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. Instead, consider dozens of remarkable destinations that are not nearly as expensive such as countries in Eastern Europe (Romania, Hungary) or Portugal. If you prefer to visit Western Europe, simply travel to cities that are less popular and more cost effective. For instance, the Loire Valley just outside of Paris is draped with ancient castles amidst rolling hills of wine country. Or, visit Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic, known as a “pocket-sized” Prague with half the tourists and a fraction of the cost.
3. Holiday Apartment Rentals. In lieu of pricey hotels, seek out holiday apartment rentals. The best resources online are Craigslist or Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO). 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 owners 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 to save even more!
4. Picnic. 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 European country is known for a particular wine, beer, liqueur or other specialty beverage. Reference your tour book, an information center or simply read a menu outside a restaurant for an idea of the local indulgences. Armed with these tips, 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 across the pond. During warmer months, there are hundreds of complimentary outdoor festivals and other interactive events. 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. For example, 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 with a discount. 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 the Eurail website see if a bundled train tickets are right for you – there is a potential to save you 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 areas, bartering is acceptable so if you do not see a price posted, name a price and negotiate down from there.
10. Volunteer or Couch Surf. There are a handful of volunteer organizations that exchange work for room and board. For instance, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) 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. Check out their website for details.
With these tips in mind, you can thoroughly enjoy a holiday in Europe and save money. Simply create a budget, stick to it and you will have a vacation filled with memorable experiences – and Euros left in your pocket.