96 Days in Europe. Costs For A Family of Four.

This spring our family of four spent a grand total of 96 days in Europe. With my background in bookkeeping and my incessant need to always know how much we are spending, we kept a detailed log of ALL of our costs along the way. We used a handy, dandy app called Trail Wallet to track our spending. With this app you can record spending by trip (super handy) and input all of your transactions in the local currency. Trail Wallet takes the day’s exchange rates and converts to your home currency (super dandy).

Our trip started out in Vancouver. We were able to drive there from our home base in BC and leave our car at my Uncle’s house (thanks again Uncle Jim!!) We spent the night at a hotel close to Vancouver International that had a free shuttle to the airport for our morning flight. From there we grabbed our direct flights to London. We got a great deal on those flights, $2506.44 CAD return for four people.

Once we arrived in London we were picked up by Mike’s Aunt and Uncle and spent the next five days with them in their flat in Portsmouth, England. How lucky are we to have such good relatives? (Big Love to Aunt Laura and Uncle Jimmy!) From there we flew to Barcelona where we spent an entire month in an Airbnb apartment. Next up came Rome for one week, then Budapest for one month. While spending our month in Budapest, a house sitting gig fell out of the sky and into our laps and we housesat for an amazing family in the Hungarian countryside for the next two weeks. After that, we flew back to London, spent four nights trying not to break the budget in that expensive city, then took a train back down to Portsmouth for another five nights at Mike’s Aunt and Uncles before we flew back to Canada. Read the rest of this entry »


London on the Cheap. Is It Possible?

Is it possible to see London with a family without breaking the bank?


I don’t know that it is possible to do London cheaply….unless you can find a housesitting gig or if you have family to stay with.  We found accommodation in London to be RIDICULOUSLY expensive! It is the most expensive city we have every stayed in!

We spent hours scouring the Internet looking for a reasonably priced hotel room. We even looked at hostels and they were not any cheaper than a hotel since we are a family of four. I asked for advice in Family Travel Groups, searched on Airbnb, and asked friends for their recommendations.

In the end, the cheapest place we could find was a Travelodge, all the way out in Greenwich. The cost? Over $160 CAD per night (About $135 USD) for a very basic room. On the plus side, that room had a queen bed and two singles (Yay for not sharing a bed!) and included a decent buffet breakfast. On the downside, it was nothing special and for that kind of money, I expect something really nice! Depending on traffic it took between 40 minutes to an hour to get into downtown London by bus.

Now if we wanted to save time instead of money, we could have reserved a room in downtown London but that would set us back upwards of $250 per night. No thanks!

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London And The Kindness Of Strangers

We arrived in London from Budapest tired and a bit anxious to make our way to our hotel in Greenwich so we could settle in for the night. We flew into Stansted Airport which is about an hour North of London. We had pre-purchased tickets on The National Express bus (you pay much less if you pre-purchase) and had everything mapped out on Google maps offline since we were arriving in England without data on our phones. In case you are wondering, we put our cell phone plans at home on “vacation” as the prices to use them in Europe are astronomical. As soon as we get to a new country in Europe we buy a new SIM card and a data plan but this means on the day of arrival we are without Internet.

The bus ride into London was smooth and easy. We took the bus to London Bow station where we planned to take the DLR all the way to our hotel. But, when we got to the station the station was closed for weekend maintenance! What?

With no Internet on our phones ,we were able to sleuth out where the next DLR stop was using offline Google maps and we walked with all of our bags to the next station. We arrived at the second station only to find it was closed too. The entire northern DLR route was closed for the weekend. Talk about bad timing!

By this time we were stressing out. We were tired, in a new city, and had no idea where to go. Seeing we were in distress, an older Muslum man approached us and asked where we were going. He had a very thick accent and a mouth full of beetle nut and was very, very hard to understand! When we could not quite figure out what he was telling us to do he motioned for us to follow him. We did. This kind, old man walked us to the closest bus station, showed us on the board what bus we should take, gave us directions once we got off the bus (we think, we could not quite understand) and then bid us goodbye.


The correct bus came soon after and Mike talked to the bus driver about our predicament. I went to pay for our fair using our contactless credit card and the machine would not work with my card. We thought we were going to be hooped as we did not have cash on us either (It has been so easy in Europe to only rely on credit cards).  The bus driver told us we did not have to pay and said he would let us know when to get off. When it was time to leave the bus the driver actually took the time to tell us exactly where to go next to get to our hotel.

The kindness of strangers. When you are in a bind, chances are someone will be willing to go out of their way to help you out. What a great introduction to London. 🙂


Six Awesome Day Trips In Hungary

We have been housesitting in the small town of Erdőkertes, about an hour North of Budapest. While public transport here is still good, it is time-consuming and inconvenient to take busses to explore all that we wanted to see. Because of this, we decided to use the money we are saving on accommodation and rent a car so that we have the freedom to explore the country of Hungary!

Hungary is a small country, especially by Canadian standards. It takes about 5 hours to drive from one side of the country to the other. Since we are situated close to the middle of the country we have been able to explore a lot of things within a two-hour drive from the home we are staying in. We are so happy to have found this housesit, as it has given us such a great opportunity to explore Hungary in an in-depth way. There is so much to see and do outside of Budapest! Read the rest of this entry »


The Beautiful City of Székesfehérvár

Don’t you just love the name Székesfehérvár? It is one of those typical Hungarian names that people who are not Hungarian look at and wonder how on earth it is pronounced.  After a lot of coaching from our new-found family, I can tell you it is pronounced Say-Kesh-Fair-Har-Var. Easy right?


