Category Archives: Travel Planning

Buy Trips, Not Trash: Cool Bucket List Ideas

Craig at Snowbombing in Austria | Bucket List Items

Craig and I (Gemma) have been travelling together since we met in 2012. Our first trip to Southeast Asia was a test run to see if you could spend over a month in such close proximity without killing each other. Surprise, we had a thrilling experience and no one was drowned in the Gulf of Thailand or pushed in front of a moped in Hanoi! Three years later we took an 18-month career break to travel the Americas and Europe, in taking this risk we had ample time to tick off our ever-growing cool bucket list ideas. We prefer to travel slow, at times even volunteering to help stretch our budget for longer and giving us the chance to immerse ourselves in the local community but often time and money dictates, and we take a whirlwind tour of our desired destinations – we believe it’s all about balance and hope that after reading our travel tips and quips here at Two Scots Abroad that you will believe that you can make travel happen too.

The Big Two Scots Abroad Cool Bucket List Ideas

 I’ve identified what we’ve managed to do and link to the story so you can have a nosey. 
      1. Visit Westminster – I did work experience
      2. Take a photo of Bled, Slovenia – it rained all day, unfortunately (still nice, take a look)
      3. See a diver at Mostar – no one dived while we were there, stunning though
      4. Island hopping in Scotland – not complete but have visited Skye and Islay
      5. Take a road trip – North Coast 500 in the Scottish Highlands
      6. Appear on TV – Craig was interviewed in Austin!
      7. Go to space camp – video to prove it
      8. Sunbathe on a boat while sailing –
      9. Aztecs in Mexico –
      10. Glacier in Argentina –
      11. Go to Siberia –
      12. Take a helicopter ride –
      13. See the northern lights –
      14. Go to a lagoon – this September!
      15. Live in Canada (permanently…)
      16.  
      17.  

Stac Pollaidh Ullapool | North Coast 500 Guide

Adventure Bucket List Items

  1. Hike a volcano – Cerro Negro and Maderas in Nicaragua
  2. Hike an active volcano and board down it – Volcano boarding in Nicaragua
  3. Hike to Machu Picchu – via the Lares Trek
  4. Scuba dive – Craig did his first dive in Cuba + video! (Gemma’s first was Australia)
  5. Cycle the World’s Most Dangerous Road in Bolivia – hated it, Craig loved it!
  6. Ski at Whistler in Canada – my second ski attempt
  7. Surf – Colombia, I am rubbish at it
  8. Road trip around the Faroe Islands –
  9. Skydive and get a ridiculous photo with my cheeks pushed back –
  10. The polar bear plunge in Alaska – (did it in Canada)
  11. Swing at the end of the world in Ecuador –
  12. Trek the Amazon –
  13. Ride the bobsled track in Alberta –
  14. Camp at Yellowstone National Park –
  15. Go zorbing –
  16. Do a safari –
  17. Parachute –

Volcano Boarding Leon | Backpacking in Nicaragua

Unique Bucket List Ideas

  1. Say ‘I do’ abroad – we did it! On March 22nd 2016, we eloped to Austin, Texas.
  2. Eat breakfast by a river or ocean – Organic breakfast baskets at Big Berry in Slovenia
  3. Ride in a convertible – Havana in a vintage yellow mustang
  4. Make maple syrup lollies in the snow in North America –
  5. Swim in the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands –
  6. Watch the hot air balloons at Cappadocia (Turkey) – did it, it was magical!
  7. Ice skate on a natural rink –
  8. Dine at a high viewpoint –
  9. Visit the Ice Castle in Edmonton
  10. Do The Stans tour –
  11.  

Austin Elopement | Cool bucket list ideas

Art and Music Bucket List Items

  1. Attend South By Southwest (for free) – Done, twice, then we got married after it! Craig is going again this year
  2. Have a drink in a jazz club in New Orleans – kicked off our career break with this
  3. Ski and party and Snowbombing in Austria – our belated honeymoon – we also went to Vienna, the city of music
  4. Get a travel-related tattoo – León in Nicaragua (Gemma – Banff in the Rockies, Craig – space)
  5. Take photos at Bolivia’s Salt Flats – during daylight and sunset, magical
  6. Take the City Centre Mural Trail in Glasgow, Scotland – check out our Facebook for our mini guide
  7. See the street art in Vilnius, Lithuania –
  8. Party at Dreamland in Margate (Shoreditch by the sea!) –
  9. Also, check out Bristol’s street art –
  10. Visit the area where Broadchurch was filmed (Dorset) –
  11. Stalk the city that Arcade Fire formed in (Montreal) –
  12. Get our hipster on in Hamburg –
  13. Sit on that bike in Penang, Malaysia –
  14. Attend the Hindu festival Holi –
  15. Attend Up Helly Aa in Shetland –
  16. See DJs in Ibiza –
  17. Be a Burner –

Simple Bucket List Ideas

  1. Eat authentic Thai (Gemma, Craig hates Thai food) – for two weeks in the north and south Thailand
  2. Get up to watch a sunrise – We set the alarm in Koh Samui, Thailand
  3. See a sunset at the same spot for at least one week – Las Peñitas, Nicaragua (for three weeks)
  4. Witness a winter sunset – Sunshine Coast, BC
  5. Swim in the sea at night – Koh Samui (after a few cocktails, I lost £50)
  6. Travel solo – Gemma NYC, Boston and Chicago, Craig in Canada
  7. Sleep under the stars – Gemma in Monument Valley (no tent!)
  8. Dispel a country’s stereotype – Colombia!
  9. Cycle a coastline – Fife, my home region and Lima in Peru
  10. Attend a baseball game – not as exciting as I thought!
  11. Rollerskate – around Stanley Park in Vancouver
  12. Watch a sloth move –
  13. Hot air balloon ride – It was magical, read about Cappadocia here
  14. Sleep in a castle –
  15.  

Ultimate Bucket List Idea : Las Penitas Nicaragua

Foodies Bucket List

  1. Eat ceviche in Peru – Gemma, Craig hates fish! Minus the cilantro (coriander) though
  2. Gorge on a Tex Mex breakfast – best hangover meal in Austin
  3. Make a pizza – in Slovenia as part of the Big Berry glampsite experience
  4. Eat a sandwich in NYC – I chose baloney, yuck!
  5. Chow down on bugs –Bangkok, salty
  6. Make Pad Thai – Chiang Mai Basil Cook School
  7. Eat Pasteis de Nata in Belém, Portugal – magic in your mouth
  8. Eat empanadas – every day in South America pretty much!
  9. Stuff our faces with a North Am breakfast – Vancouver, Canada (pancakes!)
  10. Make something new once a month (I hate cooking) – ongoing
  11. Try deep fat fried Mars Bar – we did it, but not in Scotland!
  12. Visit a Scottish whisky distillery – Isle of Islay and Isle of Skye
  13. Drink a flight of beer in Portland – Portland is craft beer heaven
  14. Salsa and rum in Havana – and Vinales and Trinidad!
  15. Drink Guinness in Ireland – on the Ancient East
  16. Try Filipino Pancit Palabok and Biko –
  17. Eat Laksa in Malaysia (image below is Liverpool) –
  18. Eat bull tongue in South Africa –
  19. Make a maple syrup lolly in Ottawa –
  20. Try true Mexican food (and not just mushy nachos) –
  21. Eat an authentic curry in India –
  22. Try a cornish pasty –
  23. Go to vodka distillery –
  24. Taste pasta in Italy –
  25. Tokyo Japanese Food Liverpool

As the stamps on our passports increase, the items here multiply. Bucket lists are supposed to be fluid and adaptable, there will be no stage in our lives where we manage to do all of the exciting experiences the world has to hold but we’ll definitely give it a bash! We think our travel bucket list is realistic, what do you think?

