This is a guest post by travel enthusiast Matthew Kepnes.
Europe is one of the most popular destinations for North Americans. Yet even with the slide in the value of the Euro, it is still not a cheap destination. Cheaper than before but still not cheap. However, there are many ways to cut down the cost of a European Vacation. We don’t live a good financially sound life so we can spend all our money on a two week vacation. Just like good money management requires planning, so does going to Europe.
Here are 8 ways to save money on your next trip:
1. Don’t do Dinner
In Europe, restaurants offer a set lunch menu, often called the plate of the day. This menu has a number of dishes at an affordable cost. For dinner, these same meals might cost double. Eat out at the nice restaurants for lunch and save money. In Barcelona, “la menu de dia” is usually 10 Euros while a dinner at the same restaurant can run around $35 Euros.
2. Get a Eurail Pass
Traveling around Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. If you plan on visiting a lot of countries or covering a vast distance, get a Eurail pass. These passes offer you unlimited travel within a set time frame and can be used for 1, 3, or 15 countries, or over number of days or months. You pick. When I used mine last summer, I saved over $650 dollars. You can read my Eurail pass review here.
3. Use Tourism Boards
City tourism websites are often an overlooked source of information. People tend to stick to their guidebooks but that information is at least a year old. City tourism websites have a long list of current activities, events, and deals that cost little or no money to you. While in Amsterdam, I found a city fair because I looked on their website. I spent an afternoon at this event and it didn’t cost me any money.
Couchsurfing is a global phenomenon where people offer other travelers a place to stay for free. The site has over 2 million members. Locals open up their home to you and provide you with a free place to stay. It’s safe as members as verified by other members and the service. (Other than not getting along, I’ve never heard of a problem!) Most will host families and couples- you don’t need to be a single traveler. This not only provides you with free accommodation but also gives you a chance to meet the locals and get local tips on what to see, do, and how to save even more money.
5. Take Free Tours
In most of the major cities in Europe, you will find free tours of the city. They are a great way to see the city, get your bearings, and learn about the city without ever paying for it. The biggest company is New Europe and they have tours in about 10 different. I’ve done a few of their tours and they have been very informational. You can find more about them here. However, even if they don’t offer a tour, you can find someone else that does.
6. Go off Peak
The most expensive part about Europe is getting there but if you avoid the summer months, flights will be much cheaper. Visit during the shoulder seasons of the spring or the fall and you can find prices much cheaper and the weather still as nice. Also, use Momondo.com for your flights. They search websites around the world and not just in the US.
7. Skip the Major Cities
Europe has millions of great places to see besides Paris, Rome, London, Milan, etc. Save money by avoiding the big cities. Go to alternative destinations like Croatia, Poland, Budapest, Cornwall (in England), or Southern Germany. Get off the beaten path a bit and you’ll find prices drop a lot. These places are just as good, just as fun, and just as beautiful but without the crowds or high costs.
8. Find the Freebies
In every city, you’ll find free exhibits, museums, and attractions. You just need to research. The Louvre is free on Fridays. All museums are free in England. FOAM, an art museum in Amsterdam, is free. But I didn’t know any of that before I did some research. If I didn’t use Google, I never would have known the Prado in Madrid is free from 6- 8pm. Before you go on your trip, do a little research and get a list of free attractions. Often times we assume things aren’t free or cost money when they don’t. A simple Google search can help with that.
Europe doesn’t have to be an expensive destination. I manage to travel around Europe on around 60 Euros per day by following the tips above. Just because we are on vacation doesn’t me have to waste money. There are plenty of ways to have a good time without spending a lot of money. Budget travel doesn’t have to mean hostels and ramen noodles- it just means thinking outside the box.
Matthew Kepnes has been traveling around the world for the past four years. He runs the award winning budget travel site, Nomadic Matt’s Travel Site, and has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian UK, AOL’s Wallet Pop, Wisebread, and Yahoo! Finance. For more travel tips and money saving advice, visit his website.