Budgeting for Europe in a campervan

How much does it cost to travel around Europe in a campervan for seven months?

Although it might not be very ‘British’ to talk about how much things cost, we couldn’t have budgeted for this trip without the advice we got from various other blogs. So we think it’s only fair to share our own information in the hope that it might help others planning similar trips.

The total cost of our trip was €13,054.43 (equivalent of £12,709 at the start of our journey or £11,515.02 at the end) . This includes:

  • 214 days travelling around Europe (just over 7 months)

  • 15,232 miles - €3,888 spent in petrol

  • Ferries and toll roads

  • Food and drink

  • New parts for the van (brake caliper, wheel bearings, new windscreen plus welding to fit it, wing mirror, gear linkage, windscreen wipers and a new door seal - about £1,000 in total)

  • Meals out

  • Entry tickets/days out

  • Accommodation (74% of our nights were free but the costs are broken down below)

  • SIM cards and mobile credit

  • Laundry

  • Gas

  • Miscellaneous items e.g. postcards, lift passes, gifts for people, maps, haircuts

It does not include:

  • Cost of the campervan

  • Insurance

  • Road tax

  • Amy’s two flights home

It also excludes money that we were given as leaving presents from work/family and birthday/anniversary money from family and friends. We kept this separate as ‘treat money’ and it paid for hotel rooms, new climbing gear, a few meals out and a day trip and tour of Tangier, Morocco. To add these to the total costs would be an additional £1000.

Sam had initially budgeted £11,283 for this part of the trip. This was based on us driving 9,000 miles, spending 74 nights in campsites, 37 in hotels/B&Bs and 111 free camping. The reality was quite different! We actually drove 15,232 miles, but thankfully we only spent £250-350 (depending on whether you look at the pound value from the end or start of our journey) over the budget as we drastically reduced our paid accommodation costs. In total, we had 159 free nights. Of the 56 nights where we paid to be somewhere, we only spent 5 nights in hotels. Just under ¾ of our trip (74%) was made up of free camping. Here’s a breakdown (percentages have been rounded):

Free nights (total 159):

Wild camping - 94 (44%)

Free aires - 33 (15%)

Driveways - 14 (7%)

Staying with others (not in van) - 18 (8%)

Paid nights (total 56):

Paid aires/car parks - 10 (5%)

Campsites - 37 (17%)

Hotels - 5 (2%)

Others (bear hide, marinas) - 3 (1%)

Here’s a breakdown of this, country by country.

Our biggest expenditure has been fuel, making up 30% of our total costs. We recorded the price of petrol each time we filled up and have calculated the averages. For anyone planning a trip around Europe, these costs are from our 2018 journey.

We have kept a record of every place we've stayed during our campervan trip around Europe, so if you're reading this because you're planning a trip yourself, please do get in touch and we'll send you further information. We have also recorded every penny we have spent in great detail (as if this blog wasn't boring enough), so if you have any questions, our email is travelpaddlecamp@gmail.com

Our top tips for budgeting whilst travelling in a campervan around Europe are:

1) Get some good apps! Couchsurfing, park4night and Motorhome Parkings have been invaluable in finding free places to stay, places with the facilities we needed and opportunities to meet local people

2) Bulk buy when things are cheap. Scandinavia is CRAZY expensive, especially Norway. We bought so much tinned food in Eastern Europe that the van looked like we'd hosted Harvest Festival in it.

3) Avoid toll roads where you can. Most of the time they're boring anyway. It's much more interesting to drive through villages/the countryside than on a motorway. Yes, it takes longer, but if you're travelling for a few months then it's nice not to rush. Also, we can't rush or the engine will explode.

4) Have a 'treat money' pot. If you're given birthday money, don't just spend it on fuel, get yourselves a treat! That way you can stay on track with the budget and not feel guilty for splashing out on something special. There will be occasions where you have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, you don't want to miss them.

5) Set yourselves a weekly budget. There will be times you go over it, but if you check it each week, you'll know when you need to cut back. Our weekly budget was 406 euros (collectively for both of us) which included everything from fuel and van parts to food and campsites.

It took us just under five years to save for this year and we are renting our house out to cover our mortgage payments while we're away, so we're in a very fortunate position that we don't have to work during this time. It does mean that we do need to be very strict with the budget though! Having said that, with the exception of Norway we don't feel that we have really scrimped or gone without. Our budget has been generous enough that it's felt like we're on holiday most of the time rather than travelling. You could do a trip in a campervan around Europe with a smaller budget than we have. But we've had a bloomin' good time!