Preparing For My Next Frugal Trip Abroad To Craiova, Romania

People might have wondered in the past why I decided to go abroad twice in the last year, and yes, part of it was because I discovered that I could, once I discovered a way to get really cheap airfare, so that I could even afford to travel abroad. But now that I came clean about my mental health struggles, perhaps you'll understand a bit more, that this was something that I literally needed. I needed a break. Parenting and not getting a break for 10 years straight takes a big toll, even when your kids don't have special needs, but at least 2 of mine do. Add to that the fact that I was homeschooling more or less until the start of this past school year (and one even this past school year) meant that I never got a break, and my brain screamed out that I needed a break desperately. What I needed was a good heavy dose of self care, and time without children, time that I could take care of myself and do what I needed to do to get me in a happy head space. And it worked, and it really, truly helped.

But my children really wanted to come abroad with me. Each time I traveled, they were sad about being left behind. They wanted so desperately to come, but I myself knew that if I were taking my kids, it would not be a vacation. It would be a stressful burden (as much as I love them) and it wouldn't qualify as the self care I so desperately needed.
One thing I did agree to, though, was that the summer after each kid turned 10 years old, I'd take them abroad. By the time the kid is 10 they're old enough and responsible enough that we can actually do things together, without too much whining.
And specifically the summer because my husband generally works less in the summer, making it easier for him to take care of the kids while I'm gone.

Unfortunately the summer is also the most expensive time to travel, meaning the trip can't be as frugal as other trips I went on. (No 10 euro each way airfare like my trip to Belgium in December.) But I looked on and plugged in July and August and the cheapest trip I found was to Romania. Not Bucharest, but a small city, Craiova. Ok, there was a cheaper trip to Poland, but since I was there last summer I decided to pay slightly more and go someplace I haven't already been. Of course it is more than "slightly more" since I'm now paying airfare for two instead of one, now that I'm taking my nearly 11 year old son, Lee.

For this trip, I paid round trip airfare $192.60, or $96.30 per person, which included a 25 on time arrival guarantee fee, which I decided to pay for my peace of mind. (If the flight gets delayed for more than an hour, we'd get 232 dollars, which is more than we paid for the flight.)

We will be leaving this Friday morning, July 6, and leaving Craiova on Monday, July 9 in the morning. I learned from my last two trips that if you are relying on public transportation, you need to get to the airport well in advance, because often there isn't public transportation in the night. I also learned that that means if you have an early morning flight you need to spend the night in the airport, arriving the night beforehand. For that reason, my trip will really be starting on Thursday, when Lee and I leave our house to take public transportation to the airport. We will be spending the night in the airport, flying out Friday morning, and then also spending the night in the airport Sunday night in Craiova, before our flight home. (I'm bringing sleeping bags for this.) For that reason, I only booked an AirBnB for two nights. I am paying a total of $52.25 for the two of us for both nights, working out to be $13.06 per person per night.

So far the cost of the trip is $244.85.

Since it was Lee's first time abroad, I needed to get him his first passport, but I'm not including that in the cost of this trip, because it was something I needed to get him at some point anyhow.

After needing to go to the hospital on my trip to the US with potential pregnancy complications, I learned that travel health insurance is very important, and because we don't have spare cash lying around, I pay more for travel health insurance that will pay all fees upfront, and not one where I first need to pay for any treatment and then get reimbursed. Fortunately even with that, for the two of us I'm only paying $13.50 for travelers health insurance.

I was honestly debating about whether it is even worth getting phone and internet service for the few days I'm in Romania, because the place I'm staying has Wifi, and I'll be gone a short time, and I can even download Google Maps in advance. But then I remembered that on my last two trips I had really bad panic attacks that I managed one time by calling my husband and he was able to be reassuring to me, and the other time by going online and talking to friends about my panic attack. My therapist reminded me that money is worth the peace of mind. Therefore I probably will get a plan for while I'm there, but I'm still unsure if I'm going to get a local one, or buy a SIM card when I arrive there.

