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10 Tips For Traveling in Europe With Class on a Budget

10 Tips For Traveling in Europe With Class on a Budget

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Elena Prokopets

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on June 15, 2018

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively

Eight out of ten adults experience lower back pain once in their lifetime. I am one of those people and I’m definitely not looking forward to my participation award. I know how it feels like to step out of bed and barely being able to put on your socks. Having lower back pain sucks. But 9 out of 10 patients that suffer from lower back pain don’t even know the primary cause of it.

Video Summary

Back Pain? Blame Our Evolution

Once upon a time in our fairly recent past, our ancestors felt the urgency to stand up and leave our quadruped neighbors behind. Habitual bipedalism, fancy word for regularly walking on two legs, came with a lot of advantages. With two rear limbs instead of four, we were able to more efficiently use our hands and create tools with them.

Sadly, life on two legs also brought along its disadvantages. Our spine had four supporting pillars previously, but now it only got two. The back is therefore naturally one of the weak links of our human anatomy. Our spine needs constant support from its supporting muscles to minimize the load on the spine. With no muscle support (tested on dead bodies) the back can only bear loads up to 5 pounds without collapsing [reference Panjabi 1989]. With well-developed torso muscles, the spine can take loads up to 2000 pounds. That’s a 400-fold increase.

Most people that come to me with a history of a herniated disc (that’s when the discs between the vertebral bodies are fully collapsed, really severe incident), tell me the ‘story of the pencil’. The injury with the following severe pain usually gets triggered by picking up a small, everyday object. Such as a pencil. Not as you may think by trying to lift 100 pounds – no, but by a simple thing – such as a pencil.

This tells us that damage in your back adds up over time, it’s a so called cumulative trauma disorder. Meaning back pain is a result of your daily habits.

Sitting Is the New Smoking

Whenever I sit for too long, my back hurts. In fact, 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting. But isn’t sitting something that should reduce the stress of your back? No, just the opposite.

The joints between the bones of the spine are not directly linked to the blood supply. These joints instead get nourished through a process called diffusion. Diffusion works because molecules (such as oxygen, important for cells) are constantly moving and try to get as much space for themselves as they can. A key element for diffusion therefore is a pressure difference. In the image below the left room contains more moving molecules than the right, that’s why the molecules from the left are moving to the right. This way nutrition gets transformed into the joints, whereas toxins are transported out of the joints.

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Sitting puts a lot of pressure on your spinal chord. The diffusion process therefore can’t function as efficiently. Nutrition and toxins can’t be properly transported, the joints get damaged.

    Sit Properly

    If sitting can play such a huge part in the creation of your lower back pain, how do you sit properly then?

    Is it better to sit with a straight back or should you rather lay back in your chair? Can I cross my legs when I’m sitting or should I have a symmetrical position with my feet? These are questions that I hear on a daily basis. The answer might shock you – according to recent science – all of them are right. The best sitting position is an ever-changing one. An ever-changing position minimizes the pressure on certain points of your spine and spreads it on the whole part.

      Credit: StayWow

      Stand Up More

      Even better than a sitting position is a stand up position. Standing dramatically reduces the pressure on your spine. If you’re forced to work on a desk the whole day though, you have two options.

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      Take breaks every hour of about 2-3 minutes.

      Set an alarm on your phone that goes off every hour! In that time you stand up and reach to the ceiling, on your toe tips with fully extended arms. You’re inhaling during the whole process. You do this activity for 20 seconds. Afterwards you’re walking through the office for the next 2 minutes. You might grab a healthy snack or some water in that time. The exercise relieves the pressure on your spine, while the walking makes sure that the joints on your spine are properly used.

      Or get a standing desk.

      One of the best companies on the market for Standing Desks, according to my research, is Autonomous. Autonomous offers a rather cheap Standing Desk, with the ability to change the height. Which means you can start the day standing and switch to sitting if you’re tired.

      Exercise for Lower Back Pain

      Sitting is an immobile position. Your joints are made for movement and therefore need movement to function properly. If humans are moving, all moving parts: e.g. the joints, bones and muscles get strengthened. If you’re in a rested position for too long, your tissues start to deteriorate. You have to get the right amount of activity in.

