Europe on a Golden Shoestring

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One of my oldest, dearest, most inspirational friends just got married in the Alps, to an Italian man she met on a sailboat in Panama. Though the thought of a European (Europoopin!) vacation was a bit daunting to my wallet, there was no way I was going to miss this wedding.

Turns out, it’s possible to to live it up in Europe without breaking the bank. Who knew! All told, I spent well under $1,000 for a 10-day vacation — thanks in large part to travel points and frugal friends!

I was able to get a ticket with my Alaska Air miles that got me to London and home from Milan — total fees, $60. A good friend met me in London and we spent three nights there before heading to Turin on RyanAir ($57). I got our London hotel with Starwood points (the Park Lane, one of the poshest old hotels in the city, was under construction so ended up being a screaming deal), so we paid only for a hotel at the Stansted airport ($58 each). Once in Italy, we rented a car (Fiat 500!) for five days ($130 each, plus $20 each in gas — see Fiat 500).

The wedding was held at a hostel in the mountains where our Italian host had negotiated an all-inclusive price (all-inclusive including extraordinary three-course meals every night) of 50 euros each per night. We shared a cabin with two other friends and their two kids, which made the whole thing that much more fun. For our final night back in Milan, I booked a room at the Westin with points and we were treated by our generous friends to a night of opera at La Scala. (I have never felt so fancy.) Incidentals along the way, including (quite luxurious) meals in London, a couple of tube rides, two taxis, a Hop On/Hop Off bus tour, Richard II at the Globe Theater (standing!), ski lift rides through the Alps, and plenty of beer, wine, cheese, and chocolate, totaled well less than $300 each.

The trip ended up being less than $100/day for one of the most awesome, luxurious, and life-affirming vacations I’ve ever had. I could have done it even more cheaply, or not done it at all, and I’m aware (with immense gratitude; hosts with the mosts, if you’re reading, THANK YOU) that many of our costs were subsidized by our generous wedding hosts and their families, but even so it was a great affirmation to know this kind of trip is possible.

More than anything else in the world, travel and friends are fuel for my soul. Travel WITH friends and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Thanks to everyone who made this happen … now when can we do it again?!

© 2015, Cheddar Pie. All rights reserved.

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