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6 Genius Ways to Travel Europe For Much, Much Less

Amanda Wowk

Castles and culture and cuisine. Europe has so much to offer. You want to see and do it all, but your bank account may say otherwise. Fear not! When you travel to Europe, where you visit, and what you do once you get there can all play a role in stretching your budget. These six tips will help you find opportunities to save money so you can make the most of your time in Europe.

Travel to Europe During Shoulder Season

Courtesy Unsplash // Roman Kraft

When it comes to tourism, there’s the high season, the off-season, and the in-between season known as shoulder season. You probably recall the childhood tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, right? The same idea applies to travel seasons. High season is popular with travelers for a reason: You’re likely to experience the best weather and it’s the ideal time of year for families to travel together — but it’s also the most expensive time of year to travel to Europe. Conversely, while you’re likely to find great deals to Europe during the off-season, you’re also most likely to experience undesirable weather patterns and limited hours of daylight. That brings us to shoulder season: The season that fits just right for the budget traveler. In Europe, shoulder season falls from April through mid-June and again in September through October. This is the time to not only catch a good flight deal, but to also cash in on hotels lowering their rates.

Go Where the Dollar Is Strong

Courtesy Unsplash // Lucas Albuquerque

Another tactic for saving money on a trip to Europe is to choose a destination where your money stretches further. Historically, countries like Hungary and Poland have made great budget destinations because the dollar has a favorable conversion rate to the local currency. Travelers should also consider countries where the dollar has gained strength against a foreign currency. For example, a trip to Sweden will be more affordable this year thanks to a stronger dollar-to-krona exchange rate. In general, you might find savings opportunities in countries that are not on the Euro.

Visit Smaller Cities

Courtesy Unsplash // Lieuwe Terpstra

Popular destinations mean high demand; demand drives the price up on accommodations, food, drinks, and more. Since you’re looking to cut down on the aforementioned costs, this is your cue to get off the beaten path and head to a smaller city. There, you’ll find more availability, more authenticity, and more money left over in your budget, too.

So, where should you head? Consider second cities like Bergen, Norway (instead of Oslo), Gothenburg, Sweden (instead of Stockholm), or Bratislava, Slovakia (instead of its better known neighbor Prague, Czech Republic).

Book a Vacation Rental

Courtesy Unsplash // Diego García

Staying in a vacation rental versus a hotel is another great way to save money on travel to Europe. In cities like Lyon, France, Bologna, Italy, and Porto, Portugal the average Airbnb is less than $75 per night. Booking an Airbnb is especially beneficial for groups or families; otherwise, you’d have to book multiple hotel rooms to accommodate everyone. Booking an entire home will provide enough space for everyone to have their own room, while offering a communal spot to hang out or plan the day’s adventure. Plus, you’re able to cook your own meals in an Airbnb — an option that’s not only cost-effective, but healthier for you, too.

Take Public Transportation

Courtesy Unsplash // Felix Hanspach

To save money when you’re traveling, do as the locals do and embrace the public transit systems to get around town. Typically, the cost of riding public transportation is far cheaper than hailing a cab or even splitting a ride share.

Find Free Things to Do

Courtesy Unsplash // Liam Macleod

Undoubtedly, the most effective way to stretch your travel budget is to spend no money at all. Here are a few tips for planning activities that are free:

Cash in on complimentary culture

Many European cities offer free walking tours, where local guides offer their services for gratuity only. Likewise, you can get your cultural fix — for free — at many world-renowned museums. The British Museum in London, the Berlin Wall Memorial, the National Museum in Copenhagen, and even the Louvre in Paris all grant guests access to their exhibitions for free.

Take a hike

Hiking is not only free, it’s also a great workout and low-maintenance fun — meaning you don’t have to be an expert to hit the trails. Headed to Edinburgh, Scotland? Pack your sneakers and plan to climb Arthur’s Seat. The hike takes about an hour if you walk the entire trail (there are various access points), and the summit offers great views of the city.

Pro tip: Bring snacks, drinks, and a blanket along to have a picnic lunch and enjoy the view.

Make your own mural tour

Checking out street art and murals is also completely free. Cities like Glasgow, Berlin, and Copenhagen all have thriving public art scenes that are worth exploring at your own pace.

Living your best life on a European vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. Use these tips for stretching your travel budget, and soon you’ll have saved enough to plan your next adventure abroad.