Determining how to save money traveling to Europe is an age-old challenge. For years Europe has been the destination for adventurous young adults and more sophisticated citizenry looking for culture and a desire to see the continent. Europe is a popular destination, but it is not cheap, especially in major capital cities; however, there are ways to lessen the blow before and during travels there.
One of the best ways to save money before you go is to plan everything in advance. Book transportation, lodging, and excursions before you go to save a bundle. If you have a credit card that offers frequent flier miles, take advantage of it. If not, sign up for a card that offers incentives in the form of miles that can be used to sponsor your trip. That alone will save a couple a few thousand dollars. If you do not have enough miles for the complete fare, use miles for a portion and pay the difference in cash. That is still a nice saving.
Keep in mind that if you use budget airlines within Europe to keep costs down, they may not go to the airport you want, but rather to a distant one. You will have to find transportation to your desired location, defeating the purpose of using the discount airline. Consider taking a carry-on only. Wear bulkier clothes and shoes, and check the internet for jackets with as many as 13 pockets and fill them with a ton of soft items.
Book your lodging before you leave so that you are paying in dollars rather than Euros or currency of countries that do not use the Euro. Any excursions or tours you plan should also be purchased in advance to avoid standing in extremely long lines to get tickets for popular sites, like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower. Reserve hotels in popular cities early; they fill up quickly.
Focus on one part of the country instead of trying to see all of the major cities in one visit. Choose a region and take day trips or excursions to nearby locations. That way, you can better immerse yourself in the culture and really feel a connection with the country rather than flitting about from place to place and not remembering where you have been or what you have experienced. Another benefit is that you are not packing and unpacking every other night. If you prefer a homier environment to the formality of a hotel, Airbnb and HomeAway websites are easy to navigate, and you can easily choose a property that meets your needs.
Europe has one of the best transportation systems in the world. Whether you plan to get around by bus, plane, train or car, make your plans before you leave. If by train or plane, search in advance on the appropriate websites. Compare prices before you make a commitment. If you rent a car, understand all of the charges involved, including insurance, gas, and parking fees. A Eurail pass is a great way to travel around Europe, but it may not be the least expensive. Check the different national rail sites before you go.
The ability to be flexible will also net some savings. If you can stay away from the peak season, which is usually May through September, you may find cheaper airfares and lodging. In addition to flexibility, keep luggage to a minimum because baggage charges can eat up savings on airfares, especially second, third and fourth pieces of luggage. Take clothing that can be easily mixed and matched. A pair of jeans can take you through several days with a change of tops. You can always find laundromats to launder clothing if you need. Packing lightly is worth the inconvenience. Also, you can purchase inexpensive shirts or dresses in Europe, wear them over and over, and leave them when you must pack to come home.
Free entertainment is all around you. Look for performances in public venues or visit magnificent churches that are steeped in history. Ask the concierge at the hotel, and he can point you to places of interest in the city. Try to get a real feel for the city by visiting places that the locals patronize, and you will not merely feel like a tourist. Sometimes you can stumble upon interesting things just by walking around. Choosing different directions each day in which to walk will likely provide a ton of excitement. Just “get lost,” and you will discover nooks and crannies that are not a part of the “tourist traps.” Of course, you want to be careful of areas that are “suspect” just as you would at home.
If you must get cash while traveling, go to an ATM at a bank. You will get a better exchange rate and lower fees. Take out larger amounts at a time to avoid repeated charges; any excess can be stored in a safe place. Your own bank may have a branch in the city you are visiting, so check your bank’s website.
Depending on your situation, you may consider sharing lodging with a friend or friends. Not only will it reduce your costs, but you could possibly stay in a nicer place or one with more perks. This does not mean you have to be joined at the hip if you travel with another person. Have the conversation before you go so that no one feels slighted. You may want to do some things together, but do not feel uncomfortable about going off on your own to experience those things in which you are particularly interested. Sharing the cost of lodging, and sometimes meals have the potential to save a lot of money.
The least expensive option for cell phone use is to leave it in airplane mode and use free Wi-Fi, which is very common in most places. If you will need more frequent access to your phone, purchase a cheap one once you get to Europe with prepaid minutes, or buy a prepaid international SIM card before you leave home so you will not be hit with unexpected charges from data usage while abroad.
So, if you are still wondering how to save money traveling to Europe, look no further. The best and biggest tip is to do your homework before you go. Do not wait until you have landed and then try to figure out your plans.
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