There are many ways to enjoy Europe on a budget. We have been to Europe innumerable times and you can learn from our experience.
Top 10 tips on saving money in Europe.
- Fly during low or shoulder season
Airfare is least expensive during low season – November through February (except during the holidays) and Shoulder season – March through April and September through October. High season is May to September. We usually go to Europe in April or September to avoid the crowds and pay a little less for tickets.
- Hotels in big cities are least expensive in August when most business travelers abandon the city for their month-long vacation at the beach or at a resort. Summer in Italy is extremely hot, so the city hotels are less expensive as well. Also be sure there is no big conference in the city when you are planning to be there… Hotel prices go sky high during those times.
- Make lunch the meal to eat in a nice restaurant; it costs about a third as much as the same meal at dinner. Look at Prix fixe meals or specials of the day. Avoid restaurants that cater to tourists and look for restaurants where the locals eat. You’ll save money and get better food. We also eat some meals in our room or picnic in a park. We pick up a baguette, cheese, pate and some fruit along with a bottle of wine at the local market or supermarket and “voila”.
- Have your cocktails in your room before you head out to dinner. This can save a lot of money. Although wine is moderately priced, hard alcohol is expensive in Europe.
- Avoid all those tourist-trap souvenir shops and buy your gifts in unlikely places. As an example, while in Provence, I noticed that many shops were selling little decorated cartons of Camargue Sea Salt. I was tempted to buy a few at 6 euros each, for my gourmet friends back home, but I resisted. Later, when shopping at the local supermarket, I found the exact same cartons selling for 2 euros each. I snapped up a few cartons, and learned a great lesson. There are some wonderful buys at the supermarket. Taking that as an example, I have found some good buys at the local department stores and shops frequented by the locals.
- Skip taxis and use local transportation. In Europe, local transportation is inexpensive, efficient and safe. Ask your concierge or desk clerk for information on how to get to your destination; they are fonts of wisdom and inside information.
- Take advantage of the all the free things offered in the city where you are vacationing. Many churches offer free or inexpensive concerts, and there is usually festival going on somewhere for you to enjoy. Many museums have free nights or discounted admission days. Just ask.
- Use all the free information offered at the local Tourist Office. They usually will give you a free walking map if you ask. You can buy city passes and museum passes at the tourist office for less than you’d spend elsewhere. These passes are always great deals, offering reduced admission to many sights and museums. Some even include free transportation and coupons.
- Lower your standards (just a bit.) If you usually stay in a four-star hotel, try a three-star. Some are just as nice as four-stars, with fewer amenities… and I am not talking air conditioning. Most three-star hotels have it. Nor am I suggesting having the bathroom down the hall. Those rooms are rare nowadays and would never be awarded three-stars. And, if you don’t mind carrying your luggage up a few flights of stairs,or don’t need air conditioning, look into two-star hotels to really save a bundle. Use our Hotel Guide on the left, under destinations to choose your hotel. We won’t steer you wrong.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Traveling to Europe is a wonderful experience. If you end up spending more money than you had planned on, don’t get upset about it. You are paying for the experience as well as your airfare, hotel and food. And the experience is well worth it.