Soon final exams will be over, those graduation caps will be flying, and the summer will finally begin. Lots of people will be heading across the sea to wander around Europe, and no wonder – it’s the perfect time of year to enjoy a European vacation. But of course, these types of trips don’t necessarily come cheap. You’re going to want to stretch those Euros as far as you can. Here are some tips for making your Eurotrip as affordable (and fun!) as possible.
1. Get a Eurail Pass
When you first look at the different Eurail Pass options, they might look a little expensive. But the truth is, it’s worth it for the money that you’ll save later. Once you have your pass, you can take trains all over Europe, or in the select countries you’ve chosen. The best way to get started finding the right pass is to use the search tool at RailEurope.com. This lets you enter the countries you want to visit, the dates you’re thinking of going, and who is traveling. Then it shows you the best pass options for your itinerary.
How does it save you money? Pretty much the same way buying a round-trip plane ticket is usually cheaper than buying two one-way tickets. You won’t have to keep reserving separate train journeys and paying for them – you’ve already paid with your pass. Not to mention that you won’t have to worry about paying for transportation once you get there, so you can spend your money seeing the sights!
2. Get a Good Backpack
If you’re planning to do your Eurotrip with that old duffel bag and your school backpack, you might want to rethink it. Yeah, it may seem like a lot to spend to buy a good backpack now, but, like the rail pass, in the end it will save you money. If you get a good excursion backpack that can fit all of your stuff in it, there are three ways you’ll save:
You’ll avoid baggage fees on your flights. All international flights allow at least one checked bag for free.
You will be less tempted to buy silly souvenirs. Having limited space in your backpack will make you think hard about your purchases. Do you want it bad enough to be willing to carry it around on your back?
You’ll be less tempted to take cabs. When you arrive in a new city, sometimes it will take a few false tries before you find your hostel or the place where you’re staying. If you can carry all your stuff comfortably on your back, you won’t mind walking around or taking public transit to find where you’re going. Lugging a duffel bag, though, you’ll probably be really tempted to just hail a cab…
Besides, you don’t really have to pay an arm and a leg to get a good backpack. Sites like eBags.com and REI.com offer pretty good deals on the type of pack that will come in handy on your trip. I personally have an Osprey pack I got at REI, and I swear by it.
3. Plan Lodging Ahead of Time
Summer is prime tourist season, and you don’t want to be caught without a place to stay because of the crowds! There are two ways to avoid having to shell out the cash for a last minute stay at a hotel: Book hostels ahead of time, or plan to couchsurf.
If you want to go the hostel route, HostelBookers.com is a great place to start your search. You can search for hostels by city, and then arrange your results by price, location, popularity, etc. Every time I’ve traveled in Europe, I’ve used HostelBookers with great results. The best part is that when you book, you only have to pay 10% of the price (which usually comes out to $3 or 4), so if you decide to change your mind and stay somewhere else, you’re not losing much. With tourist season coming, it’s worth it to reserve your bed ahead of time.
Here’s a little frugal tip: Check if the hostel you’re booking has a kitchen (it should say on its HostelBookers listing). Staying at a hostel with a kitchen can really save you a lot on food costs, since you won’t have to eat out every night. Plus, many hostels offer pasta for free in their kitchens.
For those who want a more personal experience of a country and like meeting new people, couchsurfing is a good option, and the price is right – free! You can sign up at CouchSurfing.com and start looking for potential hosts. When you sign up, don’t forget that couchsurfing is a two-way street. Be open to hosting visitors in your hometown, too, when the time comes. The only thing more fun than meeting new people and getting to know their city is showing your city off to visitors.
Wherever your travels take you this summer, don’t forget the most important travel tip: Have a marvelous time!