Belgium, Budget travel, Europe, Luxembourg, Travel

Anniversary trip to Europe for (less than) $1800

My husband and I had never left our kids and gone on a trip together in our 7 years of marriage, so last year for our anniversary, we decided it was about time to take a trip together without the kids. We absolutely love traveling with our kids and I did have pangs of guilt leaving them, but it was so good for us. Like SO good for us. We had already spent a fair amount on our family trip to Europe in the spring, so we decided to make this a super budget trip. We were like the 20-Something backpackers that we’d never been. It was so much fun!

We chose our destination like this: Let’s find the cheapest tickets to Europe in November and we will go there! We watched ticket prices for weeks. To see how we buy our tickets, look at this post. The cheapest tickets we could find were to Brussels, Belgium for $350. Yes, $350 from Denver, Colorado. Sure. Why not?! We dropped our kids off in Colorado with my parents, flew into Brussels, grabbed our rental car, and headed south.

The first stop on our trip was to Dinant, Belgium. We drove there early in the morning after landing in Brussels and watched the sunrise. It is one of the most strikingly beautiful places I’ve ever been. We were so sleep-deprived it felt like a dream, but I have photographic evidence that it was real! There is this juxtaposition of the natural beauty, the rocky cliffs, and river, mixed with the man-made beauty of the cathedral and colorful homes. It’s just incredible….. and definitely underrated.

Then, because I sometimes pack way too much into a one week trip, we headed down to Luxembourg. Basically, we were so jet-lagged and delirious that we fell asleep at about 6:00 in the evening and slept until 5:00 am.

This tiny country completely stole my heart. I read somewhere about this village called Vianden on the Belgian border, and really wanted to make it there. So, we got up before sunrise and drove to the village. If you want to see a real fairytale village untouched by tourism…. Go to Vianden. I still can’t believe how much I loved this village. We drove around a corner and this majestic castle literally took my breath away. Of course, I squealed to pull over and we took 682,000 pictures there, and then we continued into the windy cobblestone lined streets of the village, walked by a babbling brook (literally… I KNOW), ate croissants at a lovely little cafe, found mysterious paths in the woods, explored a beautiful old cemetery…You guys, now that I’m home, it feels like a dream. If you haven’t been, go to Luxembourg!

I told my husband my one regret on our spring road trip through Germany was that we didn’t make it to Rothenburg. So, he said, “let’s go then”…. it was a little bit out of the way… driving from Luxembourg to Brugge. Yeah, just a bit. But why not? I’m telling you, it was so worth it. Since it was just before the Christmas Markets and after the summer rush, it was quiet and there were hardly any tourists there at all.

Since we didn’t have kids and could move at a really fast pace, we also decided to pack in Burg Eltz Castle. Yes, we did. Walking through the forest to this castle really feels like a fairy tale. I could finally picture the forests spoken of in Grimms’ stories. It’s just too magical for words.

Finally, we made our way to Belgium! We stayed at Hostel 28. We had our own room. It had a living room and a bedroom and a bathroom for $58. It was right in the center of town and right next to a fabulous coffee shop (they didn’t even roll their eyes when I asked for my latte iced) and the best restaurant of maybe my whole life. I still dream about that sauce…

The best restaurant in probably the whole wide world.

Bruges may be the most charming city I’ve ever visited. The canals, the horse drawn carriages, the lovely, friendly people (Can we talk about their style? Such great style… I told my husband I needed a notebook to take notes!), the food was divine, the cobblestone alley ways, bookshops, clothing stores, the architecture, the market, I could go on and on. I ❤️ Bruges!!!

We stopped at this famous little chocolate shop just off the Markt in the medieval center of Bruge. We visited it several times while we were there. The shop owner even warmed up to us a little bit by the end. But, just a little. It’s arguably the best/most famous chocolate shop in Belgium. My absolute favorite truffle there was the raspberry cream. It literally melts the second the chocolate shell breaks and the inside hits your tongue. The tartness of the berry with the perfect, not-too-sweet subtlety of the creamy center….It’s good. Like really, really good. My husband and I were debating which chocolate we love most. They’re all divine.

We decided to take a day trip up to Delft in The Netherlands, because we just can’t stop, won’t stop.

Watching the rain through the window of our cafe.

At the Delft factory

We ate plenty of stroop waffles, visited the Delft Earthenware Factory, ate some delicious Gouda, walked the canals and headed back to Bruge.

We ended our trip in Brussels. We didn’t have enough time to do the city justice, but we did manage to see The Mannequin Pis, don’t you worry. It did remind us of our little boy back home and we were ready to see the kids again refreshed and full of stories (and chocolate to share).

I’m sharing these details about cost with you because I’m passionate about breaking down barriers around international travel. I think that many of my fellow Americans never travel overseas because they think they can’t. I’m here to say that you can!

Budget breakdown

Flights: $700

Hotels: $330 ( I did the conversion from Euros to USD)

We never paid more than $60 for a room. In off season, you can score super cheap deals! Our room in Luxembourg was free because I’d earned enough Airbnb credit, and our rooms were discounted on Booking.com because of other people using this code (It means we both get $20 off!)

We ended up adding a night to here, so €180.

Rental car: $450

We are pretty picky about car rental companies as we’ve had some bad experiences. We love Enterprise (it’s an American company). The customer service can’t be beat. I love you, Europe, with my whole heart, but sometimes your customer service is iffy, and rental car service can be horrendous to say the least.

Food: I don’t count food as we usually spend the same amount traveling as we do at home, but it was about $200.

Souvenirs: $100

Mostly from the Christmas stores in Rothenburg.

And, of course, chocolate in Bruge.

Gas $200

Total: $1780

Happy travels, Loves!

❤️ Melissa

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4 Comments

  1. Sara

    October 7, 2018 at 1:38 am

    What a fun anniversary trip!! Luxembourg is SO gorgeous!! That dough ball in Rothenberg looks DELICIOUS!!!! I’ve seen it on other videos and totally want to try it!! I love that you all drove all over (we’re the same way)… and that you got so many great deals!! Love it when you can fly to Europe for the same cost as staying in the US!

    1. admin

      October 7, 2018 at 6:12 am

      Yay! My blog didn’t eat your comment! We love driving! It’s only way to see the little unexpected magical things along the way, isn’t it? That was the cheapest ticket to Europe we ever got. It was crazy. Thanks for reading, girl. Your support means so much! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Janet Tremer

    October 16, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    I LOVE your travel style. We adopted the same style since we first went to Europe in 1977. Low to the ground also means you get to have more interaction with local, real people! Some of our more precious and lasting memories comes from those moments. And the serendipity that comes with self travel is priceless. Wishing you as much glorious, adventurous, eye opening, and soul inspiring travel as we have had … and will continue to have. You are our kind of people!

    1. admin

      October 22, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      Yes! I totally agree. We have so much more fun when we travel this way. We’ve done more luxurious trips, but this one is still our favorite. Thank you so much, Janet! ❤️

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