I took my family of 6 on a trip to Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world, for under $7,000

vivian johnson norway

  • Norway is an extremely expensive country to visit due to
    factors like its VAT taxes, a high cost of living, and its
    remoteness.
  • A
    cruise
    is a great way to experience Norway on a budget since
    many components of your trip — including lodging, food, and
    entertainment — are included for one price. I took my family of
    six on a cruise for under $7,000 including airfare.
  • Norwegian fjords cruises can be affordable, but make sure to
    shop around for the best pricing and consider more than one

    cruise line
    .
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    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

Since my husband is Norwegian on both sides of his family, we
have always wanted to explore the beautiful and mysterious country
of Norway, and especially its show-stopping fjords. The problem?
Food, lodging, and goods in Norway are expensive, and VAT taxes
push costs up even further.

The
VAT tax on many items
in Norway is 25%, which means you’ll pay
that much extra more for hotels, rental cars, and other expenses
when you travel there. By some measures, Norway
is among the top five
most expensive countries in the
world.

Ultimately, we decided to go to Norway in June of this year
anyway — but only after researching different ways to make our
trip affordable. Ultimately, we even found a way to bring our two
kids and my in-laws along for a price my husband and I could live
with.

If you’re considering a trip to the stunning Norwegian fjords,
here are some tips to help you make it happen without breaking the
bank:

Consider a fjords cruise instead of a land-based trip

First things first. You should absolutely consider a Norwegian
fjord cruise over a land-based trip if
your goal is saving money
. Not only will cruising let you get
into all the nooks and crannies (fjords) along the Norwegian coast
without spending all your time in a car, but cruises include your
lodging, your food, your transportation, and some of your
entertainment for less than you’ll pay if you attempt a similar
itinerary on land.

holly johnson family 1

Taking a cruise can also save you time, since most of your
travel takes place at night when you’re in bed. You can visit one
of the popular fjords all day long, retreat to your ship for dinner
and relaxation, and awake in a brand-new destination without all
the effort of driving.

Compare cruise pricing and amenities

Cruises in Northern Europe are more expensive than in other
destinations like the Mediterranean, which makes it especially
important to shop around. We priced out cruises with a bunch of
different cruise lines but ultimately landed on the MSC Meraviglia
from MSC Cruises. The
price of our cruise was about half of what we would pay with a
competitor like Royal Caribbean.

Our balcony cabin for four people wound up costing a little over
$3,000 for seven nights and stops in Geiranger, Flam, and
Stavanger, Norway. We departed from Copenhagen, Denmark, and there
was an additional stop in Kiel, Germany where we didn’t get off. A
similar offer from Royal Caribbean for the same dates was priced at
$7,500.

Ultimately, this works out to a little over $400 per night for
our transportation, hotel, and all the food and drink we wanted. We
also went to nightly shows and utilized the kids’ club, which is
the at-sea equivalent of “free babysitting.” For a small additional
cost (about 15 euros each) we also saw the ship’s Cirque du Soleil
show, which was absolutely worth it.

Considering all that’s included, our Norwegian fjords cruise on
the MSC Meraviglia was a steal. As a side note, the Meraviglia is
coming to Miami this fall and we’ve already booked it for next
year’s spring break.

Eat and drink on the ship

I had very specific terms and conditions for my family each day
when we got off our cruise ship. “Eat a huge breakfast,” I told
them, then we can have a snack for lunch and eat dinner on the
ship.

With food costs so high in Norway, this is really the best way
to save money when you’re at port. Make sure you’re getting as much
free food as you can so you minimize your spending during port
days. If you don’t, the added costs of daily drinks and sandwiches
will add up fast.

Book your own excursions

Also remember that while your cruise ship may offer excursions
for convenience, you can often save money by booking them on your
own. I booked separate small boat trips off the ship to see the
world-famous Naeroyfjord out of Flam and the Lysefjord out of
Stavanger, and each of those cruises cost about half of what I
would have paid for similar excursions once on board.

norway scene

The bottom line: Booking excursions through your cruise carrier
is definitely more convenient and can easily be a good value, but
don’t be afraid to shop around.

Be strategic with airfare

Finally, don’t forget that you’ll have to get to Europe first
before you can cruise the Norwegian fjords. This is ultimately why
I decided on airfare before I booked our cruise. I wanted to
compare pricing for multiple cruise port destinations before
deciding on a ship and departure date.

We ultimately decided we wanted to spend some time on land in
Norway before our cruise, and luckily we found cheap flights out of
Chicago and into Bergen, Norway and home from Copenhagen on
Icelandair for around $600 per person. I then used
Chase Ultimate Rewards points
to book one-way flights from
Bergen to Copenhagen on SAS. That made it easy to book our MSC
Meraviglia cruise that left and returned to Copenhagen.

norway waterfall

Norway is easily one of the most beautiful countries I have ever
been to. It’s a lot like Switzerland or Scotland, really, but the
fjords make the scenery much more dramatic. I probably saw over 100
gorgeous waterfalls during our trip, and the sheer size of the
mountains flanking the fjords made them absolutely stunning.

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything
about our trip except for one detail — I would stay a lot
longer.


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I took my family of 6 on a trip to Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world, for under ,000