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How do YOU save money on your Europe trips?

How do YOU save money on your Europe trips?

Posted by
3551 posts

I used to ave $80 per day in Europe during peak season, in Aug 2007 my ave went to $95 per day. my lodging hasn't reached hostel-style yet but may unless I shorten my trips, stay in fewer places and stop renting cars.Also leave out UK and Italy on my itinerearies

Posted by
3313 posts

Kent, I'll move here from the Italy forum to discuss this topic. I already posted about economizing on food. I'll just add that I think many people end up overpaying for restaurant food. You don't need to sacrifice a few memorable meals along the way; I've just found mine in more out of the way places. But, do you need two sit-down meals a day?

Yes, cheaper hotels are important. I've theorized that that the difference between two star and three stars is at least 100E a night - if not more. It astonishes me to read so many posts from travelers who consider $250 Euros/night to be "budget". This summer my family traveled quite comfortably for 60E (in Paris!) to 100E a night. The difference in hotel expectations alone can allow you to travel for many more days.

I still like rental cars - depending on the itinerary, of course. Rental rates, in dollars continue to be a bargain. Gas has gotten more expensive. But rental cars allow you to go to smaller towns with cheaper hotels.

Posted by
932 posts

Doug, I agree. It sounds like you're idea of budget is the same as mine. I don't think we've ever spent 100 or more Euro on any hotel we've stayed at. And we've always had ensuite accomodations that were decent. I also agree that you don't have to eat two sit down meals. We usually eat one large sit down meal late in the afternoon and then a light snack that night... (McD's, doner kepab, street vendor, etc)
One tip to help with money on our trips to Europe -- my husband works more overtime! : ) That offsets the dollar to Euro problem!

Posted by
357 posts

Become an off-season traveler. I didn't realize it until I started thinking about it - I tend to never take vacations during the summer. I have went to different work-related seminars and conferences in the months of June, July, and August; but I never take vacations during this time of year.
I leave in a few days for a trip to Italy in a 3* hotel for €118/night, yet the same room during high season is ~€200/night. I still think I'm paying too much, but there were surprisingly many hotels already booked from the RS book when I searched for 2* accomdations.
Work hard at saving $. Be aware when you want to travel and get an idea of costs of hotels and airfare during that time of the year. You need to know when to book. A change of a few days could save a lot of money in hotel and air!
Join airline clubs and get their emailed offers (to online email addresses specifically for this purpose). This can save you a lot of money.

It takes work and time
ctd..

Posted by
357 posts

...ctd
We had planned a trip from SEA to Bath,London,Paris for mid-April (anniversary) of 2006. It was getting close to December and I was starting to get nervous. We wanted to fly British direct from SEA to LHR. Flights were in the $1000/pp range, but I'd seen them lower. Just when we were discussing pulling the trigger for $800+, I got an email from the BA FF club. It told of sale fares through the end of March. So I started mocking up itineraries throughout the sale period to see what into and out of dates were highlighted as cheapest. We ended travelling in the 2nd and 3rd week of March for $813 total for two! The tax was higher than the airfare.
We're doing the same for Italy. When their fares went on sale for Nov, I started mocking up itineraries direct to Rome to find the cheapest days of arrival. Then I did the same for other cities. Finally I came to a combination of SEA-ROM, VRN-SEA that was a great price. Flying out of Verona was cheaper than a Venice taxi!

Posted by
267 posts
  1. In a city, I try to walk when I can to save money on public transportation costs. For example, in Paris, I might take the metro to some place far away, and then spend the day working my way back to my apartment.

  2. Like everyone else said, eating out = eating all your money! Crepes and sandwiches are your friends.

  3. Take advantage of free attractions, like parks. Keep an eye out for free entrances or discounts for children/young people/seniors at museums.

  4. Since I'm under 26, I stay at hostels. My logic: I need a bed, not a castle. I won't be there most of the day anyway, so why spend money on great accommodations I won't appreciate?

Posted by
3304 posts

I would add to what has been said that you can stay in very nice places, outside big cities, for under 100 euros/night. On a 30 day trip to Italy last summer, the only place we spent more was a night in Rome. Also, many hotels, agriturismos, and b&bs have some apartments or studios available with fridges, microwaves, and/or stoves, which makes nonrestaurant meals so much easier. We had that kind of accommodation in 3 different towns last summer; and I've reserved such a place in Madrid for an upcoming trip. Often the only way to discover these is by going to the establishment's website. We have also found them in Karen Brown's and Alistair Sawday's listings and on Tripadvisor. For France, look on the official Gites de France website.

Posted by
357 posts

Martine,
You make a great point about walking! During our trip of 8 nights in London and Paris, we only took the subway once (that didn't involve arriving or departing) in London - we had walked too far away to walk back late at night. And we took it once in Paris - out to the Eiffel tower from which we walked back. I would guess we averaged around 10 miles on foot each day, not including inside the different churches, etc...
The plan is the same in Rome, Venice and Verona. Of course I also see this as a way of offsetting the fact that I intend to take in as much local flavor as possible.

Posted by
8984 posts

Has the dollar gotten so bad that travelers now consider public transport an expensive luxury :) I can't imagine going to a place like London or Paris and not extensively using the subways on a daily basis. If I did nothing but mostly walk in any of those places I would be dead by the end of the day and my feet would sure me for divorce. If it's affordable for the locals, it's affordable for me.

Posted by
3580 posts

Good topic! 1) I take advantage of those credit card offers for thousands of free miles just for signing up for a new card. Then take "free" flights as often as I can.
2) I travel light so I can use the least expensive transport from airport to hotel.
3) Railpasses are my best friend. I figure out which one is best and buy it in advance, then use it as much as possible.
4) Food is probably the budget item with the most flexibility for me (after hotels). I rarely go to a restaurant for a dinner. I go to less expensive places like the Chinese Delis in Paris, buy sandwiches or pastries or fresh fruit at the shops.
4) I buy Metro or Tube passes and use them a lot.
5) I enjoy the place, watching the people, enjoying the sunshine, etc. Not all my time is spent running around to museums.
6) My last trip was three weeks rather than four.
7) Hand washing in my room is easy and cheaper than washing clothes at the laundromat ($10-15).
8) I do very little "shopping."

