Eurotrip on a budget – traveling & living in your car for a month
Europe is full of wonderful places. Many don’t like to spend their summer in Europe as holidays here are rather expensive. Last year, we decided to explore some of the most impressive destinations without breaking our budget. We made the decision to save as much as we could and still make this one-month-long trip an adventure of a lifetime. In this article, you will find everything you need to know to follow our steps and spend a WHOLE MONTH visiting the most beautiful places in Europe. Imagine hiking in the spectacular Austrian mountains and wandering in the majestic Dolomites. Drinking wine in divine Tuscany and relaxing in the beaches of Cinque Terre & Portofino. Looking for hidden natural gems in Slovenia and sightseeing in some of Europe’s most beautiful capitals like Vienna, Prague and Warsaw. And all this Eurotrip for a budget of less than a 1000 EUR!
Ps: none of the links in this article are affiliated, they are product we bought, used and do truthfully recommend 😊
- The car
- What do you need
- Extra for camping under the stars
- Organisation for Day & Night
- Advantage of sleeping in the car vs camping
- What if it rains
- Cost of you budget Eurotrip
Without a doubt the car is the most important part of this Eurotrip adventure on a budget. You can’t do a road trip without a car 😉 If you own a car, there’s no issue there. If you don’t – just like we didn’t, you have be become more creative. Luckily for us, Martyna’s parents were kind enough to lend us their Volvo for the whole summer. Ask in the family and friends. Maybe your grandpa doesn’t drive as often and wouldn’t mind giving you the car for a while. Or your cousin will be flying somewhere for holidays and the vehicle would be otherwise parked in the garage for the whole summer.
Another option is of course renting it, however you have to be aware that car rental for such a long time will take a massive part of your Eurotrip holiday budget.
↬ TIP : For better deals on car rental read our article.
This car will be your mode of transportation, as well as a room, an office and a kitchen for the whole trip. You will basically live in it with short breaks for airbnb/hotel nights.
Preparing the car for your budget Eurotrip
You can try to build some sort of storage space in the trunk. We thought about it, but at the end decided that it wasn’t necessary. Instead we made sure to organize everything we needed in the car very well. This solution required from us to move things around for every night, but we were ready to depart immediately after getting everything from the list. With no manual labor.
Before you depart make sure that the car is in good conditions, have all the papers and checks. Double check that the car insurance covers whole Europe.
Collecting all the necessary equipment
Below you will find a full list of the things you will need to live in a car for a Eurotrip on a budget. The list written below includes descriptions, links and example items. At the bottom you will find a more detailed list that can be downloaded.
- Air mattress: it will be your bed so it has to be comfortable. We purchased ours in Decathlon and slept AMAZINGLY on it. Can highly recommend.
↬ TIP: There is air compressor in the spare wheel compartment that works with car plug. You can use it to inflate the mattress. We deflated the mattress a bit every morning so it fitted folded in the trunk and inflated it fully every night.
- Rain cover: we bought this tarp from Decathlon and it served its purpose very well. You will need a cover in case it rains as you have to cook outside.
- Camping chairs & table
- Cooking stove & cartridges: there’s no better brand than Alpen Camping. The stove is budget friendly easy to use, safe and packed very comfortably in a small black case, and make sure to take at least extra 6 cartridges of gas as you will cook a lot on this Eurotrip.
- Pots, pan & kettle: we suggest to take 1 small, 1 medium pot, a medium size pan and a small kettle. You can take those items from your home kitchen. Make sure to take the covers too.
- Plates, cups, bowls, glasses, cutlery: we suggest buying bamboo plates and bowls. They are lighter and less breakable than porcelain dishes. Cups would be best in light steel. Cutlery you can also get in bamboo fibber, or just grab some from your kitchen drawer. Water & wine glasses will be better in solid plastic.
