It’s easy to save money while traveling in Europe if you do your research and plan ahead. Here are my top tips for saving money while traveling in Europe:
1. Saving Money in Your Hotel
Look for a hotel that includes breakfast in the room rate. Breakfast costs can add up if it is not included in your room rate. I look for hotels that offer a generous buffet breakfast included in the room rate. Not only do I save money on my breakfast, but by making sure I eat a generous breakfast, I can save more money by eating a much smaller lunch. I would say though that taking food from the breakfast buffet to eat later is tacky and just bad manners, so don’t be tempted!
WiFi. One of the great things about cheaper hotels is that WiFi is often free, whereas the more expensive hotels see it as a way to separate you from even more of your money. I do my research and find hotels where I get my WiFi access free. If I can’t work it out from my guidebook or the hotel website I ask when I enquire about a booking.
Location, location, location. A centrally located hotel will save you money in taxis and public transport costs as you are closer to the action and where you want to be, so don’t fall for cheaper, outlying options – they are often a false economy.
2. Eating and Drinking
Cafeterias in department stores. These are a good cheap option where you will often be eating with the locals at a bargain price. As an added bonus they are often located on the top floor of the store – and come with a view. My favorites for views are Galeries Lafayettes in Paris with its million dollar views of the Eiffel Tower and the Opera dome, and La Rinescente in Milan where you can dine overlooking the ramparts of the Duomo. A good meal comes at EUR15, and the million dollar views are free!
Museum and gallery restaurants are also a good option to try. Some museum restaurants (such as the terrific one at the Jacquemart Andre Museum in Paris) can be visited without viewing the restaurant.
Picnics. Stocking up at the supermarket saves a lot, and if you can find a great location is a brilliant budget beater for discount million dollar view dining.
Chef schools. All great culinary cities have chef schools that will often have a restaurant where you can dine on a gourmet meal at a relatively moderate price. While these restaurants are not backpacker cheap, if you want a fabulous meal and great service at a realistic price, look one up. One I can recommend is the Institut Vatel in Paris.
3. Travel and Transport
Railpasses. Only buy a Railpass for countries and days that you will use. “Just in case” is very expensive when it comes to Railpasses. If I have a rail travel day that is only a short journey, I always check the price of a point to point ticket versus an extra day on my pass before I buy. There’s no reason why you can’t buy a Railpass AND point to point tickets for individual journeys where it makes better financial sense.
Traveling with friends and family. If you are traveling with others check out whether you might be able to buy your tickets at some discount. Sometimes airlines will offer companion fee tickets for two of you traveling together at a cheaper price, and Railpasses are discounted for two or more people traveling together. If you go down this path, do check the rules of the ticket before you buy.
Buying food on the train/plane. It is so much more expensive, so plan ahead and just don’t do it! Take something along with you and limit yourself to a coffee if you want one. Even buying something at the train station or in the airport in cheaper than on board.
4. Combo passes for museums
These can be a huge saving if you are going to use them enough to get the saving, or if they offer some other benefit like not needing to queue with everyone else. Sometimes saving time is the greatest luxury of all!
5. VAT refunds
Make sure you claim your VAT refund when you leave Europe to save even more! For more details on how to do this, see my earlier post here.
I can save up to EUR70 per day by following these tips. What are your top money saving tips on the road in Europe?