwise we’ve had it where we are. That has been really, really good, or we’ve had to wait till the next place and we’ve had enough to get us through a little bit of undies. Washing in the basin never goes astray. There was a time it was in Copenhagen and I knew by the end of that we would have finished Japan. And it was the last stop of our scandi tour.
And I actually booked us into a hotel. I think I shared about this on a previous podcast. It was a good price, but there was no kitchen. And when I arrived there, there wasn’t even a fridge. What there was, was a buffet breakfast. And so the kids were pumped. This is the thing. Kids are still kids.
My kids like that place in Copenhagen had a pool that had diving boards. It had climbing that you could do up the side of a pool and then you fall back into the water. I mean, they were in actual heaven. And so what I would do is often we would have two breakfasts, so we’d have an early one and then we’d go back again. Or I’d do the old, wrap a few croissants up and put them in my bag. So that was lunch sorted. Or we’d have a really late breakfast. And that was kind of their lunch too.
So in Copenhagen, we were really having two meals a day. I’d just kind of pump them with fruit and snacks and get them through to dinner. But it was expensive to eat out for dinner in Copenhagen. So I ended up finding places that we could share food. And often I’ll do that often I’ll just order some entrees or order one big main and we all kind of chop up the main and then have some sides. There’s ways you can do it on the cheap. And my kids aren’t massive eaters, so I think that that’s really helpful. I mean, they’re not teenagers yet.
My son isn’t doing what everyone tells me teenage boys do, so it definitely feels manageable on that too, though, eating out. There’s only been a few occasions. Well, London, I definitely had a pint when we were in English pubs. But I think alcohol adds a huge expense when you’re traveling. I’ve noticed, because at home, gosh, I maybe have one or two drinks a week. And here it was sort of like that holiday vibe. And I thought, what am I doing spending money on this? I don’t actually need it. I don’t know if it’s adding anything right now.
Now, that’s not to say it doesn’t sometimes. And that I had a few little half pints of Guinness while I was in Ireland, but I’m not a big drinker. And I think that if I was, that can absolutely blow out a budget for sure. Drinking alcohol is not a cheap thing to do, so I order water for the table and that’s money saving, too. Okay, just a few more little bits and pieces. So we’ve covered food, we’ve covered accommodation and experiences. So what I have found for sure, with experiences, there’s been some big budget things. Two big budget things.
One was Universal Studios and the other was the Harry Potter Studios. Warner Brothers Studios. I was fine to do them, but it bites. And that’s not what this trip is all about, even although I’m sure they’ll be the things that the kids remember most. Both were exceptional, but I realized very quickly that most cities have brilliant free entry stuff. But the thing that they like doing the most is things in nature. Going for bushwalks, going for swims, just walking around cities, even just paying for public transport and being able to get around and see things, creating little walking tours, that is the stuff that they really love doing. It doesn’t cost anything.
A lot of public transport in Europe is free for kids, which is amazing. Oh, my God. Melbourne’s public transport system, it just feels like a joke compared to what’s happening over here. But with the paid experiences that you do, just, I would say, be picky about them. I mean, the kids saw the Science Museum in London and that was free. So is the Natural History Museum. And I think, yeah, we didn’t get to that one. But I really wanted to do Tower Bridge.
I had never been up there, I’d never seen inside. It’s sort of something that I’d always wanted to do. So we paid to go in and do that and we loved that experience. The kids loved it as well. We didn’t pay to do everything and I don’t do that in cities. But there’s so much, I mean, this is Europe, you can see so much on the outside. We’re not in places forever, that’s what I would say. Even in Dublin, I would going into Bulis on Grafton Street and they got a beautiful we got scones with jam and cream and they got these special hot chocolates and just being in there and having that experience and the amazing Joan Cheekily covered that for us.
But that’s an experience that is special. We do the special things. There was nothing much special about bloody Eminem shop in London, but that was like the bloody highlight of their trip. Which is annoying, not really, but they absolutely loved it. But once know you’re there, sure, guys like, grab a little bag and put some Eminems in your bloody thing, whatever, I’ll do that. But we’re not buying merch. They want everything. I do say no a lot, I do say no a lot, but they also understand, because we’re talking about money all the time, they’re seeing how much things cost, they’re making decisions about whether we should do stuff or not.
It’s actually been brilliant, the sense of ownership the kids have over the experiences that they have chosen or that they know have cost money. But they also are the same. The beaches, the swims, most fun things, the last things. I’m just having a look here at my notes. We’re not buying, souvenirs that’s for sure. The only thing we are buying, and we made this decision together, is that in every place we go to, we buy something for the Christmas tree and usually they’re flat because we need to fit them into the backpacks and that will be our thing. So every year we’ll put up the Christmas tree and we’ll have memories of the places that we’ve been and that’s been a really lovely thing to do, actually. But other than that, we’re not buying.
