The Poor Person’s Guide to A European Adventure

With the high season for travel already underway, I figured I’d go over some tips on how to get the most travelling done this year. Money, along with safety and time, are the primary concerns of any traveler.  While adventurous people place different values among these three factors, I tend to value the way I spend money on my travels.  Here are 8 tips on how to save on unnecessary costs (and then spend it on other adventures!).

Travelling doesn't have to be expensive
Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive

1. First the worst

The biggest cost of my trip was the initial flight, an unavoidable sum. However, you need to know when to look for your flight. There are many great deals, usually 4-6 weeks in advance, so if you have the flexibility to leave for Europe at anytime, look for the deals in 1-2 months.  Personally, I chose to start and end in different cities to avoid having to book an inter-Europe flight back to my starting point.  From my experience, the cheapest landing spots are Barcelona, Hamburg, Copenhagen, and Paris.

2. A friend makes all the difference in the world

There are many costs that can be reduced when travelling with another person.  Hostels are normally the chosen accommodation for backpackers, as they offer a great mix of socialization and price.  While travelling alone, I would recommend using hostels, but with another person, you can also have security and comfort at a lower price.  AirBnB is my go-to place to search for vacation rentals, some of which come with an amazing view.  Also with a friend, there’s an added bonus of a conversation partner and an adventure buddy!

Experiences shared are treasured memories
Experiences shared are treasured memories

3. Be bendy

Flexibility and budget travelling go hand-in-hand.  Narrow down your destinations to places you definitely want to visit and ones that you could cut out.  In my journey, I ended up visiting Annecy because it was only a 9 euro ride from Lyon.  The small town didn’t make my pre-trip destination list, but it looked great from online travel guides. Don’t be afraid to explore a lesser-known place!

4. For the foodies

It can be hard to trust all restaurants when in a foreign place.  Getting sick is horrible when you are moving around constantly.  However, this doesn’t mean that you have to eat every meal in a nice restaurant.  Most restaurants charge for water, some even charge for tap water. Don’t be pressured into spending a few euro when you can find a large bottle for less than one euro at supermarkets.  The same concept applies for beer and wine; in fact, beer is cheaper than water in many European countries!

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American food tends to be very expensive abroad.  Yes, it is familiar and comforting, but would you spend $30 on a plain burger at home?  Would you not rather try something new? Keep an eye out for local foods. For example there is a large Persian population in Paris, leading to many falafel and donair stands, a very cheap and Parisian meal.  Food costs can even be split with two (or more) people, saving both of you money and giving you more opportunities to try new foods.  I’d much rather have many small tasting samples than only one meal.

5. Planning is king

Perhaps the most important lesson from my travels is that research and planning saves you many headaches.  The worst feeling is when you aren’t prepared, leading to gross overspending.  Personally, I do quite a bit of research on attractions to find the best times to visit a site and avoid long lines.  Whenever I visit a new city, I always seek to taste the local foods.  As any frequent traveler will attest, many restaurants near popular attractions are tourist traps that offer “local dishes” at exorbitant prices to cater to a foodie audience.  Save your money for better tasting dishes at more reasonable prices by walking a few blocks.

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Also, keep in mind that you shouldn’t stick too closely to your plans.  Travelling always brings unknown twists to your schedule.  Sometimes the right decision is to abandon the research and settle for another course of action.  If you misplaced your flight tickets, maybe you should take a train to somewhere closer.  If the Musee D’Orsay has a 3 hour wait, maybe find a different museum to visit today.

Even the best laid plans of mice and men, oft go awry

6. Go like the locals

My philosophy is that transportation is just a way to get you from attraction A to attraction B.  Why spend more than you have to on transportation?  I found the cheapest ways were usually through the metro systems that are very user-friendly throughout Europe and on foot.  If given the option to bus 10 minutes or walk 30 minutes, I’d spend the extra 20 minutes on foot.  Perhaps you will find an interesting shop or engage in a conversation with a local on your way to attraction B.  Plus, you’re probably confused by all the streets names anyways. Kamehameha Street?

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If you’re adventuring across a country and the distance isn’t too far, consider taking a chartered bus or using rideshare programs.  Yes, you will spend a little more time, but you will also save a lot of money.  Trains and planes tend to cost much more than other ground transportation.  For example, France BlaBlaCar is a popular inter-country rideshare that offers a rideshare program to travellers.  Many of the drivers travel for work and your basic fee is used mostly to cover gas and tolls.  Compared to flights, I saved 100-200 euros every trip!

7. Shop til you drop

If you shop too much, you will literally drop.  Remember that everything you buy has to go on your back.  I passed on many figurines, paintings, books, and trinkets as I traveled through Europe because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep these mementos in my pack.  Postcards, magents, and keychains are inexpensive (if you spend some time looking) and easy to store.  Avoid buying from high traffic areas; most of the items you see there, you will probably see again.  Your back and your wallet will thank you for not buying large items.

8. Slow down and take your sweet time

You’re probably thinking, if I can visit four instead of two cities in Spain, why wouldn’t I do it? Slow down! You want to get the full experience of each city when you are there.  The worst feeling is looking back on your time abroad and realizing that you missed something amazing.  Wouldn’t it cost so much more to fly back to Europe to do the same trip over again? More time on the road usually means more expenses and less rest.  Be careful not to burn out in the middle of your trip.

Have any other tips? I’d never turn down the chance to save money.

 

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