With the official kick-off to summer weeks away, many are beginning to plan their long-awaited vacations. When it comes to your summer traveling most people like to stick to what they know. Believe me; I get it. If you know you already like doing something why deviate? Well, for starters, it’s a great big world out there. The world that you can see for less money than you may think. When we think of a European getaway, the next phrase that follows in our minds is not usually ‘cheap.’ In actuality though, now is the perfect time to plan an escape to explore some of the most treasured places in the world.
At the moment, thanks to plummeting airfares provoked by low-cost carriers and a strong US dollar, it is a winning formula. Case in point, Norwegian Air. They have been spearheading affordable travel to Europe since their re-branding in 2002, but more recently they have been teasing us with their upcoming $69 flights from the US to Europe beginning in June. Yes, I said $69.00.
Once you arrive in Europe there are other ways to trim some expenses off of your bottom line without sacrificing experience or comfort:
Transportation: If you’re completely unfamiliar with Europe you may not realize that their railway system can connect you from wherever you are in Europe to wherever it is that you want to go. Rail Europe offers you a variety of ticket and pass options. If your train ride will exceed 4 hours look into a no-frills airline that can get you there faster and for the same price, if not cheaper. More of a drive and see it kind of a person? Check out Auto Europe for your car rental needs. Be sure you’re up to speed on driving etiquette for the country you’re in as well as basic traffic signs.
Stay: When it comes to where you lay your head down at night don’t allow exorbitant hotel prices to affect your travel. Nowadays there is a slew of alternative lodging options available to you that, often, provide you with a more authentic experience. Look into Airbnb that will allow you to live like a local. The Landmark Trust allows you to find cottages, villas, temples, towers, and castles (just to name a few) all of which are historic landmarks available to you to rent. In the outskirts of the major cities, you will find farmhouses and wineries turned into B&B’s. The sky is the limit.
Eat: Think outside the box. Grab a baguette, olives, cheese and have a picnic! Keep your eyes peeled for the daily markets that will open up as the day progresses in whichever city you’re staying in as well as street carts selling food. If you’re unsure where these carts may be, go where the people are. No strangers to running a business, you tend to find them setup just outside of or across the street from main tourist attractions. More of a sit-down and relax type? Swing into the local pub or tapas bar to grab a bite that won’t break the bank.
Conclusion: On the onset of a trip, people tend to get disheartened when they have to begin trimming the budget before they even get there. Bear in mind that cutting the cost of things where you can do not equal a horrible experience. In fact, most people leave a trip much happier and fulfilled when they don’t feel priced gauged on everything. Here’s a looksie at some of the ways you can get more for your money in some of Europes best places:
If there’s one place in Europe that evokes ‘all the feels’ it is Paris. Paris is a beacon for those who love food, art, and history. When it comes to dining in Paris, their restaurants are second to none. I would encourage you to splurge just one time at a Michelin Rated Restaurant in Paris; you will not regret it. For all of your other eating extravaganza’s seek out the Brasseries in your area. Cafe meets restaurant; these focus primarily on single dishes. With meals starting around $20 it’s a way for you to get your fill on the cheaper side.
When it comes to sightseeing, Paris does not lack in that department either. The trap most of us fall into when we travel is that we pay as we go to each place, mainly because it sounds easier. Do yourself a favor and get the Paris Museum Pass. With two day, four day and six-day options ranging from 48€ – 74€ and access to over 50 museums and monuments in Paris, this is the way to go. With this pass, you not only get to go to each attraction as many times as you would like, but you also do not have to wait in line upon arrival. The only attraction not covered under this pass is the Eiffel Tower. TIP: Discover Walks offers free as well as paid walking tours, rain or shine, of the city. If walking is not your thing, Paris Rando Velo offers free bicycle tours every Friday evening and every third Sunday morning. And honestly, who doesn’t want to see Paris at night?!
With more than 900 churches, all of which are free, seeing the art and history of this area is easier than most realize. Art lovers and those who appreciate it can see works from The Renaissance and Baroque periods all for free. Those of you looking to streamline your tourist experience and keep an eye on spending may like the options that the Roma Pass offers you. For 32,50€ the 72-hour pass is where you get the most bang for your buck if you use it efficiently. The pass gives you immediate access (aka no lines) to your first two museums or archaeological sites as well as public transportation. While the thought of only two locations may not wow you, this option does save you money if you use it on the pricey admission sites.
