Traveling to Europe isn’t cheap—with the Euro conversion rate and the outrageous prices on anything from airfare to dining. Luckily, these 13 tips from the Huffington Post’s Tom Meyers will help you enjoy your vacation without emptying your wallet!
1. Book “open jaw” tickets. People often book round-trip flight to, let’s say, Paris, when really, they’re beginning they’re trip in Paris and ending it in Rome. The extra trip from Rome to Paris just to make your flight is an expense of both money and time. Look into “open jaw” tickets that allow you to fly into one city and depart from another. These are often around the same price as the round-trip fare.
2. Get a “free” flight when you sign up for a new credit card.Credit card companies often offer tens of thousands of frequent flier miles as an incentive to sign up. Although spending requirements are implemented to earn the miles, you can wind up with enough miles to travel to Europe with the right timing. Keep in mind, however, that taxes are not included and usually vary by airline.
Click here for a list of popular credit cards and their sign-up offers.
3. Avoid peak travel dates. The peak travel dates for Europe are typically early May to mid September. This time period coincides with warmer weather and summer vacations for school-aged children.
Aim for hopping the pond around early May or late September (or early October) when travel is not only less expensive but will be less stressful with fewer tourists.
4. Pack lightly. In case you haven’t traveled in a while, airlines have been slashing luggage allotments throughout the last decade. Do yourself (and your back) a favor, and stick to checking one bag. Checking one bag 50-pound bag will set you back $50. Checking in a second bag will cost an additional $100.
5. Take public transportation in from the airport, whenever possible. Europe is known for its efficient public transportation system, and most European airports are well-connected to the city centers. Remember to do some research before landing. The tourist information counter at the airport will also be able to help.
6. Buying a rail pass? Don’t forget point-to-point tickets. Although Americans love Eurail passes, they’re not necessarily a great deal. Compare point-to-point ticket prices on various rail sites because purchasing. On most, you can book and print tickets using your home computer.
For example. the official site of the German railway, Bahn.de, probably sells tickets from Berlin to Munich cheaper than what you would end up paying through a U.S.-based rail agent or for a rail pass.
Check out this list of national rail sites:
Czech Republic: www.cd.cz
Dutch Railways: www.ns.nl
Great Britain: www.nationalrail.co.uk
7. Buy your high-speed and long-distance rail tickets in advance. To compete with with Europe’s low-cost airlines, railways offer some great deals for those who book in advance. Whenever possible, book your long-distance rail tickets early, generally following the “three-month rule.”
For example, on the high-speed train from Florence to Rome, the “base fare” for same-day tickets is €43, but the Trenitalia web site lists seats two months in advance at the “Super Economy” rate for €19!
8. Traveling by high-speed train in France? Check out Ouigo! The SNCF (the French national railways) will start service on a low-cost high-speed rail service called Ouigo in April 2013. Rates will start as low as €10 from the Paris region to southeast France (with more routes scheduled). If you’re traveling to France, it will be worth your while to visit the SNCF Web site (and keep it in French) and on Ouigo.
9. How much will that rental car really cost? You may think you’ve found a deal while searching for a car rental in Europe, but don’t forget that you’re only factoring in the base cost. Don’t forget to calculate costs for tolls, parking, insurance and gas (which, if you think is getting expensive in the U.S., wait until you cross the pond).
10.Book your preferred hotels early. If you have a favorite hotel in mind for your vacation, don’t put off booking it. Popular hotels can even fill up 2 months in advanced during the summer’s peak dates.
11. Flexible and adventurous? Wait to book until the last minute. This is the one time when it can actually pay to procrastinate. Hotels with availability will often cut rates drastically in the days leading up to check-in to fill vacancies. The iPhone and Android app HotelTonight specializes in same-day bookings.
But this strategy doesn’t come without its risks. Peak season in Paris may be limited in last-minute vacancies, and this clearly isn’t the way to go for those who have a preferred hotel in mind or for those who like to have everything set prior to leaving. Do some research, and if you see that things are starting to fill up early, don’t hesitate to book.
12. Consider apartment rentals, but be aware of the risks. On popular apartment rental sites like Airbnb and HomeAway, you can score an apartment in London, New Yotk City and other expensive cities for about the same price as a hotel. For families and long-term stays, the included kitchen is a huge perk, as it eliminates the need to eat out for every meal.
13. Factor in the extra hotel charges. Don’t forget that the price you see may not include extras such as Wi-Fi, breakfast and parking when comparing hotel rates.