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Cool Bucket List Ideas | Unique Bucket List Items

What are your bucket list ideas?
Tell us in the comments below

10 Tips for Travel with Kids Because Life Shouldn’t Stop!

Travel with kids

Since Craig I (Gemma) met we’ve travelled. Seeking adventure during a 5-week Southeast Asia trip, taking a 17-month career break to travel the Americas and Europe, getting engaged in Vancouver and then eloping to Austin, Texas. Now we’re home and we’ve bought the house and got the dog the obvious next steps in life is to get knocked up. This is not a disclosure; there is no haggis in the oven but I wanted to prove to the naysayers that while travel with kids is a challenge, it certainly can happen. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to save and plan for your next trip with kids as well as where to stay, how to feed and entertain and what to do when they get sick. Tips from fellow kickass travellers who will prove to you that family travel can be stress-free (ish).

1. Saving for Family Travel

The most common thing people say to me when they hear that I travel with kids is ‘how can you afford to travel so much?’ The answer is easy; we make it a priority. I shop frugally, doing my grocery shop once per week and I only buy what I need.

We try to avoid eating out too often although we don’t cook on Friday night; that’s pizza night but this feeds all of us for about $30. Luckily, I am not a big shopper, I could not think of anything worse than wandering around the shops, which means I don’t spend money on unnecessary things.

I shop with a purpose only, something that has been instilled in me most probably from having three kids in for years! We save all of our spare change, every few months we take it to the bank and deposit it into the holiday account (note from Two Scots Abroad, we actually recommend that you have three bank accounts when saving, see why here). When the kids were younger, we had a house cleaner to help me with the workload. Since the kids have gone to school, I now do the cleaning again myself.

Once that’s done, I happily sit down and reward my travel account with the amount that we once paid the cleaner. This money often covers our spending money or pays for an attraction or experience we all want to do. We fly budget airlines so that we can upgrade our hotel choices. Our flights are short-term pain for long-term gain. These are small ways to save money that can make a big impact.

Pile of dollars

2. Planning and Packing for Family Vacations and Trips

One thing I have learned from travelling with kids is that you really need to be organised. Gone are the days of ‘winging it’ for us – we have everything planned ahead of time.

This all starts with packing for our trips. It used to be so easy; throw a few clothes and toiletries into your backpack or suitcase and, as long as you had your passport and credit card, you would worry about the rest as you went.

But now a comprehensive family packing list is essential. You don’t want to risk forgetting to pack formula or nappies or wet wipes, and God forbid you to forget your kid’s favourite cuddly toy!

Now I never pack without using a packing list on my iPhone, to make sure I don’t forget anything. We now always try to organise accommodation well in advance (I don’t advise trawling round town with two small kids in tow trying to find somewhere to stay), and we research child-friendly of hotels, emailing ahead to ensure we have extra bedding etc.

We also tend to organise airport transfers ahead of time – either through the hotel or a private company, or at least we will have researched the best way to get to our hotel. We travel a lot in Asia and taxis here often do not have seat belts so we prefer to use hotel transfers in this situation.

And finally, we will research tours and activities ahead of time. We do tend to do ‘adult trips’ with our kids – ie. adventure travel but we always ensure there is something specifically for the kids to do every day too – whether it be a hotel swimming pool, playing on the beach or finding a playground. Read more – a breakdown of what travelling Europe with children is like.

Kayaking Sunshine Coast British Columbia

3. Travel with Toddlers Destinations (and Bigger Kids)

If you are reading this guide and wondering OK I know how to save and pack but now where to travel with kids, we’re here to help. We have two pre-schoolers and we’ve taken them to some amazing places around the world, but our kids’ favourite destinations are always ones with a beach.

What kid doesn’t love a beach? We get to relax, build sandcastles, and play with them in the waves while they have the time of their lives. It makes for some fantastic family bonding. Our favourite family beach vacations so far have been to the Bahamas, Cuba, Aruba, Southern California, and Kribi Cameroon.

Honestly, any beach will do as long as there is sand and waves, which keeps kids entertained for days on end. Then you can sprinkle in some culture, sightseeing and museums nearby to mix things up a little and take a break from the sun. Everyone is happy!

If you are not beach people, then tips for family trips include visits to national parks. Holidays to national parks are educational and allow everyone to enjoy the great outdoors together.

Parents get exercise and kids burn energy running around outside. Spending time in nature is shown to relieve stress, and what parent doesn’t need that? No matter the kids’ ages, national parks are a great fit. When our son was one, we put him in a baby carrier and he gazed up at the trees as we hiked the Great Smoky Mountains.

Our daughter was 3 and she hiked like a champ and still talks about the waterfalls we discovered. We returned this year and our 2-year-old son blew us away with his stamina on long vigorous paths. Needless to say, the kids slept well after all that hiking and they learned a few things about forest conservation and wild animals. Another win-win!

Cascais I Lisbon Day Trips Beaches

4. Creating an Itinerary

One of the biggest things I have learnt since travelling with children is to tailor your itinerary to suit every family member, not just the child.

Firstly, choose destinations and activities that are going to be enjoyable for all family members. Letting older children have some say about where you are going and what you do, will get them involved and excited about your trip. Alternating between adult activities and child-orientated activities is also one way to teach patience and compromise.

A bonus of pre-booking some activities online is you can get some great savings. I’ve found that having some activities planned is also an easy way to talk to children about an upcoming trip and get them excited about what they are going to experience.

Another thing to think about when planning your trip is to allow for plenty of rest times. You might enjoy jumping from one museum to another in Italy but your children, whether toddler or teen are probably not going to have the same enthusiasm. For younger children, it is a great idea to find some local parks or green areas where they can let off a little steam. For teens, it can be as simple as stopping for a food break or some technology time.

Titanic Museum Belfast

5. Slow Travel

When travelling with kids, you take the fun but also the drama with you. This can start with the baby’s crying, the toddler’s tantrums and the teen’s puberty blues and when you are all in it together there may be no possible escape.

However, there is an excellent way to diminish the drama’s frequency and its impact on your overall well-being: slow travel. Travelling slowly is hot and happening. Not without reason, because it gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and learn the language a bit. Moreover, in general, the slower you travel, the cheaper your holiday is.

But when (full time) travelling with kids, slow travel has a more important advantage. It gives the whole family a chance to relax, to just be and to let all the impressions sink in. Kids need that time off. In honesty, grown-ups too, but they can cope better with busy travel schedules.

So on your next travels don’t plan sightseeing trips every day. Stay several nights in one place, take (half) day trips from there and schedule a regular stay at home day where your kids can play and swim. In the end, you might see less of your destination, but you’ll get rewarded with easy-going kids, fun experiences and a relaxing vibe.

Car wing mirror, Iceland landscape

6. Sleeping Situation on the Road

Getting my pre-schooler and infant to sleep at home is a tough enough task between requests for water from my 4-year-old and the drowsy wailing that my infant graces us with each night. Add in jet lag, an unfamiliar room, and getting them to sleep on the road is nothing short of a miracle. After being THAT person whose baby screamed through the night despite my best efforts, I’ve come up with some tricks that help ease the process of sleeping on the road.

