Don’t let the fear of expenses get in the way of a trip across the pond. When done right, touring Europe can be cheaper than traveling through North America. If I can manage a four-month jaunt for under $1500, you can manage a two-month trip for $1000 or less. Here are 10 ways to make it happen:
1. Pick the route less traveled
Paris, Vienna and Switzerland are luxury gems worth seeing when you have the budget, but penny pinchers should lean more towards Mediterranean marvels and Eastern European beauties like Dubrovnik, Krakow and Budapest.
2. Avoid travel packages
Seven-day bus tours and vacation packages are carefree ways to roam, but extra costs for meals and side attractions add up fast. Europe can be a traveler’s playground in most cases, so be independent.
3. Couch surf
The hotel industry, even in cheap Euro destinations, knows tourists will easily pay high costs for beds. Couch surfing communities, like couchsurfing.org, provide a network of inviting hosts offering their couches to travelers for free. The wave has notably hit Europe, and the option is a big money saver for the adventurous traveler.
Eurail passes are still good deals for backpackers on an unplanned continental whirlwind. Yet those with a decided destination can search dozens of low-cost airline companies carting passengers for pennies. Long-distance flights, like Istanbul to Morocco and London to Rome can be as cheap as $20 to $60 one way. Visit our flight section for budget airline information, and also check out the Skyscanner Web site.
5. Pack light
Those who’ve traveled in the past five years know that checking in luggage is an annoying extra cost. Strip your pack to less than necessary and throw it on your back. Aim to carry around 10 percent of your body weight. You can buy whatever you need upon arrival.
6. Take photos
The best way to document your journey is not through trinkets and t-shirts. Small digital cameras allow sightseers to capture hundreds of frames (and memories) while saving some precious cash. Plus, photos have a lifetime warranty!
7. No. 1 souvenir: Postcards
Everyone loves postcards because they’re a novelty, collector’s item and personal greeting all in one. The old-fashioned task of sending postcards only highlights the charming surprise one feels when receiving them. Postcards keep the souvenir tab low in cost but high in sincerity.
8. Two’s company
While three’s a crowd and solo style can get pricey, traveling with a buddy sheds cost in unexpected ways. From two-for-ones to special offers for couples, it’s surprising how much you can save when “going Dutch”.
Trams, buses, metros and taxis are a city’s biggest rip-off. Walking has so many advantages—exercise, more photo-ops, and overall a better and more exciting view of a city and its surroundings.
10. Eat light
Munching on smaller meals and going grocery shopping for snacks can keep your energy high all day, plus it keeps you away from big bills at tourist trap bistros. Don’t forget that ordering to go costs less, and eating in a park with a bottle of wine is more romantic than a busy terrace with sub-par service.
Bonus Tip: Avoid summer travel. Europe can be just as fun and beautiful in the spring and fall. Even the winter can make way for romantic wonderlands in the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Scandinavian Mountains. Traveling during the off-season means cheaper prices—and less crowds.