Taking a European tour is a dream vacation for a lot of people. It’s also expensive, so many of those dreamers think they can’t afford it. Here a few tips to bring you closer to making that trip happen:
1. Remember the Exchange Rate
In years past, the euro and pound have been quite a bit stronger than the American dollar, with the pound being worth almost double. You definitely need to take into account what the exchange rates are and how much money you will lose or gain when switching currency. However, there is hope for us travelers! The euro’s worth has been dropping for a while now and it’s almost equal to the dollar. As of writing this article, 1 USD is equal to 0.90 euro, but it does change daily, so make sure to check the latest values before you go.
2. Money Fees
Make sure your credit card doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees! Although small, you’d be surprised how much of a killer these fees can be when using your card a lot. They really do add up. There are also fees when taking money out of an ATM and when you are exchanging money. ATMs charge a flat fee and then a percentage for exchange. Try to take as much out at a time so you aren’t stuck paying the ATM fee over and over again. Keep in mind that in Europe, many smaller businesses might not take credit cards. Airports and other money exchanges also charge a fee when exchanging cash. Some places charge by amount and others charge a flat fee, but often the best deal is, again, exchanging more money at a time. For all you Bank of America customers, they change it for free!
3. The Transatlantic Ticket
This ticket will probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Unfortunately, this will be expensive, but there are some ways to get the cost down. If you’re a student, try looking at StudentUniverse for discount flights. Also, always buy your ticket as far in advance as possible, because the price will rise as your departure date gets closer. Certain air carriers are also more affordable than others. I’ve had some luck with Aer Lingus and I know Iceland Air is also cheaper than the rest.
4. Find Cheap Flights in Europe
Unlike America, flights inside Europe can be really inexpensive. There are two cheap airlines in Europe: Ryanair and easyJet. When booking early, you should also check regular airlines as well to compare prices, but these two are often the best. Ryanair has flights starting at just 7 euro (about $8) and you can get most flights for around 20 euro ($23). I have less experience with easyJet, but they do offer similar pricing, although fly to fewer places than Ryanair.
Also keep in mind how far the airport is from the city. Sometimes, Ryanair flies into airports without regular transportation to and from your destination city and traveling back and forth can be expensive. When I was in Paris, the only way to get to the airport I was flying out of was an hour-long, 17 euro bus ride. In many cases, the cheap airfare makes up for the more expensive transportation, but consider all your options. And, as always, book in advance!
5. Pack Light
The catch with cheap airfares are the additional fees. They almost always charge a fee to check a bag. With Ryanair, they charge different fees determined by the size of your suitcase. It’s much easier to just pack less. Bring a backpack with the essentials, especially if your trip isn’t long. A pair of pants, a couple shirts, a coat if it’s cold, a pair of sneakers, small toiletries, and maybe a dress and a nicer pair of shoes if you plan to go out is all you may really need. Plus, you are probably going to be carrying your stuff around before check-in and after check-out, so less is definitely more in this case. Some hostels let you store your stuff for free, but some charge a fee. It also might not be convenient or possible to go back to the hostel before you leave.
6. Share a Room with Strangers
I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I stayed in lots of hostels and I never had a problem. I wasn’t even able to lock my stuff up all the time, because I didn’t have a lock. (However, I don’t suggest that. Bring a lock.) I met a lot of really great people at the hostels I stayed at and a couple of travel buddies. Staying in a dorm is so much cheaper than staying in a hotel room or even a single hostel room.
Hostelworld.com is, from my experience, the best website to find them, but there are a few others as well. Just make sure to read the reviews, because the cheaper you go the sketcher the hostels could be, especially in places like Paris or Rome, where they are always expensive. I want to stress the “could” though, because there are lots of cheap dorms in good hostels. Also, you might want to make sure the hostel has free WIFI, because not all of them have that, unless you don’t want it. Props to you for separating yourself from your phone. You go Glen Coco.