For the pre-schooler, we do our best to get her excited about the changes she’ll face while sleeping away from home. She has a special little cot that’s just hers and we just use it when we’re traveling, so it’s extra special. Since it’s the same cot she uses constantly, it smells familiar to her and she’s got the attached pillow feeling just right.

When we’re traveling with a toddler on a plane, we make a big deal out of letting her watch a TV show before she stretches out on a blow-up pillow that’s made for sleeping on planes. We even got her a small toiletries case so she has duplicates of her favourites from home.

For our infant, we practically started traveling with him from birth, so we’re getting pretty good about staving off screaming fits since that’s the best way to make everyone in the hotel hate us!

He just grew out of this soft-sided travel bassinet that folded up to be a diaper bag but before that we let him sleep in it at home for a few nights before our first big trip to get him used to it. After a transition phase, he adjusted and would fall asleep without any issues. Keeping his routine as close as possible to what it is at home also helps.

If either wakes up from jet lag, we do our best to calm them down and get them back to sleep. Sometimes that works, and sometimes we’re up at 3am in Munich eating yogurt.

Adding in a nap or two as you transition those first few days in a time zone seems to help as well. No matter what, staying calm and being flexible with your sleep schedule is the priority!

Plane wing, blue sky

7. Choosing Accommodation whilst Travelling with Kids

We have been travelling with our daughter since she was 6 months of age and at this age, we would not allow her to eat anything from outside.

The best option found was to book apartments, which had a well-equipped kitchen where we could make baby food.

Apartments have also helped us save on our food during travels, as we would mostly have our breakfast and dinner in the room. Apartments are spacious with more than one room and help kid move around and play while we have better privacy when compared to hotels rooms.

Airbnb in La Paz

Bonus tip – Try house sitting!

We try to create a “home away from home” as we travel with our son. The absolute best way to accomplish that for us, is house-sitting! My family has been travelling full time since 2014.

We’ve spent almost a year and a half of that time house sitting around the world. This has helped us save an incredible amount of money, as house sitters we get to stay free in exchange for caring for property and pets.

Access to all the comforts of home like a full kitchen to cook meals, a washer to do laundry, and cute pets to play with, make traveling with kids so much easier and affordable. Our son is eight now and he’s learned so much about caring for different kinds of animals.

Then there are the benefits of staying in a local neighbourhood versus a hotel in a tourist zone. It’s given all of us the opportunity to live like locals as we travel. We’ve had so many more awesome cultural experiences than we would have staying in an area geared toward tourists.

The best part about house sitting as we travel is we all have a stronger connection to the places we visit and more lasting memories as well. If minding someone’s house and pets sounds like something you’d like to try while you travel with your kids check out this post  20 Popular House Sitting Questions Answered for more information.

8. Food Tips for Travelling with Kids

If I had to buy a drink or something to eat for my little one every time she was thirsty or hungry I would completely blow my holiday budget on food alone. Over the years of travelling with a little one from baby, to toddler and now young child I have learned a few tips when it comes to food and kids when travelling.

Take snacks on the plane, whilst you cannot take food off the plane with you once you reach your destination (if its international) you can take food on to the plane.  Sometimes it can take a while for the flight attendants to reach you with food, so this way you can feed the kids whenever they are hungry.

This also prevents meltdowns when the kids do not like what they are served by air staff. I also take an empty drink bottle onto the plane with us.  Whilst you cannot take water onto most planes, ask the flight attendants to fill up the kids drink bottles once you board.

One of the first things we do when we reach our destination is to do stock up on snacks and bottled water at a local supermarket.

We keep our stash in our hotel room and back our day bag full of goodies before we head out each day.  Kids are always hungry at the most inconvenient time, like when there isn’t a shop in sight or you have just commenced a 5-hour bus trip or something! And don’t forget to fill up those drink bottles each day too so you are not forever purchasing bottled water.

Tree Tribe Bottle Gift

9. Travel with Kids: Sickness on the Road

Having sick kids is never fun, having sick kids when you’re travelling is even more difficult. As the mother of a tween and a teen we’ve been through all stages of childhood – and sickness at this point. Over time I’ve developed a few strategies and tricks that work well to plan ahead and deal with sickness.

First, I ALWAYS have a travel first aid kit with me. Instead of carrying full-size amounts of medicines I compact it all down into a makeup bag and bring just enough of everything to make it through a day, or overnight until I can get to the pharmacy for more. I try to purchase non-liquid versions of medications (in both adult and kid doses) such as acetaminophen, Pepto Bismol for the stomach, cold and flu medication, motion sickness pills and more.

Along with having this packed we also try to make good choices when it comes to eating and drinking. We don’t actually avoid local food; in fact we go for it as the number one option because if local people are eating it, they know better than us what is good (Two Scots Abroad can vouch for this, one of the highlights of travelling around Vietnam was sitting on the tiny chairs with the locals eating street food).

We also allow our kids to drink one soda a day. I know this sounds odd but we’ve found that the sugar helps combat upset stomachs. Finally, making sure they have enough rest has been vital to staying healthy. Not pushing too hard and knowing when to slow down – or stop completely – is sometimes the most important way to combat illness.

Two Scots Abroad interjection: Naturally we do not advise going away without travel insurance as adults but this is especially important when you are responsible for other people’s lives too. These wee guys are dependent on you, do not let them down. We are insured by True Traveller. I did have to use them while in Vancouver, I had one GP visit and two stints at a physio; True Traveller paid out quickly which was ideal as we were on a budget.

10. How to Entertain a Toddler on a Plane

Travelling with kids is both fun and tiring; you need to how to keep the kids of all ages entertained. When travelling with toddlers on long haul flights, load up a smartphone or tablet with educational games and movies that your kids will watch.

Also, ensure that the games can be played without the Internet as it is never pretty when your kid wants to play their favourite game on the plane and it needs a signal! Hide these favourite Internet games in a folder before you travel to avoid unwanted demands. Always pack headphones that your kids will wear. These are best tested out before you go so the kids are used to wearing them before your trip.

Travel Journals are excellent for school-aged kids. There are a variety of destination journals available so see if you can find one related to the destination you are traveling to.

Also, books are great for any age but they can take up room so look for exchange bookshops on your travels and swap them over.

A deck of cards keeps kids of all ages entertained. In the toddler years, games of snap are great fun and as they get older play card games or use cards to teach maths. For the toddlers of this world, a set of cars or figurines can be invaluable to travel with.

The fun they have exploring new places with their favourites toys are worth the luggage space they take up. Why not set photo challenges with the figures using a kid-friendly camera?

Games like I spy are great fun as well as educational; get your older children to spell out the words for extra praise. Finally, pack a tennis ball or inflatable ball that won’t take up much space. They provide hours of fun wherever you travel in the world.

This guide has hopefully reassured any worries about travelling with children and inspired you to not let dreams of short or long-term travel die because there is a mini-me on your back instead of a rucksack! We feel honoured to work with travellers of all ages who do not let this fear prevent them from seeing the world, I hope to be like them when I grow up too.

Did you find this useful?

What tips would you include? Pop them in the comments below.

How to Plan the Perfect Iceland Honeymoon Itinerary

Couple at Seljalandsfoss Waterfall Iceland sunset

Iceland sparkles for me. The reason? I can’t quite put my mitten on it. Maybe it’s this small north Atlantic island’s vast landscapes, canyons, and geysers. I do love to be near water (having grown up in a coastal town in Fife, Scotland) so is it the thundering waterfalls, lagoons, and beaches? Or the beautiful Reykjavik city folks with their cool exterior? I know for Craig Iceland means the solar spectacular, Northern Lights and glaciers. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to see the appeal of an Iceland honeymoon.