- Electric fridge: to be honest we didn’t use the fridge that much. Since it cools only when the car is on and we used to spend long days outside. However, it was useful even not plugged as a clean food storage. We purchased this one and were happy with it.
↬ TIP: We learned during our trip to buy fresh produce like fish or cheese only on the day we were planning to eat it. We simply stopped at supermarkets every 2-3 days to get fresh things. And we always had some food that can be stored without the fridge. There is a wide variety of dinner jars and yummy instant food.
- Water jug: water is the most essential thing you will need everyday. Not only to drink, but also to cook, wash dishes and rinse yourself. We suggest getting a 15-20 L jug that can be refilled. It’s very easy to find fresh and clean water sources in Austria and Italy.
- Sheets, pillows & blanket: those you can easily take from your home bed.
- Fairy lights: it was one of our best ideas. We hanged the fairy lights (that work on batteries) around the ceiling of the car. It not only looked beautiful, but also gave us light every evening without needing to use the car battery or our phones.
- Packing cubes: the best way to keep your clothes and other personal items organised. Thanks to them you won’t need an actual luggage. With those packing cubes you can store clothes under the sits.
- Foldable basket: for all your food and supplies. It’s best to get two baskets and keep the items organised.
- Window shields : one of the most important things. Covering windows will give you privacy and darkness in case you’ll want to sleep longer. You can install little ropes and make curtains. We used reflecting foam and cut it precisely to the shape of each window. We sewed covers for the window shields so they looked prettier. The whole project took roughly an hour. It worked great as it kept the car cool and dark inside.
↬ NOTE: Always remember to crack the windows open a tiny bit before you fall asleep in the car. Even if it’s raining (you might have a few drops that dripped during the night at most). It can be a cm hole, but the air needs to circulate.
- Fast drying towels & beach towels: both a must. You don’t want to use the same towel on the sand as the one after shower. And since sometimes you might use a public shower, it’s good to have a fast drying towel.
- Car plug chargers: for phones, computer and any other equipment you might need to charge. Most items have usb adaptor that’s why it’s good to get a usb car plug adapter.
- First aid kit: there should already be a first aid kit in every car. Make sure it’s still there and in case add or replace few items like fever medicine, liquid to clean wounds, bandages etc. It’s a necessity. You might never use it, but it should always be in reach – just in case.
- Clothes (including waterproof jackets & pants), intimates, jogging, shoes (hiking boots), flip flops, swimwear, cosmetics and all the things you will need for daily/holiday life.
↬ TIP: Instead of a pijama, pack a light jogging and t-shirt to sleep in. You don’t want to parade in sexy PJ on a parking lot somewhere. Also : pack ONLY the clothes you love, you are comfortable with and you feel good in. Same goes for shoes. You can do laundry at any time during your trip (we did it twice). Self laundries are easy to find.
- Food: you can get all the basics that will be needed from the kitchen before your trip. Don’t forget olive oil, salt, pepper, spices, rice, pasta, sauce, musli, dry soups and jar dinners. The rest you can purchase as you go.
- Extras: dish soap, sponge, kitchen towels, paper towels, wet wipes. You will also need cutting board, good knife, big plastic bowl, strainer, wine opener, wooden spatula, garbage bags, mosquito spray, table cloth, picnic blanket.
Once you collect all those items on a budget you will be ready to depart for a car trip of exploring Europe and living in the car, a Eurotrip you will not regret !
Extra equipment for camping
If, like us, during this budget Eurotrip you plan on spending few nights camping under the stars, you will need to put few more items in your car. Camping equipment is a bit different than the one you will use for the car. We highly suggest to purchase good quality and light items. When hiking, weight in your backpack is the most crucial element. Every gram matters.
- Tent: first and most important. A good quality, lightweight tent will be your coverage for the night. We decided to spend a little bit more and get a tent that will last a long time. We found Cloud up by Naturehike and love the quality and easy setup.
