Ask anyone and they will tell you that traveling to Europe this summer will not be cheap, unless of course you want to go very early June or late August. Even then, it will still cost you more than a few bones thanks to record-level fuel surcharges and airport fees tacked onto each ticket. Fortunately, we have a few ways to help you save. Here are six of our favorite money-saving tips.
Choose Budget Airlines for Intra-Europe Flights
When traveling between cities in Europe, you won't always find the best deals by taking the train. A variety of budget carriers have cropped up in Europe, like Wizz Air and SmartWings, making it fairly inexpensive to travel between cities and countries. Mara Gorman of The Mother of All Trips flew from Geneva to Bordeaux last summer on EasyJet, largely because it cost one-third the train fare and she arrived in one-quarter the time.
Hunt for Fares Outside the Major Sites
Don't assume that online travel agents, like Expedia and Orbitz, have the best fares. In fact, some airlines, like Turkish Airlines and Ryanair, are not included, so you'll need to find airfares for those airlines separately on their websites. AirlineConsolidator.com is another site worth checking into since they specialize in discount international airline tickets.
Go for a Home Exchange
A variety of home exchange sites, like HomeExchange.com, HomeAway, and Love Home Swap, make it easy to swap your home with the house of another person or family in Europe or anywhere around the world. It's an easy way to save on lodging, particularly if you're planning a stay of two weeks or more. Listing fees run $10-$15 per month, but then you don't pay anything to stay in the home swap. You can even exchange cars and pets. Try Shelley Miller of Home Exchange Expert for loads of home swap tips.
Consider Different Neighborhoods
If you prefer to stay in a hotel, look for small hotels and B&Bs in welcoming neighborhoods just outside the main tourist thoroughfares. Large, chain hotels in tourist districts are often more expensive, largely due to taxes, which are passed along to hotel guests. Compare several hotels to find the best deals and book directly through the hotel to save. You may even be able to cut a deal directly with the hotelier.
Look for Discounts and Free Activities
During the summer, you'll find complimentary outdoor festivals and wine tastings all across Europe. Many cities also offer free walking tours. Guides work on a tips-only basis, so it's in their interests to offer the best tours around. Many cities, like London, have free museums aplenty, and many more cities set aside select days and times during the week for free and deeply-discounted admissions, making it wise to hit their websites before you go.
Eat Lunches Out, Stay In for Dinners
We all want to be able to experience the culinary delights specific to each region in Europe, but opting for lunches out on the town rather than dinners can save up to half the price. Many department stores in Europe, like Harrod's and Printemps Paris, offer lovely self-service lunches. Keep in mind, too, that many restaurants and bars will charge you a few Euros to sit down, so stand up at the bar if you want to keep your meal costs down. Also, eat away from the main tourist drags to save a bit more.
Photo credit: Florence in summer via Shutterstock