What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Europe?

What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Europe?

The Iberian Blitz

When my brother moved to Spain to teach English, my family – having never been to Spain – naturally decided we had to go visit.  Soon some other family members decided to join, and then some good friends did too. Our plans exploded into a giant complex mess of twelve people’s ideas and expectations, which after several hundred email exchanges somehow resulted in airplane tickets and lodging reservations and then, against all odds, culminated in a trip that was an absolute blast.

I think people are always curious about what travel really costs, but many of us who are actually traveling either don’t keep careful track or don’t want to share… or maybe a little of both.  Since I’m trying to be more aware of my spending and more transparent about where we as a family put our money, I am happy to be sharing here about one of the most expensive (and most chaotic) trips we have ever taken.

Map of our route through England, France, Spain, Morocco
Four countries. Three kids. One van.

The Trip

We knew this trip would be expensive when we planned it, because we wanted to fit a ton of locations and activities into 15 days during the holiday season (not a cheap time to travel), and our travel times and destinations were not very flexible.  We also did not use any of our travel-hacking skills on this particular trip, mostly because we didn’t really figure out what we were doing until mid-2017.

A couple of things that will likely differ from most people’s trips to Europe:  We rented a giant van for almost the whole trip, and we did pick-up/drop-off in different countries, which is pricey. We have included fuel and insurance costs for that van in this report.  We got stuck in England when we were supposed to be in France to the tune of hundreds of dollars per person of unplanned costs.

You can easily do two weeks in Europe with your family for way less money than we did, especially if you are flying from a major east coast city in the U.S., traveling in the off season, or willing to do a more relaxed itinerary.

The Travelers

There were a bunch of us on this trip and not everyone was there the whole time.  The highest number of people we had together at one time was 12, but we were mostly a group of 7 or 9 (including 3 kids).  Traveling in a larger group can be good or bad depending on what your goals are.  You can end up with cheaper costs per person when booking a large vacation home, but then it’s really difficult to find a reasonably-priced rental vehicle in Europe that can fit a lot of people (and luggage!) and doesn’t require a special license to operate.  If your large group includes kids, you will get lots of adorable pictures and airline staff will be nicer to you, but you can also pretty much guarantee that there will be lots of crying because of jet-lag and at least one of the kids will puke at some point.

That being said, I have listed the costs below as our group’s per-person costs.  I assume this will be the most helpful since most people are not traveling as a group of 12.

boys on the Eurostar
The unplanned trip under the English Channel.

The Exchange Rates

The exchange rate at the time (very end of 2016) was slightly better for the US dollar to the euro than it is now (1 euro equal to 1.05 – 1.1 dollars), and about the same for the US dollar to the British pound (1 pound equal to 1.3 – 1.4 dollars).

Without further ado…

The Cost Breakdown (Per Person)

Airfare:  $1,370 (British Airways, Phoenix-London-Paris and Iberian Air Madrid-Chicago-Phoenix, all in coach)

International driver’s license (for adults only, including same-day shipping):  $45

Rental van, insurance, gas:  $410

Unplanned cab ride from Heathrow:  £9

Unplanned stay in Cobham, England (hotel):  £50

Unplanned Eurostar train ride London to Paris:  £180

2 nights in central Paris (hotel):  €183

Louvre:  €9

Eiffel Tower at night in fog
A foggy winter night in Paris, France.

2 nights in Lion-sur-Mer, Normandie (vacation rental):  €60

Mont Saint Michel:  €10

1 night in Montagne, France (vacation rental):  €39

4 nights in Salinas, Spain (vacation rental):  €72

Shoreline and rock arch
Sunset at Playa de las Catedrales, Spain.

1 night in Seville, Spain (hotel):  €43

2 nights in Manilva, Spain (vacation rental):  €31

Day trip to Tangiers, Morocco with Said Tours (including delicious food, a private all-day tour, camel rides, and a round-trip ferry ticket from Spain):  €95

1 night in Madrid (hotel):  €35

Food: $133

The Summary

This all shakes out to approximately $2,928 per person (with $335 of that being for the unplanned visit to the UK).  You can subtract $45 from that for the kids, who of course did not need international driver’s licenses.

For me and my husband and our 10 year-old son, this adds up to $4,110 on airfare and $4,629 on other transportation, lodging, tours, meals, etc.

So we spent $8,739 for our family of 3 for one crazy 15-day trip across the pond.

Three people in sea cave.
Explaining to the kids that they can’t jump in the water in the Caves of Hercules, Morocco.

8 Replies to “What Does it Cost to Take a Family to Europe?”

    1. Thanks Ming! This sort of thing is what happens when those plans you made with your best friend in high school to “travel Europe together!” become reality 15 years later. 😀

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