When it comes to taking a trip to Europe, here at the travel desk I really have noticed the effect that the slowing economy is having on the choices that people make. Each and every day people call me looking for tips on how they can save money as they travel. Of course, when it comes to planning a trip to Europe, the matter of cost has always been a hot topic, in fact, in some cases at the moment, people feel like they should not even be thinking about taking a trip. I hate hearing people say this as I am all too well aware that summer plans tend to be the highlight of the year for most people as well as the one time that they are guaranteed to enjoy quality family time. So I decided to do a 3 part series on how you can save money as you travel.
Some of these tips are things that I have picked up during conversations with our customers. They are the type of things that allow you to keep your costs lower while also enjoying your time.
Reduce Your Food Expense
One of the biggest expenses for most vacations is that of food. I always aim to have breakfast at the hotel; if breakfast is included in the room price this is definitely the case. From my experience in Europe, you are almost always guaranteed a good breakfast at a hotel and that covers one meal for the day already, without paying anything from your budget.
Another tip I really like is to take a trip to the local grocer and buy local fruit and things for sandwiches. This works very well if you have planned ahead and booked a room that has a refrigerator. If you have arrived at your room and there isn’t a refrigerator in the room it is a good idea to check at the front desk as they may be willing to store your food in the refrigerator at the hotel. Before you head off for a day sightseeing, prepare yourself a small lunch; you’ll be able to enjoy lunch whenever those hunger pangs strike and you will also cut your lunch costs considerably.
By combining these two tips you will only need to pay for one meal a day. This method is a real favourite of mine as it also means that I feel guilt-free to eat that one meal of the day that I am going to pay for wherever I like. Then you won’t feel go guilty when you check out the best rooftop bars in London.
Reduce Shopping Costs
Your overall budget can take a lot of serious blows when you tend to shop a lot on your vacation. It’s true that everyone loves to buy souvenirs and gifts, as well as other little keepsakes as you go. Purchasing a few things that will remind you of your trips is a good thing, but just be sure to have your smart-head on when doing so. Stay away from those tourist shops that really put the prices up. When I am tempted to pay over the odds for that ‘Tower of London’ mug or ‘I Love Barcelona’ sweater, I stop and ask myself whether I really will treasure this item for years to come or if it will make it into the garage sale next year. Instead of going down this touristy route, think about heading to the local market instead; did you find some fabulous Spanish candy or aromatic English tea that you loved? It will make a much more thoughtful gift for friends and family, as well as keep your budget feeling happy.
Also, do not be afraid of a little haggling over the price (where the destination allows that is). You would not believe how many there are who don’t even think about haggling as they are not used to the practice. Actually, you can save a hefty amount of money when you are willing to have a friendly barter. As a word of advice, when you start your haggle process, have in mind a price that is your maximum. If you can’t barter down to that figure, walk away. I find that in almost all cases the vendors pick up on how serious you are and you get your purchase for the figure you wanted.
Take Out Insurance
Although it is an initial expense it can save you money in the long run, ensure that you have travel insurance that covers all of your requirements and if you are hiring a car take excess car hire insurance for Europe.
Your Credit Card is Your Friend
Using a credit card is one of the best ways to save money, even though you are actually spending it. It is true that most credit card companies will charge a flat fee of 2-4% on foreign transactions, but they also do better exchange rates. If you ask your credit card company they will give you a PIN so that you can take money out at foreign ATMs and get the best rate. It may seem a little thing but all of those little savings add up over the course of a vacation.