Now I know what you are thinking – didn’t you pair marry last March in Austin, Texas and then travel around the Americas and Europe? Correct, but hey, you only get married once (we hope!) We deserve a backpack/budget free honeymoon! Imagine not being confined to $45 a day… We did it! Here’s our perfect honeymoon itinerary for Iceland.


» Don’t miss our guide to four days in Iceland


Driving the Ring Road

Driving in Iceland is kind of like taking the Subway in Glasgow; there are two routes – you can go around it, then come back around the other way, with a few reindeer, twigs, and floods thrown in.

Many visitors to Iceland opt to see Iceland’s 800 miles of Route 1 with a group tour; others take the 4×4 by the wheel and attempt a self – guided tour of Iceland.

Driving around Iceland’s Ring Road takes a good seven days (perfect for those using Iceland as a stopover destination as you are awarded one week free of charge).

Don’t be deceived by Google Maps, some of the journeys can take a long time, especially if it is raining. Our ride from Reykjavik to

What to See in Iceland?

Skogafoss Waterfall Iceland

Our Ring Road itinerary includes:

South Iceland

  • The Golden Circle Tour of the south (see below)
  • American wreck DC-3 plane on Sólheimasandur Beach (4km trek)
  • Sunrise at Seljalandsfoss waterfall
  • Get drenched at Skogafoss
  • Reynisfjara, Iceland’s Black Beach (striking but busy)
  • Rafting in the Hvítá River (missed out this time)

Top tip: if you stay in the area you can fight the weather! We were rained off at Seljalandsfoss so decided to set our alarms for sunrise and had the waterfall to ourselves!

East Iceland

  • Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon (a short stretch of the legs) – potentially closed to the public
  • Jökulsárlón tour to see the ice melt (OMG, incredible at sunset)
  • Vatnajökull Glacier’s crystal ice caves <— seasonal unfortunately 
  • A visit to the crafty and mountainous Seyðisfjörður (missed)

North Iceland

  • Iceland’s second city, Akureyri – whale watching in Iceland!
  • Dettifoss – the most powerful waterfall in Europe, apparently
  • The gateway to Hell – Dimmuborgir
  • The north’s equivalent to the Blue Lagoon, Mývatn Nature Baths

West Iceland

Research indicates that the west side of the Ring Road is more drive than stop but it is worth taking a detour to….

  • Westfjords
  • Snæfellsnes aka “Little Iceland”

… and then on to

  • Hike Mount Esjan
  • Then a celebratory end of tour drink at Blur’s Damon Albarn’s bar in Reykjavik (turns out this is a great marketing ploy, he own a tiny a share of it!), HI bar is better for views

Iceland’s Golden Circle Tour

If your chauffeur decides that being the designated driver for the entirety of your honeymoon is no fun, then the alternative reduced Iceland itinerary would be the Golden Circle Tour which takes a mere 3.5 hours to tackle by car (6 – 10 hours with stops).

I don’t want to put you off here but the Golden Circle is very touristy. Think Disney World or the Eifle Tower in July! We visited in September and there were a lot of crowds.

I would aim to reach the likes of Geysir and Gullfoss very early before the bus tours if you plan to road trip yourself.

Highlights of the Golden Circle include

All of the above can be seen as an Iceland day tour from Reykjavik. What do you prefer – self-drive, private taxi tour or guided bus tour?

Gulfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss


» You may also like: our guide to Iceland prices


Northern Lights

Now, this is a sad one as our timings were out. September just flirts with the official window (October to March) of seeing the light show also known as the Aurora Borealis.

Iceland is not always dark, and although lots of factors come into play when chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland, the darkest months of November to February are your best bet. Northern Lights tours can last up to 5 hours and run from September until May.

We did toy with other months.

One of the downsides of visiting Iceland in April (when our wedding party was) is that you are kind of in a limbo period where the weather dictates Iceland’s tourist attractions.

If you visit Iceland in summer (July), you can hike, whale watch, and avoid freezing your asses off, however, this means giving up the chance to witness the dancing light show.

DC Plane Solheimasandur Sólheimasandur Beach

Lagoons in Iceland

Now that I am over not seeing the lights (I don’t like being cold anyway) let’s dive deep into something I do love – geothermal activity.

Oh hello, hot water! I’m a 40 degrees at the Hungarian baths type of chick, Craig not so much! Iceland’s most famous hot spring is the Blue Lagoon. Close to the country’s capital, a trip to this lagoon is an easy day trip from Reykjavik (40 mins by car, you will be inundated by adverts for Reykjavik tours to the Blue Lagoon).

Basic entry cost is €40 / £33. 95 / $42.37 (top tier luxury price €195) however, I am told repeatedly by bloggers and tourists alike that regardless of fee and popularity, the Blue Lagoon is worth every penny. Do not wear your contact lenses like my good friend Helen!

We opted for the Secret Lagoon (£19/€22) as it was on our route back to the capital. I love that you can buy a glass of wine or a beer and soak your troubles away! Be warned, you are expected to shower naked before you enter.

Budget lovers, there are free hot springs in Iceland (my favourite phrase) making it one of the hottest free things to do in Iceland (get it?)

Check out Hveragerdi which is only 30 mins from Reykjavik and also has free hiking trails; a stride and a soak seems like a winning combo to me!

There are a variety of geothermal pools of all sizes in Iceland so this is only the tip of the iceberg. Which do you prefer and why?

Seljavallalaug Geothermal Pool

Hiking in Iceland

Hiking might not be everyone’s ideal honeymoon activity but we are a big fan of the outdoors and Iceland certainly is a hotbed for nature.

The most popular trek in Iceland is the 3-4day south-west Laugavegur trek. If that’s not enough, you can continue on with the Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail (or attempt as a stand-alone one day hike) which takes you between the two volcanoes, Eyjafjallajökull and Katla.

Part of Fimmvörðuháls has literally risen from the ashes after the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. There are easier Iceland hikes such as Mount Esjan which is close to Reykjavik.

Iceland Weather – the best time to go to Iceland

October to April is low season. Winter activities such as the ice caves are open (what about snorkelling at Silfra?) and the Northern Lights are at their optimum. It is not advised to drive in Iceland during the low season unless you are used to Canadian winter conditions (and I don’t mean B.C), although it is never as cold as Alberta.

Daylight is very limited to six hours so take that into consideration if driving. October to February sees the most rainfall. Time to get cosy on that Iceland honeymoon! Winter does not put visitors off! Here’s my friend Janet’s experience of things to do in winter.

Spring starts in April and ends in May, although the first day of summer is April 18th… Summer means a lot of daylight, the longest day is June 21st where the sun sets around midnight in Reykjavik and rises before 3am! This may take a bit of getting used to but obviously offers a good chance to enjoy the midnight sun (while partying?!)

Skiing is out and unfortunately, mass tourism, pre-booking, and selfie sticks are in.

In summer, budding photographers can capture the crazy lights of the golden hours (without the pressure of time), driving is safe, and hiking doesn’t involve an axe. There are so many photographers in Iceland, they really don’t like you ‘ruining their shots’.

Getting to Iceland

Cheap flights to Iceland (Keflavík International Airport) from the UK can be found for under £200/$300 via Icelandair and Easyjet.

The taxi from Keflavík International Airport is $120 at the time of writing, yes you can get a one-way flight for this price.

