So, you’ve always wanted to go to Europe, but you’re not sure that you can afford it. I’m betting you can. You just might have to rethink your game plan. Here are 6 tips to help you make that European dream vacation come true!
- Travel in off-peak times – In other words, avoid summer and major holidays. This can be difficult for those who have children or for those of you who are teachers, but if you have flexibility in your travel dates, I recommend taking advantage of this. Winter can be the best time to see places like Venice or Paris or London. You won’t be fighting the crowds and hotel prices will be much lower. All the major sites will still be open – museums, churches and cathedrals. Of course in ski areas, such as Chamonix, France or Zermatt, Switzerland it will be peak season, so you’ll want to avoid those area. In some of the small towns, not all accommodation will be open and some sites may have limited hours or be closed for the season. So, you’ll always want to check with your travel professional before booking such a trip. The shoulder season, March and April (outside of Easter) and October and November can be wonderful times to travel. Again, some sites may have limited hours or even be closed and accommodation might be limited, depending on your destination. But, often you will find that most things are open for business and you are only one of a handful of travelers in the area. It’s a great time to connect with the locals. And, you’ll definitely pay less than peak times, although a bit more in shoulder season than in winter (off-season). If you want to save a bit, think about WHEN to travel.
- Use public transportation – This is a not only a fabulous way to save money while traveling, but you’ll have the chance to live more like a local. Some folks are totally fine using public transportation. Others don’t feel comfortable using busses or trains. But, it’s a way of life in much of Europe. It’s far cheaper than renting a car. Depending on where exactly you travel to, you should be able to use a train or a bus to get from one city or town to the next. And, you’ll probably meet some new local friends on the ride.
- Stay in one place a little longer – Often if you book a room for a week or longer, you’ll get a discount. Better yet, book an apartment through Airbnb or Home Away and you’ll find discounts are often given to those who stay longer. Moving from place to place each day, while yes, it enables you to see a lot, it will drive your costs up. You can also become a house sitter. There are a few services out there, Mind My House, Trusted House Sitters and House Carers come to mind. Once signed up for a small annual fee, you can take care of someone’s house (and usually some pets) anywhere in the world. Often assignments are only a few days or a week. You stay for free and get to be part of the community during your time. It’s a wonderful way to save money on lodging and live like a local.
- Visit free sites – Most of the big cities and many of the smaller towns have sites that are free of charge. The National Gallery in London and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris are a couple of many that come to mind all across Europe, even in these more expensive cities. Some museums will have a free day each month as well, or will be free or discounted after a certain hour on a certain day. Of course, walking in the beautiful gardens of one of Europe’s grand cities or taking a stroll through one of the small villages is always free! Be sure to talk to your travel professional about what sites are free at the destination you are planning to visit.
- Shop at the markets and eat “in” instead of eating “out” – I personally love to shop at the produce markets. Add in the meat markets, fish markets, cheese markets and the bakery and you’ll not only save some money, but have loads of fun experiencing life as a local. It’s such a wonderful way to try new food and see how folks really live in that town or city. Saving money is almost secondary! And, often you’ll find some of the freshest and tastiest food you’ve ever eaten. If you do want to eat out and save some money, eat out at lunch as it is often cheaper.
- Try some “different” destinations – This one can be tough for some folks. They have their hearts set on going to London or Paris or Venice. But, these are expensive places. You can still travel inexpensively to these places, if you plan accordingly. Of course, inexpensive is relative. How about traveling to Bucharest, Romania or Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina instead? Dreaming of visiting the famous wine regions of Bordeaux, France or Tuscany, Italy? How about trying the country of Moldova or the Moravia region of the Czech Republic? You’ll find fabulous wine for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes going to a destination that is slightly under the radar pays off – not only for your wallet, but also because you often experience a place that is a little less touristy.
I’m always here to help you with your travel plans, keeping your personal budget in mind. By using the above tips as guidelines, you can make that dream of traveling to Europe come true. I truly believe that anything is possible! (so let’s start planning!)