If you’re planning on visiting The Vatican there are a few things to keep in mind; the first being the last Sunday of every month entrance to the museum is free. Be sure to get there before 8:30 am to avoid the lines. Also, Wednesday mornings (if he is in Rome) the Pope holds what is known as the Papal Audience allowing visitors to see him and receive his blessing. While tickets are free, try your very best to get here as early as possible. If you’re planning to venture this way any other time consider purchasing the OMNIA Vatican and Rome pass. For 113€ you will get to skip the lines at The Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica and The Sistine Chapel. You also get to use the hop-on-off bus at no charge to get around the city.TIP: Rent a bike! It is the cheapest, and some would argue most efficient, way to get around Rome. At 12,50€ for a full day, it is a top choice among budget savvy travelers.
The Alps, beer, castles, cars, traditions, museums, food, shopping, lakes and the romance makes Bavaria a marvelous place to visit. Munich, Neuschwanstein, Nürnberg, Rothenberg ob der Tauber and Würzburg all come together to make this part of Germany rich in all the things aforementioned. For those seeking a truly magical experience make one of your first stops be at Neuschwanstein Castle. Once the home of “Mad King” Ludwig II, this castle is the epitome of a Cinderella-style abode. When planning for the best time to visit there truly is not a wrong time. However, this area is infamous for its festivals and cultural events that take place throughout the year. Try to plan your trip when you get to see the locals in action. Seeking to tap into the romance of the area before you hit up the beers on tap? Venture onto The Romantic Road that runs 350 km on the Western edge.
TIP: Should you venture to Bavaria’s capital, Munich, take advantage of Museum Sundays. Alte Pinakothek, Die Neue Sammlung, and Pinakothek der Moderne all have admission at the reasonable price of 1€ for entry.
The French Riviera:
Now I know what you’re thinking. “How is this on the list of cheap places to go?” Don’t worry; I didn’t fall and bump my head. While we see celebrities flocking in droves to Cannes every year, it can be intimidating for the budget-savvy traveler. The good news is this tourist hot-spot is up to speed on the fact that regular people like to come here. Because of that, deals are in abundance. Nice, Villefranche-ser-Mer, Monaco, Cap Ferrat, Eze-le-Village, Inland Riviera, Antibes, St-Tropez, and, Cannes all make this area what it is. A beacon for sun worshipers, budget vacationers, and self-proclaimed people watchers all help to make the Côte d’Azur a place of dreams.
A 90-minute flight from Paris, soak in all that these areas have to offer you. Much like snowflakes, no two of them are alike from their topography to their overall vibe. Because of this be sure to do your research to find out which area is the best fit for you. Can’t decide? Then, by all means, see them all! Those who value their sightseeing time over the beach should purchase the Côte d’Azur Card. With three day (45€) and six day (72€) pass options this will allow you to visit 180 attractions along The French Riviera. Passes for children do exist and are less expensive. Keep in mind that trains in this area run routinely to get you from place to place within The Côte d’Azur. Tip: Uber operates throughout most of the Côte d’Azur and into Monaco (not vice versa) and is much easier than waiting for, or calling, a taxi.
When you arrive in London, do yourself (and your wallet a favor) and skip The Heathrow Express. While it will get you to London in about 15 minutes, it will set you back 36€. Travelers arriving at Heathrow should take the Piccadilly line. The ride is longer, averaging about 50 minutes, but the price of 5€ will make the extra time worth it. The good news about London (if you didn’t already know) is that many of its greatest museums, The Museum of London, the British History Museum, the Science Museum, The National Gallery and The Tate Museum are all free! Aside from the museum scene, there are lots of other freebies to be had. St Martin-in-the-Fields located in Trafalgar Square offers a free lunchtime concert. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace that takes place at 11:30 am every day and is also (you guessed it) free.
Sunday is market day in London so lace up your walking shoes and hit the streets. The Camden, Portobello and the Flower Markets (and about zillion others) all happen on Sunday’s. When it comes to getting around, buy an Oyster Card. For 28 pounds, this travel card cuts the price of London buses and subways in half as well as gives you unlimited access. TIP: Don’t pay for drinks while you’re in London. Download the Drinki App to get cocktails in exchange for Facebook check-ins. Within the same category, The Match Pint App allows you to claim your free pint or discount at a range of London pubs.