Hi everyone! This is Erin from over at Babes in Thriftland! I am helping Franca while she is off on her honeymoon (lucky girl!). I am not married so I know nothing about honeymoons or weddings. I do know a lot about traveling though! I was lucky enough to travel a lot when I was younger as well as now that I’m an adult. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland. I had the best time and I recommend visiting there to everyone I meet. The people there are amazing and it is so gorgeous. If any Scottish guy wants to marry me, I would be happy to move back there in a heartbeat 🙂
So, I’m getting off track here. While in Scotland, we had a four week break in between classes. Two friends and I took the opportunity to travel around Europe and I’m here to give you my tips on traveling on a (very small) budget. We were students and going to 3 different countries in four weeks. That kind of a trip can get spendy fast! Without further ado, Europe on a budget!
1. Think about hostels
This is a great money saver and trust me, a lot of them are really nice! I wish we had done more research before we went on some of the places we stayed. Some of them were really nice, almost like a hotel, and some were exactly what you’d expect. Scary. Go online and read reviews. There are usually so many to choose from in almost every city so you can definitely find one that has great reviews anywhere you go. Just google European hostels and you will find about 50 websites 🙂 I can tell you there weren’t as many back in 2004 when I was there and I wish there had been. I’m not saying that you need to stay in a hostel in every city like we did. However, if you want to cut costs, throw in a couple of hostels on your trip.
2. Figure out what to book ahead and what to book there.
This is really important! The internet is all about IP addresses. I can tell you that some things require American IP addresses and some require European ones. I know that buying a Eurail pass is supposed to be cheaper to buy in America than it is once you get to Europe. However, things like RyanAir (a discount airline) should be booked once you get there.
We booked a lot of our hostels ahead of time and sometimes we wished we hadn’t. When we showed up and it wasn’t what we expected, we wished we wouldn’t have booked it. I’m sure this happens a lot of the time and you just have to decide what works for you. Are you a researcher and planner and will read every review before you head over there? Then you should probably book ahead of time. Do you like to get a feel of the place before you make a decision? Then you might want to only book a couple of hostels/hotels and wait on the rest. I think this was of the great things we did. We booked hostels/hotels on days we knew we going to be tired and not in the mood to wander the city looking for a place to sleep. However, we still wanted to be flexible with our plans so we didn’t book them for every place we stayed. In Naples we thought we were going to stay for a couple of days and just take a day trip over to Capri. However, once we got to Capri, we knew we needed to spend more than just a couple of hours there. This fly by the seat of your pants mentality can work out great or not so great so just be prepared if you go that route. You may find a great deal or you may get stuck paying more than you wanted to because nothing else was available. That’s the fun!
3. Think about restaurant alternatives.
This may go without saying for some people but you don’t always have to eat at a restaurant! I think some of my best meals in France and Italy were found by heading into the grocery store. You grab a big baguette, cheese and fresh fruit and go sit on the steps of a gorgeous church or head to a great park and have a picnic. You are also experiencing the city like a local would which is priceless to me. I’m not saying you have to do this for every meal but it’s a great way to save money and have a different experience. On my trip, we decided as group to only eat out at a restaurant for dinner. We went to grocery stores, street vendors or little delis for lunch and almost always had the free breakfast at the hotel. *this is also key and should have been mentioned before. Hotels and hostels with free breakfast are a great way to save money!*
4. Plot out each city right when you get there.
I bet you are thinking I already talked about this. Well, sort of but this is a different side. I’m talking about attractions/activities. Sit down with a map and/or guide book and pick your top three (or 5) can’t miss attractions. If you are only in the city for a short time or don’t have enough money to do everything, then figure out what you simply can’t skip. Have you been to Paris before and don’t NEED to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower again? Could you care less about going into the Catacombs? Would you really regret not going up to the top of Notre Dame? This is where your research kicks in. You will never have the time or the money to see it all. YOU need to figure out what you can live without doing. On my trip, each of us picked one or two things that we absolutely had to see. In Rome, I had to see the Trevi fountain and the Mouth of Truth. Since Rome is really easy to walk around and the attractions are all close together we saw a lot of them anyway. The mouth of truth is off the beaten path and we had to take a cab over there which added an expense. But, it was one of my must sees and it was totally worth it for me. In Paris, we were all on board with paying to go up to the top of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. We had to make sure to be in line for Notre Dame because they close it at a specific time and even if you are in line, you are out of luck. Some things have free portions too. Like, you can go inside the church of Notre Dame forfree but you have to pay to go up to the top.
5. Photos/Postcards and Souvenirs
One last tip! You don’t NEED to buy something for everyone you know. One less expensive alternative is to buy a postcard and send it to them from where you are. They will get the cool post mark on it and can even frame it if they choose. You will save precious space in your suitcase for all of your personal treasures. Souvenirs will mean more to you than to the person you give it to because you were actually there!
Hold on tight to your belongings! (my purse got stolen in Barcelona and it was a
Pack light. (you don’t want to be searching for your hotel with 50 bags)
Always travel with an open mind. Don’t go over there expecting everyone to speak English. Bring a dictionary and practice some phrases in that language. Those people will be grateful and much nicer to you 🙂
Sorry for the lengthy post but I didn’t want to leave anything out! I hope you enjoyed my tips and come see me over at Babes in Thriftland soon! PS. These are all my pictures taken on an old digital camera so sorry if they are small/blurry/grainy. I just need to go back and retake them!