If the dollar’s weak performance overseas has you re-thinking that trip to Europe in ’08, you’re not alone. Plenty of folks are thinking of alternatives to Europe. But for die-hard Europhiles there are no alternatives, in which case you should check out these tips for getting around Europe for less, provided by the practical and creative folks on Fodor’s Travel Talk Forums.
Tip #1: Limit the Scope of Your Itinerary
Ambitious itineraries that cover lots of territory are obviously more costly than those limited to one or two locales. Staying in one place for more than a couple of days means you can learn helpful cost-cutting tricks like public-transport passes, free museum days, and apartment rentals. If you really have to be on the move, pick a base with plenty of options for day trips.
Word of Mouth: “Stay longer in each location and go to fewer places. This saves money and gives you time to get to know an area and find the good deals (best shops, local places to eat).” — suze (more from the Forums)
Tip #2: Pick a New Destination
Europe is popular with creature-of-habit-travelers who like to visit the same European cities year after year. That’s fine, unless your favorite city happens to be a pricey place like London, Paris or Vienna (or half a dozen other great cities). A weak dollar might be the encouragement these travelers need to set their sights on another, less expensive destination within Europe. Think Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, and Turkey.
Word of Mouth: “Yes, I love gourmet French food and Tuscany, but the ancient ruins, the sublime golden beaches, the splendid June sunsets of Greece at 55-60 euros per day … there’s the answer to the tanking dollar. When you say you can’t afford Europe, be more precise and say you can’t afford France, Italy, and U.K. Thankfully, there’s Greece.” (more from the Forums)
Tip #3: Use the Web
Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity — these go-to sites for well-priced packages and cut-rate hotel rooms remain popular resources for travelers looking to save. When researching flight and hotel options in Europe, it pays to check out relative newcomers Flycheapo, Farecast, Kayak, and Vayama for the best deals. Flycheapo is particularly handy if you’re inclined to take advantage of one of Europe’s many low-cost airlines.
Word of Mouth: “We used Priceline for hotel rooms and were able to keep prices down. Also check out Easyjet or other discount airlines. We flew between London and Prague, Budapest and Berlin, and Berlin and Paris for about $150 per person for all flights.” — snowflake25 (more from the Forums)
Tip #4: Rent an Apartment
To save on lodging, consider renting an apartment, a flat, or a house. Think of all the money you’ll save by being able to prepare your own food in that spacious kitchen. Plus, who wouldn’t want to pretend that they lived in Paris or Rome or Provence, even if only for a week. Start your search at some of these popular sites: Venere, VRBO, Holiday-rentals.co.uk, VacationinParis
Word of Mouth: “Our apartment in Venice was about $1000 USD and we spent 150 on transportation passes that got us a lot of discounts. We didn’t shop, ate lunch casually, and had a nice dinner every night. We had an incredible time in Venice for a week. ” — tuscanlifeedit (more from the Forums)
Tip #5: Pack on the Miles
The awards programs offered by major airlines, credit card companies, and even some hotel chains can be terrific ways to save. Remember, though, one card does not fit all. You’ll want to shop around to see what works for you. While many programs offer awards cards tied to a credit card (giving you a means to rack up points quickly), most airlines and many hotel chains also offer benefits to club members exclusive of a credit card account. If you’re hoping to cash in miles for a free flight, upgrade, or points for a free night’s stay, start your trip-planning early to ensure the most flexibility.
Not sure what program is right for you? Ask our Airline Forum.
Word of Mouth: “We managed to keep the cost for the entire trip (not including airfare which was paid for with frequent flyer miles) under $3000; this included EVERYTHING –lodging, meals, site admissions, transportation, and (minimal) souvenirs and gifts.” — azzure (more from the Forums)
Tip #6: Opt for Europe’s Shoulder Season
Think about visiting Europe off-season (typically winter for much of Europe) or the shoulder season (early spring, late fall). The timing fits the bill for travelers looking to save cash and avoid the peak tourist crushes. Slashed hotel rates and last-minute low airfares make it easy for thrifty procrastinators to squeeze in a trip.
Word of Mouth: “Airfares have gotten so high for summer travel that it adds on a real chunk in comparison to staying closer to home. If you go off-season, it isn’t that much of an issue in comparison to other places.” — Christina (more from the Forums)
Tip #7: Eat Like a Local
Skip those nice-looking but expensive tourist-trap restaurants and eat like a local, which means browsing the day’s market offerings or checking out lunchtime prix-fixe specials. Additionally, it never hurts to meet actual locals — chat one up and don’t feel shy asking for a restaurant (or market) recommendation.
Word of Mouth: “Are you prepared to alter your way of travel — eat lunch at a restaurant and dinner at your gite, buy take-away at the market, drink wine at 4 euros a bottle on your own patio instead of a cafe?” — robjame (more from the Forums)
Tip #8: Travel Less Longer
Some Europhiles travel not once but twice or more times to Europe each year. It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating that by consolidating two short trips into one longer trip, you’ll get more bang for your travel buck. Plus, taking a longer trip gives you the flexibility to research alternatives to pricey hotels. (See apartment rentals, above.)
Word of Mouth: “Next year it’ll probably be only one trip, but it will be for twice the length we normally go for — 16 days instead of 8.” — connecticutyankee (more from the Forums)
Tip #9: Shop Right or Not at All
When traveling, we are sometimes fooled by sale signs. We purchase pricey items believing that we are scoring a bargain. When we get home, though, we often find that the same item can be bought for much less on the store’s Web site. Shop smart — splurge only on items unique to your destination.
Word of Mouth: “It was the first time that I actually did the math on a pair of shoes — 115 euros. Very cute, but when I figured it out to be $165 USD they weren’t such a deal, and they weren’t 100% comfy, only 80%, so I had to pass.” — Susanna (more from the Forums)