Do you have a dream to visit the center of the old world?
Reaching your travel goal of visiting Europe might seem far away. As someone who has spent nearly two years traveling around Europe, it’s a continent I love and a continent I continue to explore.
I also know that thousands of Americans want nothing more than to visit Europe. But you don’t need to be a young backpacker fresh out of college to do it.
Now I’m not going to patronize you by talking about how you can put aside $20 a week. You know how to make cuts at home and you know how to save. What I’m going to tell you is how you can cut down on your overall expenses after you get there.
Anyone can avoid blowing their budgets and I’m going to show you how.
Money is Everything
I’m not going to lie and say that you can visit Europe on a nothing budget. Europe is expensive, particularly Western Europe.
But the number one piece of wisdom I want you to remember is: Europe is not as expensive as people like to think.
You don’t need a five-figure sum to enjoy a great vacation across the Atlantic.
Now I’m going to walk you through each aspect of your trip to Europe.
What You Must Understand About Europe
One of the reasons why I love Europe so much is I don’t think there’s another continent that has as much density as Europe does.
You have so much crammed into a relatively small area. That also comes with big price differences.
I always tell people that to start with they should figure out where they want to go.
Eastern Europe is three times as cheap as Western Europe. Scandinavia is twice as expensive as Western Europe. Central Europe and Southeast Europe are in the middle of east and west.
Deciding where you want to go should be your priority because it will have a huge impact on your budget.
Handling Flights to and From Europe
Europe has become more accessible than ever because of the introduction of long-haul budget flights from the US.
It’s never been cheaper to take a vacation to Europe. I know people who travelled all the way there for two weeks because it’s so cheap. The days of expensive air travel to Europe are gone.
So, what would I recommend?
You can fly from practically anywhere in the US. I once took a flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco without any layovers. At that time, it cost me around $300 one way, which to the West Coast is pretty amazing.
But if you want the cheap flights you should go as far east as you can. The cheapest flights of all are from New York to Ireland for around $100-$150.
Norwegian Airlines is the ultimate airline if you want cheap long-haul flights. Keep in mind that meals don’t automatically come included and must be bought separately.
Yet strangely all the in-flight entertainment is included for free!
What They Don’t Tell You: Don’t Book a Return Flight
In most cases, I recommend booking a return flight before you travel. Europe is different. Just book an onward flight out of the first country you land in.
You can fly from so many places in Europe to the US that it’s unnecessary to return to your original landing point.
My recommended options for flying to the US are Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.
There are other countries too, but these will be your cheapest options.
Getting Around Cheap
The best way to save money when you get there is to plan how you get around carefully.
The magic of Europe is that it really doesn’t matter where you land. With flights from $10-$20 one way to different countries, it’s easy to hop around without much thought or advance planning.
Trains can be fun, but I wouldn’t recommend them if you’re on a budget. Even the old rail passes aren’t as value-friendly as they used to be, since the likes of France and Italy implemented additional charges.
Buses are an option for internal travel. They’re safe and comfortable enough. They’re definitely better than those awful Greyhound buses found in ghastly places like the bus station in Los Angeles, that’s for sure.
Staying Cheap in Europe
Now let’s discuss how you can save money in Europe, so you can stay for longer.
Avoid the big hotel chains, like the Hilton. They’re overpriced and Europe has a wealth of affordable accommodation that don’t include noisy hostels.
I personally believe that most of these hotels have no character anyway and you’re missing out by staying in them.
My number one choice is to use Airbnb. It’s incredibly popular in Europe and you can stay in amazing locations for a fraction of the price of hotels.
It’s also a great way to meet the locals. Just make sure you select properties that have a lot of positive reviews.
Another option is guesthouses. A lot of them come with breakfast and they’re just people’s actual homes. There’s no better way of connecting with the culture and feeling like a local.
Save on Key Attractions Across Western Europe
Anyone who has ever visited Western Europe knows how expensive the attractions are. When a museum wants to charge you $20 per ticket, the entire family can set you back close to $100.
But Western Europe has a secret. Many major European capitals from Rome to Paris to Berlin have special deals.
They may be once per week or the first/last Sunday of the month, where all the city’s museums and attractions are free entry.
Look these deals up for each city and try to time your arrival. I saw the statue of David by Michelangelo in Florence for free because of it.
Why You Should Never Visit in Summer
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Don’t visit Europe in the summer. July and August are the worst months. The prices double, or even triple. Everything is crammed full, thus making the sights impossible to enjoy.
I must admit I leave Europe for this reason in the summer. It may be when you prefer to take your vacations, but I’ve always been a believer in quality.
Don’t tarnish your European dreams over it by being stuck behind an army of selfie sticks!
Last Word – Making Europe Work
Europe is just as easy to travel around as the US, if not easier because of its size. People with families and people who haven’t done much travelling will find Europe to be a delight.
Just make sure you have a rough itinerary in mind so you can gauge your costs before you go.
Implement these money saving tips and you can make your travel goals happen for thousands of dollars less.
Have you ever visited Europe?
James Farner Bio
James Farner started traveling in May 2015 and has never looked back. He has been funding his travels to over 60 countries through his work as a novelist. His mission is to show how accessible travel really is to the average person.
You can read his books here.