You don’t need a lot of money to travel to Europe. It’s true. I know many of you are doubting me, but you don’t.
However most people who plan their trips with me are of a modest or what I call a mid-priced budget. And some folks are willing to splurge a bit here and there, but they also want to be careful with their money.
I think this is great way to travel — splurge on some things yet save in other areas. But how do you know when to splurge? And when to hang on to those euros?
Here are some tips to help you out:
Events and Sites
You definitely need to splurge if there is a special event you want to attend on your trip. Often this is the reason you are traveling to this specific destination at this particular time. You might want to attend a football (soccer) match or a concert or festival. Set aside part of your travel budget for this treat. After all — life is short. So you should do this for yourself if this is on your bucket list.
The great thing is that there are typically free things to see or do in any given city or town. So to offset that above splurge, you may be able to hit a free museum to save a few euro. Wandering the streets and seeing statues and monuments or sitting in the town square and people watching are some of the best free things to do. Do some research and find those free sites to visit so you can save a bit of money.
If you’re into food you may be traveling to a certain destination to have an exceptional meal at a specific restaurant. This is a fabulous time to splurge. Go! Enjoy that Michelin star restaurant. Put those travel funds aside for this scrumptious feast — especially if you are celebrating a milestone like a birthday or an anniversary!
On the other hand, it’s easy to save on food. Yes it can be expensive to eat out in restaurants in Europe. But if you eat some street food (which can be quite tasty) or grab a sandwich at a bakery you can save. The best way to save is to shop at the markets and make a simple meal of bread, fresh veggies and fruit (look for what’s inexpensive, locally grown and in season) and some cheese. Now you’re set for a picnic at the local park or along the beach and nothing is better!
If you’ve been dreaming of staying in a castle or a luxury hotel, then go for it! This is your time to splurge. Build that travel fund with this in mind. Staying in a unique place for even one night can truly make your trip memorable.
And on the flip side I think it’s fairly easy to save on accommodation if — and this is a big if — you’re willing to let go of having 24 hour reception (do you need it?), a big fancy room and amenities you aren’t going to use (do you really need a bathrobe or a gym). Simple, clean rooms in a small family run B&B or guesthouse come at a budget-friendly price. You just need to shop around. A travel agent (like yours truly) can be a big help in finding good accommodation at an affordable price.
Having some flexibility in your travel from point A to point B probably means renting a car. This is a good time to splurge to some degree. Some folks are going to rent a car no matter what. But some travelers might want to use public transportation. There are some destinations, like rural Tuscany or the Scottish highlands, that really are easiest explored by car. So this is the time to splurge on hiring a car, but only get as much car as you need. Remember that roads are usually narrower so don’t be renting a big SUV if you don’t need it!
Or maybe you’ve dreamed of renting a fancy sports car and driving on the German Autobahn. Or through the Tuscan hills. This is the time to splurge. Why not? You only live once!
To save money on transportation use trains and busses as much as possible. Depending on where you are traveling to, you may be able to use only public transportation. Yes, it may take a little longer to get from point A to point B. But the upside is you’ll be with locals and probably a few other budget travelers. It’s a wonderful way to dive into the local culture and save a lot of money by not renting that car.
Souvenirs and Gifts
We all want to bring back something from our trips — a souvenir of sorts. This can be a perfect time to splurge. Something made of leather from Italy. A beautiful Swiss watch. Perfectly aged French wine. If there is a gift you want to bring back for yourself or a loved one, then set those funds aside. There’s nothing wrong with this. I treated myself to a gorgeous hand-made leather handbag in Venice. The man was actually making them right in the shop. I remember having a delightful conversation with his wife. It was a bit more than I typically like to spend, but the bag is beautiful, well-made and brings back so many wonderful memories.
But for some of us — and I usually fall into this category — our memories are enough. So you can save by not buying anything. Maybe you take photos on your phone or your camera and those are your souvenirs. You really don’t have to “bring” anything back but your memories. That’s the cheapest souvenir of all, but the most treasured!