5 ways to explore Europe on a budget this summer

05-15-2018 2:43 pm

Maybe you’ve dreamed of packing a picnic and pedalling along the canals in The Netherlands. Or maybe it’s about laughing over endless plates of tapas in Spain with your closest friends. It might be somewhere closer to wandering the medieval, cobblestone streets of Romania, or sipping tiny espressos and cooling down with a pistachio gelato in Italy.

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Wherever your dreams of Europe take you this summer, you can make them happen. It might be peak season, but if you do your homework and tighten your budget, your time here could cost the same as your all-inclusive down south in the winter.

b-boer-522261-unsplash.jpgCanals in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Book your flights early

It’s not a rumour. Summer in Europe is the most popular time to go, and that goes for both Eastern and Western Europe. According to the European Travel Commission, 5.3 million Canadians went to Europe in 2017, and year over year, that number climbs by 5.6 per cent. It might seem surprising but flying to Europe from Canada is often cheaper than flying within Canada, especially if you book in advance. The longer you wait, the higher the price will be, because airlines know those last-minute seats will be in high demand. If you’re up for a little adventure, book your flight as soon as possible, and factor in the accommodations after.

rawpixel-191102-unsplash.jpgStart thinking about flights at least three months in advance.

Consider a stopover

Many airlines, including Icelandair, KLM, TAP Portugal, and WOW air and all have free stopover programs that let you see two countries for the price of one. Plus, a stopover usually makes your flight cheaper by several hundred dollars, so if you don’t mind tacking a few hours onto your journey, you can save big.

agnieszka-boeske-354851-unsplash.jpgSee two countries for the price of one? We think that's a good deal.

Many all-inclusive style travellers prefer to have hotel and flight all in one bundle. But when it comes to booking Europe in the summer, if you’re on a budget, this could be a much better option. Most airlines offer anywhere from 16 hours to 72 hours in a stopover destination free of charge, so you’re essentially seeing two countries for the price of one! Plus, there are generally storage lockers available at the airport so you don’t have to lug your things around for the duration of your short stay.

Eat local

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying yourself on vacation. After all, food in Europe is in a league of its own. But, as with everything, enjoy it in moderation. You don’t need to be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner in restaurants every single day.

roman-kraft-156096-unsplash.jpgYou can't go wrong with bread for breakfast, and it'll usually only cost you around €2.

Start your morning with a cappuccino, but then visit a local deli and buy your own groceries as you would at home. If you have a kitchenette in your room, you can save a lot of money just by eating simple things like sandwiches. If you don’t have a fridge, you can still buy non-perishable items like granola bars or fruit that will keep a little longer, to take with you when you’re out and about.

Book boutique

Five-star accommodations are lovely, but when you’re in Europe, if you’re doing it right, you’re only in your room to sleep. There’s really no need to pay for an expensive hotel when it sits empty most of the day.

john-towner-125995-unsplash.jpgWake up to a different view.

Boutique hotels or apartment hotels are smaller accommodations that are less expensive, and still just as nice, if not more appealing, because you’re seeing the aesthetic of the destination for what it truly is. Smaller properties tend to be in the city centre, putting you within walking distance to major landmarks or cultural hotspots worth checking out, so you’ll save money on transit, too.

the-lord-of-the-lens-440221-unsplash.jpgSometimes the most charming hotels in Europe look just like this!

Go with friends

Travelling with other people always keeps things entertaining, and it can make a serious difference on your credit card at the end of the trip. Sharing everything from hotel rooms, to taxis, and even meals is very convenient, not to mention, you’re making memories for life. If your hotel room has two double beds, four people could sleep easily — it’s all a matter of personal preference but can mean a difference of a few hundred dollars. As far as meals are concerned, splitting plates is great when everyone is a little hungry, but not enough for a full meal, and money isn’t wasted in the process.

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If you’re social, try your hand at making friends — you never know who you might meet in a local bar or restaurant, but more often than not, people are friendly and the next thing you know, you might have a free invite to something you’ve been dying to cross off your bucket list.