Our 12-Month Budgets

So, how much does it cost to travel Europe for a year in a motorhome?

In our first blog, Some people talk about it, Some people dream about it, Some people do it we talked about the process we went through in reaching our decision to sell everything, downsize and tour Europe for a year with our two children and a dog.

One of the things we didn’t talk about was our travelling budget.

With no previous motorhoming experience, we looked to the world-wide-web for inspiration.  We found Europebycampercar.com to be the most comprehensive source of financial information at that time.

However, there were some significant differences between them and us – we had two children and a dog – they were travelling as a couple.  Our Motorhome was also heavier meaning our fuel consumption would be more.

Setting our own budgets

We sat down, found a proverbial ‘fag packet’ and scribbled some basic maths to come up with an initial budget for our own 12-month trip.

After considering the initial upfront costs of a new MOT (as close as possible to our departure date), Motorhome service, Insurance and Road Tax, Travel and Breakdown Insurance, Ferry and Pet Passport, all of which came to £2,404.04, we established a daily budget that we felt was affordable and sustainable.

I say this as if money was no issue.  Quite the contrary, our shoe-string budget had little room for extravagance beyond our essentials.  Entertainment and excursions were considered ‘luxuries’.

After much finger-licking to test the direction of the wind, we arrived at a figure of £37 per day.  This was based on £12 per adult, £5.50 per child and £2 for the dog.

From that, we applied the following %’s courtesy of Eurobycamper.com

  • Fuel (42%)
  • Food (26%)
  • LPG (2%)
  • Tolls, taxi and other transport (11%)
  • Entertainment (14%)
  • Accommodation (5%)

This is how our Version One budget looked:

Budget Version 1
Fuel (42%) £5,677.78
Food (26%) £3,514.81
LPG (2%) £270.37
Transport (11%) £1,487.04
Entertainment & Other (14%) £1,892.59
Accommodation (5%) £675.93
   
Total Budget £13,518.52
Daily Budget £37.04

On further inspection, it was clear that our food costs would be substantially higher as a family of four, with a dog.   Our accommodation costs would be higher too, when accounting for the children.  Though we had an ACSI card we knew there would be additional costs for family laundry facilities etc.

After much deliberation (and a few glasses of wine) we devised a new set of %’s:

  • Fuel (15%)
  • Food (45%)
  • LPG (3%)
  • Transport (5%)
  • Entertainment & Other (7%)
  • Accommodation (25%)

Applying these, we created Version Two of our budgets.

Budget Version 2
Fuel (15%) £2,027.78
Food (45%) £6,083.33
LPG (3%) £405.56
Transport (5%) £675.93
Entertainment (7%) £946.30
Accommodation (25%) £3,379.63
 
Total Budget £13,518.52
Daily Budget £37.04

As we were touring Europe for 12-months, we converted the British Pound to Euros by using X-rates.com, which allows you to see the rates for a year.  This gave us an average exchange rate of 1.35.

Actually, we enjoyed comparable rates to 1.35 throughout the first 6 months of our trip but struggled after a steady decline in the exchange rate from Feb until June 2016 and a rapid decline in July and August 2016 due to the Brexit result.

Our Budget when converted to Euro’s looked like this;

 Budget Euro’s
Fuel (15%) 2,737.50 €
Food (45%) 8,212.50 €
LPG (3%) 547.50€
Transport (5%) 912.50 €
Entertainment (7%) 1,277.50 €
Accommodation (25%) 4,562.50€
 
Total Budget 18,250.00 €
Daily Budget 50.00 

Our total budget for 12 months travelling across Europe was estimated at £13,518 or €50 a day.

The Real Costs of Our Travels

With a love of spreadsheets and financial analysis, my husband took it upon himself to record and categorise all our expenditure throughout our journey.  (Annoyingly) he made me collect and record every receipt.  Needless to say, our initial budgets were ‘broad brush strokes’ compared to the detailed final accounts he created.

For the purposes of ease of comparison, here is a table of our actual expenditure for our twelve-month adventure.