Székesfehérvár is less than a one hour train ride outside of Budapest. The train cost our family of four 3200 HUF (about 15 CAD). We were invited here by our cousins on quite a few separate occasions and were lucky enough to explore the city with locals!

At first glimpse, the city seems to be a lot of unadorned apartment blocks, but looking deeper, the city has so much beauty and charm! Read the rest of this entry »


One Month in Budapest

It is hard to believe our one month in Budapest is already over. It seems like we have just arrived and it is already time to leave.

We loved the apartment that we rented for the month with it’s soaring ceilings, large open rooms, enough beds for all of us, and not one, but two couches! Oh, it’s the little things that we appreciate when we are sleeping in other people’s homes for months at a time!

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And although we loved the apartment, we did not fall in love with the area we were in. We were right in the ruin bar district which made things rather loud at night, especially on the weekends. But it was within walking distance to a lot of sites and the metro, bus, and tram stops were all super close.

We loved a lot of things about Budapest. We found that prices were quite reasonable there. Eating out was not too expensive (much less expensive than Barcelona). We could have sit-down meals for about $8 CAD each, and street food like Gyros for $4 CAD each. We also loved the weekend markets and would often go to one each weekend just to try new Hungarian foods.

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May the 4th Be With You!

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Happy Star Wars Day!

May the 4th be with you!

Star Wars Day is an important holiday in our family. Usually, we are home from our Worldschool Adventures by May the Fourth and we always dress up in our Star Wars costumes and post fun pictures to FB. Today we celebrated it in the city of Budapest by walking around the city to take photos of our Star Wars mini figures. Enjoy!

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Public Transport In Budapest

Budapest has some of the most efficient public transport we have ever experienced. Virtually the entire city is accessible by trains, trams, buses, metros, and boats. There is no need at all to take a taxi anywhere and the public transport is on time and inexpensive.

Our family of four ended up purchasing a one-month pass that covers all of the public transport within the city. The cost of this was approx. $45 CAD each (30 USD). The unfortunate part about that was that our children SHOULD have been about half of that price, however, since we homeschool and had no student ID cards for them, the ticket ladies REFUSED to sell us student tickets. Trust us when we tell you that we tried, we even had three amazing ladies from Budapest go out of their way to argue on our behalf! But alas, no discounted tickets. If we ever come back we will make up some fake student ID cards because paying an adult price for a child because of an arbitrary rule is just plain ridiculous.

Anyways, rant over. We really love the transport here, especially the above ground yellow trams. They are so cheerful and are a fantastic way to see the city. Indeed, many days we just hop on a tram without really knowing where we are heading. Then, when we see something that looks interesting, we hop off! We have found many a playground with this strategy!

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One Of Our Best Travel Days Ever

We specifically chose to come to Hungary because of our ancestry. Or rather, Mike’s ancestry, although I am equally as interested. You see, Mike’s father was in born in Hungary and he immigrated to Canada when he was 25 years old. We were keen to come to Hungary to see where Mike’s father was born and to get a feel for the country he grew up in.

Now, being that Mike’s father was an only child, we did not have too much family to visit. There are a few cousins we knew we would get in touch with but none of them speak English which meant that communication was going to be difficult. Mike also had a Facebook friend named Zoltan in Hungary whom he had friended years ago but did not have much contact with. We share the same last name so we knew we were related to him but we did not know how we were related.

That is where things start to get interesting. When we announced our next stop on our European itinerary was Hungary, Zoltan asked us if we would like to get together while we were here. Of course we said yes! Zoltan and his wife took the train from where they live to Budapest and we spent the day together trying to figure out how we were related. After much searching on Zoltan’s part through old family trees and talking to relatives in Hungary, Zoltan has traced our routes back to the 1700’s when two brothers came from Poland to Hungary to the small village of Madarász where they worked to build a church. They stayed in Hungary and started families. We are the descendants. Zoltan figured out that we are actually 5th cousins!

Even before we knew for sure how we are related, in a shining example of Hungarian hospitality, Zoltan invited our family to our ancestral village of Madarász to his Grandmother’s house for an Easter lunch. The whole family was there to celebrate Easter together and we were invited into their family home with open arms and open hearts. I don’t know that I have ever felt so welcomed or so loved by strangers!

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Visiting the Vatican Museum (Without buying tickets online)

OK, OK, you have heard me tell you this before. We are cheap thrifty. We are here in Europe for three and a half months and we need to be careful with our Euros! That is why, against all online advice, we decided to not pre-purchase our tickets for the Vatican Museum in Rome. In what seems to me to be a ridiculous money grab, if you purchase your tickets in advance to avoid the huge lines you have to pay an extra 4€ per ticket for an online ticketing fee. That is 16€ for our family of four so we decided to take our chances and wait in line onsite for our tickets.


Yes, there were long lines as you can see above but it wasn’t too big a deal for us. We decided to go after lunch so that our bellies would be full and there would be less of a rush to finish (visiting anywhere on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster). We waited in line for almost exactly one hour. Or you could say we paid ourselves 16€ to stand around for an hour. Well worth our time in my books. Read the rest of this entry »

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