Back in the summer of 2015 my sister and I backpacked Europe for about 3 weeks, visiting 4 countries and stopping in 13 different cities. With us both being poor college students at the time, you can bet traveling on a budget was a priority. Here are some of the tips we discovered along the way.
1. Deal with the layovers.
Let’s face it, travel days can be stressful; especially international air travel. But, if you’re willing to take a little more stress with one or two layovers, you easily save a couple hundred dollars (or more). When I first flew to Europe, my destination was a smaller city in England called Leeds. Unfortunately a nonstop flight from Orlando to Leeds airport was both rare and expensive. After looking into other flight options, I found I could save several hundred dollars by flying from Orlando to New York, from New York to Dublin, then using an InterEurope airline (Ryanair) to fly from Dublin to Leeds. It can be exhausting and stressful, but you do what you have to do, am I right?
2. Ditch the hotels.
I love to wake up in big bed in a luxurious hotel as much as the next gal, but for this trip, perfect accommodations just weren’t a priority. My sister, Cassie, and I didn’t stay in a hotel room on our entire trip through Europe. Instead opting for hostels and staying with friends we have in England and Italy. There are some super helpful sites out there offering cheaper accommodations all over Europe, including hostels.com and airbnb.com.
3. Embrace the supermarket meals.
Food can be so expensive when you’re not cooking at home. Just think, if you’re spending about $5 for breakfast, $8 for lunch, and maybe $12 for dinner, that’s $25 a day for food alone! That could be the cost for a hostel room for a night! One way to counter this is to embrace supermarket meals. By that I mean, pick up some items at the local grocery market or produce stand for your meals and have a picnic in a park. Cassie and I did this all the time, especially in France and Switzerland, and I have to tell you, those simple picnics are some of my favorite memories from the trip. Of course its fine to splurge on some nice authentic meals, you’re in Europe for goodness sake! Cassie and I chose to have a nice meal in Paris one night, as well as a couple nights in Florence. Just try to offset those meals with cheaper, and simpler supermarket meals.
4. Avoid the tourist traps.
When you’re in Europe its easy to get caught up in the tourist traps to check off the must-sees. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret…they are often expensive. Going up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, gondola rides in Italy, the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, they can all cost a lot of money and then be filled with large crowds after you’ve paid. My advice would be to choose a couple of the more famous landmarks to visit that are on your bucket list, and take the rest of your time to explore the areas popular with the locals. You get to truly experience the city from the perspective of a local, avoid crowds, and save money all at the same time. Triple whammy!
5. Plan ahead to get the deals.
As much as I’d like to say I’m spontaneous, I’m a total planner. I get such a rush from researching the destinations prior to my trips to make sure I take advantage of all the possibilities. One benefit to that is I often find out about specials and deals that, with a little bit of planning, can save us money. One example of that is the Eurail pass. By taking the time to plan out the cities we wanted to visit, and the days we would travel, Cassie and I could purchase the Select Pass rather than the Global Pass, saving a couple hundred dollars. Another example is a museum pass. Cassie was set on visiting several of the well known museums both in Paris and Florence, including the Lourve, Musee d’Orsay, Musee de l’Orangerie, Uffiizi Gallery, and Galleria dell’Accademia. These museums charge admission, however if you know you are planning to go to at least two or three of them, it makes sense to purchase a museum pass. Shop around for the best price. Rather than purchasing one online before the trip, Cassie and I were able to get one at the Musee de l’Orangerie that would let us in to that museum as well as the Musee d’Orsay for half the price.
Hopefully these tips can be helpful for you. If you’ve traveled to Europe on a budget and have any other tips, please share below! I’d love to learn.