- Mats: there is a wide selection of mats to choose from. You can get the self pumping mats that are most comfortable, yet tend to be heavy and expensive. Or a simple isolation foam that’s light, but takes up some space. We don’t have any mats to recommend as the ones we got were cheap, but very heavy and bulky.
- Air pillows: a very comfortable thing. They don’t take much space or weight and can improve the quality of sleep.
- Sleeping bags: it’s worth to spend few Euros more and get a light, but warm sleeping bag. Think of where you are going and what kind of summit you want to sleep on.
- Rain jackets: this was one of the hardest purchases for us. All really good quality, light, breathable jackets are really expensive (think a few hundred euros). At last we found two matching jackets from Marmot that were within our budget. We are very happy to say that they served their purpose and we loved them. Here’s a link to women’s and men’s jacket.
- Hiking boots: crucial. We were very happy with our decisions, although at the end Martyna regretted the styling choice. However, her KEEN Terradora Mid in leather was very comfortable from first use, not even one drop of water went through and it was perfectly breathable. However, choosing again she’d go for the KEEN Terradora II. Hamilton chose Salomon Mudstone and was also very happy.
- Small gas stove: you can’t carry the Alpin Camping suitcase up the mountain. We got a small gas cylinder and the fire part in Decathlon.
- Lightweight and compact cooking set: one pot, two plates and cutlery. That’s all you need for 1-2 nights. You will also need a foldable knife and lighter. As well as some light food.
- Headlamp: do not go hiking or camping without it. You can choose one similar to this one.
- Grayl bottle: a bottle that filters all viruses and bacterias out making even pond water drinkable. Grayl is our absolutely BEST purchase ever and we cannot imagine hiking without it. In the mountains you can always find a source of water somewhere. It will allow you to carry a small amount and fill in as you go.
- Reusable water bottles: best in stainless steel. They will keep the water cool or hot, depending on your need.
↬ TIP : Boil some water before going to sleep and use your water bottle as a heater in the sleeping bag.
- Thermal clothing : it gets cold during the night. Make sure to pack enough layers to keep warm.
- Warm/breathable socks : good socks are as important as good shoes.
- Power bank : if you hike for couple of days, it will allow you to charge your phone.
- Backpacks : Martyna has 27 L from Lowe Alpine and Hamilton a 30 L from Jack Wolfskin. Choosing the right bag is hard, there’s a lot of models but often something is missing or its not comfortable. Think of easily accessible top pockets, side holder for bottles, front attachment system to be able to carry your sleeping bag/mat, and a shape that fits your back!
- Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
- First aid kit (you can use the same as in the car)
Organising the equipment in the car
There are two different set ups for the car : the day and the night. Below you will find description and pictures.
The day looks like this : the air mattress is deflated half way. It’s folded in half, together with sheets, pillows, blankets and sleeping jogging (PJ) tucked in. Below the mattress is the foldable table. On both sides we squeezed in the tent, sleeping bags & mats, as well as the window shields. Once the car trunk cover is closed, we put on top on each side the camping chairs.
The back seats are up. On the back seats we put 2 baskets : with dry food & cooking utilities. In the middle, the 2 backpacks (one with electronics, second with cosmetics). The fridge is on the floor behind the driver’s sit (the cable needs to reach the car plug), together with the cooking stove. Behind the passengers sit are packing cubes with all of the clothes and shoes.
↬ TIP : Check if there is an extra compartment where the spare wheel is. You might be able to put a lot of extra items there. You should put things that you won’t need often as it’s not very easily accessible. (for example we put our beach and seaside stuff there while we were in the mountains)
For the night the drivers & passengers seat are moved forward. The fridge and cooking stove go on the driver’s seat. The backpacks move to the floor in front of the drivers seat. The basket with cooking utilities goes on the floor replacing the fridge. The second basket with dry food and water jug goes on the passenger seat. The back seats fold down.