Posted by
850 posts

Good topic Kent.I do prefer a car and for others who do if you rent a standard transmission and get a diesel it will cost less.

Lodging. Except for Rome, Venice, Stuttgart and one night at a nice hotel at Alpi di Siusi we stayed at B&B's for well under 100.00 euros. Rome was 120.00 per night. We bit the bullet in Stuttgart and stayed at a hotel right by the airport for one night (130.00)because our flight out was from there. For those 8 nights in Rome, Venice, Alpi di Siusi and Stuttgart we averaged 111.00 Euro per night.
The other 12 nights we averaged 70.00 Euro per night with a low of 51.5o Euro. All together we averaged 88.00 Euro for the 20 nights and could have cut that a little more had we tried real hard.

Food: We ate heavy at breakfast when included with the room and only ate a sit down meal once each day. Stopped at grocery stores and and had a couple of picnics driving through the Dolomites which was very cheap dining with oh wow views while enjoying our food.

Posted by
131 posts

The biggest thing I did this past summer was to use the RS guidebook and primarily stay in B$Bs. My goal was to try to spend less than $100 US nightly. Most of them were about 60-75 euro, with a small breakfast, and this was in the high season (July). I chose them based on vicinity to the train station, since that's how I got around. Amboise was the farthest walk- about 15/20 minutes. Eating take away, as others have said, is also helpful. I try to take advantage of free breakfasts and then, about 2 or 3 get a big panini or the like while touring...then something light for dinner..ditto for the grocery stores (a yogurt) and crepes. Yum!

Posted by
3313 posts

Advice for France if you rent a car. The Logis de France brand is an association of independently run hotels in smaller towns. You can research at www.logisdefrance.fr. Most are two stars with comfortable rooms and often breakfast. The rates can be a real bargain.

The larger towns have abundances of freeway interstate motels that can run 35-50 Euros/night. I like the Fast Hotel chain - in room bathrooms (Formule 1 has down the hall), well kept grounds. The rooms are very "efficient", meaning that they're small everything laid out in a small space. But with a car you can journey into the town center for the evening where hotel rates are above 100E, and come back for an affordable night's rest.

Posted by
191 posts

Everyone has had some great tips! I can't stress enough what research can do. Look up hotels/hostels read reviews talk to others, I know it can be time consuming but I like to plan my trips 10 - 12 months in advance. Hostels are great just read the reviews and you can get a great deal. As for eating I try to book a place that includes breakfast, I usually just grab a quick lunch if i'm sightseeing and maybe will splurge a little on dinner. If money is tight I'll cook dinner at the hostel most have great kitchens and it's a great way to meet other travelers. Also slurge where its cheaper, Spain and eastern europe are cheaper than most places for food and accomadation so your money goes a lot farther.

Attractions often have a free day, most cities now have a pass that includes attractions and transit they can save a lot. Also ask for discounts if student/youth, or for paying in cash. Also tour companies will give a discount if you book 1 or more tours, just ask for the discount

Posted by
87 posts

Whilst not hugely experienced in this area, we too walked a lot rather than take public transport, & yes it was hard on the feet - but it did the figure good! We also tried the big late "midday" meal & then a smaller evening meal - which worked well when we did it. I planned the trip on euros rather than dollars. I don't know if that helps or not, or if it's just my brain feeling better about it. I have learnt so much more since we did our trip & if we went again I probably wouldn't buy a railpass, but get point to point tix. I used a TA for our airfares over & she was able to recommend an airline that charged less than the usual adult fares for our teenagers as most airlines charge. I don't know if there are any from USA. One of the best meals we had was when we had a kitchen & I made up a meal with the leftovers from our picnic lunch. I would also look more closely at apt prices so we could eat in more often. In Venice I was so sorry I wasn't able to cook after seeing the produce.

Posted by
221 posts

a couple more reality checks. Italians don't do much for breakfast; a cappacino and a roll. In the central European countries and in the UK and Ireland, you usually have a huge breakfast with your room cost. so we would eat hearty and it often lasted us with a snack until dinner time. That is one big difference. Also in Italy out of 5 B & B's, only 2 included a small breakfast. In some countries sharing a taxi can be nearly the same cost as the subway; the cost of a Tube ticket in London between 2004 and 2006 nearly doubled. For me, hostels aren't an option. I am a light sleeper and most hostels (even if you book a double room) are pretty rowdy with young people out enjoying the night life, so take the cost vs. sleep consideration there. As us boomer travel more, maybe we will start to see some hostels exclusively for 50 and over...

Posted by
1717 posts

Thank you, Kent, for starting this discussion thread.
Arthur Frommer's first book was entitled "EUROPE ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY". That was in the year 1957. Now, in 2007, that book appears to be a fiction book.
And being a tourist in Europe is more expensive now than it was in the year 2001 : Germany and Austria did not have the Euro then. Persons not wanting to spend much money in Europe could bring some food with them from the U.S.A., (apples can be carried in a suitcase to Europe), and have overnight accomodations at hotels and B & Bs that have a kitchen that the guests can use for preparing their food. Restaurants in Europe are expensive (high tax, and 15 % gratuity). I do not need to eat any meals in restaurants in Europe. Tourists can carry their lunch with them in a train, like the locals do. I will try to avoid riding in a Taxi car, but I agree with Michael that walking ten miles each day is not necessary.

Posted by
10 posts

In Rome a must stay is The BeeHive. Hostel, private rooms or selfcatering apartments. Run my an American couple; very cool; listed in Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast. Veggie cafe; Yoga studio, etc. check it out.
Also consider looking over 'RetreatFinder.Com. There are many, many convents that offer clean, safe housing at a very reasonable rate. You also are driven from the 'hey harry how's the mets do'in' crowd.
Small pensance throughout europe are also available if you are a traveler; and willing to take a chance or two.

Always bring a sleep sack; and a personal towel. just incase you don't feel comfortable sleeping in euro sheets.
Buy local foods; make picinics outside or in your room; eat your main meals at Breakfast or Lunch
Use the train system as much as you can. Check out Budget Europe Travel out of Ann Arbor Michigan. Someone shared 5 years ago with us on this site and we have used them over and over...they are the best for train info!

