Budget Travel

July 9, 2009

Audrey Isn’t the Only One Taking a Roman Holiday This Year

By Meg Hoppe

With the American dollar being worth about as much as Monopoly money, planning_tripyou might be asking yourself how you can possibly afford to travel this year. You’ve become so consumed with paying off your mounting debt and saving, saving, saving. In the midst of all of this, you have forgotten to take some time to enjoy all of your hard work. What better way to treat yourself than by taking that relaxing European vacation you’ve been dreaming of.

It’s no secret that Europe is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. It’s also no secret that even before our currency took a nosedive, Europe is also one of the most expensive vacation spots in the world. So how precisely are you supposed to travel Europe without undoing all of your tedious budgeting? While it might take some time, a European vacation just might be in the cards for this year if you do it right.

Plan Ahead: For keeping in budget when traveling this is always my first suggestion. Often times I will get a rather unhappy sigh or an argument that over-planning sucks the fun out of a vacation. For all of those naysayers, I remain steadfast that a well planned vacation is a well spent vacation. Would you rather spend time while on vacation wondering what the best way to get to your next destination is? Or possibly trying to find the lowest exchange rate or a place to change currency for the best price while on a walking tour of Rome? Worrying about whether or not you’re over budget, if you’ve booked a room, etc. while on vacation is exhausting. And quite frankly, if there is a fun sucker during a vacation, stressing out about your vacation is most definitely it.

Since the birth of the Internet and Google search, there is no reason why you should pay full price for anything. There are enough deals, bundles, coupons, discounts and economical solutions to traveling you just have to take the time to find, research, and compare them. When you’re haggling for higher pay in your job, do you just walk away with the first offer put on the table? If you do, we need to have an entirely different conversation. No, you don’t; you counter with at least 2 offers until your employer arrives at their third and final offer. Until you hear those words, you’re far from done. So why would paying for a vacation be any different? Check out some of the links at the bottom of the blog entry for some places to start planning your European vacation.

Travel during Off-Peak Times: When you hear someone talking about traveling during peak season, it’s a sure bet that they’re paying through the nose for their trip. The key to budget traveling is researching the right time to buy tickets and travel. For instance, when you buy plane tickets, fly on a weekday. If you avoid flying Thursday night through Sunday morning you will steer clear of higher plane costs. The same rings true when you’re planning a vacation. If you avoid the peak seasons of your location you will find cheaper transportation and hotel rates. For some more information about peak travel times check out this website or for a list of some peak travel days in 2009 look here.

Rooms Deluxe Hostel Valencia Spain

Rooms Deluxe Hostel Valencia Spain

Don’t Waste Your Time with Luxury Hotels: When you’re traveling through Europe but don’t want to give up a moment’s luxury, consider staying at a hostel. I realize that hostels have a long standing reputation as being the dirty vagrant’s equivalent of a good time. Dorms packed like sardines that used to smell something similar have gone through a major face lift in the past 10 years. Hostels are now boasting top of the line economically friendly luxury and designer decorating. Hostels are a great place to stay if you’re looking to spend a few nights in a location, however, if you’re spending a few weeks to a month in a city it might be more beneficial to look into renting a flat.

Traveling with your family or friends for an extended period of time is the ideal situation for renting a flat. It is almost always more economically sound to stay in an apartment and it gives you immensely more freedom. For example, instead of going out to eat every night or staying in to expensive hotel food, you now have the option to peruse the gorgeous local open air markets and make a five star meal at home. You can also make a great night in with locals that you meet instead of going out and spending money at a bar. For more information on luxury hostels, check out my other blog entry and for more information on renting apartments in Europe, check out this site.

Take Advantage of Locals’ Suggestions: Let’s face it, it doesn’t matter how many expensive travel guides you have, you will never have the insight into your vacation spot that a local has. If you’re looking for a great place to get a decently priced meal, chances are asking someone who lives around the area will yield great results. For the most part, they won’t be eating at all of the tourist traps, so they will know what’s good and what’s not. If you want to know if there’s anything that’s a must see in the town you’re in, start a conversation with someone and just ask. You could be wondering what to do in cases of theft from tourists. Well, be careful who you ask. Never tell someone that you’re alone in a foreign country. If you’re not traveling in a group, lie and say you are. However, for the most part, not everyone is out to get you. Keep a reasonable level of caution, but never rule out talking to locals.

Consider Traveling Outside of the Eurozone: With the American dollar exchanging for about .72 in European Union, it might be time to consider looking at alternative travel routes. The Eurozone is comprised of 16 European states that make up the EU. It is these states that have adopted the euro as their legal form of tender and it’s these states that tend to be more expensive. When traveling to Europe on a budget, you might want to consider traveling outside of these 16 countries. Eastern Europe has so much culture and tourism to offer that is forgotten amidst the fanfare of its western counterpart.

Know How to Spend Money: This section has to do solely with where to exchange money and how to spend it while on your vacation. If you’ve never traveled overseas before, you might not be aware that there are several different ways to pay for items. For the most part, the three major ways of paying overseas are cash, credit, and travelers checks. When you’re working with cash, I would suggest exchanging a small portion, about $100.00 before you travel so you have some money for a cab ride, initial restaurant, etc. However, for the rest, exchange it when you’re overseas. You’re likely to get a better deal if you don’t exchange it in the airport exchange counter as opposed to taking out cash from an ATM affiliated with your bank. You will likely pay a fee for it being overseas, but it won’t be as large a fee. For more examples, I’ve included an older [but still valuable] NYT article. Take a look.

Check out some of these great websites for European and other vacation deals and savings.

*Meg Hoppe is a freelance writer and marketing professional from Chicago. Visit her other blog here.

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