With the cost of living soaring across most of Europe, and the prices of flights and accommodation on the rise, there's no getting away from the fact that holidays are getting more expensive by the season.
However, with a bit of careful planning and organisation, it's still possible to travel from the US to Europe on a budget. Read on to find out how!
Fly high, pay low
One of the best ways to save money is to book flights in advance. Although it's sometimes possible to grab a last-minute bargain, on average, it's recommended to book a flight around three months before your trip.
It's surprising how much the prices of flights can differ depending on the provider, so it's important to spend some time comparing them. One way to do this efficiently is by using an online travel agent with a price comparator tool, which can allow you to compare cheap flights from a large number of operators. Instead of trawling through several different websites or providers, a price comparator will compare thousands of flight prices in one click.
To make further savings, it may be cheaper to book your flight and accommodation as a package. Booking both together often proves less costly than booking them separately, and can save some time when it comes to discerning which hotels are available at the time of your chosen flights.
Don't shy away from self-catering
Nobody wants to spend their vacation preparing food and cooking meals, particularly if you're with a large group or family. However, a self-catering holiday doesn't mean you can't eat out at all or have to spend hours slaving over a hot stove.
If dining out is a big part of your holiday, consider only eating in restaurants in the evening. It's easy to fall into the trap of paying here and there for a simple sandwich or over-priced fries whilst out during the day and exploring the main attractions and tourist hotspots. But this is a surefire way to find yourself with a significant dent in the budget.
Instead, seek out local bakeries or delicatessens for your lunch. A freshly baked baguette and some delicious French cheese, enjoyed in a beautiful Parisian park can be just as enjoyable as what's on the menu in many cafes – particularly when the sun is shining!
Many European cities also offer early bird specials or set menus that are far cheaper than ordering à la carte, so keep your eye open for them, too.
There's no getting away from the fact that some European countries are incredibly expensive. Sweden wins the prize for the country most likely to break the bank, whilst Hungary in central Europe is one of the cheapest.
If you're going to a more expensive country, consider moving away from its capital. Not only will things be much cheaper but it's also a great way to beat the crowds and discover some beautiful hidden gems away from all the hustle and bustle.
Attention to detail
Once the bigger expenditures are out of the way, with bookings for flights and accommodation officially sorted, you'll likely find that it's the little purchases that stack up. For example, spontaneous sandwiches while out and about or opportunistic taxi journeys.
The best way to work around this is to plan ahead.
When it comes to travel, for instance, if you plan on using public transport when you're away, do some research and look at travel cards and passes. In countries such as Germany, for example, new rail initiatives have been introduced. With a little bit of foresight, it's remarkable how much money can be saved. City passes are sometimes available, too, which can save you money if you plan on visiting multiple attractions.
Another thing to consider is the cash vs card debate abroad. Remember to exchange your currency at banks, post offices or currency exchange offices as these often offer better rates than airports or touristy areas. If you need to use an ATM when you're away, look for ones that aren't going to charge you.
Finally, chat with the locals and do a bit of research to find out where they go. This will help you to avoid the dreaded over-priced tourist traps and is guaranteed to give you a far more authentic experience of the place you're visiting
All in the mindset
It's often the temptation to fill our holidays with ticketed activities, excursions, and trips to expensive restaurants. However, with most European cities offering a plethora of free things to do, it's possible to create plenty of memories without having to spend a single Euro.
Remember, it's often the simple joy of being away from home soaking up a new environment and experiencing a whole new culture that makes a holiday special. Relaxing on the beach, seeing the perfect sunset, or simply admiring a beautiful view can be just as memorable as anything charging an admission fee!
It's easy to fall into the trap of associating budgeting with missing out, but this doesn't have to be the case at all. It's more about changing your thinking and not equating spending lots of money with having a good time.
Do this and you'll probably find that holidaying on a budget is immensely rewarding and will offer plenty of experiences and opportunities you may otherwise would have missed.