Posted by
10 posts

Don't get us wrong - last transatlantic we crossed in the Queen Mary 2. But did it on an interior cabin; final pre-winter crossing. Price? 1200.00 all inclusive for 6 days...life changing experience. Put that one in your memory bank for future travel.

Leave yourself open to new adventures and you will get all your monies worth. Our daughter went to Venice for Karneval - but took a side trip to Slovenia. While there heard some great sounds coming from a little cafe' on a side street - they ventured down to the cafe. The 'Gypsy Kings' were playing there, no cover, just required to buy one drink. [cost for best concert ever: 6e or $12.00]

Keep looking up when you travel. and stay away from the Americans...we are still awful on the road.

Ciao, Ag

Posted by
1631 posts

This summer, during high (and hot) season, we travelled through Germany, Italy and Austria for 25 days. Years of accumulating airline and hotel points paid off for us in Italy. You definitely get your best use of those points for hotels in Europe. We used pts for hotels in Rome, Venice, Florence and the night before our flight home. We prefer renting a car. This way, we are able to stay in the small towns for a lot less $. Rick's books list accommodations that are easy for the train traveller to get to; however, they are noisier (trains) and often more expensive because they are in his book (and often full). We go to the next town and look for "zimmer frei" signs. We love staying in these places which are often people's homes with extra rooms. Some have baths and are ALWAYS cleaner than most 2 or 3 star hotels. Austria is cheaper than it's neighboring countries in every way. We can find zimmers for 17 euros each. Gas & food is cheaper. We'll visit Germany & stay in Austria.

Posted by
1631 posts

In regards to eating, we'll fill up on the huge breakfasts. We then stop at a market and get sandwich makings. I bring a small, soft-sided cooler with an ice pack that I freeze overnight and keep meats available for snacking. I also bring my knife & small cutting board and prepare "on the go" sandwiches in the car. We eat one big meal every evening (for the 3 of us). Yes, it get's expensive. We find getting a beer or wine is less $ than water. My son will buy one glass of a soft drink then I will refill it with my own bottle stashed in my bag. We all know how small those glasses are and how expensive they can be. I seldom buy souvenirs unless they are unique and I know they are more expensive in the States. This is a great topic Kent. I look forward to other's replies.

Posted by
1143 posts

Two years ago I spent 18 days in Italy traveling with two friends instead of just one. We found that adding that extra person to a hotel room only increased the total slightly but meant that each of us paid much less. We were there in late June-early July and were visiting some pretty heavily touristed places (Venice, Florence, Siena, Orvieto and Monterosso) but I think we averaged about $40 a night each for lodging. I made our reservations about 2 1/2 months in advance and cross-checked between Rick, Lonely Planet, and Venere.com.

Posted by
932 posts

Steve, you mentioned the "BA FF" club. Is that British Airways Frequent Flier club? Did you have to have a certain amount of points for that airfare? We are looking for tix to Dublin and flying back from London (open jaw) and they're about $800.00. If the club you're referring to are specials that anyone can purchase, let me know how to sign up to watch the fares. Thanks.

Posted by
18298 posts

Rail passes are often not the most economical means of travel. Before every trip I create a matrix, with the legs on my itinerary as rows and modes of travel (auto rental, point to point tickets [1st/2nd] class, rail passes, and promotional tickets [Länder Tickets in Germany]) as columns. Then I check to see which is the most economical. Auto Rental always turns out to be by far the most expensive, Länder Tickets always beat rail passes.

Example: a few years ago my wife and I flew into Stuttgart, took the train to Rothenburg, then went to Berchtesgaden, then the Allgäu, then to Siqmaringen via Ulm. We spent the last night in Herrenberg just south of Stuttgart and took the S-bahn to the airport. We used a Baden-Württemberg Ticket, a Schönes-Wochenende Ticket, 3 Bayern Tickets, and several point to point tickets. That was 6 days of train travel for 2 for €161 ($237) at todays prices. A 2nd cl. twin German Rail pass for 6 days costs twice that.

Posted by
75 posts

I travel on the cheap. I recently just went to Italy and Greece for 10 days by myself. With a tour though. And while tours are not for everyone they do get you there cheaply. I am not too picky of a person as far as lodging and food goes. It just needs to be clean and edible ect. I spend about $60-70 us a day while I was there. I planned $100 us a day and actually came home with about $200 at the end wish I had bought more stuff in Italy though. Choosing the day you leave can make a huge difference in flight price. Get to your destination a day early or so tues-Thurs are the cheapest. Also look into places like www.kayak.com for deals. I buy lunch meats,cerial bars and stuff at stores save me loads. I also shop around for deals, and I go off season or slightly off. I also get a pt job for a couple months which helps a little as well. No rental car I use public transport only and get passes ect.....

Posted by
1717 posts

The question here is what to do with your money when you are in Europe. My reply here is for people who have not been to Europe, they desire to go to Europe, and they feel discouraged because of the high prices for everything in Europe. I remember the song "Its what you Do with what you've got that counts", in the old Walt Disney movie "So Dear to My Heart" (Burl Ives sang folk songs in that movie). In Europe a person could spend 20 Dollars (U.S. Dollars) for noodles at one meal in a restaurant. Or a person could spend 50 Cents (U.S.) for a box of Macaroni (5.5 ounces) at a discount store, and spend 25 Cents (U.S.) for a small can of tomato sauce. That can has enough tomato sauce to put on Macaroni for two persons. (I do not have an apetite for the Cheddar Cheese powder that is in the pouch in the box of macaroni). Some B & Bs and some inexpensive small hotels in Europe have a kitchen in which the guests can cook their food. And food can be cooked in a Sierra cup over a nuwick candle.

Posted by
206 posts

Renting/driving a car in France is safe, at least it was when we did a few years ago in the Lyon area. As for money-saving tips, just more of what others have said: lots of walking, less sit-down dining, less shopping. The Tube pass in London saved me a lot, and was much more convenient then buying a ticket every time.

Posted by
18298 posts

I wouldn't call a tour the way to save costs. The $70 you mention must be on top of the tour cost. My wife's alumna club is constantly sending her literature for tours. I always look carefully at the German ones, and I find them to be 2-3 time the $100 a day I spend traveling on my own.

So, that's another cost saving vacation tip - Don't do tours.