      But not too much activity. There’s a chance that going to the gym may even increase your risk of lower back pain. I know plenty of friends with chiseled bodies that suffer from pain in the spine regularly. Huge muscles do not prevent you from back pain. In your training you should focus on building up the muscles that are stabilizing your back and relieve pressure. Squats with 400 pounds don’t do the trick.

      The more weight you carry around, the more weight your spinal chord has to bear on a regular basis. That’s one of the reasons why huge, muscular guys can suffer from back pain too. One of the most important goals of your exercise regimen should therefore be weight loss.

      Here are some important tips for you to consider when starting an exercise regimen:

      Make sure you implement cardiovascular training in your workout routine.

      This will not only help you lose weight, it will also make sure that your arteries, which flow to the tissue next to your spinal discs, are free of placque and can therefore transport nutrients properly.

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      Important: If you have rather strong back pain, maybe even an herniated disc, don’t start running on a threadmill. Running is an high-impact exercise. Which means there are continuous, reocurring high pressure points on your spine. Your endurance training should therefore either be fast-paced walking or a training on the elliptical trainer for the beginning, because both have little to no stressful impact on your backbone.

      Focus on developing your whole core if you want to minimize your pain.

      There are some people that do hundreds of sit ups a day. While sit ups are a good exercise for your abdomen, it also puts pressure on your spine due to the bending movement. A sixpack workout routine is one-sided. Your abs may become overdeveloped in comparison to your back muscles. You’ve created an imbalance. A great way to train your abdominal muscles and back muscles simultaneously, is holding the plank position.

      Stretch only if you have tight muscles.

      I remember stretching every morning after I woke up. I took 10 minutes out of my day to just work on my flexibility and prevent injuries. Little did I know that I was actually promoting an injury, by doing so.

      Contrary to common belief, stretching is only partially beneficial to treating lower back pain. Stretching makes sense if tight muscles (such as the hamstrings) are forcing you to constantly bend your back. Stretching to treat pain doesn’t make sense if you’re already on a good level of flexibility. Hyper-mobility may even enforce back pain.

      If you found out that you had tight muscles that you need to stretch, try to stretch them at least three times a week. Don’t stretch your muscles right after you wake up in the morning. This is because your spinal discs soak themselves up in fluid over the nighttime. Every bending and excessive loads on your spine is much worse in that soaked-up state. Postpone your stretching regime to two-to three hours after you’ve woken up.

      Where to Start

      The key to improving your habits is awareness. Try to get aware of your back while you’re sitting down, laying down or lifting an object next time. This awareness of your body is called proprioception. For example, you have to be aware whether your back is bended or straight in this very second. Trust me, it is harder than you might think. You may need to ask a friend for the first few tries. But the change that this awareness can make in your back pain is absolutely fascinating. This consciousness of your body is one of the most important things in your recovery or prevention.

      Here are a few behavioural tactics that you need to be considering:

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      If you’re leaning forward more than 30 degrees with your upper body, support your spine with your arms.

      Ever tried to show a colleague of yours a complex issue and found yourself awkwardly leaning forward on their desk, pointing with your fingers to his paper? If that ever happens again, make sure you’re using the not-pointing arm to support yourself on the desk.

      Keep a straight back.

      Be it while exercising, stretching or standing. If you’re bending your back you’re putting stress on small areas of your spinal chord. A straight back redistributes the force to a bigger area. You’re minimizing the pressure. Remember this whenever you’re at the gym and reracking your weights, focus on having a neutral spine.

      Put symmetrical loads on your spine.

      I used to play the trumpet when I was a child. The instrument is pretty heavy. The trumpet gets transported in a big, metallic suitcase – with no wheels. Being the nature of suitcases, you only carry it with one arm, on one side of your body. This forced me to constantly lean on the other side with my upper body, while transporting the instrument from A to B. Not really the healthiest activity for your spine as you can imagine.

      If you have to carry heavy objects, carry them with both arms. Put the object in the middle of your body and keep it as close to your mass of gravity as you can. If this is not possible, try to carry the same amount on the left side than you do on the right side. This puts the stress vertically on a fully extended spine. The load is much better bearable for your spine.

      Stay Away From the Back Pain League

      Our world is getting more sedentary. We will continue to develop faster transportation, more comfortable houses and easier lives. While our technological progress definitely has its amazing benefits, it sadly has its downsides too. The danger for back pain will continue to rise on our ever-increasing motionless planet. It’s time to raise awareness.

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