A big travel misconception is that travel is either comfortable or affordable. Unfortunately, this keeps many from the gift that comes with the experience of travel. By now, comfortable budget travel is easily accessible, especially for those looking to make their way through Europe. Here’s how to save big, and keep your sanity.
Don’t be afraid of European budget airlines
It’s a habit to go straight to our favorite major airlines when booking travel, however, this probably won’t save you money while traveling through Europe. Budget airlines are your friend in Europe and should be heavily considered when booking flights between destinations. Airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, AirBaltic, and Wizz Air can comfortably get you where you want to go at a fraction of the cost. Momondo is a brilliant search engine for these airlines. Keep in mind, saving money here comes with airline policies you’ll need to know well in advance. Before deciding if that $20 Aer Lingus flight to Dublin is worth it, read the airline’s policies on seats, bags, and everything in between. These airlines tend to have stricter bag policies and can hurt your budget if you head to the airport unaware. For instance, the standard carry-on bag size for major U.S. airlines is slightly bigger than European budget airlines’ carry-on size. Budget airlines can save you hundreds, just be sure you know what you're getting into before booking that flight.
Consider the train
Not into budget airlines? There’s probably a train headed where you want to go. Not only can the rail systems be more cost-efficient, but the experience can be worth the extra time of travel. Some of the most beautiful European sights can be seen by train, and you can even save on accommodation by booking a sleeper and taking the longer route to your destination. This option is beneficial for the non-procrastinators, especially if you’re booking with Eurail. The paper pass has to be mailed to your address. Eurail also provides a 15% discount to those traveling in groups of 2-5. Rail Europe and Interrail are other good options for non-Europeans because you don’t have to pay shipping costs. If you’re still unsure of the best transportation for you, punch in your route on Rome2Rio for a quick search of all your options and prices.
Hostels are your friend
Hostels are not just group rooms and shared bathrooms anymore, they’ve come a long way. Booking a private room and bathroom at a hostel will almost always be cheaper than hotel or Airbnb accommodations. This is not giving up comfort. Hostels will also save you money by providing group activities and tours at a free or discounted rate just for staying there. Check out what’s available to you on Hostelworld, you’ll probably find yourself pleasantly surprised.
A dangerous game that can pay off. HotelTonight is there for every last minute, change of plans, spontaneous type of traveler. You can find five-star hotels at half of the typical cost, available within hours. Today’s Daily Drop is a fun feature. The deal unlocks once a day, giving you 15 minutes after you reveal it to decide to book or not. If last-minute luxury isn’t your thing, there are options for even the most basic of rooms. For those who like to live life further from the edge, HotelTonight allows for discounted bookings up to 100 days out.
That hole-in-the-wall restaurant you keep walking by is calling your name
A costly part of travel is food. The idea that we need to find the finest restaurant in town to be fulfilled will not help a budget traveler. No, we shouldn’t give up the comfort of experiencing incredible food abroad, and we don’t have to. Some of the most authentic and incredible cuisines aren’t featured in magazines and web articles, they’re in the small neighborhood you’re staying in. Go to that hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Ask the locals where they eat. Try that food truck. Try the restaurant you found on your maps with few, but great reviews. Avoiding tourist traps is an easy way to stick to your budget, help the local economy, and experience local cuisine through Europe.
Ask a local
Who knows their city best? None other than the locals. Locals know things you can’t find on Google, and oftentimes are happy to share it with you. As noted above, ask a local where they eat, drink, and be merry. Anything from places to visit, trails to hike, beaches to nap on, bars to drink in, and even things to avoid. You’ll find their insight is invaluable. It’s easy to feel vulnerable to expensive tourist traps you find online in a foreign city. Sometimes it’s better to rely less on your research, and more on connecting with those around you. Knowledge of where you are is a comfort not always thought about, but boy is it valuable.
Most of these tips will require a bit of preparation, and as always, it pays to know before you go. This is not to discourage spontaneous travel, but not being prepared can add to your costs. Start by mapping out a reasonable budget and weighing the comforts that matter the most to you. You don’t have to blow your budget or give up comfort to experience one of the world’s most incredible continents.