Posted by
290 posts

Its important that folks look at their budgeting of not only their trip but what they spend $$$ on at home. Trimming down at home in order to have extra funds for trips outside the USA can make up for the week USD. A simple change, such as bringing coffee from home instead of stopping at Starbucks on the way to work can save big bucks when calculated over a year's time. Many of us Americans don't blink an eye over paying $4 a day for coffee...which over 50 weeks time is $1,000. It seems very logical that instead of cutting back on much needed R&R time, a few minor changes in every day life is a better option. Its OK to be frugal on vacation, just as long as it doesn't mar the experience of a much dreamed of vacation.

Posted by
11805 posts

My main money savers:

  1. Go on longer not shorter trips. Much of your cost is air travel to Europe, get your money's worth when you go.

  2. Split costs with partners. Trains are cheaper for one or two. If you travel with another couple, it's cheaper and more convenient to get a car and share two-bedroom one-bath accomodations.

  3. Lease rather than rent a car. Leasing is a much better deal than renting ("walk-away" insurance included in price) but you have to keep the car at least 17 days.

  4. I go no-star on the hotel/hostel/pension/bandb. I'm healthy enough not to need the services that I can't afford. As long as it's clean (and preferably quiet), I consider it a cultural experience.

  5. Most of my meals are picnics. I visit stores for meat and cheese (100 grams of each is plenty for two), bread and drinks, etc. Then head to a park for a nice meal that costs a fraction of a restaurant.

  6. While at the store, buy snacks, wine, etc. for later. Carry a daypack.

Posted by
95 posts

I travel with my two children, and I was surprised at how much cheaper it was to rent an apartment than anything else. A one or two bedroom apartment in Germany and Spain is much cheaper for a week than a triple room. In general, I find picking one destination for a week or more to be cheaper than hopping around, especially in the high season. It also allows my family time to meet and mingle with the local culture. No rental cars is another budget decision we made this year.

Posted by
468 posts

I am not much of a budget traveler, but here is what I like to do.

Travel off-season. My husband doesn't like this as much as I do. He doesn't like the vagaries of the weather. We probably don't save much on airfare because we like to fly business, but we definitely save on accommodations.

Stay in houses or apartments. We almost never stay in hotels. Our friends always want to go with us so we have a hard time keeping the group down to 8 to 12 people sometimes! But traveling with a group opens up the possibilities of renting fabulous houses to stay in. check out classictuscanhomes.com. We have gone with a group of friends and rented La Certosa three different times. Then, we choose when we want to eat out. We go to the grocery stores/markets and buy stuff to eat for breakfast and lunch. And we really love cooking for ourselves with the great ingredients that are available.

I am going to Paris in January and found a great deal, I thought, on an apartment through cont

Posted by
468 posts

the Relais Bosquet. I was expecting to pay 189 euro per night but because I am going to be there in the offseason it is going to be only 139 euro per night that my friend and I will split.

Posted by
11805 posts

One more money saver for before you go:

Save on travel clothes, coats and shoes. Either bring clothes you already wear and like, or-

Visit REI, Lands End, etc. to see/try on their clothes. They have great stuff but rarely at bargain prices. Note the features you like and what materials are used. Then shop around for similar, sometimes better gear at better prices (Gore-tex seems to be expensive everywhere). I've found a light-weight rain and wind-proof parka at an end of season clearance sale and a pair of tread-sole water-proof Dockers walking shoes for half-off.

Oh, and shoulder-season beats the crowds and price of high-season any day.

Posted by
43 posts

Here are two unique ideas:

1) My husband and I have agreed to give up caffeine prior to our next trip. We discovered we were spending around $15.00 per day on coffees and sodas when we were in France last year. Over a two week trip, that's enough $$ saved to pay for an additional hotel night!

2) We're also trying to find a friend willing to loan us a manual shift car so that we can practice shifting before we leave for Italy!! It's been 20 years since I last drove a stick shift (and my husband never has) but if I can become proficient once again, I could save $250.00 over renting an automatic.

Hmmmm....it's doubtful that either of these are actually going to work out for us, so I think I'd better re-read some of the postings on this site. :) I'm a firm supporter of the person who mentioned cutting back on other things at home throughout the year. Travel (even bare-bones travel) is our one extravagance. It's going to have to get a lot worse before I'll stay home!! Ciao!!

Posted by
9363 posts

I agree with Lee -- tours are not generally cost-savers. (The only exception I've seen to this was my 2005 trip to China.) Tours might be nice for having everything arranged for you in advance, or if you are uncomfortable traveling independently, but you can spend a lot less on your own. (I wouldn't consider traveling on a tour to be "by myself", either).

Posted by
206 posts

Good ideas from Brad about travel clothes. I often shop off-season clothes at Lands End ("Overstocks" section), L.L. Bean ("Sale" section) and Eddie Bauer Outlet. REI also has an "outlet" section. You can get some great deals by purchasing coats in the summer, tank tops in the winter, etc. Every three months or so, Eddie Bauer Outlet has an additional 30% off outlet prices!

Also, before you click on the "purchase" button on any website, get thee to a search engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.) and type in the name of the store and "promo" or "promo code". Often there are free shipping or % off deals out there that you wouldn't have found on the store website.

Posted by
6 posts

Also try Sierra Trading Post, but before that go to Fatwallet.com and in the Hot Deals Forum find the Sierra Trading Post coupon thread.

Posted by
203 posts

I was just in Europe and I think the idea of an economical trip to Europe is hopeless. If you have your heart set on Europe, it's going to cost. For my parents in their 80's, there's no point in waiting for it to get cheaper. For my son in his 20's, there's no point of going unless he can stay with friends (a possibility.) He's planning for his next trip to be to Guatemala: much cheaper. The idea of traveling and not eating out in nice (not necessarily elegant) restaurants is depressing. I think that you just have to decide "what's it worth to you." My husband and I are done paying for our kids' college, so we can afford to go. However, I encourage our less affluent offspring to explore our national parks. If they must go out of the country, they should go to Central America.

Posted by
3580 posts

My Discretionary spending is on newspapers, trips to the internet cafe, drinks, telephone calls, restaurants, extra Metro rides, books, tips, donations to homeless people, and hotel breakfasts. During my most recent trip I was MORE generous with tips and spent less on the other items. I had pre-purchased my Eurostar trip London to Paris. I skipped a boat trip on the river in favor of walking along the Seine. I didn't go without anything I really wanted; I just went without things that weren't important to my enjoyment of Europe.

