Historic architecture, beautiful art, scenic beaches, and exciting adventures; these are just a few of the reasons that Europe is a dream vacation destination for many. Sadly, many people go their entire lives without visiting a single country on this continent. The reason is usually expense.
Yes, travel can be expensive, and it can be difficult to fit it in when budgets are tight. Many people forego travel because they fear that budget travel means boring travel. Nothing could be further than the truth when traveling in Europe.
1. Rethink Your Lodging Options And Use Airbnb
When you think about traveling with class, luxury hotels may come to mind. Unfortunately, those are expensive. Why spend your money on lodging when you could be spending it on food and entertainment? In addition to that, staying in a hotel guarantees that you will have to rely on restaurants and room service to feed yourself.
Instead, check out alternatives such as Airbnb or even luxury boutique hostels. Airbnb may be more expensive if you look at price alone. However, when you consider that you will have a kitchen and in some cases laundry facilities, that’s likely to help you save a big chunk of change.
Are you traveling with family? You can spread out in a small home or cottage much more easily than you can a double suite.
2. Search For Package Deals
Many cities and attractions use package deals to encourage tourists to spend their time and money there. For example, you may be able to get a day pass that provides you with free public transportation, admission into any museum or attraction, and maybe even a meal discount. That includes the Budapest Card, Barcelona City Pass and more.
If you go into a large attraction such as a zoo or amusement park, see if they offer discount day passes. It will usually cost less than paying for each individual activity as you get to it.
On a final note, consider using a travel agency. Yes, you can certainly book all of your own travel, but do some price comparisons. A travel agent may just have connections to behind-the-scenes deals that the general public does not.
3. Consider Traveling to Alternative Cities
Remember that the more popular a city is, the more expensive it is going to be. Cities such as Paris and Rome are absolutely gorgeous, and there is plenty to see and do. However, they are pricey and often crowded. Fortunately, there are plenty of cities that are just as amazing that you can visit on a budget.
For example, consider Granada over Barcelona or Lyon over Paris. You’ll still enjoy an amazing experience and have money for other expenses.
Another alternative to consider is rethinking the countries that you choose to visit. Spain is absolutely beautiful, but so is Portugal. You’ll find that Portugal is also much less expensive. Check out Hungary, Serbia, Albania and other countries that are often overlooked by travellers.
4. Use These Handy Tips to Save Money on Flights
Here are some mini life hacks that you can use to save money when booking flights:
- Sign up for frequent flyer miles on several different airlines and accumulate the miles before your trip. You can then use them towards class upgrades or even completely free tickets. The best airline reward cards are ranked here.
- Opt in to receive marketing emails from airlines and travel companies to get notified about special promos. Additionally, you may want to sign up for deal alerts at Fly4Free and Airfare Watchdog. Both websites publish a great selection of daily promos and incredibly cheap error fares.
- Remember that flying business class could be more affordable than you think. Again, there are websites that will help you find affordable fares like Let’s Fly Cheaper.
- Fly into larger airports. There are plenty of cheap flights to huge hubs like London or Paris, but you may have a hard time getting an affordable rate for smaller cities like Porto or Geneve. Hence, consider flying to a larger city and then switching to a local/low-cost carrier to get to your destination.
- Fly with a stopover— again, this is an excellent way to save some cash and visit another city. Some airlines like Icelandair, Finnair and Turkish Airlines offer free international stopovers up to a week long.
For most people, airfare represents a huge chunk of their travel budget. Saving money here can be pretty significant.
5. Walk or Use Public Transportation
Not only is renting a car expensive, you also have to consider fuel costs and parking. In addition to this, many cities in Europe aren’t very car friendly in the first place. Whenever possible, opt for walking, biking, or use public transportation. While public transportation is very hit or miss in the United States, it is generally reliable in cities in Europe.
You may find yourself needing to call a cab once or twice, but you will still save money by walking past the rental car counter at the airport.
6. Dine Out at Local Restaurants
It’s tempting to visit restaurants owned by celebrity chefs, expensive local chains, fine dining establishments, and other expensive restaurants. But, what do you really get for your money? The food sold at restaurant chains is often made miles away, frozen, and simply reheated. Celebrity chefs are great cooks, but it’s not likely that they will be cooking for you. You’ll probably also find that the dishes they serve are their interpretations of local dishes.
Instead, consider dining at locally owned restaurants. You’ll save money, eat among the locals, and be more likely to experience traditional cuisine. As an added bonus, your dollars will directly benefit local business owners and workers. Post a few questions on expat Facebook groups or check out recommendations on Spotted by Locals.
7. Visit the Bureau of Tourism at Each Destination
When you arrive at each destination, search for the local bureau or tourism or other similar organization. The folks at these places are very willing to point you in the direction of inexpensive dining, attractions, and entertainment. In some cities, museums, theaters, zoos, and other attractions will pass along coupons and other discounts to people who stop by the local ministry of tourism.
If your trip happens to coincide with a local event, they will have all the information you need as well. This is also where you will want to go when inquiring about the bundled discounts listed above.
8. Shop Currency Exchange Rates
First of all, never exchange your currency at the airport. Instead, wait until you are in the city to take care of that particular task. However, don’t stop at the first currency exchange that you see. Some will charge significantly more than others.
Whenever possible, check out the exchanges that are a bit further away from city centers. You’ll probably get a much better rate.
9. Travel in The Off Season
For the most part, you can expect most European cities to be crowded and more expensive. However, you have to do a bit more research to discover the true off season for each country, even for each city.
For example, February to March is generally a great time to visit Rome. However, make a note of holidays such as Easter in Rome, as you are going to struggle with both cost and crowds. Know which events and holidays could cause a temporary tourism boom in what would normally be the off season.
10. Eat at The Market
Beautiful farmer’s markets are abundant in Europe. Even better, they feature goods beyond fruits and vegetables. At many of these markets you can find the following items:
- Cheese and bread
- Wine and soft drinks
- Hot prepared foods such as sandwiches or kabobs
- Fruit and vegetables prepared to eat
Take advantage of this! Why spend money eating at an expensive restaurant looking at beautiful scenery when you can make an inexpensive picnic lunch from what you find at the market. Then, you can eat while you are immersed in the scenery rather than simply looking at it.
To save money while still creating an amazing vacation experience, you’ll need to focus on keeping costs down in various areas. These include airfare, transportation, accommodations, dining, and activities. A good rule of thumb is to pick one or two areas that you see as being non-negotiable.
For example, if you are a foodie, you may want to spend extra money to eat in the best restaurants. By all means do this, just find another area where you are willing to cut costs. You will eventually find a balance that allows you to enjoy a great vacation on a budget.