Healthy Travel Tips »
Healthy Travel Tips » Stay safe on vacation
10 Money-Saving European Travel Tricks
Plan a wallet-friendly trip abroad with these savvy tips.
Slash hundreds off your European getaway with these smart saving strategies. (Getty Images)
Summer is a popular, albeit expensive, time to visit Europe. But favorable exchange rates against the U.S. dollar and a decline in tourism due to safety concerns have created some great vacation deals. Throw these essential saving strategies into the mix and voilà, you can travel cheaply across Europe this season. Follow these tips to trim costs on your trip across the pond.
Rely on the Right Tools to Find and Book Your Flights
To secure the best airfare, shop around on trusted sites such as Momondo.com, which features a wide range of European carriers, and Google Flights, which offers a variety of useful search filters, such as indirect flight routes and airline alliances, as well as fare alerts. And don't plan your trip too far in advance – after running hundreds of thousands of queries, Google Travel found that purchasing flights between 21 and 30 days ahead of your departure dates tends to yield the best value.
Book Low-Cost Flights on Budget Carriers in Europe
Europe's budget carriers offer startlingly low rates in comparison with major U.S. airlines, such as United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. While you can often secure low-priced flights in Europe on carriers such as Ryanair and EasyJet, remember to account for extra fees, including checked baggage charges and priority seating fees. Also, keep in mind many low-cost carriers fly into secondary airports that can require a costly taxi ride (around 100 euros) to get to the city center.
Travel by Plane, Train and High-Speed Bus
A GoEuro study analyzing inter-city travel times on 14 popular rail routes found that trains saved travelers an hour or more compared to travel by plane. Once you decide where you want to go, consider using the easy-to-navigate site GoEuro.com, which makes cobbling together your itinerary a cinch. Once you enter your desired destination, the tool displays the best flights, rail, bus and taxi options, with travel times including ground transportation from the terminal to the city center.
Keep in Mind European Trains Are Often Worth the Money
Trains offer a comfortable and convenient way to get around Europe. After picking up a rail pass, you can often enjoy unlimited train travel across Europe for days, or months, depending on your itinerary. Plus, you can count on excellent facilities, quiet cars, safe luggage storage, family discounts and on-time schedules. While it can be difficult to snag deeply discounted fares during the popular travel season, you can often find promotional prices on national railroads, as well as package rates to local events like music concerts. Make sure to book your tickets two weeks in advance of your trip to score the best savings.
Compare Prices to Land an Affordable Car Rental
Car rentals in Europe are often expensive, and fuel averages around $5.50 per gallon. Nevertheless, for families who don't mind the different rules and regulations across the pond, a car rental provides convenience and flexibility. For bargain rates, check out reputable car rental company Auto Europe. But before you book, remember insurance coverage and rates vary by country; your credit card insurance may work in some not others, and terms and laws governing each contract can be mind-numbing to sift through. Conduct plenty of research in advance to ensure you're covered.
Shop Around for a Budget-Friendly Hotel
Hotel rooms at independent boutiques across Europe can be small and expensive, but cost-effective brand-backed hotels, such as Ibis and Premier Inn properties may not be within walking distance of top sights on your itinerary. That's why it's key to conduct plenty of research ahead of time and comparison shop on metasearch sites like Trivago.com, which compares nightly rates across dozens of online travel agencies. Filter your results – by group size, star rating, user reviews, price, distance from major attractions and amenities such as free Wi-Fi access and complimentary breakfast – before booking with an OTA or hotel directly.
"In general, booking accommodations in Europe four weeks before arriving is your best chance to snag a good deal," says Jeremy Crider, manager of public relations, North America at Trivago. "Contrary to popular belief, booking further than four weeks in advance is generally more expensive. Prices do tend to increase the closer you get to your departure dates, but they typically don't reach the same levels seen two to three months before arrival," he adds. A Trivago analysis of summer rates in the top five most-searched European cities shows August is the cheapest month to secure low-priced hotels. For example, in Paris, hotel rates in August were, on average, $99 less per night than in June.
Use OTAS to Secure Last-Minute Deals
Since hotels pay online travel agencies 10 percent to 30 percent of your total rate as a commission, you can often find a cheaper price for booking directly with a hotel. That said, you can often secure last-minute bargains with online booking sites. Also keep in mind when you book through an OTA like Booking.com and need to switch your plans, you can often apply the rate to a later booking without a penalty.
Consider a Vacation Rental or Home Stay to Trim Costs
In Europe, vacation rental sites like Airbnb offer competitive pricing, so if you do your homework and vet user reviews to ensure the rental meets your criteria, you can get a great value. Another great option if you're seeking a home-away-from-home is Homestay.com. The company guarantees that guests receive authentic experiences by staying at a local's home. A family of four can stay as guests of a local host family; traveling teens can find college students who will take them in.
[See: 9 Ways to Travel Better.]
Save Money on the Ground
For efficient, stress-free travel, investing in transportation passes and museum passes is a must. Keep in mind that U.S. credit cards do not meet global chip-and-PIN identification standards; therefore, American travelers are unable to complete automated tasks like purchasing metro tickets at on-site kiosks. Because of this hassle, it can be much easier (and cheaper) to purchase discounted transportation passes and museum entry cards. Another efficient and cost-effective way to get around is via ride-sharing services like Uber, which make getting from point A to point B easy and affordable.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.