Posted by
279 posts

While thorough research, cost analysis, and making tough decisions about what to cut inorder to make things affordable are all a necessary part of travelling economically, you also have to factor in some other aspects of your larger home budget. For example, if you are not at home for a month, the utility bill for that month will be much lower because you aren't there to use the energy. Similarly, if you were at home, you would eat, drive, buy tickets to entertainment, and purchase books, newspapers, etc.... These purchases in Europe are therefore not a cost of the trip, but rather a daily living expense that you would have at home or in Europe, to the extent that you do not exceed the normal home budget. Shifting to this frame of budget thought, the expenses are the hotels, transportation to the extent that it exceeds what you spend on gasoline (or other), and the sightseeing expenses that are not negotiable because that is what you came to see.

To be continued

Posted by
279 posts

Continued,

We will be traveling as a family in the summer of 2008. My wife and I along with our two youngest children, age 12 and 16, along with my 91 year old Grandmother. We are going to go to Scotland to see where she grew up, through her eyes, and then down through London, Amsterdam, Bavaria, and Switzerland, all total about four weeks. This will cost no more than if we were to go on a two-week cruise, and it will be far more enlightening for our kids. Our feeling is that we cannot afford to not do this! How will we afford it? We began laying the ground work as a family more than 30 years ago. When I was a kid my parents opened our home to exchange students from Switzerland and Norway. We have kept in touch, been to visit each other numerous times, and have become friends with others we have met through them. Now we reciprocate with each other when traveling. Moreover, our children are now going and staying with our "families." Make Europe cheaper by bringing them home!

Posted by
1717 posts

I agree with Kevin : the necessary expenses in Europe, for a person to spend his/her travel money for, are : hotels, transportation costs exceeding the usual costs for the person's transportation, and sightseeing expenses (ticket for admission to a mansion or palace or castle or museum). To that list I add Travelers' insurance (for major hospital expenses in Europe). And bring extra money (or credit card) for paying for unexpected expenses in Europe. Especially for an inexperienced traveller in Europe or Britain or Ireland, unexpected expenses can accumulate to a significantly high amount of money. The money exchange rate in England can change dramatically during the days when a person from the U.S.A. is in England : each time the person from the U.S.A. exchanges money, the amount of British Pounds that he/she receives per $ 100. U.S. is a smaller amount of British Pounds. In England the total money that I spent there in 3 days was the amount that I expected to spend in 6 days.

Posted by
1717 posts

My QUESTION : ->> What amount of money should a traveler in Europe or United Kingdom or Ireland be prepared to spend, for unexpected expenses ? (not including high expense at a hospital in Europe. That should be covered by good insurance).

Posted by
9363 posts

Ron, how on Earth can anyone know the answer to that? I never try to budget a figure for that kind of expense because it's impossible to know what you could come up against. For instance, my parents had to buy a tire in the Netherlands once. I've never had to do that so I wouldn't know what it would cost. All you can do is have a money source, like a credit card, available that could cover things and then hope you don't have to use it.

Posted by
75 posts

Ron
That is what travel insurance is for to help with that as a supplimental.

Posted by
808 posts

Or here's what I like to do...
Scrap Birthday Presents, Christmas, Valentines etc and put the money you would've spent into a pot. On occaisions, write in a card the activity you will celebrate at destination. Research your destination and make specific suggestions. Watch a good Travel DVD on your destination.

Or ask for pre-paid Travel gift cards to go toward accomodation costs etc.

Include Tax Refunds, Overtime, Expense Accounts, Bonuses, proceeds from yearly Yard Sales etc. All this "found" money goes to feed your "Travel Habit Drug of Choice".
Pay yourself first. Have your bank withdraw a set amount each month toward travel costs. It all adds up!

Posted by
20 posts

I would also like to know about the inexpensive BA fares...can anyone take advantage of these? Thanks for any help.

Posted by
1 posts

For me there is nothing better that getting an invitation to a private home for a day or two.

A good way to do this is to find internet bulletin boards that cater to travellers. Find some who are interested in learning about the area where you live. Exchange some travel info back and forth and once you are comforatble with them, you might invite them to stop by and see you while they are visiting your area. It takes a while to get to know someone on line and you want to be sure to do that before extending an invite. Next thing you know you will be invited to their place for a visit. Take them up on it and you can get a free room for a night or two in their town on your next travels. Also there are Hospitality Exchange clubs where members can invite travellers to visit them and everyone shares a room in their home for a night or two. Check it out. You can establish your free lodging networks quickly. Give and take is the rule. Its not for everyone but just an idea. Good luck

Posted by
3304 posts

I don't think anyone has yet mentioned house exchanges. If it works for you, you get a free place to stay and, possibly, a car. There may be other benefits thrown in as well. We got a gas card on our last exchange, which relieved us of the need to pay for gas the entire 4 weeks we were in Scandinavia. We know people who got the use of a second home in the south of France, along with a Paris apartment. There are many organizations which facilitate exchanges. Usually you pay a fee to be on their list. Then it's up to you to make your own arrangements. We have used both Homelink and Intervac, two of the largest. You can find them and many others if you google "house exchanges." Most allow you to view their listings (without the contact info). We have found that right after the 1st of the year is the time when most Europeans start making their house-exchange plans. I'll be happy to answer e-mails from people who want to know more.

Posted by
277 posts

I have been to London for six nights lodging and daily breakfast w RT air for $499 pp; I have been to Munich for six nights and daily breakfast w RT air for $899 pp; I have been to Prague for six nights and daily breakfast w RT air for $699 pp; I have been to Rome for six nights lodging and daily breakfast w RT air for $1059 pp. You can go to Paris for six nights lodging and daily breakfast w RT air for $750 pp. I have the web site company make the hotel and air arrangements for me and tour own my own. The hotels are 3 star tourist class that are clean, pvt bath with a restaurant. The travel dates are always off season. Before May 11 and after September 11. The deals are out there if you are willing to do a little research, and plan your sightseeing destinations on your own. I use the Metro at each city I visit. I do get lost sometimes but it makes the trip an adventure. I also get to interact with the locals. It's very easy to do and English is spoken everywhere.