Car rental companies charge a supplementary fee for airport collection and drop off. Save an hour for the check-in/transfer process.

Don’t panic, there is are direct bus transfers to Reykjavik for under $30. Iceland is known for being expensive but cheap hotels in Reykjavik do exist, check out Follow Me Away’s guide.

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall Two Scots Abroad

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Iceland honeymoon

Well, folks, that’s it from me and my dream Iceland honeymoon. Our honeymoon trip to the land of fire and ice did not disappoint. My initial thoughts were, I could explode with excitement just like Katla volcano, which has actually set off its biggest tremors since the ’70s, and I hope you feel the same way too.

Going to Iceland?
Why not pin to your Iceland board?

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 Have you been, are you going?
Give us tips in the comments below!

20 Christmas Europe Breaks For Every Budget

Christmas in Europe, Edinburgh Market

Ski, sun and Christmas markets! There are a variety of reasons to visit Europe during Winter. I’ve found myself (Gemma) drawn to the Skyscanner app… confession, I’ve set a few email alerts for flight price drops in the hope that we can squeeze in one of the following sensational Christmas Europe breaks recommended by fellow tinsel-loving travel bloggers. Whack the heating up, get your onesie on and get ready to be whisked into some serious winter wanderlust with the following tried and tested winter holiday ideas for Europe.


Note: A decision about Europe’s Christmas markets and events will be made by each country individually. Please keep us updated if you hear of any decisions. Thank you.


Christmas Europe Breaks

1. Alsace, France

Wine, Wine, and More Wine!

France’s Alsace region in the east is a dream when December comes around. The joint German-French influence creates an area that offers incredible food, stunning architecture, local beer and wine, and a true appreciation for Christmas.

Strasbourg’s Christmas markets are bustling, the entire town is dressed up, and there is holiday cheer everywhere. Then, as you leave Strasbourg and head into the smaller villages along the wine route, the Christmas markets are smaller but absolutely packed with locals and tourists alike. Colmar is second to Strasbourg in terms of popularity, it looks like a fairytale Christmas village.

In all the towns, the stalls sell everything from pretzels and mulled wine to handmade ornaments and home-wares. Each one has its own cup that you have to purchase in order to get mulled wine or beer at the stands (our favourites were the glass mugs from Kayersberg) – you can return them at the end to get your money back.

Oh, and did we mention that this is all located along the wine route, meaning there are plenty of wineries to pop into along the way? Our recommendation is to fly into Basel and hire a car – driving through all of the villages is the best way to see the area and remember to visit the Christmas markets. Joyeux Noël! <—- White, red, rose, hot, chilled… I love wine!

 By Kelly & Sean | A Pair of Passports

Alsace Region, France Best Christmas Europe Breaks

Does mulled wine make a city one of the best European winter breaks?

2. Andermatt

Snowy Swiss Alps

One of the more expensive winter destinations in Europe is the Swiss Alps but it is worth saving up for.

In 1864, a local hotelier in St Moritz, in the Swiss Alps, offered a money-back guarantee to a few British holidaymakers, offering a winter trip to his local hotel that would be just as rewarding as the summer trip they were enjoying.

The bet was placed, the visitors enjoyed their trip and the hotelier never had to make payment.

Like this, winter ski vacations in Switzerland and St Moritz as the capital of the wealthy and glamorous world of alpine skiing holidays became popular.

But rather than crowded and expensive St Moritz, consider Andermatt for your next Christmas vacation. One of the best places for Christmas in Europe if you are a ski fan.

A tiny village after the Oberlap Pass, Andermatt has remained the choice of adventurous and off-piste skiers instead of the après-ski fans.

The village is all walkable, reachable by train and now features a fabulous and sleek hotel The Chedi complete with ski school, in-room fireplaces and the most stylish spa with an outdoor pool.

The investment will soon change the face of this speck of alpine beauty so go now before that happens and enjoy Christmas markets, skiing and the postcard-perfect landscapes of a snow-capped mountain.

—-> Sounds like one of Europe’s perfect winter snow breaks to me! Has anyone skied here? Share your experience in the comments below.

By Mar | Once in a Lifetime Journey

Andermatt | Austria | Best Christmas Europe BreaksAndermatt: snug & snowy Xmas breaks in Europe!

3. Austria, Vienna

20 Christmas Markets

Austrians take their Christmas markets seriously making it one of the best European cities to visit in December.

During the festive season, every city and town has a Christmas market. As the capital, Vienna tops them all with a profusion of markets.

The city has 20 official Christmas markets and lots of other smaller neighbourhood markets. It’s enjoyable to see the city – warming yourself with a cup of gluhwein and shopping for traditional handicrafts and ornaments. For non-drinkers and children, there is a non-alcoholic version of the gluhwein.

The biggest of the markets is held in front of Vienna’s City Hall, the Christkindl Market.

The festive cheer spills out into the nearby park, Rathaus Park, where the trees are decorated with giant ornaments and there is entertainment for the children. <—- Nice to hear of a kid-friendly city. Sounds like an ideal place to take them for their Christmas holidays in Europe.

By Shobha | Just Go Places 


→ Read more: our guide to three days in Vienna, you’ll need more!
Also, check out our guide to Vienna in Winter.


Vienna in Winter December Christmas World on Rathausplatz

4. Barcelona

& The Yuletide Poo

Barcelona is beautiful at Christmas time.

The entire city is decorated with Christmas lights. Some shops and hotels also go all out with lights and decorations – Corte Ingles on Plaza Catalunya usually looks amazing! I also love the unique and somewhat strange Catalan Christmas traditions.

At the city’s biggest Christmas market, the Fira de Santa Llúicia, you’ll find plenty of really cute looking little logs with faces and hats on the Caga Tió – literally: “the poo uncle”. Kids cover him in a blanket and feed him in the time leading up to Christmas, and on Christmas Eve the poor log gets beaten until he, err… releases… the presents! Find out more in Two Scots Abroad’s Barcelona winter guide.

It’s a cute souvenir to take home, with quite a story to tell.

For fans of classical music, there’s usually a concert of Händel’s Messiah at the magnificent Basilica Santa Maria del Mar a few days before Christmas Eve.

Christmas time in Barcelona lasts until January 6th (King’s Day), and there is a huge parade on the evening of the 5th.

Bonus points that make Barcelona a great destination for a Christmas break? The weather. It’s much warmer than in most parts of Europe, and just cold enough to make ordering a hot chocolate with churros feel right. —-> Still laughing at the Christmas poo. Oooohhh, this must be where South Park Mr Hankey originated from?!

By Edwina | The Traveling German

Caga Tio Poo Tide Spain

5. Berlin in December

If you are looking to enjoy a short break in Europe just before Christmas and want the stereotypical experience, Berlin is the perfect place to visit. Strolling through Berlin’s Christmas markets is the epitome of a Berlin visit in December.

Small, wooden booths decorated with idyllic ornaments including sparkling stars and snow-covered fir branches provide a memorable experience for all the family as you enjoy an evening stroll with the sound of your favourite traditional Christmas music echoing around the city.

Berlin is home to a number of traditional markets that occur annually across the city.

We stayed in the Alexanderplatz district of the city and were a short walk from the market, though it’s safe to say that the majority of this neighbourhood turns into one large Christmas celebration throughout December.

The Berliner Weihnachtszeit is a short distance from the Alexanderplatz and offers a romantic and nostalgic experience with gorgeous, historic architecture providing the perfect backdrop to the skating rink.

