You Can Visit Europe for a Lot Cheaper Than You Think — Here's How
As far as foreign travel is concerned, Europe is one of the most romanticized continents in the world. Indeed there is much to do there, from sipping wine under the Eiffel Tower to taking in a bullfight in Spain to zipping along Rome's cobbled streets on a Vespa. And while many Americans still make the pilgrimage to Europe on an annual basis, the lop-sided dollar-euro exchange rate means fewer people in the States can afford to make the trip. Or so they think.
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Yes, exchanging dollars for euros can be murder, but it's certainly not any reason to table that European holiday. There are many ways Americans can stretch their dollar and enjoy Europe's myriad sights and activities, and here are a few tips to do just that.
Travel in the Shoulder Season
The interim or "shoulder" season in Europe is between the high and low seasons. In the high season (mid-June to August) many countries are brimming with tourists eager to take in the many festivals and outdoor activities for which the nice weather allows. The low season (mid-November to Easter) is certainly a cheaper time to visit, but the snow and rain can be prohibitive. Thus the shoulder season (mid-September to December/Easter to June) is a nice middle ground. Tourists can take advantage of cheaper fares, but still have decent weather to be out and about.
Book Hotels Direct
There are a number of online resources for finding cheap European hotel rooms, with Eurocheapo being one of the better options. It inspects and verifies all hotels listed on their site, and there are plenty of customer reviews, too.
However, while most major booking sites often have good deals, they also tend to leave out many of the smaller hotels who can't afford to pay the percentage. Therefore, travelers can often find better deals on smaller places by visiting a particular hotel's website. Inquiring about discounts for extended stays often yields big savings as well.
Other lower-cost options include vacation rentals and hostels. Those who are going the hostel route should become a Hosteling International member, as there are hundreds of HI-affiliated hostels throughout Europe that offer at least a 10% discount to members.
Search for Entertainment Deals and Freebies
There are many to be found in Europe. In many cinemas and museums there are discounts or even free admission on certain days. (The Louvre offers free admission on the first Sunday of the month.) Also, there is no need to pay for expensive concerts or shows with all the festivals going on in Europe year round. From Bastille Day to the bull run in Pamplona to King's Day in Amsterdam, there is always some festival happening that is rife with live music, activities, and parades, and all of it totally free to enjoy.
Dine in the Day/Eat in Bars
By making lunch the largest meal of the day, travelers can enjoy the many executive specials that cafes and restaurants offer during the daytime. And those who like to imbibe can hop on over to Spain, where many bars and cafes still offer free tapas (small plates) with the purchase of a beer or cocktail.
Get Cheap Intra-Continental Flights
And because it often takes little longer than an hour or two to fly between most European countries, these cheap flights are in abundance. This is also due to the fact that many specialty airlines are competing with one another constantly. Govolo and Europebyair are great resources for finding such deals.
Embrace Public and Private Transport
It's important for travelers to Europe to not limit themselves when it comes to transport. Because not only can different methods of transport be great for traveling around cities, they can be great for traveling around countries as well. (See also: Travel Slowly for Cheap Vacations)
Traveling by bus is a great — and cheap — way to get to know the larger European cities such as Paris, Madrid, and Amsterdam.
Renting a car is another option. And Americans needn't be put off by the notion that car rental automatically means extravagance. In fact, in countries like Portugal, savvy consumers can find daily deals on car rentals for as little as $15 per day, give or take.
One of the most famous methods of transport in Europe is the Eurorail, the continent's inter-country rail system. While this can be a pricey way to get around, companies usually have daily deals and discounts on tickets that can take the sting off.
In the end, those who adhere to these guidelines will likely find that their European dream holiday doesn't break the bank. Having said that, it is crucial to plan detailed itineraries because freewheeling it across Europe can destroy any budget.
How have you cut costs on international travel? Please share in comments!