From traveling in off-peak travel months to flying budget airlines and scoping out free activities, there are many options for budget travel in Europe. Here are six top money-saving tips for a budget Europe vacation:
Take an Off-Season Holiday
While summer may be prime tourist season in Europe, there are many drawbacks to traveling when lines are long and crowds fill popular attractions. Other downsides to high-season travel include sky-high airfares, expensive accommodations, packed public transportation and tourist office personnel weary of catering to demanding visitors.
Although winter and shoulder-season travel might entail dealing with inclement weather, closed destinations and tourist attractions with shorter hours, more attentive service and many affordable accommodation options can offset any disadvantages.
In the off-season, pension owners may be eager to negotiate rates and go out of their way to please guests. In addition, local holiday festivals and closer contact with locals can contribute to an authentic foreign experience. In such cities as Vienna and Amsterdam, winter is high cultural season, when operas and concerts are scheduled. A little research into what’s happening year-round in desired vacation spots can go a long way in saving money on a European vacation.
Choose from Cheap Flights to European Cities
Off-season travel and flexibility with dates can save considerable sums on air transportation. In any season, it may be cheaper to book a flight to London or Frankfurt rather than flying directly to a final European destination. From hub cities, it’s easy to get to other destinations via such budget airlines as Ryanair, easyJet, Germanwings, Air Berlin, Transavia and Pegasus in Turkey.
Be aware, however: most of these no-frills operations offer few in-flight services and no meals. Many have strict baggage limitations and fly to out-of-the-way airports. On the upside, most have Internet sites, enabling travelers to book online and saving the airline money on issuing tickets.
Enjoy FREE Activities on Budget Holidays
Many programs and volunteer opportunities offer affordable holidays. At VaughanTown in Spain, any marginally gregarious native English speaker can enjoy a FREE week-long vacation, all meals and wine included, just for gabbing with Spaniards (airfare is additional). Those with skills to trade can sometimes negotiate a deal with establishments in places they wish to visit.
Such free activities as walking excursions offered by Sandeman’s newEurope provide alternatives to expensive tours. In many European cities, outstanding talent performs on streets and in metro stations. Enjoy the free shows, but don’t forget to leave a generous tip if the performers are good; they make an honest living this way!
Cut Costs for Hotels with Budget European Accommodations
In many foreign places, alternatives to expensive American-style hotels include small pensions where travelers can get a dose of local culture for a price well below what they’d pay at a Hilton. Universities, nunneries and hostels provide other budget accommodations for people of all ages at prices that are
a fraction of any hotel rate. Staying at these places puts a kitchen at guests’ disposal, as well as the opportunity to meet international travelers.
Camping is more popular in Europe than it is in the U.S., and many regulated sites offer more amenities than might be found in a budget hotel. There’s also Couchsurfing, through which travelers can connect with hosts offering free accommodations and priceless cultural insight.
Reduce Taxi and Private Tour Expenses with Local Transportation
Europe is easy to get around via plane, train and bus. From Nice, travelers can explore the French Riviera for pocket change on luxury coaches that travel between cities. Air-conditioned buses roam throughout Turkey, offering transportation for far less than travelers might spend on gas or tour services for the same journey. Many European cities, e.g., Paris, London, Amsterdam and Madrid, are easy to get around via metro, tube and tram. By learning local transportation systems, vacationers can save hundreds in taxi fares and private escort services.
Money-Saving European Itineraries
Planning an itinerary with cost savings in mind can be the biggest key to saving money in Europe. An ocean-view suite in a Turkish seaside resort is likely to cost far less than a cramped room in London or Paris thanks to a favorable dollar-Turkish lira exchange rate. Cities in transition, e.g., Bucharest, Belgrade, Budapest and Prague, can offer some of the cheapest, most fascinating stays in Europe.
Rather than viewing a tight budget as a restriction, savvy travelers might see it as an enticement into local markets, bistros, dive bars and front seats at street shows in world-class cities. The need to cut costs can bring them closer to local culture and extend an escape from their own. In sum, living as a local provides opportunities to see cultural differences and gain perspective in a far more meaningful way than big, organized tours can offer.