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Money Saving Tips for an European Vacation

Money Saving Tips for an European Vacation
Written by Irina Vasilescu

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:

  • Berlin, Germany

    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.

  • Budapest, Hungary

    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.

  • Dublin, Ireland

    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.

  • Greece

    No matter which city in Greece it is that you visit, you are bound to enjoy great rates especially when it comes to accommodations.

  • Krakow, Poland

    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.

  • Lisbon, Portugal

    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.

  • Reykjavik, Iceland

    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.

About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our crafty designer. She joined the team a year ago and is also involved in the writing process.

10 Comments

  • While these are some money saving tips that could effectively be utilized to accompany my mentality on a desired trip to Europe, the current Canadian dollar has depleted pretty badly here and to the point where it’s 71% of a Euro, much less than even 88% of a US dollar. I’m losing some good money just at the thought of taking a trip there, let alone before thinking how I’m going to save. Our dollar value has got to increase, but thanks for sharing this informative article nonetheless.

    • Yeah, that’s gotta be rough if you’re trying to travel with the Canadian dollar. You’ll wind up paying a ton comparatively no matter what savings tricks you try to take advantage of. I’m sorry to hear that. That’s rough, although perhaps the Canadian dollar will rise in the coming months to offer a better rate against other currencies.

  • I took a trip to Greece once, and it was more than affordable, even when you factored in the exchange rates. I would definitely go back there for a cheap but enjoyable vacation. All of Greece is beautiful, and the people there are quite friendly. I’ve been to a few other locations in Europe, and many of them did have great rates on various accommodations.

  • Thank you for all these tips! i’ve been thinking of going on a Europe backpacking trip with a few of my friends, and this will be immensely useful. I also heard good things about Prague, where accommodation is cheap and food is great. Anyone heard about this? also, considering Greece has just left a financial slump, is it wise to head there? Hope to hear some feedback!

    • About Prague: YES YES YES. We’ve been twice; it was easy to get a dorm bed for 10 euros per night, and the second time we’ve rented a room in a botel for 25 euros per night. Granted, it was far away from the center, but still within walking distance. If you like walking, that is. They also make an awesome gulasch! Price of food is pretty cheap, especially if you’re not on one of those very commercial streets.

      About article: Berlin also has great cheap food! (vs Paris where food is expensive and, well, London, where it cannot taste that good, can it?) And buses are also cheap. Trains will be cheaper on the french site of the SNCF than on the bahn.com site.

  • I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading very slow for me.
    Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

  • I would agree that visiting Europe can be very expensive, especially the UK and France. One point I would like to make though, whilst flights to Reykjavic are cheap, the general cost of living there is one of the highest in the EU. Bars and restaurants, in particular, can be way overpriced and prohibitive. Also, gas, or petrol prices, here in the UK are extortionate. I am not sure where you have heard that the prices are reasonable from but they are actually really high and would shock most Americans.

  • These are all great tips! Taking on a side job specifically to save for a trip is surprisingly effective. It won’t seem like much, but when you do not touch that income until you are ready to go it feels fantastic to see the amount of money accumulated over time. Moreover, I would recommend checking out Groupon. It consists of doing research and keeping an eye out for deals like the article suggests. However, it is worth the extra time and focus.

  • I have this cousin that can get me $1 tickets to any destination if I just book my flight six months away. It great and I’ve been using it ever since. It really pays if you have a close friend or a relative who is employed by the airline company.

  • I love this guide. I’ve been wanting to visit Europe for ages. I have a couple of friends who live there and could give me free room and board, but it’s also great to know that one of my prime destinations has excellent deals on hotel rates. My dream vacation seems a little closer to my reach now!

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