Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Budgeting for Portugal

Before RD goes off on his annual 5-week work trip at the end of this month, we wanted to budget for Portugal, and at least book our flights to Portugal. But since a big goal of ours this year is to save for a down payment, going off on a 3-week long European vacation seemed a bit extravagant. We can afford to go, but it doesn’t mean that we should go if it means sacrificing a bigger financial goal that we hope to achieve.

So after thinking about it for a while, we decided on a pretty good compromise – we’ll reduce our vacation from 3 weeks down to 2 weeks, and spend the additional week off as a staycation where we can get as much autumn hiking in as we can. It actually works perfectly because we still get to go to Portugal, but we’ll also get in a bunch of regional hiking in that we weren’t sure how we were going to fit into the summer months.

Right now we have a preliminary budget sketched out for our (now) 2 week trip:

  • Flights (Vancouver-Azores, Azores-Lisbon, Lisbon-Vancouver) – $2,450
  • Accommodation (14 nights) – $1,200
  • Food – $1,000
  • Car rental (7 days + gas) – $450
  • Transportation – $100
  • Miscellaneous – $200

Our budget came to $5,400 total. We have about $500 in travel rewards points to redeem, so I’m thinking we can do this trip for under $2,500 per person.

For our itinerary, we plan on spending 1 week in the Azores (split between Faial and Pico), and 1 week on the mainland in the Lisbon area. I’ve been to Lisbon, Sintra, and Faro before, but RD hasn’t been to Portugal at all. So it will be interesting to see if it’s as amazing as I remember it being. :)

In order to save money, we’ll be trying to book AirBnB for most of our stay so we’ll have access to a kitchen. Our trend when traveling is to cook most of our meals in our rental anyway, but I’ve added a bit of padding because I’m sure we’ll go out for food more often than usual in Portugal. We also decided to forego renting a car for the mainland portion of the trip. Instead, we’ll just take a train from Lisbon to Porto, and save our car rental for the Azores.

Any suggestions to this budget are more than welcome!

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Tara says:

    I want to take a similar vacation, although for less time, so keep us in the loop with the details. I also second doing the Air BnB thing… I’ve had three vacations with Air BnBs (two domestic, one international), and having that kitchen plus a clothes washer made the vacations that much easier and cheaper. Love Air BnB!

  2. We’re looking forward to Portugal as well!

    Planning to travel in October 2017.

    Flights from Ottawa = $1500
    13 nights = $1300 (mostly Airbnb although staying at a luxury winery for a few nights :)
    Average $100 per day for food, drink, car rental and fun.

    I figure ~$4500 for us.

    $2500 for a 2 week vacation per person is good given your travel distance. Really though, are you going to sweat a few hundred bucks 10 or 20 years from now?

    You know the answer.

    I hope you and RD have a great time :) Keep me posted on your travel plans.


  3. CanadianSaver says:

    I’ve heard great things about the Azores, can’t wait to hear how you like it :)

    I prefer eating out when I travel, so $1,000 budget for 2 weeks seems tiny to me !

  4. Ny says:

    Hi, I’ve done portugal before, and you should definitely consider the hostel instead of the air bnb! The Destination Hostel is located in the train station (you can’t ear the trains) is perfect and it’s cheaaaap! A private bedroom can be only like 40$ per night and it’s super stylish (560$ +maybe taxes, i don’t remember, since i paid it in euros while I was living in Switzerland). Breakfast is included. You can book a trip to Sintra from there! You might want to consider to rent a scooter to add more adventure!! :)

  5. I’ve been looking forward to planning an international vacation like this, so it’s great to see how you guys are budgeting for it.

    Honestly, the AirBnB and cooking at the rental sound like the best ways to reduce expenses while traveling. That’s where a lot of my money ends up going: eating out. The staycation afterwards sounds brilliant, sometimes you need a vacation when you get back from vacation and it reduces the costs. Double whammy

  6. Hey Krystal, my family is headed to Portugal as well in July. We’re lucky enough to have European relatives with a “cottage” outside of Lisbon so accommodation for the four of us will be nil. Other than flights and car rental we’re budgeting money for wine and olives :)

  7. Anna says:

    Hey there,

    I went on a two week trip to the Azores in October! Sad to hear you aren’t going to Sao Miguel island- was by far the best one!

    I hope you climb Pico Mountain! We planned to but we got rained out and it was canceled. We stayed at Jeiroes Do Mar in Pico for 6 nights- great spot. Enjoy your trip!

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yeah we couldn’t get to all the islands, so chose the two we were most interested in. Keeping my fingers crossed that we get good weather for our Pico climb! :)

  8. Maria F says:

    Curious about your flight routing, are you guys flying Azores Airlines (formerly SATA)? From YYZ I’ve ever only seen flights to Terceira or Sao Miguel, although they have inter island flights once you’re on the ground.
    While I have family on mainland Portugal, and a place to stay… I definitely loved my AirBnB experience in the Azores. I would recommend eating out as much as possible, it’s very affordable to do and you’ll have excellent meals guaranteed.
    We found that most of our car rental costs (about 75%) were related to the price of gasoline, I would definitely go with a Diesel car over a gas car the next time around. Also if you do get a chance, go hiking at Peneda do Geres National Park, it’s on the border with Spain (former border crossing of Portal do Homem) about 1.5 hours outside of Braga. While you would need a car to access the park, the hiking and the waterfalls are exceptional.

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Yeah we will be flying Azores Airline, and our route is Vancouver-Toronto-Sao Miguel-Faial. We priced out every possible route, that combined the islands we wanted to go to and the mainland, and that ended up being the most cost effective. Luckily our connections are pretty decent, the entire travel time is 16 hours.

      My main concern with Portugal is that I won’t be able to eat a balanced vegetarian diet when I’m there. I did a bit of searching on the internet and it seems like I could do it but it wouldn’t be super appealing. So I’m trying to decide if I’m ok with eating seafood while we’re on vacation, but my gut instinct is no.

      Thanks so much for the hiking tip! We will look into Peneda do Geres and see if it fits in our schedule. Hiking is basically the top activity for us whenever we travel. :)

      • Maria F says:

        Ah I totally understand the vegetarian thing. If you say that to a Portuguese person about my grandmother’s age they would most definitely try to push seafood (which by and large is quite fabulous when fresh).

        My one word of advice (mind you I didn’t quite catch when you would be travelling so this might not matter) right now there are significant ground delays at YYZ due to runway construction, from what I’ve read there would be a stop to construction over the summer with phase two commencing in October. As long as you don’t have to re-check baggage or change terminals in Toronto… it shouldn’t be too bad.
        More info at:

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