Europe Travel Tips: 11 Ways to Stick to a Budget Without Missing Out

traveling on a budget

Let’s be honest. A lot of European cities are notoriously expensive (London, Dublin, and Copenhagen are good examples) so those places are not always the first to come to mind when you’re travelling on a budget. Most travel guides have ideas and tips about how to save money but most of them involve you giving up important components of the travelling experience. If you want to experience the local cuisine, be in the thick of things, and feel like you’re getting the same experience as your 4-star counterparts, then listen up, ’cause in 5 years, you won’t remember that cramped plane or that night you spent doing laundry in the sink.

Compare transport costs before you even get there!

Don’t settle for anything over your budget until you’ve expired all other options. Often you can fly into a nearby city for much cheaper than the main airport, so be open to changing your route a little. It also helps to be flexible with your travel dates. Certain days and times of the year can be significantly cheaper than others. If you’re willing to travel in January, you can find great deals to Europe from pretty much anywhere! This also applies to inter-Europe travel as well.

Aiport Parking

Airport parking can provide numerous benefits for travelers. Firstly, it offers a convenient and secure place to park your vehicle while you are away. This eliminates the need to rely on other transportation options such as taxis or public transport, which can be unpredictable and expensive. Additionally, airport parking can be cost-effective compared to other parking options in the city, especially for longer trips. You can also have peace of mind knowing that your car is being monitored and protected while you are traveling. Finally, airport parking can save you time as it is usually located close to the airport terminals, making it easier to access and reach your flight on time. You can use a compare site to find cheapest Manchester Airport parking, Edinburgh airport parking or airport parking near the city you are travelling from.

Make a list of what you need and what you can live without for a few weeks

You don’t really need the same amenities from home as you do travelling, but you don’t have to sacrifice everything to save money. Skimp on the luxury items so you can indulge where it really makes a difference. So while I may stay in a hostel or on someone’s sofa (because for me, where I sleep won’t make or break my travel experience), I always ensure it comes with a clean bathroom. For others, maybe it’s noise, or location. I always tell people that they can rough it a bit while travelling without feeling like they’re skimping on a good experience. Figure out what you have to have, and what you can live without, and go from there. If you’re adaptable, you can travel with fewer amenities without it feeling like you’re missing out or impacting your travel experience in a negative way.

Carry-on and do laundry there

Not only will this save you money (most budget inter-European airlines charge for checking a bag), but you’re also more mobile, which makes getting from place to place on a bus or metro much easier. If you’re staying for a while, doing laundry is an excuse to pack light. If the hostel doesn’t have laundry, or if it’s expensive, bring some laundry packets, a sink stopper, and a rope to hang your clothes.

Set a food budget each day

If you set a limit as to how much you can spend, you know how much you can allot for each meal. Look for hotels/hostels with free breakfasts. Rent an apartment with a kitchen. You don’t always have to skip the fine-dining experience to stay within your budget; most places have less expensive menus for lunch so try eating out for lunch and cooking something/eating street food for dinner. You can still get a taste of the local cuisine without eating out for every single meal. I like to skimp on souvenirs and shopping in order to save money for food. But I know a lot of people who do the opposite, and that’s fine. Set your food budget according to your interests, and go from there.

Always convert the currency in your head

I keep a currency converter with me (a calculator or a phone app works well too) and this way, I know exactly how much I am spending and how much money I am withdrawing from an ATM. If you have your budget in dollars, make sure you know exactly how many pounds or euros that is. Also, be aware of international ATM fees. I typically get charged $5 every time I withdraw from an ATM at my bank, so I try not to take money out often, which inherently helps with budgeting, too. I’ve found that a weekly budget is doable, without feeling like you’re carrying around your life’s savings.

Rent an apartment

There are so many apartment rental sites out there now. I always do this when travelling, because not only does it usually allow me to stay in the city center for MUCH cheaper, but I have access to a kitchen for cooking meals, which saves quite a bit on my food budget. Sometimes the person renting out their apartment will leave notes and coupons for activities, or give you suggestions for budget-friendly dining. Don’t be afraid to ask for personal recommendations. Also, if you don’t want to splurge on your own apartment, you can always just rent a room in an apartment. This is usualy your cheapest option, AND it often comes with a lovely local to give you some tips about the area. Win-win!

Stay at a hostel

Like renting an apartment, this is usually a much cheaper option than staying at a hotel. And most hostels have private rooms if you want the hotel “experience” without the price tag. The people working the front desk are sometimes long-term travellers, and they work to stay there for free, which means they probably know a lot about the city you’re in and how to save money. Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow hostel-residents for tips about where they’ve been and where they’re headed.

Book museum tickets/tours/activities online

Be wary of buying tickets to exhibits/museums/tours on site. Most things are done online nowadays, so do some research to find the best deals for that cathedral tour or those walking pub crawls. Also, when booking online, you can often book at a discount. Most museums have free days each week or month; just be sure to arrive early. Travel forums will become your best friends, as a lot of them have great advice on how to avoid certain fees and which days may be cheaper/free of charge. You’d also be surprised at how many free walking tours actually exist. Of course, a tip at the end of these tours is recommended, but don’t feel obligated to tip more than you can afford.

Rent a bike

London has a great bike-share programme. In many cities around Europe (take Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Berlin) biking is the norm and most hostels rent bikes for a small daily fee. Take full advantage and be your own mode of transport! You might actually thank yourself later when you don’t feel bloated and sluggish from eating out so much because you are exercising.

Take public transport

Similar to renting a bike, it’s fairly cheap and you can pretty much go anywhere you want for almost nothing. Places like London and Paris have fantastic public transport (note that the big red buses in London are cheaper than the tube, plus you get the double-decker experience!) As an added bonus, all buses in Copenhagen have free Wi-Fi, which is something that really helped me save money on internet usage (and also something I learned while browsing a Copenhagen travel forum!)