Budget (%) Actual Budget  
 Fuel (10%) 2,254.71€ 2,737.50 €  
Food (44%) 9,582.51€ 8,212.50 €  
 LPG (>1%) 66.68€ 547.50€  
Transport (2%) 448.87€ 912.50 €  
Entertainment and Other (15%) 3,358.32€ 1,277.50 €  
 Accommodation (28%) 6,176.34€ 4,562.50€  
       
Total Budget 21,887.43€ 18,250.00 €  
Daily Budget 59.97€ 50.00 €  

Our year of travel cost €21,887.43 against a budget of €18,250.00, which translates to a daily expenditure of €59.97 versus a forecast of €50.00.

We significantly underestimated the cost of our food and accommodation, along with entertainment and miscellaneous.

Fuel came in under budget as did LPG, however, we had a Gaslow system fitted to the van at a cost of £450 before we left the UK.  If we included this expenditure to the accounts, we would be slightly over budget for gas.   That said, we felt that this was one addition that was worth the extra expense.  Not having to worry about buying gas cylinders or regulator adaptors made this one of our top 15 motorhome must haves.

The Devil’s in the Detail

My husband (being completely anal about finances) was slightly upset that he missed his budget by the grand sum of €3,637.43.  Being the type of person he is, it is no wonder he started to dig a little deeper…

He declared (with a pointed finger) that our greatest overspend was ‘Entertainment and Other’.

It is fair to say that we didn´t really consider ‘Miscellaneous’ in too much detail when we set our initial budgets.  Stupidly we overlooked Christmas and four birthdays, with all the associated costs these celebrations bring.

We also didn´t budget for the purchase of two bicycles and a new set of front discs and brake pads for Colin the Camper.  These items alone costs €1,374.  The remaining €706 overspend can be attributed to laundry expenses and the replacement of clothing or items subject to unexpected damage or loss.

Our second greatest overspend was accommodation.  We purchased our ACSI card and books prior to travelling, thinking that it would save us a fortune.  However, the ACSI card usually covers two adults, a motorhome pitch, electric hook up and one dog.

We had two children which added an additional 20-25% to the cost of our ACSI rate on each campsite.   It should be noted, sites showing the ‘child free symbol’ in the ACSI books refers to children under the age of 5.

Food and consumables were our third highest overspend (I like wine!).

We started our trip in France, shopping excitedly at Carrefour, E´Leclerc and Intermarche, revelling in fresh-baked products, new ranges and what we perceived to be cheaper food. In reality, we spent 11% of our annual food budget in the first month.  A lesson was learnt and LIDL and ALDI became our preferred supermarkets for the rest of our trip.

Fuel and transport costs were kept underbudget. We deliberately filled up on diesel when we saw it advertised for less than €1 per litre, regardless of how full our tank was. This enabled us to keep our fuel cost to just 0.21€ a day based on our overall mileage of 11,828.

We stayed away from toll roads for the first 9 months of our trip, but found this harder to achieve in the South of France, Italy and up through Croatia, Slovenia, Austria and Germany.   We spent €224 on toll roads for the entire trip and another €222 on taxis, trains, buses, tuc-tucs, horse-drawn carriages, metros, trams, boats and barges when visiting major cities.

Over Budget But Not Under Value!

To conclude; whilst we were overbudget, we did not cut back on the experiences and activities we wanted to have whilst on our adventure. We didn’t go hungry and we tasted most of the local cuisine throughout our travels. We stayed on campsites for a minimum of 3 days per week and used a combination of paid for aires and wild camping when the occasion took us.

Yes, we could have done it cheaper.  It was our first time in a motorhome and we learnt a great deal.  Next time, we would feel more confident in taking the path less travelled, avoiding certain tourist traps and taking advantage of a few travelling hacks.

For us, it wasn’t about travelling for a year as cheaply as possible.  It was about having a sensible budget and trying to keep within it.  Mistakes were made, unexpected expenses were incurred and caution was thrown to the wind on occasions.

All in all, the experience we had, and the education our children received, made the whole trip priceless.

Finally, for those of you who share a love of spreadsheets and analysis, my husband has agreed to proudly share his breakdown of our expenditure by a) expense category b) country, and c) month, below.

We hope they provide some useful insights for fellow Moho adventurers!

Happy spending Folks,

By Category

by-category

By Country

by-country

By Month

by-month