Could you imagine any better way to spend a Christmas break than taking a romantic ride on the Ferris wheel while enjoying stunning panoramic views across Berlin with the Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz, and Reichstag just a few iconic landmarks that you will see?

A visit to Berlin wouldn’t be the same without sampling a fine German brew and what better time of the year to keep you warm as you nibble on your favourite Wurst and wash it down with a local beer. —> I do not need much encouragement to visit Berlin again. Like Christmas markets? Check out this post on more Christmas markets in Germany.

By Chris | A Brit and a Southerner

6. Bled

A True Fairytale Town

Everyone says Bled in Slovenia is one of Europe’s prettiest fairytale towns.

However, imagine that church on the lake and castle on the hill with snow on the mountains – that is the epitome of magic, making Bled one of the top, yet lesser-known, Christmas breaks in Europe.

Don’t think that Bled is just for looking at in winter, there’s lots of action in this normally sleepy town from skiing to skating and snowshoeing.

On December 25th you can watch a local tradition too. Click here to read more about the sunken bell of Slovenia.

Lake Bled Winter Activities

7. Budapest

Enjoy a hot bath as the snow falls around you in Budapest, Hungary, this winter.

Shop ’til you drop at the city’s shopping street, Váci Street (utca) or buy souvenirs at the two biggest Christmas markets, Vörösmarty Square Christmas Market and Basilica Christmas Market.

Go skating under Buda Castle at Városliget (City Park) ice rink and take a ride in the festive streetcar. Wrap up though as the ride is cold.

Dine on traditional Hungarian stews and drink palinka at Hold Utcai Piac. This is the market the locals eat at.


» Read more: Festival things to do in Budapest, by a local


Christmas tree, decorations, Vaci Street shopping Budapest

8. Bucharest

Bucharest, Romania, is known for its lively Old Town and the fun ramps up a notch or two during winter.

Keep warm, bar-hopping down the busy streets at night and shop at Victoriei Street (Calea Victoriei) or in Baneasa Shopping Mall by day.

Catch a Christmas show at the National Bucharest Theater and the lights on Magheru Boulevard (Bulevardul Magheru).

Enjoy a snowy walk through Tineretului Park (Parcul Tineretului) then warm up with mulled wine at Bucharest Christmas Market at Universitatii Square (Piata Universitatii).


» Find out more: What to do at Christmas in Bucharest


Bucharest Christmas Market
9. Edinburgh

I’m biased but one of the best European cities to visit in winter has to be Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh.

Princes Street Gardens is home to the bustling Edinburgh’s Christmas Market jam-packed with locals and visitors alike.

Eat bratwurst at the market and drink whisky cocktails at the Bothie before shopping your socks off at the high street stores on Princess Street.

Walk two streets back to George Street to see lights illuminating the dark skies.

Do as the locals do, and pop into The Dome for a Christmas cocktail under the massive tree. Avoid The Dome at the weekend or be prepared to wait in long lines.

Stick around after Christmas for the biggest NYE party in the world, Edinburgh Hogmanay.


» Find out more: Christmas itinerary for Edinburgh


Street of Light Edinburgh in the dark with crowds

10. Florence

Florence is the perfect city to spend Christmas time in.  First off Italy is a predominately Christian country, meaning when November and December roll around you can bet that you will see lights everywhere.

During Christmas time Italian hospitality is at its finest and everyone is out on the streets with giant smiles on their faces. The air, the decor, the people, the churches – everything just screams “It’s Christmastime!”

We were able to spend last Christmas there with family and it will always be a trip to remember. Check out Natasha and Cameron’s post on things to know about Italy if you are heading to Florence!

By Natasha & Cameron | The World Pursuit

11. Glasgow

Scotland’s biggest city is the best for live music, food and culture all year round but especially at Christmas.

Did you know that Glasgow is one of UNESCO’s music cities? Check out what gigs are on this December at the vintage Barrowlands or intimate Kings Tuts.

Swing by the Glasgow Christmas Markets which are spread over two locations at George Square and St Enoch Centre.

At both markets, you can dine on hot market food, including vegan options, and people watch while you sip on a beer or something harder.

Glasgow’s shops are the best in Scotland. Spread over three streets, Argyle, Buchanan and Sauchiehall, busloads of locals arrive every weekend on the run-up to Christmas to buy gifts.

Looking for something more local or vintage? Get off the tube in the West End and check out the craft shops on Byres Road, Ashton Lane and Great Western Road.

Feeling fit? Join the thousands who take part in the Santa Dash each year. Glasgow is one of the best places to visit in Europe in December for culture. 

Here’s how we’d spend 24 hours in Glasgow.

One day in Glasgow itinerary

12. Grindelwald, Switzerland

Top of Europe!

Switzerland is one of the most amazing places I’ve visited in all my travels, it is a magical country with the endless beautiful scenery.

Being an Australian I have always dreamed of having a white Christmas and beautiful snowy winters and I think everything truly looks more beautiful covered in a layer of snow!

We visited Grindelwald, a majestic village located high in the Swiss Alps a few years ago for our anniversary.

Grindelwald literally looks like the front of a Christmas card and the whole time we were there I couldn’t stop telling Dan how I felt like we were living in a real-life snow globe!

Grindelwald is perfect because it has everything; scenery, outdoor sports, adventure, accommodation for everyone whether you are seeking luxury or budget, fine restaurants and even a train that goes to the ‘Top of Europe’!

We spent our days exploring the mountains, strolling the snow-covered streets, eating excessive amounts of Swiss cheese and chocolate and relaxing in our outdoor hot tub in the snow. It truly is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world and a short break we will never forget. <—– Grindelwald sounds likes one of the cutest Europe trips for couples! Snuggle up, guys.

By Simone | The Aussie Flashpacker

 » » Keep costs down: Cabin-sized backpacks review « «

Grindelwald, Switzerland | Christmas Europe Breaks

13. Krakow, Poland

Winter city breaks in Europe don’t have to break the bank and Poland’s cutest city is renowned for affordability.

Krakow is one of the most Christmassy destinations on Earth!

It is located in Poland, right between Eastern and Western Europe. It has an airport, so it is very easy to get there from anywhere in the world.

The city is beautifully decorated, with Christmas trees, lights and ornaments.

It is also one of the cheap winter breaks in Europe – you can find an apartment in the heart of Old Town for less than $60!

Krakow has a world-famous Christmas Market. It starts at the end of November and lasts until the end of Christmas.

If you go there, be sure to try Grzaniec Galicyjski. It is traditional Polish mulled wine with cinnamon, cloves and all the other warming spices. Yummy! Into festive booze? Check out this Christmas cocktails post.

By Karolina & Patryk | Karolina & Patryk – check out our 3-day itinerary here.

14. London at Christmas

Oxford Street and Regent Street, twinkling in the glow of a thousand of lights. Famous department stores, such as Harrods and Fortnum and Mason decked out in their Christmas finery, with stunning festive window displays (and each with their very own Father Christmas).

Children’s pantomimes and the giant Christmas trees at Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden.

There’s plenty to enjoy in London at Yuletide.

In 2016 the magical Winter Wonderland is celebrating its 10th year at Hyde Park.

I love wandering around the pretty wooden chalets, selling a myriad of Christmas gifts and decorations and tucking into tasty treats such as mulled cider, glühwein and bratwurst.

There’s always a funfair with a giant Ferris wheel and the ever-popular ice-skating rink and so much more.

Two new attractions this year are The Imperial Ice Stars’ production of the Nutcracker on Ice and The Magical Ice Kingdom, made from over 200 tonnes of snow and ice.

