7 Ways to Save on a European Getaway With Kids

Packing up the family for a European getaway can easily become the ultimate exercise in patience, resourcefulness, and self-restraint. Europe is one of the more expensive regions for Americans to travel to, and adding kids increases costs even more. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to whittle down the price of your trip. Here are some of the best ways to save on a European getaway with kids. (See also: 8 Money Lessons I Learned from Three Weeks in Europe)

1. Choose your locale wisely

Flying into one of Europe's major cities from the U.S. is probably a must, but where you stay for the duration of your trip can determine how much you'll pay for lodging and even dining. A hotel in the trendiest downtown areas of London, Rome, or Paris will always cost more than a choice in a less touristy neighborhood — or even in a neighboring town or suburb.

Since public transportation is plentiful nearly all throughout Europe, staying just beyond the city limits of your desired destination may not be too much of a hassle. Make sure to check for local transportation options before you book. (Is a metro station nearby?) This way, you can make sure any savings you accrue by staying outside a city center won't be eaten up by taxi and Uber rides.

2. Take advantage of low-cost, high-speed train travel

Speaking of public transportation, Europe boasts a glorious high-speed train system that makes it easy and affordable to travel around Europe without having to fly. Traveling by train is especially convenient with kids because you don't have to worry about airline packing restrictions or spending hours in airport security. Not only that, but trains are comfortable, many have a dining cart, and you can get up and walk around more than you can on a plane.

In terms of affordable travel, taking a train is usually a no-brainer. Trainline.eu lets you search for train travel across all providers, then book all your tickets in one place.

Book the underground Chunnel from Paris to London for as little as $78 per person, or book Rome to Venice for as little as $42. With kids in tow, you'll spend a lot less and get to see more of Europe than you might if you flew.

3. Use airline miles to get there

Often, the most expensive part of any European getaway is the cost of airfare. Economy tickets to Europe can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,500 from many major U.S. cities, which means you'll shell out a pretty penny before you ever step foot outside the U.S.

One way to escape at least part of this cost is to dream up an airline miles strategy early. Many of the top travel credit cards offer sign-up bonuses good for a round-trip flight to Europe, and you can rack up additional miles by using your card for regular spending.

If you plan to use airline miles, your best bet is to plan early and get everyone involved (i.e. get your spouse to earn a credit card sign-up bonus, too). With enough time and a smart strategy, you may be able to get most of your airfare covered with rewards, although you'll still be on the hook for government-mandated taxes and fees, and any fuel surcharges the airline imposes. (See also: Best Airline Rewards Programs for Trips to Europe)

4. Book rental condos and make some meals at "home"

Hotels can be difficult to book in Europe when you want to sleep more than two to a room. You'll usually have to book a separate room or rooms for the rest of the family. Not only that, but hotels can be prohibitively expensive.

One solution for families is booking rental properties through short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, or HomeAway. While renting a condo or villa isn't always cheaper, it absolutely can be. Make sure to shop around and compare costs to hotels (including cleaning fees and online booking fees) to see how prices stack up. (See also: 10 Vacation Rental Alternatives to Airbnb)

Fortunately, a rental condo can help you save in more than one way. With your own small rental home, you'll have more room to stretch out, a living area to gather in, and a kitchen you can use to prepare meals. If you can eat even one meal a day at home, you'll save a bundle over the course of your trip. Consider heading to the grocery store to buy bananas, pastries, or cereal for breakfast. Or stock up on sandwich supplies so you can avoid pricey lunches out.

5. Consider a Mediterranean cruise

Cruising the Mediterranean can be especially affordable, either as your entire vacation or as part of a longer European trip. The key to making cruises affordable is avoiding all the extras like alcohol, shore excursions, upgraded dining, and sticking to the free meals and entertainment provided onboard. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Cruises)

But how inexpensive can a Mediterranean cruise be? It depends on your itinerary and the time of year you travel. It also depends on whether you choose a luxury cruise line or a more downscale family-friendly option. (See also: 10 Little-Known Secrets to Saving Money On Your Next Cruise)

MSC Cruises is one of the most affordable cruise lines in Europe because their cruises start at a lower price point than other lines, and because kids cruise free on many itineraries. Frequently, a family of four can take a seven-night cruise to countries like Italy, Malta, Spain, and France for as little as $659 per person. That's less than $1,400 total when kids cruise free, although you'll pay government-mandated taxes and port fees.

Make sure to compare cruises and cruise lines if you consider this option, as well as what they include. The best part about including a cruise as part of your European itinerary is the fact that your cruise fare doesn't just include the cruise itself; it includes your lodging, most of your meals, onboard entertainment, and usually a supervised kid's club.

6. Travel off-peak

Off-peak season in Europe is usually considered any time between the end of October and the beginning of May, excluding holidays like Christmas and New Year's. During these off-peak travel times, you'll see fewer crowds and lower prices on everything from airfare to hotel stays and guided tours. If you're able to travel off-peak, you can typically save a bundle on your family trip. (See also: Why Timing Is Everything When Saving Money on Travel)

7. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees

Last but not least, you shouldn't have to pay extra just to use your travel credit card abroad. By signing up for a travel credit card with no foreign transaction fees, you can avoid paying an extra 3–5 percent on every purchase you make. While 3–5 percent doesn't sound like a lot, these charges can absolutely add up over the course of a week or more.

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