When I travel, I don't pay extra for luggage; I take the minimum that comes with the airfare (usually it works out cheaper to buy what I need there than to pay more to be allowed to bring more luggage with me). On Wizz Air, the airline I'm flying with, unlike the other airlines I flew (Lot and RyanAir) you only get a carry on luggage, no personal bag like a pocketbook or laptop bag. I purchased a small carry on before my trip to Poland last summer. I didn't want to need to buy another suitcase for this trip, so I'm borrowing one that is the correct dimensions for this trip from a friend. Between Lee and I we have two suitcases to fill, so I'll be bringing a pot so I can cook at the AirBnB (I always choose ones that have kitchens) so we won't need to eat out, which works out cheaper, and also better because of various dietary restrictions.

I had planned to write a post about what I ate my last trip to Belgium, but I figure I'll combine it with this post.

Last time I had very little time to go shopping because each day I was out on a trip and the stores closed early, but I did shopping at Aldis (yes, they have Aldis in Belgium) but the Aldis there is different than the ones in the states; they're very small. It helped that they were small, because when I arrived there ten minutes to closing one of the nights I was able to just run as fast as I could (like on those reality shows where they have to do super quick shopping) and buy what to eat. On my trip I brought along both homemade fish jerky and chicken jerky, stevia sweetened chocolate, gluten free crackers, roasted chestnuts, and banana pumpkin leather (homemade, tasted awesome). I ate that while out during the day and supplemented that with apples and bananas I bought at a local corner kiosk. In the evening when I went to Aldis, I bought tuna fish, salmon, canned veggies (specifically salsify, which I bought because it was just as cheap as the other veggies, and it isn't something they sell locally; I only forage it but the roots are much smaller), and fresh veggies. When buying fresh veggies, I was looking for things that were as cheap as possible per pound there, while also taking into consideration what is expensive for me to buy locally but is cheaper abroad. Why not take advantage and be able to enjoy things cheaply that I don't usually? For that reason, I bought kabocha squash and parsnip, two things that I can't get cheaply locally.

I combined them to make this hodgepodge delicious dish.

I also bought applesauce for dessert, and orange juice and vodka to make a cocktail for myself to enjoy.

I didn't include the cost of my groceries then to my trip budget, because I didn't spend a lot; I just factored it in to my usual monthly grocery expenses.

This trip I don't have energy to make homemade leather in advance, nor do I have the energy to make jerky in advance. But that's ok. I went to the local cheap grocery store yesterday to stock up on essentials for the trip.

I bought shelf stable salami and kabanos (Polish sausage) to bring along as our protein for our trip. I purchased gluten free and gluten crackers (Lee eats gluten), as well as chestnuts. We'll buy fresh fruits and veggies as well as canned or frozen things there as well as drinks. I've already researched locations of large grocery stores where we'd have nice selections of groceries, and how to get there from where we'll be staying.

Additionally, for while I'm gone I bought a bunch of gluten free rolls and rice cakes and deli meat and hot dogs for the people at home, since my husband is hopeless in the kitchen and this is something he can serve the family.

What are we going to do in Craiova and how will we get around? Fortunately Google Maps has good information on their bus lines and times and there are a decent amount of buses that get where we need to get, also to and from the airport, and within the city. There's a free walking tour of Craiova that I want to go on, and the rest of the time we'll just play it by ear. For my son, the biggest novelty is just being in another country (he's never left the country where we live), and I look forward also to that and to bond with my charming pre teen.

When I was in Belgium, I needed to run around on my last day to find a print shop there to print my boarding pass, since they didn't accept online boarding passes, and I couldn't print out in advance of my trip since I could only check in 48 hours before flying. This time I tried to do research about print shops in Craiova, but none are open on Saturday or Sunday, the 48 hours before my trip, so that stressed me out a bit. But then I found out that with Wizz Air, they accept online boarding passes in most airports, and the few that don't accept them allow free printing of boarding passes at the gate. At least that.

My last preparations I have to make for the trip are converting change for the trip, which I plan on doing today at a local change shop, letting my bank know that I'll be traveling, and packing our bags.

I can't wait!

Anyone ever been to Romania, specifically Craiova, before and has ideas and suggestions of things that we have to do and see? Any advice for someone traveling with their kid for the first time?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Hello, I'm from Craiova and I'd be more than happy to show you around the city. If not you should visit the Romanescu National Park, the Art Mouseum and the History Museum.

    1. That is awesome! I'd love to meet you. Please email me at

  2. How awesome! I've seen Romania on shows and it looks like it would be amazing to visit.

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