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12 Tips to Get Major Discounts on Your European Summer Vacation

How to squeeze at least an extra week’s worth of fun into your Europe trip.

It’s easy to go a little overboard when you’re traveling around Europe. With each new country comes a new culture to experience, with interesting dishes, awe-inspiring museums and art galleries to check out, and, of course, the cost of actually getting to each new country and spending the night(s) there.

And there are 45 countries in Europe, which means your list of must-see spots is probably an ever-growing one. But a European adventure doesn’t have to be an overly expensive one, especially if you know how to do it. From discounted hotel and hostel stays to budget-friendly transfers, reduced-price meals, and free entry tickets, we’ve rounded up all of the best ways to score discounts on your European trip this summer.

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Make Use of Flixbus and Budget Airlines

Arguably the coolest part about Europe is that you can eat all three of your meals in different countries throughout the day. Traveling from one country to the next takes mere hours (sometimes even less), which makes bus travel a far friendlier option than elsewhere in the world. Companies like Flixbus and Megabus offer budget-friendly bus travel throughout the continent, with prices starting as low as around $5 for a one-way trip. There’s no need to hop on a plane if your journey only takes a few hours and bus travel is far better for the environment, too. Map out your route in advance so you’ve got a vague plan in mind and you’ll be surprised by how far you can venture by bus for such a low price.

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Compare Third Party Websites and Book Direct

Many hostels across Europe offer perks like free breakfast if you book direct, but it’s worth spending some time checking the likes of Hostelworld and first to narrow down your options. While you might find (especially if you’re a regular traveler) that OTAs like offer better discounts on rooms than hotel websites, hotels are usually happy to match the third-party price. If you’re signed up to their reward systems, you can then book direct at a cheaper price while reaping the benefits of collecting those points, leading to discounted (or even free!) stays in the future.

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Maximize Age and Student Discounts

If you’re a senior, student, or under the age of 25, you’ll almost definitely find a huge range of discounts across Europe (here’s a handy guide). These range from discounted train and bus tickets to discounted or even free visits to cultural and historic spots. Sometimes these are day-specific with more discounts available during quieter periods like weekdays and early mornings. These also sometimes require booking in advance but, if your travel plans are mapped out, can be a great way to score some discounted trips.

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Sign up for Free Walking Tours

Free walking tours are one of the best ways to get a feel for the city while picking the brain of a local expert. Although they’re described as ”free,” these walking tours are usually donation based with a “pay what you feel” option at the end. Not only do these walking tours offer an overview of the area’s coolest highlights, but they also offer the chance to ask the tour guide for their local recommendations of restaurants, sunset spots, day trips, and more. If you’re on the fence about spending at a fancy restaurant or you’re looking for a lesser-known spot for a cocktail, your walking tour guide is the best person to confirm what’s worth the money and what’s better to skip. Keep in mind when donating that most walking tours are a few hours long–the tour guide should be tipped accordingly.

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Use a Card Without Foreign Transaction Fees

Nothing puts a downer on your thrifty European vacation quite like getting home and seeing the horrendous foreign transaction fees you’ve been charged for using your bank card a little too liberally. Before you set off on your travels, look into signing up for an international card that doesn’t charge fees. Wise (formerly Transferwise) and Revolut are two of the most popular and use the daily market rate without any markups. You can even open specific currency accounts on Wise, which allows you to take out money or pay for things in the local currency without converting from your home currency each time.

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Get a Eurail Pass

If you’re planning on traveling Europe via train, it’s worth looking into a Eurail pass. Not only does this allow you to country and city-hop without worrying about checked baggage fees each time, but it also offers a great way to admire the countryside between stops and save money at the same time. Perfect for those who like to travel a little more spontaneously, a Eurail pass lets you go wherever you want, whenever you want, unlike traditional train tickets which may require a little more forward planning. You can choose passes that last from four days up to three months with options for unlimited journeys, saving a lot of money in the long run. And, if you’re a 27 and younger or a senior, you can get a discount on your Eurail pass, too.

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Book Local Tours and Excursions

Sure, it can be a lot easier to book your excursions through your hotel or hostel. But spend a little extra time finding a local version of whatever you’re booking and you’ll probably save a fair amount of money. Not only does booking locally save you the marked-up price of booking through a third party, but it also tends to offer a more authentic experience and helps a local business, too. Not sure where to find these? If you’ve got the time, wander down to the location of the place (e.g. the harbor, if you’re booking a boat trip) and speak to someone directly there. If you’re booking in advance, have a scroll through local community groups on Facebook, check out individual businesses on Instagram, or just type the search terms into Google and look for independent websites.

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Use Cashback Apps When Booking

Using a combination of cashback websites and coupon codes is an easy way to save money on the things you were already booking. Some third-party booking platforms have their own, like’s Genius program. Others like TopCashBack give you cashback when you book flights, hotels, or other travel experiences by clicking their link. Download the Honey browser extension, which scours the web for discount codes that can be used on hotel and hostel websites. Other popular cashback websites include Rakouten, WayAway, QuidCo, and SwagBucks. If you often book a specific hotel chain, like Marriott Bonvoy, you’ll collect points as you rack up stays. Combine these points with your cashback and you’ll save money on your travels without even trying.

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If You’re Booking a Package Deal, Wait for the Right Moment

If you’re planning in a rush or have no idea where to even start when it comes to planning your European trip, it can be tempting just to book a package deal and leave the responsibilities to someone else. But with convenience comes cost and a package deal will almost definitely set you back far more than booking each element of your trip individually. But, if you are planning on booking a package deal, sign up to the website’s mailing list, scour the internet for discount codes and wait until sale season (post-Christmas, Black Friday, Easter holidays, for some examples) to get the best money-saving deal on your package trip. Some tour companies, like Contiki, offer discounts if you’re a repeat booker, which also helps to save a chunk of change.

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Fly Into Airports a Little Farther Away

Many European cities have not just a central airport but also a more budget-friendly option a little further away. While it may take you a little longer to get into the city itself, these airports can save a hefty chunk of your travel fund if you know to check them out. These airports are usually reserved for budget airlines, which makes them a great choice if you’re traveling with hand luggage only but not so much if you’ve got multiple large bags. Use features like Google Flights’ “anywhere” function to see the cheapest spots to fly locally and, especially if you’re visiting a super small country, it can sometimes be worth flying to the neighboring country and taking public transport to get to your destination. Momondo and Kayak are both great for searching for the cheapest options around.

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Scour Groupon and Wowcher for Discounted Restaurants

There are a few easy ways to save money on dining out around Europe. Check for “plat du jour” (or equivalent) in some European countries, which translates to “plate of the day”. Popular in France and Spain, these discounted menus offer a taste of local favorites at a reduced price with a different dish each day. You can also opt for restaurants a little further out of the center to save money. But the best way to eat discounted dishes at fancy restaurants? By checking for discounted restaurants on websites like Groupon. Many of these are limited to certain days of the week or times of the day but, if you’re looking for a new experience without a large price tag, it can be worth eating a little earlier or later for the experience.

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Check out Second Cities

Second cities, a.k.a places that are just as cool as the capital cities but slightly less popular, can be a great way to experience European culture on a budget. These cities tend to be a fair bit cheaper than their capital counterparts but offer plenty of the same authentic charm. Swap Barcelona for Valencia in Spain, or Berlin for Munich or Hamburg in Germany. A few other great swaps that’ll save you money on accommodation, food, and more include Warsaw in Poland, Milan in Italy, Porto in Portugal, and Bruges in Belgium.