The air mattress together with the sheets and blanket is unfolded to a full bed. The tent, sleeping bags, mats, camping chairs are moved to the floor in front of passengers seat. The window covers are placed on the windows. The trunk cover is detached and put below the front windshield.
It might seem complicated at first. However once you get a hang of what goes where it takes roughly 2-3 minutes to prepare the car from day to night mode 😉
Advantage of sleeping in the car vs camping
First things first : it’s safer to sleep in the car than in the tent. Always remember to lock the doors before you fall asleep (just crack one or 2 windows open for a centimeters to allow air circulation). You can park anywhere as long as it’s not forbidden. Car camping is allowed in most European countries, except Slovenia that fines heavily sleeping in the car outside of the designated (and very expensive) spots. To set a tent you need to be on a special campground or look for another secure and secluded place. We slept anywhere : on a parking lot on the side of the road, by some lakes, up the mountains- as long as it was safe to stop there.
↬ IMPORTANT : Your best friend while car camping will be Park4Night app. There are so many spots marked by people. Each location is rated – 5 stars is best, 4 good, 3 decent etc. and you can read the comments of other’s experience.
Car is also more comfortable than a tent. With all the items we listed above, your car will become a cosy home during this budget Eurotrip.
Even if Europe is not as well prepared for the camping community as New Zealand or Australia, there are enough of public/free toilets you can use. Gas stations, restaurants, public toilets, or sometimes … nature. It’s not as bad as it seems. Surely it’s not as comfortable as staying at a hotel with your own bathroom, but trust us – it’s totally doable. Side note – Martyna suffers from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are she managed for the whole month without issues.
There are also public showers that you can use. Ok let’s not kid ourselves. Most likely you won’t shower everyday. You can wash yourself everyday with the water from the jug and use wet wipes. Martyna kept her everyday (morning and evening) beauty routine without problems : washed her face with Khiels face wash with water from the jug, followed by Bioderma cotton pad, tonic and endless serums, oils and creams. Used wet wipes for other body and intime parts. We showered/washed ourselves every couple of days, once we found a spot. Like at the Aqua Dome where we spent an afternoon, in the lake where we swam for hours (didn’t use products there), at the beach shower, in the mountain shelter or at a cheap hotel when we really needed a break.
You will probably need to do a laundry at least 2-3 times during the month long budget Eurotrip. We have a good news for you : there are many self operated laundry places. We used Lavapiù Cortina in the Dolomites. The quality of the wash was amazing and relatively quick. We washed everything including the sheets. 3 separate washes and dryers costed about 20 EUR. Our items were clean and dry within 2 h.
What if it rains?
We were really unlucky with the weather for a big part of our trip. Especially in the Dolomites the weather was far from summer. It was cold and rained nearly everyday. How did we make it work? By being well prepared. Warm clothing, waterproof jackets, pants and shoes. And the tarp we mentioned above in the list of budget friendly things to buy before the Eurotrip came in very handy. We didn’t always open it properly, but just made sure it provided enough cover. We attached it to the railings on top of the car, stretched it above the trunk door and the other strings attached to whatever was near (for example a bench). Also bigger rocks were very useful in keeping the tarp in place. Thanks to the tarp we could open the camping table, cook on it while sitting in the trunk comfortably on the mattress.
The cost of our budget Eurotrip
Traveling & living in a car is the perfect way to do a Eurotrip or explore in gerenal without breaking your budget. Our TOTAL cost of a month long trip was 1750 EUR + about 250 EUR of car equipment. It means we spent 1000 Euro each for a month long holiday, visited 5 countries and countless beautiful locations.
We drove about 6500 km and spent 600 EUR out of the budget on gas. We spent 3 nights in cheap hotels (like Florence or Venice) and ate in restaurants only a few times. The rest was food, entry tickets, highway tolls and all the extras like gelatos, parkings, coffee etc.
Since we already have all the equipment, our next car trip will be even cheaper. We fell in love with the easiness of this way of travel and plan to explore more countries the same way upcoming summer.