Welcome to the Budget Series! I aim to give more practical advice and expound on the financial details of our travels through this series. Although travel is way more accessible now than ever before, most of us still need to set aside a piggy bank/save up for a vacation. By taking advantage of credit card reward and bonus points, N and I have been able to travel more frequently and save on cash spend while traveling. The goal for this series is to discuss budgeting/finance tips, breakdown costs of each trip, and show you how to best use your points and cash to optimize your trip financially.
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Switzerland was a great choice to open up our big trip! Although it was pretty expensive in Zurich, we saw lower prices in Lauterbrunnen, mainly in terms of food cost. I was hoping that Switzerland wasn’t going to blow our budget out of the water, and surprise…it didn’t! The exchange rate was about 1.03 francs to 1 USD. Here’s the breakdown below.
Since Zurich was the first destination of our international trip, we flew from San Francisco (SFO) with layovers in Dallas (DFW) and London (LHR) before arriving in Zurich (ZRH).
We flew First Class on American Airlines from SFO to DFW. Our long haul flight from DFW to LHR was on Business Class with American Airlines, and the last leg from LHR to ZRH was on Business with British Airways.
This was all achieved with 51,750 AA miles and $26 of taxes and fees per person (103,500 AA miles and $52 total). The original cost of the flights was 57,500 AA miles, but since we both have the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card, we got a 10% rebate on miles, bringing it down to 51,750 each. We also earned the AA miles needed for these flights through the sign-up bonus of 75,000 AA miles from the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card.
I believe Airbnb options have been getting better and better, and the quality of rentals has only improved. I was weary, at first, because I’m a big germaphobe, and I’m not fond of staying in strangers’ places that’s not my home or a hotel (I swear I’m not bougie, I just value cleanliness A LOT). Sometimes, Airbnbs are a hit or miss for me. But, the Airbnbs we’ve been staying at proved to be very hygienic, aesthetically pleasing, and we had no complaints about the locations.
We stayed two nights at this Zurich Airbnb for $259.58. Expensive, I know. Zurich is, overall, an expensive city.
Two nights and one full day in Zurich cost us $103.18. The thing that saved us a little was that we found this sandwich joint called Äss-Bar that sells one-day-old sandwiches for cheaper than normal ($2-3 for a small sandwich and $3-4 for a bigger sandwich).
We bought an all day tram pass in Zurich for $9.30 each, $18.60 total. The tram was very easy to use and takes you all around the city.
Once we got to Lauterbrunnen, we noticed that food prices weren’t as steep as they were in Zurich. Even so, we wanted to cook most of our meals instead of eating out. We were able to save even more since grocery store prices were noticeably cheaper too! It was quite enjoyable to cook our meals in a little Airbnb cottage, which made us feel “at home” in Lauterbrunnen. Accommodation prices, however, were fair to expensive, so don’t expect costs to drop much in this area.
We spent three nights in this Lauterbrunnen Airbnb for $354.25. Most of the ones we looked at were $100+/night before taxes and fees. N found ours for sub-$100/night, but after taxes and fees, it turned out to be $118/night.
Even though our Airbnb was the only sub-$100 listing at the time, we found nothing wrong with it. Plenty of space and full of amenities (even a laundry facility available), and the location was on the main street of town. The only thing I can mention is that we stayed on the top floor, where the roof hung low in certain areas as it was slanted down, so you have to watch your head. Don’t be too tall. 🙂
Since we cooked most of our meals, we only spent $80.84 over three days! We frequented the Coop Supermarket down the street everyday, which was the only market in town. It had everything that we needed though, including fresh veggies and fruits.
We walked everywhere in Lauterbrunnen and did some hiking to the waterfalls. The costs I’m including here are for the train rides for two from Zurich to Lauterbrunnen, which was $114.53 and from Lauterbrunnen to Geneva (where we flew out of to the next destination), which was $85.84, totaling $200.37.
Total spending in Switzerland over four days and five nights was $1,068.82. Not the best outcome, but we knew what we were signing up for.
Overall, we saw drastic price increases in Zurich, but thankfully, we only stayed in the city for one full day. On a long trip like ours, we were happy to balance eating in and dining out, like in Lauterbrunnen, in order to avoid overspending. I’d say we got the perfect taste of Switzerland on this initial visit and can’t wait to come back for more!