Thanks, Mr. Frommer. You changed my life!

Aug 11, 2021 | 2 comments

Did the original actually look like this reproduction? I can’t remember…

In 1957, Arthur Frommer published a pioneering guidebook called “Europe on Five Dollars a Day.”  In 1958, my (then) husband and I packed up our essentials, rented out our house,  and set off with our eighteen-month-old son to find out if, indeed, we could manage on that amount of money.  We could and we did.  For a year.

We took the SS. Ryndam of the Holland American line from NYC to Calais, then the train to Paris where we bought a used Hillman station wagon and proceeded to travel as far east as Turkey, as far north as Scotland, and as far south as Morocco — not in that order. We moved at a leisurely pace, following the sun and getting off the beaten path as much as possible.  Sometimes we rented apartments for a month; sometimes we stayed in pensiones; sometimes in gasthauses or inns or hotels.

We found early on that fresh milk wasn’t always available so Charlie learned to eat yoghurt.  I got used to being scolded by well-meaning grandmothers (in French; in Italian; in Greek; in Turkish and in Yugoslavian, which I think was properly called Serbo-Croation) for delaying Charlie’s toilet-training until he was two which was what Dr. Spock, the American baby guru recommended.  Charlie’s dad and I traded off visits to museums and art galleries with child-minding duties at fabulous city parks or along exotic shores.  We tried to see and experience everything we could — within our $5.00 a day limit which for two of us plus toddler was usually less than double that amount.

Charlie at Lido di Jesolo. Venice, 1959

As the years passed, I returned to Great Britain and the Continent many times and, even after the euro came along, I still tried to follow Frommer’s general advice — eat in the “neighborhoods” not in the tourist locations; there’s nothing wrong in refusing an ensuite room and, instead, using the bathroom down the hall; treat yourself to a “big splurge” every once in a while; speak as much of the local language as you can manage; try almost anything once.

I kept detailed notes about my expenses on those trips and just ran across two of those accountings — one from 1964 (first day in Paris, $13.44, for two) and from 1974 when I acted as guide for my folks on their first European venture — a note that on June 10th I had spent 63 francs and 90 centimes or #12.78 for the day which included hotel, lunch, cigarettes, tolls (for what?)

“Those were the days my friends…”



  1. Jane Smith

    We spent 5 weeks in Europe in 1972 with Europe on $5 Day. The book was huge. As we left a country we tore out that section of the book and continued on. I am not sure we lived on $5 day everyday, but close to it. We took $1000 in travelers checks and came home with $200.

  2. Cuzzin Ralph

    Cuzzin Sydney, I recall using Frommers for my 6 weeks tour of Europe, mainly via Eurail Pass, back in the summer of 1977. I’d just gotten my PhD from Wazzu in Feb 1977 and had taught my first year at Ole Miss. I toured all the Scandinavian countries ( met up with my parents and aunt and uncle in Denmark on their own tour, looked up an old prof in Norway that I worked for as an undergrad research assistant, and to gave a talk at Int’l conference in Finland—which paid my airfare) plus most of countries in Western Europe. Nothing planned ahead except 3 friends I looked up. Stayed mainly cheap hotels—most with the old “pull the chain to flush” toilets with the water tank up above! Great way to travel at that stage in my life!


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