Souvenirs in all the places we go, they just know that we’ve got no room and I’m saying no. We all bought a special little bracelet that they thought reminded them of their dad when they saw them, so we thought, let’s buy them all. And then they also bought some for their cousins so they can all share in these little bands and so that sort of stuff I’m fine with, but otherwise this is not a shopping party. So the money that I’m really spending is on accommodation, on food and on experiences and we’re doing them all cheaply, really. The plan now is for us to spend a little bit more time in the places that we go to throughout September and October and use Munich as our base to come back to. So we’ll probably do some day trips to places that are close, but we’re going to go to certain places and we’ll be there, know, five to seven days. I’ve realized that moving around a lot, it’s not just expensive to do that. It costs time and energy.
Traveling days are big days when you’re carrying all the stuff. And most often it’s like some public transport, either one or two trips on public transport to get to an airport, to then get to another airport or dock or wherever we’re landing, to then get public transport to where we’re staying. And we’ve done that a lot and I actually love it. I love getting to airports. I love the idea now. We’re very good at the packing up. It’s actually like a beautiful thing to see stuff. It can be everywhere and then it all comes together.
Everyone’s responsible for their own things and we pack up and we’re heading to somewhere brand new. The excitement of that gets me through those travel days and the kids as well. But it takes a toll. They’re tired, I’m tired. And so limiting that a little bit now and just going a little bit slower, getting to a place, being able to set up there will feel really, really good. That’s definitely the way that I want to move. And the way that I’m doing it is I actually just before was trying to suss out the best AI tools that are available these days to find the cheapest flights to places because we’re not sort of set on where we need to be. We definitely know we want to get to Paris.
A friend is going to be in Italy and I think we might go to Croatia and then get a ferry across to Italy. But that’s still sort of got to be sorted. And my daughter, her dream place to go is Spain. Putting stuff in there, finding an airbnb that often is the equivalent of a week’s rent or at home or a little bit more than that. And then really just trying to keep everything as budget friendly as I can. I think what they want a lot is just beach holidays. They just want to be near the water. I would love to go down to the Greek islands.
There’s heaps there’s heaps. We’re not going to be able to do everything and I am having to make decisions on budget because it’s just not endless. But it’s wonderful to be here in Munich. It’s wonderful to have a base now that we can return to Recoup, be with an amazing family. It’s fabulous. Knowing that this was going to be possible as well was another thing that made me feel confident in the trip. That is some helpful information for you, hopefully. Really, when people were asking about budget, it’s really how long is a piece of string? We could be doing it even way, way cheaper, way cheaper than we’re doing it.
And there’s some brilliant Facebook groups around that you can join and become part of, groups of people who are traveling with their kids and doing it as cheaply. As possible. Some people hire campervans over here. People are finding campgrounds and all of that sort of stuff. For me, I think because we have had the absolute gift of being able to stay with people, that has meant that it’s made a huge, huge difference to the budget. I’m so grateful for that. Hiring a car in Ireland was a big expense as well. I forgot to mention that.
But it allowed us to see so, so much. And while we were there, we were so lucky. We only had to pay for two nights accommodation that whole two weeks. So that’s what I mean. We have been very, very lucky. We didn’t pay for any accommodation for the whole week in Sweden. Really lucky. When we were in Brisbane and Sydney, we were also covered.
It’s been amazing. You have to choose what’s important to you, what you value on a holiday. Moving too fast, I have realized it’s just not fun for anyone. I am absolutely here for an experience and that doesn’t actually involve ticking off all of the most important sites. I figure this is giving the kids a taste of travel, a sense that the world is much bigger than what they know. It’s less important to me that this is the chance for them to see all of the things and understand everything. This is like a test, a taster. And when they’re older, they can come back and take in all of the amazing museums and all of the amazing sites when it really will make more sense to them and they’ll get a lot more value out of that.
I choose things for us to do that I think are going to be really fun for all of us. And so far that’s working. I hope that that has been helpful. Please let me know if you’ve got any more questions and I am more than happy to answer them on the podcast, but I’ve got lots more to come, lots more updates for you and reflections. There’s been a lot that has been falling into place, a lot that has been discovered by me. I am really, really grateful for that. Anyway, I’m going to go and make my amazing friend and her family some lasagna for dinner. I went to the shops, as I do.
They’ve got a place over here called Lidl, which is like an Aldi competitor, equivalent competitor. Feels like Aldi when you’re in there, but I think it was started up by like, the brother of Aldi. I don’t know, there’s some sort of story behind that. I’ll try and figure it out and let you know. I’ll speak to you soon.
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