You’ll find many more ice rinks dotted around the city, including the Natural History Museum and Somerset House, and further Christmas markets include the Tate Modern, Leicester Square and the Southbank Centre.

London at Christmas is simply overflowing with festive cheer throughout its bustling streets and beautiful parks, and even its museums and art galleries. I can’t think of a more exciting city to spend a short break at Christmas.

By Kat | Travel With Kat

 » » Check out these London hacks to keep costs down « «

Apple Market, London | Best Christmas Europe Breaks

15. Malta

Winter in Europe doesn’t have to mean freezing temperatures.

December is one of the best times to visit Malta. Why? Let me list the ways… fewer crowds, mostly warm weather, cheap prices, and friendly locals.

Valletta also gets dressed up for Christmas and NYE Celebrations creating picture-worthy reflections with lots of colours.

Here are more reasons for you to visit Malta in Winter. <— Christmas breaks in the sun! I’m game for a tan and some tinsel.

By Inma | A World to Travel

16. Munich

Germany at Christmas time is a truly magical place. The whole country smells of mulled wine and bratwurst, snow is dusting every roof and tree, and it feels like there is a Christmas market around every corner.

Cities like Dresden or Nuremberg and their world-famous confectioneries instantly come to my mind.

Yet I recommend you to visit Munich instead – and not just because I live there.

You see, the perfect city break in winter should be about more than just a lovely Christmas market. You’ll want wonderful restaurants, excellent museums, a couple of good day-trip options and some shopping would be nice as well. Bavaria’s capital has all that and more.

There certainly is a lovely Christmas market in Munich, but you also got roughly 100 museums to visit, while the Alps and their ski resorts are barely two hours’ drive away. Not convinced yet?

Well then, Munich has one of the largest pedestrian areas in Europe, a world-class opera (or a stationary circus for the kids!) and a gigantic thermal bath.

You could also attend a Christmas mass in one of the beautiful churches or go skating on one of the ice rinks.

The many fairy tale castles around Munich will look especially beautiful with a little snow covering their golden splendour, and if everything fails you, there is always the Hofbräuhaus and ancient Bavarian beer culture to get familiar with! <—- Yup, I’m sold!

By Norman | Annees De Pelerinage

 » » Our guide to 34 of Europe’s best cities for Xmas markets « «

Munich | Christmas Europe Breaks

17. Nuremberg

Nuremberg, Bavaria is the perfect Christmas city break in Europe.

It is centrally located, has excellent air and rail transportation connections, and it has what is arguably the best Christmas market in Europe. It is clearly one of the best visited – boasting over two million visitors in the four short weeks the market is open every year.

Dating from the early 1600s, Nuremberg’s Christmas market occupies the Main Square under the towering Frauenkirche (Chruch of Our Lady).

The stalls, with their candy-striped awnings, occupy in neat little rows. The stalls sell all manner of traditional handicrafts, including little “smoker” men (carved figures that hold smoking incense inside) and carved wooden toys.

A horse-drawn stagecoach takes visitors on a ride through the cobblestone streets of the medieval old city.

On weekends, the Nuremberg Christmas market is a throbbing mass of people huddling together to stay warm. During the week, you can explore the market in tranquillity, eat the local Nuremberg sausages (eaten three in a roll) and drink gluhwein (hot mulled wine).

We’ve visited many of Europe’s markets, but Nuremberg is one of the best. Whereas other markets in other cities focus only on tourists, Nuremberg’s Christkindlesmarkt still maintains its local flavour.

By Lance & Laura | Travel Addicts

Nuremberg | Christmas Europe BreaksWhere to go for winter holidays in Europe- Bavaria? 

18. Prague: Sip Svařák, See Snow

Prague is one of the most magical places you could spend a European Christmastime city break. Prague Castle sits on top of the hill and looks beautiful with a dusting of snow on it, and the Christmas markets in the Old Town have a festive, celebratory atmosphere.

My favourite thing to do there during the winter is to buy a cup of svařák (warm red mulled wine) from a booth for about a euro and take a wintry walk across Charles Bridge, marvelling at the old historical houses along the river’s edge.

Or you can curl up in a café with a view of the Vltava river with a cup of coffee and a Kafka book and watch the snowfall.

Ah, winter! <—- Yet another Christmas market break, so many to choose from!

By Allison | Eternal Arrival

19. Sinaia, Romania

Sinaia is one of my favourite destinations when it comes to Christmas destinations in Europe and winter holidays in general.

The small beautiful mountain resort has plenty of wonderful things to offer in the cold season. Located in the heart of Romania, The Carpathian Pearl is ideal for winter sports enthusiasts.

Whether you choose to ride the gondola up to 2000 m, for breathtaking mountain views, or to practice skiing, the experience will certainly be an amazing and unforgettable one. Besides, you will surely wish to visit one of the most spectacular castles in Europe. Peles Castle is the main attraction in town, for good reasons. King Carol I of Romania fell in love with the surroundings of the place and decided to build a summer residence there.

Nowadays, his castle turned out into a museum, visited by more than half a million people annually.

The Neo-Renaissance architectural masterpiece is stunning! Add some snow to the image that you have already pictured in your mind and the fairytale landscape will be complete. The interiors of the castle will let you breathless, as well.

Each room has a different architectural style, such as Gothic, Venetian, German or Oriental.

Overall, Christmas atmosphere can be felt anywhere in town, no matter if you decide to go to ice skate in downtown, to admire the holiday decorations of the streets, or to simply enjoy a hot chocolate in a rustic restaurant with your loved one. <—– You all know how much I loved our summer European trip to Bucharest, maybe Sinaia will be next on our list!

By Bella | Whisper Wanderlust

Sinaia Romania | Christmas Europe Breaks Sinaia – one of the Christmas Europe breaks for architecture lovers 

20. Tallinn

One of our favourite Christmas getaways in Europe is Tallinn, the picturesque capital city of Estonia. Tallinn’s old town was made a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage in 1997 because unlike any other capital city in Europe, it has managed to completely preserve its medieval structure and therefore nicknamed “the medieval pearl of Europe”.

The cobblestone streets are all originals, which along with the medieval churches, grandiose merchant houses, barns and warehouses, date back as far as the 11th century.

It’s the perfect Christmas getaway in late December early January time because it’s all covered in snow, making it like something from a fairy tale – the perfect ideal Christmas image you dream of <—- Have you been good this year?

Maybe Santa will send you to Estonia on your Christmas Europe break!

By Stef & Seb | Nomadic Boys


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Final Words

I hope you’ve enjoyed our guide on the best European cities for Christmas.

Whether you are seeking snow, spas, sausages, and something to sip, there’s a  short winter break for every type of traveller and budget.

Don’t forget to check out our tips on where to go for New Year’s Eve abroad this year.

Thanks to my fellow well-travelled bloggers for sharing their top tinsel-clad tips. I hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best European cities for Christmas.

Where is the best place to spend Christmas in Europe?

How Much Does Backpacking Europe Cost?

How Much Does Backing Europe Cost

Welcome, and thanks for reading our penultimate monthly budget – how much does Backpacking Europe Cost? We’ve been on the road, travelling around the Americas and Europe, for the past 15 months. Our monthly budget for June focuses on our last month – backpacking through Europe. Each day Craig tallies up what we have spent in the following categories and we then report back our monthly findings/spendings. I hope that fellow travellers looking for the cheapest way to travel in Europe find it useful.