Posted by
19 posts

I know Rick tends to breeze over them, but IMO hostels are definitely worth a look if you want to save money, even when you're not one of the young, partying crowd. Outside of Bavaria (for most people, read as: Munich and Rothenburg), age isn't an issue at all. And even in Bavaria, it's often not an issue.

In major cities at least, you can get a single or double (just one roommate) room with your own private bathroom for about €30 in peak season. It's evidently getting pretty competitive, because many are offering free breakfast, walking tours, laundry, etc -- that's more than most budget hotels! And I'm talking about nice, clean hostels in great locations, with websites that let you make reservations. Check guideforeurope.com or similar for a list. Saving an extra €30-60 per day goes a long way.

Posted by
2779 posts

I didn't realize it's getting that bad with the dollar. According to CNN the Taj Mahal and other Indian world hertiage protection sights have startet to reject admission paid in US-dollar cash!

Posted by
3313 posts

I just thought I would pop this thread back up to the top because several more posts have asked for the same advice. Thanks for getting it started, Kent!

Posted by
1158 posts

I would travel with other people, about 3 .This way you can save a lot of money on the hotel.Also renting a car saves you a lot of vs using a railpass, which got expensive lately and is individual.
There are a few airline companies in Europe that are really unexpensive,but again you will need to pay individually.

Posted by
809 posts

A few years ago I joined the Affordable Travel Club - a hospitality exchange network for people over 40. Last spring my 15-year-old and I stayed with ATC hosts for 3 nights in Southwark [London], about 10 minutes from Shakespeare's Globe, for $30 US per night - about one-tenth what friends of ours were paying for a hotel the same week. Our hosts were a wonderful couple who fed us delicious breakfast every day and took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood our first morning. Most of the listings are US and Canada, but there are a number in Europe. I certainly appreciated keeping our costs down, but even better was the chance to connect with interesting local people. We have also hosted a couple of times and enjoyed our guests. Google "affordable travel club" and you should find their website, which has lots more information on how it works.

Posted by
10 posts

I'm with Rosalyn! Home exchanges are the way to go. We have a two week exchange in Paris set up next August: their 3 bedroom apartment (w/Eiffel tower view!) for our home in San Diego. This will be our 6th exchange and we have met the most wonderful people. (A family in Tours invited us for brunch while we're there after inquiring about an exchange next summer.) You might be surprised who wants to visit where you live, water your plants and pet-sit while you're in Europe!

The only problem is that we are spoiled w/home exchanges where we have a kitchen and the kids have their own rooms. The last week of our itinerary we'll be traveling through Switzerland and Germany. I like to stay in clean, comfortable places but hate spending $$ on lodging. A 2-week home exchange and 1 week traveling seemed the best balance between cost-savings and sightseeing to me.

Posted by
7737 posts

We're going to Italy in May and one way we're planning to save some money is to rent apartments through VRBO rather than staying in hotels. Most of their listings will take reservations for as few as 2 or 3 days. And you're not being charged to cover the salaries of all the staff. The downside is you don't have access to the same kind of services (in most cases) that you would at a hotel or a pensione.

I'm also planning to try a little bartering if we want to buy something at a stand. I'll say "Lo scambio e' troppo alto" as I walk away. ("The exchange rate is too high.") and then see if that drives the price down. (^_^)

Posted by
5 posts

I have friends who have registered through the Servas organization which allows you to stay at homes. An application process is involved and once you are approved you can purchase an address list for the country you are interested in. I think membership is $85 a year and the lists don't cost much more.

My friends went through this process and contacted a couple families to stay with in Italy, one of which threw this lavish multi-course Italian dinner. She said it was a wonderful experience and she would do it again.

The other cost saving tip....when my husband and I went to Italy in October we took along some of those vacuum-sealed smoked salmon packets. I know they also sell Tuna in the grocery store. They came in handy for some of our lunches, we would buy bread and other sandwich material from the local deli and have a picnic lunch. That allowed us to splurge a little more for dinner and also helped us get some protein into our diet.

Posted by
2000 posts

Well Sam, there are only so many things you can do to save money. You could become a Paris Metro musician to earn extra cash to finance your trip -- how about this for an "original" tip?

Posted by
430 posts

Great discussions. While we pay with the CAN $ and not US, we always are looking for ways to cut costs. We travel out of season, stay in Zimmers or B+B's, buy food in grocery stores/markets, stay in smaller towns, walk, and enjoy being a traveller vs a tourist. We always have a rich and rewarding experience, and have never been disappointed. I have to comment on one of the postings, though -- fellow Back Door travellers -- why, when traveling to a foreign country, would anyone think it's appropriate to pay with your own currency ?? I've never understood that.

Posted by
705 posts

For once our exchange rate makes travel reasonably affordable if you forget about the air fares we have to pay. It costs us AUD170.00 odd for 100Euro.

When I was in Venice last year I couldn't believe the prices of things - it made Rome look positively cheap. A couple of things I did was firstly stopped working out how much things were really costing me. I took it that 1Euro = 1AUD. My attitude was I was in Venice - divine - and never know if I was going to return or not so enjoy. Lunch was a piece of pizza and a gelati and dinner one course, a salad and coffee.

I pretty much always walk everywhere - I like to be able to meander the streets and go in and out of interesting looking shops. Otherwise public transport.

I suppose we come from a different angle travel has never been cheap for us so we just accept 'that's what it's going to cost'.

Posted by
3101 posts

I think Helen's right--it's a matter of perspective. It's been a bargain for Americans traveling to Europe for many years. A pastry that I bought in Germany this past December for example was 1.20 EUR which is about $1.75 US. The last time I checked at Starbucks in Atlanta, a muffin was more than $1.75 and not nearly as good! Our hotel room in France was 85 EUR or $124. US. Even a Hampton Inn is more than that in some areas of the US but with a lot less charm than our room in Colmar. Europe isn't the deal that it used to be but it's still very affordable with careful planning.

Posted by
258 posts

My cost savings was staying in hostels. It was very cheap and allowed me to stay there longer. Many hostels now have private rooms too. So if you are a couple or family traveling you can get your own room and it is similar to staying in a hotel.

Another way I saved money was to grocery shop for many lunches. Going to the grocery was also cool because you got to see what types of foods they had in that particular country. Just be prepared for no english to be spoken. Grocery stores were the only place where I ran into the language barrier.

