I have tried different European vacations, from the backpacker’s special to the mid-life, I can afford more trips. Regardless of budget, there are money saving tips that help me make the most of each trip. From planning where to go, to how to save money while I’m there, here are the 8 ways I save money on European vacations.
Consider the Language Barrier
Not speaking the local language is not just an inconvenience in Europe. In countries like Spain, Italy or France, the majority of the population does not (or will not) speak English as a matter of national pride.This will cost you when it comes to finding better deals on food or lodging. If you want to save money on a European vacation, choose a country in which you speak the language, or in which the people will communicate with you in English.
Buy Trip Packages
When you travel, you may feel tempted to go where the road leads you. By contrast, if you buy trip packages that include airline tickets and lodging, you’ll have to travel from one hotel address to the next. This can seem tedious. In fact, you’ll be saving money by reserving better rates. Furthermore, during my summer vacations to Europe I have arrived at towns and found no available lodging due to a convention. There’s no fun in driving 40 kilometers in the hope of finding a room at the next town.
Buy an Open-Jaw Flight
If you start and end your trip in the same city, you’ll waste money on an itinerary that retraces your steps back to your point of origin. Instead, plan a trip that starts in one European city and ends at another. Your round trip tickets will still cost you around the same, but you will see more of Europe on the same budget.
Picnic on Fresh Produce
After spending a fortune on fast-food fares as I vacationed in Switzerland, I now make it a point to pack a soft cooler in my luggage and use it throughout my trip to buy fresh produce and picnic in the open air. Bakeries are great for buying delicious treats for hardly anything at all. Farmer’s markets are ideal for buying olive oil or cheese. And though less romantic, a supermarket works just as well to save you money on your vacation meals.
Run a Cost of Living Comparison
I like to discover the purchasing power of my money before I pick a European country to visit. Using this cost of living comparison tool, enter your vacation budget, the city where you live and a destination city in Europe. Once you hit “OK” the calculator will show you the value of your Dollars at your European destination.
Understand the Trains
Getting lost in the network of European trains is no laughing matter. Each time you leave a terminal or accidentally enter on the wrong side, it will cost you to correct your mistake. It’s important to study the train maps before you embark on your trip, especially if you don’t speak the local language. Ask at your hotel if there are cheaper train travel options available if you buy a bulk pass or if you change to different (less busy) travel times.
Rent a Car Based on Functionality
As a perk, many rental car companies offer a free upgrade nowadays. To save money on your European vacation stick to a car that offers better mileage and runs on lower octane. For the same reason, ask if diesel is cheaper and choose a car based on that. And if you are traveling between countries, find out on which side of the border it will be cheaper to fuel (for example Spain is cheaper than France because of fuel taxes).
Stop By Tourist Offices
Europe is tourist oriented, and you will find helpful information at tourist offices in all cities and most towns and villages. You will also find someone who speaks English. Even if you’ve come well prepared with a guide book, you’ll find friendly, local advice from people who make promoting tourism their business.
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