  • Months on the road: Fifteen
  • Countries / Cities visited:
    Hungary  (Budapest 4 nights), Slovenia  (Ljubljana, Bled, Kolpa River 8 nights), Croatia (Zagreb 0 days), Bosnia and Herzegovina  – BIH (Sarajevo & Mostar 7 nights), Serbia (Belgrade 3 nights), Romania (Bucharest 3 nights), Italy (Bergamo 1 night), Spain (Marbella 4 nights)
  • Transport: 3 flights, 1 train, 10 buses, 1 car hire
  • Monthly Travel Round Up: How Much Does Backpacking Europe Cost?
  • Books: Gemma – Trainspotting 2 // Craig – Anything on the EU Ref
  • Best film / TV: Game of Thrones (eee!)
  • Music: Mr. A (Craig has been making music again)

How much does it cost to travel Europe?

The Cost of Accommodation in Europe

During this month, we backpacked around Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Accommodation wise we did a mix of comped hostel stays (Slovenia and Romania), an airport hotel (Italy) and a glampiste (Slovenia)!

For our third and final time in Budapest we opted for an apartment again (our third) which was £22.50 per night (not our cheapest in Budapest). In Ljubljana, Slovenia we partnered with a converted prison, Hostel Celica. Then on the Slovenian / Croatian border we, were happy glampers at Big Berry luxury campsite (invited as guest bloggers)! One night in a Bled hostel was squeezed in between.

No time was spent in Croatia, we bussed straight to Sarajevo in BiH after making the decision to save Croatia and Montenegro for next summer. We will then have more time and a bigger budget. Seven nights was spent in an apartment (£23.66 per night) near the old town in Sarajevo, I fell hard for this city. Belgrade in Serbia didn’t do much for me (apartment £20.33 per night) whereas Bucharest in Romania blew me away.

We had a room with a view at the lovely Little Bucharest in the Old Town for 2 nights (first night was spent in another apartment – £16 per night). In Italy, we paid for an airport hotel, which was actually 5k from the flipping airport with a stupidly priced shuttle bus. Finally, we, reach Spain, where we spent time with Craig’s family in a villa in San Pedro de Alcántara near Marbella (gratis for us – this area is a much cheaper alternative than Marbella proper).

Total: £369 (couple / 9 nights comped)

Big Berry Glampsite Slovenia I How Much Does Backing Europe Cost I Month 15
Big Berry, Slovenia 

The Cost of Food in Europe

I’ve probably eaten enough sausage to do me a lifetime during this month. The sausage differs in each country too! In Slovenia, you eat it with bread and mustard. In BiH and Serbia, you have it in a naan type bread with onion and tasty sour cream! While travelling through Europe, we did a mix of cooking in and eating out. We cooked in during our time in BiH as I cannot stand eating where people smoke (no smoking ban). However, it is probably just as cheap to eat out than at home in BiH and Serbia. If you are working through Switzerland etc this will make the average cost of backpacking through Europe more expensive but hopefully, this guide will give you a flavour (sorry!)
Read more: Travel + get free food – volunteer, here’s the how-to guide

Total: £489 (couple / 4 days comped)

Slovenia Sausages I How Much Does Backing Europe Cost I Month 15
Slovenian sausage

The Cost of Transport in Europe

Planes, trains, and automobiles this month. We trained to Budapest from Slovenia (€39 / £32.52 per person). We took buses in Slovenia, as well as to BiH from Croatia. Bussed from BiH to Serbia and planned to bus to Romania but ended up taking a flight to save time (£91 per person). We had a one-night stopover in Bergamo before getting to Malaga where we bussed to San Pedro de Alcántara. Phew!

Warning – cheap European flights don’t always work out cheap. We booked two flights with the king of low-cost airlines in Europe, Ryanair. The first from Bucharest to Bergamo then Bergamo to Malaga. Due to timings, we had to spend one night in Italy’s Bergamo, which was fine as Craig loves Italian food!

However, our ‘airport’ hotel shuttle was not free, which we found out after landing. This would mean we had to take two public buses to get to the hotel which was a problem since we were leaving at 5am on a Monday morning for the flight to Malaga. To make matters worse, Über was coming in at €35. Argh – Solution? We hired a car for £25 (quick internet booking). Another problem arose – there were no petrol stations open on a Sunday / early Monday morning. Note to readers – it is often cheaper, in the long run, to spend more on direct flights. Have you experienced this? Please remind me when we are booking flights again! One of the coolest (unused) forms of transport we visited was the abandoned bobsled track in Sarajevo!

Total: £210 (couple)

Abandoned Bobled Track Sarajevo I How Much Does Backing Europe Cost I Month 15
Winter Olympics 1984 Bobsled Track, Sarajevo BiH

Trips

We took a walking, biking or a food tour in each city. This is always my favourite way to find out about the new area. We also cycled around Lake Bled (before the heavens opened) which was lush! Our day trip to Stari Most, Mostar in BiH was probably the most scenic of all trips. That Old Bridge is just lovely. Heaps of history trips in Sarajevo too including one to the Tunnel of Hope.

Total: £74 (couple)

Stari Most, Mostar Bosnia I How Much Does Backing Europe Cost I Month 15
Stari Most, Mostar – Bosnia and Herzegovina 

The Cost of Socialising in Europe

We definitely enjoyed the Slovenian wine with the Big Berry team at Kolpa River but then gave our livers a wee rest in BiH and Serbia. We actually went clubbing for the first time in ages in Romania – Bucharest is a party place after all! We are just back from Vienna which a pretty expensive city. Wine is around £4-6 per glass. You can read more about costs and what we got up to in this cool city here.

Total: £178 (couple)

Craig's Family in Marbella, Spain I How Much Does Backing Europe Cost I Month 15
Craig’s family in Spain

Luxuries / Miscellaneous

This month we splurged on toiletries, we replenished our clothes (thanks to my parents for giving us some cash, embarrassed by our threads?!) and Craig got a haircut in Budapest. There is a chain of barbers called Barber Shop Budapest that do vintage cuts in an old-style barbershop, pretty cute. How does this compare to your ideas on how much backpacking through Europe cost? 

Total: £180 (couple)

Our Europe itineraries

Partners

  • Hostel Celica, Ljubljana Food Tours, Visit Ljubljana, Big Berry – Slovenia
  • Slow Tours Bike Tours, Little Bucharest Old Town – Romania

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How much does backpacking Europe cost? A monthly round up including accommodation, transport food, trips, socialising and luxuries.

How Much Does Backpacking Europe Cost?

Hopefully, this answers the question, how much does it cost to travel around Europe for a month? Naturally, your destination of choice will change the cost of accommodation, living etc. Even within these countries, we noticed a big difference between the price of alcohol (Hungary being the cheapest, Bucharest and Marbella the more expensive). The best backpacking Europe tips I can provide are: use public transport where possible, drink the tap water, take the free (pay by tips) walking tours, eat local – those sausages are tasty! Europe on a budget is possible, with some strategy, research, and prioritising!

Read more: best backpacks review (rucksacks and day bags by my friend, Emily)

Belgrade Free Walking Tours in Serbia I How Much Does Backing Europe Cost I Month 15

Free Walking Tour – Belgrade, Serbia

Monthly Total: £1500 (couple)
Daily: £48 daily (£43 not including clothes)

Naturally, we are in quite a unique situation, travelling on a career break, but soon we will be in the same position as Vicki from Make Time To See The World where we are working full time and will be able to actually afford travel more comfortably!

What are you saving for this month?
Any questions, fire away in the comments below and I’ll get back to you soon.