Posted by
219 posts

My family and I literally saved thousands of dollars, at least $5000, by renting an apartment, buying food at the super markets, cheese, bakery, wine, and charcuterie shops in Paris. Not once did my family or I felt denied that we did not spend most of out eating time at restaurants. The food we purchased was so good that my gourmet husband did not complain at all. It was his 1st trip to Paris and he wants to go back very soon.

Posted by
221 posts

stay in hostels even if you are not young, eat from markets and grocery stores, walk instead of subway,
don't buy gifts for the folks back home. You can do it but you do give up some comforts.

Posted by
105 posts

We're planning our trip to Italy now . . . we found that it has worked out to be much less expensive to get an apartment rather than hotel room. (In our case we'd need two hotel rooms but only one 2-bedroom apartment, so that makes the savings even larger.) With an apartment you also have cooking facilities so you can prepare some of your meals on your own rather than dining out.

Kevin made an excellent point that I hadn't considered before. Much of your food costs on the trip aren't completely vacation expenses because you'd have to pay for food if you were at home. You'll probably avoid gasoline costs, pay less for home energy usage, etc. There is an offset in this regard that works to our advantage.

Unfortunately, with the weakened dollar this benefit is not as much as it could be (because food will be more expensive in Euros than dollars) but it's still something positive to hold on to!

Posted by
367 posts

My cost savings are before I go. I cut down on buying coffee, bring my lunches to work and take the bus to work instead of driving. The money I save makes it possible for me to have a more generous budget while I am in Europe.

I spend wisely while I am there, but don't drastically cut corners. Shop in grocery store for picnics etc. As a single traveler, I have found I tend to take Rick Steves tours as they give a great bang for a buck.

Because every trip is special and I don't go that often, I try to save as much as I can before I go so I can have the largest budget I can. I have always said it is better to say why did I spend to go to that place than to wish I had and regret it.

Posted by
2779 posts

Just FYI I found this article that tries to explain what's going on with the US-Dollar compared to other currencies. There is some personal opinion of the auther in the article but I think it's still worth reading: http://www.naturalnews.com/z022662.html

Posted by
875 posts

Since we are new to Europe (1st time last year) and didn't know if we would ever return, we didn't exactly go on the cheap, but had FF airfare (1st class). We did rent apts in Bruges and Paris which enabled us to eat some meals in rather than going out. Staying in many hotels on this trip, but still an apt in Paris and hope to do more cooking utilizing the wonderful produce available at the markets. I will be drinking less Diet Coke this year because of the expense -- I know that's a small thing, but it's something anyway. If we get to come back again, I will definitely be looking for more ways to economize. We do use the metro in Paris as we can't possibly walk fast enough to see everything and go everywhere we want to go! Tried that last year, and it was exhausting & frustrating.

Posted by
8 posts

Well, Tickets to and from the states... check the taxes before purchasing. a $400 ticket may be more expensive than one for $460 after you add taxes and airport fees. Also, I stay at nice hostels or pensions for 20-30 a night. You just have to do your homework regarding their location and cleanliness. Calling hotels directly versus booking online during slow seasons I have been able to great deals 4 star hotels. We stayed at a 5 star hotel in Italy for 100euro a few years ago. I fly Ryanair, Hxl, or Germanwings within Europe when cheap tickets are available. I decide what day I am traveling and from where and see where I can go for 10 euro or under. It's cheaper than the train and driving. If I need cheap transportation I can take the S-bahn or RE(regional) trains. Ice trains and rail passes can be pricey. Pub food is usually cheap and yummy.

Posted by
2779 posts

How about renting a self-catering apartment/cottage and staying in an area for a week or so? You can buy local food at local grocery stores and fix them any way you like which still gets you to explore new flavors but save money at the same time. And you can take day trips to explore the country or region.

Posted by
59 posts

We're off to France in May but will be cutting corners too. A late breakfast and an early dinner works for us. Pick up a pastry at some local bakery just to fill the void mid-day. ie=2 meals, not 3, plus picnics will be more frequent.
We never found a two star hotel that was not up to par. Never had a dirty or unpleasant experience in that regard. I try to tell people to ask to see the room before accepting it. Logis de France are a good hotel deal. I cringe at the cost of this next trip but will take every economy I can think of. This is a great thread idea.

Posted by
334 posts

We have always done picnic and/or self-catering meals - we have great fun in the European markets. This year we are renting gites for a week at a time - we opted for smaller gites due to the exchange rate (we enjoy slower travel - our transport will be our own bicycles with an occasional train). With a kitchen available, we do almost all our own cooking with maybe a lunch out occassionally. I don't understand $250 "budget" accommodations, either.

Posted by
220 posts

Another great question from Kent!
We have followed Rick's suggestions for years, so I'm confident that we are using our shrinking travel dollars wisely. Last year and this we have opted to save money before we go by changing our spending habits at home. It's amazing how much we save by cutting out bottled water, fancy coffee, unnecessary driving,unhealthy snacks and $9 movies (they are free at the public library just a few months after they premier at the theaters).

Posted by
525 posts

The pound is around 2.07 to the dollar. I'm trying to save money but the B&B's in the Cotswolds and Wales are around 30 or more per person per night. I've been researching for quite sometime trying to find B&B's in/near Llangollen and Blaenau Ffestiniog/Beddgelert. Please tell me where to find a B&B for 25 and under per person per night. That would be $100.00. After much work looking for a low rate for a car rental in England I found one from 1car1. No payment before picking up so it may cost more because of the exchange rate! Extra driver - no charge and cheaper than AutoEurope and other car rental agencies. I think I did good for 197 GBP for 2 weeks. We will walk mostly in London to save on the tube fares that are high. I'm looking for the cheapest train fare from London to Tilehurst (Reading). Where are the "10GBP" fares? We will save something from our English breakfasts to use as part of our lunch and purchase other items. Any other suggestions? Thanks.

Posted by
809 posts

I enjoy travelling off season. Cheaper airfare and lodging. Most importantly - less tourists. I was in Paris and Bayeux in February and it was perfect. I travel with a child (he's 8). We don't eat at fancy places - usually bistros/cafes. We often feed him first - stop and have a few beers and let him eat a sandwich and then at dinner he gets a dessert and plays his game or reads a book and we have dinner. Saves us from having to find a place where there's something on the menu for him and it saves us from having to feed him a more expensive meal.

