There is no question that a holiday in Europe can be expensive. Transportation, accommodation, food and souvenirs add up each day. However, there are a number of ways that you can save money yet still have a wonderful and memorable experience.
1. Travel During the Off-Season.
Summer (June – August) and the holiday season (December) are the most popular times to visit Europe and therefore the rates are highest. Choose to travel during the spring and autumn months when crowds are thinner, the weather is nicer and prices on airfare and room rates drop 20 – 50%. It is often less expensive to fly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to boot.
2. Visit a Country or City Off the Beaten Track.
Paris, Rome, London, Prague…if you haven’t visited these cites, one day you certainly need to go. But if traveling on a budget is your current focus then these are not the cities to visit now. There are dozens of places that are quite remarkable that are not nearly as expensive. The Eastern European countries and Portugal tend to be the most cost-effective. If you prefer to visit Western Europe, simply travel to places that are less popular and less expensive. For example, the Loire Valley just outside of Paris is stunning, covered in ancient castles in the middle of wine country. Or visit Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic which is known as a “pocket-sized Prague” with half the tourists at a fraction of the cost.
3. Holiday Apartment Rentals.
Instead of pricey hotels, seek out holiday apartment rentals. The best resources online are www.craigslist.org
. Both websites offer photos and information on thousands of independently owned apartments in cities all over Europe. During the off-season, remember to negotiate the price and you’ll be surprised how many rentals bite. Think about it: it’s better for them to rent to you for a lower price than have their rental go empty for a week or weekend. Remember that most apartments will have a kitchen, so go to the local supermarket and cook and save even more!
All over Europe there are thousands of beautiful plazas and parks to relax in with a picnic lunch. Shop at the local markets for bread, cheese, salami, fresh fruit and a bottle of wine. Ask the shopkeepers for the local specialty and try it. The price is right, the taste is delicious and the memory unforgettable.
5. Buy Local Beverages.
Each region in every country in Europe is known for a special wine, beer, liqueur or other beverage. Reference your tour book, an information center or simply read a menu outside of a restaurant for an idea of what the local specialty is and there is no doubt that you can get a delicious mug of beer or bottle of wine for a just a few dollars. Remember that soda is often very expensive. Also, the tap water is fine to drink (and free). Refill and reuse your water bottles.
6. Seek Out Discounts and Free Activities.
There are a number of free activities in Europe. During warmer months there are plenty of complimentary outdoor festivals and other events (check out www.whatsonwhen.com
). Wine tasting is generally free as well. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, hiking trails are at your fingertips all over the continent. Some cities even offer city tours with the sole expectation of just a few Euros for a tip. Museums in London are free. Check museum websites in advance to find out which days and times discounts are offered. Often there are group, student, senior and child discounts and if you don’t see it mentioned, just ask.
7. Package Ticket Purchases.
If you love museums, cities such as Paris and Amsterdam offer a “Museum Pass” that allows entry into multiple museums at a discounted price. You can do the same thing in many cities with a subway and a train. If you are planning to visit multiple countries, check out www.eurail.com
to see if a bundled train ticket is right for you – it is possible to save hundreds of dollars!
8. Use Public Transportation.
The European Union invests quite a bit of money into its infrastructure. The end result is public transportation that is quick, efficient and cost-effective. We all know how pricey taxis can be. Instead, spend 5 minutes and figure out how take the subway, bus and/or train. It’s much more relaxing, too!
9. Eat and Shop Away From the Main Tourist Trail.
There is no doubt that in European cities the shopkeepers know where the tourists go. Just venture off the main streets a block or two and pop your head into a restaurant to see if they are speaking English or the local language. Chances are if you hear locals, the prices will be lower and the food much better. With regards to shopping, you will find better prices on many of the same items if you walk a few blocks away from a main tourist street or attraction. In some places, bartering is acceptable so if you do not see a price posted, name a price and negotiate from there.
10. Volunteer or Couch Surf.
There are a handful of volunteer organizations that exchange work for room and board. For example, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF, www.wwoof.org
) is an organization that promotes organic farming. A traveler works for 4 hours a day on an organic farm in exchange for a place to sleep and eat. Another way to sleep for free (and not work) is Couch Surfing (www.couchsurfing.com
). Check out the website for details.
With these tips in mind, you can visit and thoroughly enjoy a holiday in Europe and save money. Simply create a budget and stick to it and you will have a vacation filled with memorable experiences – and Euros left in your pocket. (By Stacy Bergdahl Copyright 2008)