Unlike the Caribbean, the beaches in Asia or a neighboring country of the US, travelling to Europe can be quite expensive for Americans. Despite the fact that the dollar is again gaining ground in the global economy, it still would put a huge dent in your pocket to plan the ultimate European vacation. This is especially true if you will book a luxurious hotel and eat at fancy French or Italian restaurants for the duration of your trip.
The good news is that you do not need to wait until you’ve saved up a huge amount of money to experience European travel. By knowing where to go, when to book your flights, where to stay and how to save on food and drinks, you can bask in the glory of travelling to some of the oldest and most interesting cities in the world which is Europe, without burning a hole in your pocket.
Money Saving Tips for an European Vacation
When travelling to Europe, you should know about the value of your money against the Euro. For instance, between 2010 and 2012, the value of the US dollar against the Euro increased by 9.2%. If the current rates are along these lines, then you can say that the dollar is pretty strong and you can easily extend your hard-earned bucks for the best time in the European region.
The next thing that you should learn about is where exactly in Europe you should travel to. According to Travel+Leisure, you can get the best value for your money by travelling to these parts of the region:
Germany’s capital recently went through a boom in hotel construction so you can easily get luxurious accommodations at 18% less than the average European room.
Get the best value for your money by booking a hotel in Budapest. This Hungarian capital is where Americans can enjoy up to 25% more value for their dollar against the local currency. This means that the prices of goods and services are pretty affordable compared to European standards.
You won’t be lacking for places to visit in the vast city of Dublin. Starting from the time that you book your flights, you can easily enjoy lower rates. Hotel rates here are also affordable according to European standards, and it’s a great starting point to explore the rest of the region.
No matter which city in Greece it is that you visit, you are bound to enjoy great rates especially when it comes to accommodations.
The prices of hotel rooms in Krakow are almost 50% lower than what you can book in neighboring countries. The prices of goods, transportation and services are also a lot lower when measured in European standards.
This city in the Western European region is where you can indulge in eating out. Many luxury hotels can be booked at lower rates as compared to the more popular cities in the area.
From great fares to much lower accommodation rates, this city in Iceland is definitely worth a visit.
Top Tips on How to Save Money During Your Trip
Now that you already have an idea about which European cities will give you the best value for your money when travelling, what are the actual ways for you to save during your trip to your chosen location? Take a look at the following list:
Save up for your European trip
Your credit card might be super-convenient to use, but there really is no need for you to be in debt just so that you can take your dream European vacation. There’s no sense in enjoying a vacation that you would still be paying for two or three years down the line, with interest. So what can you do to save up for that trip?
If you are using your credit card for important purchases, choose one that will allow you to rake in miles points. This way, when you finally book your European flights, you would not have to pay as much on airfare. If you have birthdays or anniversaries coming up, ask your friends to contribute to your travel fund instead of giving you other kinds of gits. If you must, take on an extra job or go for freelancing gigs. Find ways to cut back on certain aspects of your budget and whatever amount you end up saving, send it to your travel funds.
Learn about the best times to visit Europe
According to the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries which is under the Department of Commerce in the US, the months of June and July are the peak travelling dates for Americans visiting Europe. Flights and accommodations booked during these months are at their peak rate so if you want to save money, avoid them as much as you can.
Airfares do start to fall around the middle to the latter part of August, just before the school year begins. This lasts until the end of March which happens to be around spring break. You may not experience nice weather during off-season travel to Europe but spring is when the flowers are in full bloom in the countryside of England. August is when the locals in Paris escape somewhere colder, so you would be dealing with lesser crowds. If you want to visit Russia, the best cultural experiences can be had during winter.
Know where to fly for cheaper rates
After deciding where to go, you can use sites like Kayak or SkyScanner to compare rates. However, it is still better if you will visit the official websites of the airlines which you are planning to fly with, so you won’t have to deal with additional charges. Some airlines which offer cheap flights to specific European destinations include IcelandAir via Reykjavik; RyanAir and EasyJet for majority of the cities in the region; US Airways, American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta for European cities via Heathrow; and Lufthansa Italia for Barcelona or Madrid.
If you must rent a car, book a diesel model by the hour
Hertz, one of the most popular car rental companies in the world, introduced the Hertz 369 program which allows travellers from the UK, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany and other European countries to rent vehicles in the following increments: 3, 6 or 9 hours. If you simply want to experience the thrill of driving through the countryside, renting a car on an hourly basis will not cost you much.
You can even book a car for the minimum number of hours to drive yourself to the airport, which could be cheaper than asking the hotel concierge to give you exclusive airport transfer service.
But what about the high fuel prices in Europe? The solution for this is to rent a diesel car such as the Opel Astra or the Volkswagen Golf. Some parts of the region which have pretty reasonable gas prices are Great Britain, Spain and Eastern Europe.
Trains are fast and cheap
Europe has one of the most efficient train systems in the world, and it is a much cheaper form of public transport than renting a car. Spain has a 900-mile track which they plan to expand to more a few years from now. You can easily do a cross-country trip via train so you won’t have to spend money on flights.
Example routes are Milan to Naples or Madrid to Barcelona, at more than $100 for each ticket. You can also check out all-inclusive train packages which gives you the total experience of exploring the cities and countryside of Europe via railroad tracks. The Danube Express, for instance, offers a 10-day journey that takes you from London to Istanbul. The 1950s commuter train has been restored so you’ll feel like you’re travelling back in time.
Book alternative accommodations
If you’re travelling to Europe during the off-peak season, you might stumble upon hotels offering great deals and even free room upgrades. But since you are travelling to the region to see the sights, anyway, there is really no need for you to splurge on hotel rooms. Check out the weekend rates at business hotels, boutique hotels or even low-cost vacation villas.
Additional tips to save money on European travel
When sightseeing, focus on one region or country. Instead of bouncing from one place to another, you can spend an entire week sightseeing in areas like Florence so that you can have a feel of what makes it tick as a city. You don’t want to spend hours sitting in transit so it’s better to focus on one region or country rather than flit from one European destination to another.
Do your research online so that you can save money on museum entrance fees. There are also free concerts or performance in public venues that you can enjoy so you won’t have to spend as much on sightseeing.
When withdrawing money, do so at a bank ATM where you can get better exchange rates and low surcharges. To save money on food, look for hotel deals which already include breakfast. Otherwise, simply look for a neighboring café or a local bakery where you can get coffee and pastry. Take-out meals at lunch are popular in France while in Italy, bakeries sell pizza by the slice. For every sit-down dinner that you’ll have at a fancy restaurant, have one meal at a cheaper place or simply go for to-go meals.
By doing your research, booking your flights in advance and knowing exactly where to go, you can plan and actually take that European vacation – without having to burn a hole in your pocket for the experience.