Staying at B&Bs as others have said. Public transportation is key - especially from the airport. My favorite part of arriving in Europe is figuring out (hopefully in advance) how to get to my hotel.

When I get there I stop thinking in dollars and start thinking in euros - if you are constantly converting euros to dollars in your head you'll go nuts.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I are leaving for Italy for a 21 day honeymoon on May 28, 2008. This is considered high season by hotels. I save money by sleeping at convents, which I either book directly if I know the email address, or use www.monasterystay.com (they charge 20% booking fee). I also rent apartments. For example, in Venice (very expensive no matter how you cut it), a night at a convent is euro 136, while avg hotels would be euro 160-180 a night. In Florence, the convent is euro 100 a night. In Rome the apartment we rent by Campo dei Fiori is euro 110 a night. Overall it's still very expensive but who knows when the dollar will get strong again? But I calculate that for our trip we pay what a RS trip would be to Italy but we get to stay twice as long by arranging everything ourselves.

Posted by
61 posts

London transportation - take the city bus tour. They have multiple stops on their routes, and you can hop off/on all day long.
If you will be spending a week in London, get the tube pass - that WILL save you money.

Posted by
16 posts

Yeah, that convent price astonished me. Far from anything referred to as a "money saver" in my book.

To each their own.

Posted by
12040 posts

The dollar gained on the euro today, finally! We're down to 1.56 per euro! Oh, happy days are here again...well, not quite...

Posted by
12040 posts

I quoted the official exchange rate as of yesterday, so yes, this isn't the rate travelers will actually see.

Posted by
435 posts

When we got our tickets to Switzerland and Italy (free) in March I decided that for every day I took lunch to work I would save $10.00 (I had a little sealed box for that purpose). I also had a birthday in between and everyone gave me cash which went into the box. I also added an odd $20.00 when I had extra.
Last week I opened the box and had $930.00!!
I just needed to add a few hundred more and thats my spending money. No pain there.

Posted by
10344 posts

Looks like it's time to bring this topic back: 85 tips to saving money on your trip.And here are Rick's tips from the Travel Tips section of this site: Rick's money saving tipsAnd more of Rick's tips: more of Rick's tips

Posted by
632 posts

Outstanding Nadine...a relatively painless way to save for Europe.

Posted by
18298 posts

Even at today's exchange rate, I travel for about $100 for one person per day. I stay in inexpensive B&Bs, but I don't really skimp on meals. I use public transportation.

I recently put some of my methods down on my website.

Posted by
435 posts

Thanks Bill. I had some lousy lunches but it was so worth it. I can't even remember them now.

Posted by
409 posts

We book small family run budget hotels or convents in great locations. Hotel Dali in Florence 65 euros gets a large charming room for two with shared bath close to everything delightful hosts with a mini fridge for keeping cool drinks. In Siena it's Alma Domus--- again location charm views to die for super clean 65 euros gets a "Room with a View" for two. In Assisi it's La Pallotta charming rooms super clean great location substantial breakfast and tea time from 4 to 7 for a light snack. Rome is great for convents Sisters of the Pallotine is a favorite or renting Pietro Ferri's fabulous apartment near the Colesseo which allowed us to cook some fabulous meals and drink icy cold Frascati while watching the sun set over Rome. We try to mix it up for meals with a combo of light cafe meals, aliamentaries for fabulous picnics, finding great small family restaurants off the main tourist areas, delis like Granna's in Florence, fruiterias, small groceries, pizza taglia shops, cafeterias and self serves, asking people we meet where they eat, and this year for the first time cooking at our rental apartment with the aid of a fabulous butcher, cheese shop, fruiteria and wine shop. In Orvieto we found a great little market where the owner made us the best salumi and pecorino sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and pesto for 2.50 euro and the most delightul opportunity to use our Italian. We use trains rather than rent cars and use public transportation rather than cabs. We use refillable water bottles rather than pay 2 euro for a bottle of not very cold water near the tourist spots. We always plan several splurge meals, or small treats like a glass of wine on the Piazza with a view then move on to a great dinner in a nontouristy local restaurant.

Posted by
167 posts
  • Plan as much as possible to be as efficient as possible so that both money AND time isn't wasted.

  • Decide on what's important to you and spend most of the money on that (e.g., I just order water for our family where other folks may spend ten bucks on soft drinks... such a waste IMHO). That way I can spend more on basil pesto!

  • Generally, expense is on one side of the equation. The other side is flexibility, urgency, and convenience. To save money (as a rule) you must be flexible, not need things urgently, and forgo having things be convenient. Of course (using math) this simplifies to having more time saves more money.

Posted by
1357 posts

In planning my trip to Ireland this summer, I pulled out my old guidebook that we used when we went 12 years ago -- Frommer's Ireland from $45/day.

Budgets and planning are different now that we have kids. Before, we'd go to small towns and look for signs for a room. Now we have to plan more and have a home base, but that's usually an apartment with a kitchen, so that saves on meals.

Posted by
446 posts

Lee writes:

"I recently put some of my methods down on my website."

Very interesting, and some good advice, although personally, I would not follow all of it -- especially the part about not checking luggage. I know I could reduce the amount of clothes I take on a trip, but I need more clothes than obviously you do. I also tend to rely on hotel laundry services -- which I know are a little expensive -- but worth it to me.

You seem to be focused on Germany. I assume you speak German? Last month was my first trip to Germany since I lived there (in the Air Force) in the late 1960's. I went to Berlin and stayed for two weeks -- except for a two-day excursion to Dresden for a couple of classical music concerts. Had a great time at the opera, symphony, museums, etc.

It appears you have never been to Berlin? I do like small towns too, but I think Berlin is an essential destination -- at least once -- for any Germany fan.

My hotel was a very nice budget place -- the Hotel Arco, located in a quiet residential district, but close to the U-Bahn. Very nice double rooms for only 77 EUR a night, including a great German continental breakfast.

Posted by
638 posts

One of my biggest things is to eat a HUGE breakfast, then take granola bars, etc (pick up something light if needed), and then eat a decent dinner. I also drink water with this meal, and try to cut down on soft drinks.