Making the Most of Your Euros
Way back when, people traveled to Europe because it was cheap. That's not so today, but we don't think that should stop you from going—you just need to think creatively about how to spend your money.
Save Before You Go
Online research and trip planning.
The more research you do, they better prepared you'll be to save. Sometimes you can save money by purchasing a package deal or a tour. Fodors.com often has good deals; check the Web site frequently.
Know the exchange rate and your credit card and ATM card charges and fees. When you call your bank and credit card to find out this information, be sure to tell them when and where you're traveling so they don't flag your card. Change any PINs to 4-digits. Consider low season and shoulder season.
Save on Lodgings
Rent—or swap—an apartment or house.
One of the most costly parts of a vacation is lodging. Not only can renting be cheaper than a hotel but access to a kitchen lowers food costs. Many rental sites let you book for less than a week. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to do a housing swap Check out our Lodging Alternatives ideas for Madrid (p TK) and Barcelona (p TK).
Stay off the beaten path.
If your vacation is for more than a couple days, consider staying outside the pricey, heavily-touristed areas. If public transportation is easy and cost-effective, as it is in Madrid and Barcelona, then you'll get to know an off-the-beaten path neighborhood with its less expensive local eateries, and still be able to see the sites.
Sight-See, Don't Sight-Spend
Pass or no pass?
Buying a multisite or museum pass can make sense if your plans include heavy sightseeing rather than just hitting top spots; they can also save time since many passes also allow you to skip long lines.
Book tickets online.
Go online for advance-purchase discount tickets for sites and performances. You might get discounts, or beat the lines with time-specific entry for sites like the Prado in Madrid, Barcelona's Sagrada Familia, or Granada's Alhambra.
Find out which sites have discounted hours; most museums offer lower-priced or free tickets one afternoon or evening a week.
Save on Transportation
Take public transit instead of taxis.
Madrid and Barcelona both have excellent, inexpensive, and easy to navigate metro and bus systems; local bus service elsewhere around the country is usually easy to use as well. Don't automatically buy bulk tickets or a pass, though, without doing the math.
Avoid expensive airport transport.
Research alternatives before you go to prevent hailing a pricey taxi on arrival. Public transit isn't always your best option since some metros may be well-connected but hard to navigate with heavy luggage. Check destinations for cost-effective privately-operated shuttle services to and from the airport.
Compare airlines and train travel.
Low-cost Europe-based airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet can get you around Europe cheaply but the fast trains in Spain can also be quick and inexpensive.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe