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How to Visit Expensive European Cities on a Budget

Learn how to slash costs and plan a cost-effective getaway across the pond.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Visit Expensive European Cities on a Budget

Caucasian couple walking near Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
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(Getty Images)

Travel to world-class cities on a shoestring budget.

Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, the value of the dollar has been soaring against the pound, which has plummeted to a 31-year low. In light of Brexit, it's easy to plan an affordable trip to the U.K., and thanks to the sinking value of the euro against the dollar, top European cities such as Paris and Florence, Italy, are also luring Americans with cheap airfares and affordable hotel rooms. Still, while there are enticing deals to be had across the pond, it pays to utilize money-saving hacks to maximize savings. Here are eight tricks for visiting pricey European cities for less.
Passenger airplane flying above clouds at dusk.
Credit

(Getty Images)

Search for flash sales.

One of the biggest expenses for any European trip is flights. According to Eric Caron, vice president and general manager USA for Air France KLM, "Both KLM and Air France offer flash fares to destinations around the world about once a month. They tend to sell out quickly." To boost savings, Caron suggests staying attune to price drops and fare alerts posted on KLM and Air France's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Another way to save: Go direct. "Book flights on the airline's official site to avoid third-party service fees, and purchase tickets in advance for the best rates," Caron says.
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Travel to world-class cities on a shoestring budget.

Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June, the value of the dollar has been soaring against the pound, which has plummeted to a 31-year low. In light of Brexit, it's easy to plan an affordable trip to the U.K., and thanks to the sinking value of the euro against the dollar, top European cities such as Paris and Florence, Italy, are also luring Americans with cheap airfares and affordable hotel rooms. Still, while there are enticing deals to be had across the pond, it pays to utilize money-saving hacks to maximize savings. Here are eight tricks for visiting pricey European cities for less.

Search for flash sales.

One of the biggest expenses for any European trip is flights. According to Eric Caron, vice president and general manager USA for Air France KLM, "Both KLM and Air France offer flash fares to destinations around the world about once a month. They tend to sell out quickly." To boost savings, Caron suggests staying attune to price drops and fare alerts posted on KLM and Air France's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Another way to save: Go direct. "Book flights on the airline's official site to avoid third-party service fees, and purchase tickets in advance for the best rates," Caron says.

Fly into alternative airports.

Instead of searching for flights to major metropolises such as London, Paris and Rome, consider less in-demand cities and hubs. For instance, Milan's Malpensa Airport is one of the cheapest European airports to fly into. You can spend a few days exploring Italy's commercial capital before taking the inexpensive, high-speed Eurail train to Rome, allowing you to save hundreds of dollars in airfare. Or, if you're interested in visiting Paris, look for flights into Paris Orly International Airport rather than Charles de Gaulle Airport to boost savings.

Don't restrict your search to low-cost carriers.

"Do not be fooled by low-cost carriers. They offer what seem to be low fares but are incredibly savvy in charging substantial fees for basic services at every step along the journey, including checking in luggage and ordering a meal," Caron says. Keep in mind that the actual price for low-cost carriers across the pond are often higher than the rates they advertise, Caron explains. Plus, budget carriers tend to offer fewer daily flights, so if your flight is canceled, you may be stranded for an extra day at your departure hub, he adds.

Join a rewards program.

To leverage points and perks for award travel, stay loyal to your preferred frequent flier and hotel loyalty programs. "With the Flying Blue program, every time you travel with KLM, Air France and our partners, you earn miles which can be used on award flights and discounts on a whole range of extra options, products and convenient services," Caron says. And if you fly with American Airlines often, the AAdvantage program allows loyalists to redeem points for flights to Europe at a low threshold. Depending on the route, fare class and departure date, you can redeem points for one-way flights across the pond starting at 22,500 points.

Stay at a vacation rental.

While brand-backed hotels such as Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental properties can provide a great deal of comfort and security, Airbnb and other vacation rental sites such as TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals and HomeAway, offer increasingly popular, safe and affordable options. Plus, you can often benefit from additional space and perks, along with added cultural immersion. Do your homework and compare prices with cost-effective boutique hotel options to get the lowest rate.

Rely on your own two feet.

While walking may not be your preferred mode of transit, it's an easy way to slash transportation costs. Even if you decide to rent a car rather than relying on the subway, bus, taxi or ride-sharing service, you'll have to consider insurance, gas costs and parking meters, not to mention road rules in an unfamiliar country. If you have the opportunity to walk in pedestrian-friendly cities such as Paris, Madrid and Dublin, you can avoid transportation disasters altogether while also getting a chance to see the city from a new perspective and enjoy a little exercise.

Dine out when others aren't.

Travelers can find the same quality culinary options for a fraction of the price if they decide to dine out for lunch rather than dinner. This is particularly true at high-value Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris, such as L'Astrance and Passage 53, where you can enjoy a more low-key atmosphere at lunch. When dinnertime rolls around, sit at a cafe and order something light, or prepare your own meals with fresh market ingredients to cut costs.

Consider off-the-beaten-track European destinations.

For a high-end getaway on a tight budget, plan trips to less-trodden destinations that are offering favorable exchange rates, such as Sardinia, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Lisbon, Portugal. While some expensive destinations such as Rome, London and Paris are must-sees, if you've already visited these world-class cities, it's easy to pull off a bargain-friendly escape to under-the-radar and equally alluring spots across the continent.
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