Believe it or not, there's good news for how to travel Europe on a budget.
Three years ago, some of my college friends took off for their first trip to Europe. We had just finished our junior year of college in southern California and I was flying home for the summer to Orlando. Needless to say, I was beyond jealous when I woke up every morning to see their latest Instagram posts about exploring castle ruins on a beach in Barcelona and drinking beer in an epic ice bar in Amsterdam. It was time for me to figure out how to travel Europe on a budget.
I’d always thought that traveling to Europe was much more expensive than it actually was and that I wouldn’t be able to afford to travel until I was in my thirties. But I was wrong. I took my first trip to Europe – and my first trip out of the country when I was twenty-two. After seeing them save by working odd jobs, I knew I could do it too.
I started planning how to travel Europe on a budget in February 2016. That is when I decided to book my trip for the beginning of that May. Being the indecisive person that I am, I couldn’t just choose one country to visit, so I chose four: England, France, Italy, and Germany. After all, there are so many beautiful places to wander. I started by booking my one-way flight to London and flew back out of Berlin. I remembered a friend of mine had mentioned scoring some great flight deals on Skyscanner.com.
Deals on Deals
Skyscanner really has the deals you’re looking for. I booked a one-way flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to London (Gatwick) for only $300! I was so excited. I’d saved about $1,500 for a three-week total trip, spending about four to five days in each major city: London, Paris, Rome, Florence, the Cinque Terre region (my personal favorite) and Berlin. If you book ahead, flying between countries within Europe is incredibly cheap. After booking my youth hostel in London on Hostelworld.com, I snagged a flight from London to Paris for only $70.
Part of the fun of travel is learning what to do (or what not to do) when you go. I’m a planner. From my first time around and even my second, I’ve learned some new tips on how to score the best deals, avoid unnecessary spending, and make the most of my money while in Europe. Want to know more? Here are my top five tips for how to travel Europe on a budget:
Here Are My Top 5 Tips for How to Travel Europe on a Budget
1. Book in Advance of Your Stay
If you can, book ahead. I can’t tell you how much I saved by booking my flights and hotels in advance. Although for the most part, flights between European countries are cheap, there are some exceptions. Last December, I traveled to Europe to visit the holiday markets and flew to Prague from Stockholm on Christmas Day. I booked my flight in October for only $55. Booking that same flight on Christmas Day would have cost me $500. Hotels, Airbnb, and hostels can get booked up very fast. Often, Airbnb and hotels are just as cheap as hostels – and nicer too. Scroll the internet for deals and more often than not, you’ll find them. Booking.com and Hotels.com are my two favorite sites to find cheap, nice accommodations.
2. Avoid Peak Tourist Season
If you can avoid traveling in peak tourist season, do it. It might be a little chillier in Europe, but there will be fewer crowds and that means better opportunities for you to get photos in front of the Eiffel Tower. Besides having shorter lines, prices will be lower too.
3. Skip Eating Out
One of the fastest ways to spend money is by eating out three times a day. One of the ways I saved a lot of cash was by finding a local market in each city and getting breakfast and snacks for the day there. Not only was it cheaper, but it was a really fun way to experience local culture and food. I would pack a picnic in my backpack and take it to a local park or viewing spot in the city. 10/10 would recommend.
4. Bring a Carry-On Only
This might sound insane but honestly, a carry-on and one small personal item is the best way to go when traveling for a month or less. You can fit a lot in a carry on with compression bags and packing cubes (you can get these on Amazon). I found that I actually over-packed my carry-on and only wore about two-thirds of the outfits I packed. Packing only a carry-on will save you a lot of money from checking bags every time you hop on a flight between countries. Smaller European airlines like Ryanair have pretty strict baggage policies and bringing extra luggage can cost you.
5. Get a City Pass
When in Rome… Get a Roma pass. I’ll admit it’s a bit touristy, but one of the best things I did in Rome was buy the Roma pass. You can buy a city pass in almost every major European city (e.g. London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, etc.). For only 70 Euros, I had access to free public transportation (buses and small trains) and my choice of three museums, historical sites, and art exhibits throughout the city. And the best part is I got to hop to the front of three hour waiting lines (that alone was worth it for me). I opted for the Coliseum and Museo Leonardo da Vinci.
Use These Tips for How to Travel Europe on a Budget and Save Big
Whether you’re a more seasoned traveler or you’re planning your first big trip, know that you can travel Europe on a budget. There are plenty of ways to cut costs, save big, and book the trip of your dreams. Your next big adventure is only a click away. Just be warned. Once you visit, you'll want to move there.
Related Article: The 10 Cheapest Places to Travel in Europe 2019