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We all want to save money, right? No matter what our budget is we always feel better when we don’t exceed it. Europe has a reputation for being an expensive travel destination, and of course, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. So we have compiled a few tips to help you save money on your next Europe trip.
Travel in the Off-Season or Shoulder-Season
You can refer to my post on Off-Season Travel for the reasons why this is the best time to travel to Europe. Prices can generally be up 50% less than in the high season, so this is probably our #1 piece of advise when travelling anywhere.
Being flexible with your dates and travel times is probably one of the biggest money savers there is when it comes to travel. Flying on the weekends is almost always more expensive than on weekdays. The same goes for accommodation, although if you are going to be there for a week or more then obviously you will have to stay somewhere over the weekend.
A good strategy to help cut costs if you’re going to multiple places is to schedule your time in the more popular touristy places (aka expensive) for the weekdays and then move on to a less popular destination for the weekend.
Especially if you are coming from North America, Asia or Australia, airfare usually takes up the biggest chunk of your travel budget when planning a trip to Europe. Consider looking into more budget-friendly airlines. Sites like CheapOair can help with this since it looks at all possible airlines and connections to get the best deal. Some more budget-friendly airlines that can have flights from North America are Condor, Icelandair, WOW Air and Finnair.
Another option we use a lot is to find the best priced direct flight to the continent and then use one of the cheap European airlines to get you to your desired destination. But keep in mind that often these cheap European airlines will be flying from a different, smaller airport. For example, if you flew into Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG), you would most likely need to find your way to Paris Beauvais (BVA) which is about an hour bus ride away.
It is always a good idea to keep these things in mind when you see a low price since it might be worth spending an extra $100 on the airfare to save stress and extra land transportation costs. Also watch out for other fees with the cheap airlines for luggage, printing boarding passes, etc. The major cheap European airlines include RyanAir, WizzAir and EasyJet.
Try Alternative Forms of Accommodation
You don’t need to stay in a 5-star luxury hotel to enjoy your vacation (although it doesn’t hurt). One of our top recommended forms of accommodation is Airbnb (you can learn more about the pros and cons of Airbnb in our earlier post). Depending on your needs, Airbnb can cost way less than a traditional hotel, and if you get a rental with a kitchen and laundry facilities, you can save money in other ways as well. Staying outside the city centre can also help you save money, but make sure you have adequate transportation to get to where you want to be, such as a train or bus close by or a rental car.
Another form of accommodation we are excited to try this year is housesitting. This would be more beneficial for long-term travel, but it is possible to find shorter lengths of stay as well. The best site for this is TrustedHousesitters (use this link to get 20% off your membership!). There is an annual fee to join and you need to make a detailed profile and “apply” for housesitting opportunities, however, it could lead to fantastic opportunities if you are flexible with your dates, location, and love animals.
Your method of transportation once you get to your destination is dependent on the type of trip you are planning, however, it doesn’t hurt to look at all the options. If you are planning on mainly visiting larger towns and cities, then a rental car doesn’t make much sense. Trains can be tricky when it comes to pricing. If you know the routes you are going to be taking ahead of time, find out the total price of the tickets and compare that to getting a Eurail pass, since it may be cheaper to buy just the tickets you need. However, if you are planning on being more spontaneous and think you will be taking a lot of train trips, the Eurail pass may be your best option.
If you are like us and are planning on visiting smaller towns and enjoying the countryside, then a car rental will most likely be your best option. We have had good luck with Sixt for car rentals in Europe so far since they usually come out to be the least expensive of the major companies and we haven’t had any issues. Of course, we recommend checking the third-party sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Booking.com to find the best price first since it can vary depending on location and date.
Save Money On Food
If you’ve read our post about Airbnb, then you know we are big proponents of cooking meals at your rental. Eating out for every meal can take up a huge chunk of your travel budget, especially if you are staying in a more touristed area. If you are staying in an Airbnb or something with a kitchen, consider only eating out for only one meal each day. Besides, visiting local grocery stores and markets is probably one of our favourite things to do in a new country. It is fun to see what locals buy, and you can try your hand at making a local speciality you would otherwise pay twice as much for at a restaurant.
If you are staying in a hotel or somewhere without much of a kitchen, you can still save money on food. Try to make sure breakfast is included in your hotel rate - not only does this free you from having to find a restaurant for breakfast, if it is a continental breakfast buffet, you can also save some items for lunch or a snack later on. Some people even take the bread and deli meats/cheeses and make sandwiches for later. Another way to save is to get lunch or dinner from the grocery store. Pick up some ready-made or easy to prepare foods like sandwich fixings, salads, cheese and charcuterie, etc and find a nice park for a picnic.
Save on Baggage Fees
It is no secret that airlines are making HUGE profits off of baggage fees these days. To avoid these extra fees, try fitting everything into a carry-on. If that is not possible, if you are travelling with a companion, it might be possible to share one checked bag so you only have to pay one fee instead of two.
Remember to check with the airline what their baggage allowance is since different fares have different allowances. For example, on our last flight from the US on Condor Air, we were each allowed a 32kg checked bag and a 10kg carry-on because we were flying Premium Economy. But the people in regular Economy could only have a 23kg checked bag and a 6kg carry-on. Some airlines may not have anything included, so make sure to always check before you purchase your tickets, and again right before you head to the airport to avoid any surprises.
Be Your Own Tour Guide
A lot of travellers think they need a guided tour at every attraction they visit for fear they might miss something. While sometimes guided tours can be useful and entertaining, they don’t let you explore at your own pace. I know with a lot of tours I’ve been on, I end up wandering away from the group or getting irritated/impatient with the guide who takes too long explaining the significance of each and every column on the building.
You can save money by either skipping the guided tour altogether at sites that don’t require it or downloading your own audio tours to your phone. These days there are multiple apps that offer free or cheap audio tours of many tourist destinations.
These are just a few of the ways we save money when travelling. Did we forget anything? Do you have any extra tips to share? Let us know in the comments!
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