Let’s face it…a trip to Europe is expensive. It requires booking long flights, accommodation, transportation, excursions, and food. All these cost money, and depending on where you’re visiting in Europe, it can be a lot of money.
However, when planning your trip, there are some ways you can save money, and while it might not be hundreds and hundreds of dollars, it all adds up. If you save $20 on accommodation, that’s a train ticket to a nearby city or half of your food money for the day. It makes a big difference.
I am heading to Europe (the UK and Paris) this spring, and I researched how best I could save money. The tricks and tips I learned and discovered made booking my trip much cheaper, and I want to share these tips with you so you can save money too.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Here’s how to save money when booking your Europe trip.
1. Book ahead as much as possible
Whether booking flights, accommodation, or transportation like trains, the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be.
When looking for cheap flights, I like to utilize the tracking feature on apps like Expedia and Hopper to get notified when the price of the flight I want drops or increases. These tracking features also tell me if they expect the price to drop or rise in the future or if this is an excellent time to book.
If I book anywhere for 3-6 months in advance, I have plenty of time to wait and watch the price. However, if you are only booking a couple of months in advance, you don’t. You have to book ASAP because the price will increase closer to your travel date.
This is the same situation with booking train tickets around Europe. I booked my London to Inverness ticket 60 days in advance and saved around $100 compared to a booking later.
2. Price search for flights and accommodation on multiple sites, not just one
Hopper and Expedia are my favourite apps and websites for comparing flights and accommodation prices. Out of all the options, like Kayak and even the airlines’ websites, I’ve found the best prices on Hopper and Expedia.
Hopper is a newer app, but I’ve used it several times and have had a great experience with it. I even booked my flights to Europe through it for under $1,000 (Canadian), which, since my trip was a little spontaneous, offered the best price I could find by at least $30. I also rack up many points and deals by booking there, which I can put towards other flights or hotels.
Funnily enough, I booked most of my hotels through Expedia with this trip. Since I am a member and have the app, I get 10-20% off my hotels, which has made a bigger difference in the cities I’ve chosen to travel to. I am looking into my next Europe trip, and Hopper has better deals for those cities.
Overall, booking your flights and hotels is just a matter of comparing prices from multiple sources and being a bit patient.
3. Opt for hostels when you can
While I booked a few hotels for my Europe trip, my longer stays are in hostels. You save a considerable amount of money when you stay in a hostel, even if you choose a private room, which I have done for all my hostel stays.
While it would be anywhere from $60 cheaper per day to sleep in a room of 4-6 bunkbeds, I know myself and how I am with travelling. I personally like privacy and need time to decompress in my own space. Regardless, my average nightly rate for a single room with a shared bathroom is anywhere from $70-95 (Canadian).
During the early spring, I noticed most hotels charge $115 to $220 per night, saving me a lot of money. Most hostels also include breakfast for free, which is another $10-15 each day that I’m saving.
My favourite website for finding hostels is Hostelworld.com, and I can’t express my love for it enough. I highly recommend it for solo travelling in Europe.
4. For longer stays, check out Airbnb
Hostels and hotels are perfect for short stays that are less than a week, but if you plan on staying in the city for more than 7 days, I recommend checking out Airbnb. Not only does it mean you get your own place, which is nice when you’re staying in one place for a while, but it can also save you a few hundred dollars.
It depends on the city, but when I looked for accommodation in Paris and Athens, it was at least $200-300 cheaper for a week-long trip. I was shocked that it was cheaper than the hostels. Another upside other than price is that you get your own kitchen, which means you can save money by cooking your own meals and making your own coffee and tea.
5. Search for accommodation that includes breakfast
Like I mentioned above, search for accommodation that includes breakfast for free or has it available for a low cost. A good number of hotels and most hostels offer breakfast for free, and it’s something I always keep my eye out when booking accommodation.
Not only does it save you money but it saves you time too. You can quickly grab breakfast where you’re staying and then focus on exploring.
6. Use a VPN to get cheaper prices on flights and accommodation
Another trick I learned from a few travel blogs is using a VPN to get lower prices on flights and accommodation. Using your VPN to say you are in the same city as where you’re booking, or sometimes in a nearby one, you might notice the price dropping $10 or even $15.
It only works some of the time and does require more research, but it can work. It might only save you a few dollars, but as I said, it adds up.
I use NordVPN, so I recommend that if you’re interested in trying out this trick.
7. Fly into big cities
Opt for a bigger city when deciding where to fly in and start your journey. They tend to be cheaper. For example, I am flying into Heathrow Airport in London because it was at least $300-400 more affordable for a roundtrip flight than in any other airport I looked at.
8. Utilize public transportation over taxis
Europe offers the best transportation. You can easily get around at a reasonable cost on their trains, tubes, and buses. That’s why you should choose public transit over taxis, which will cost you a pretty penny.
Depending on where you are going, look into the types of passes they offer. For example, you can get an Oyster Travelcard for 7 days or even a month in London. It’ll save you money compared to paying as you go every day. For more information, read about travelcards here.
9. Purchase food from grocery stores when you can
I love eating out as much as the next girl does, especially in food-focused cities like Paris, but it gets expensive! While you should indulge on your trip now and then, find your lunch and dinner at grocery stores or local markets. It will save you a considerable chunk of money every week.
If you are staying somewhere, you don’t have access to a stove, microwave, or fridge. Never fear. You can still shop at grocery stores. Just check out what they serve for hot and cold meals, like ready-to-go soups or sandwiches.
10. Look for free or cheap excursions first
A lot of popular tourist spots and excursions are now monetized. However, many are still entirely free, if not cheap. I recommend researching which popular or recommended excursions are in the city you are visiting ahead of time and choosing those over ones that are overly priced.
11. Get or use a travel credit card for booking
Last but definitely not least, get a travel credit card or use one you already own as much as possible before the trip.
Every time you shop at the grocery store or pay for gas, use the travel credit card, and you will rack up points you can put towards travelling. I got one a few months ago and got a great welcome package of travel points, so I could immediately put my points towards my plane tickets and save $300!
I still have a few months before my trip, so I plan to use my travel credit card for whatever I can to save up more points for this trip and my next Europe trip.
Those are 11 tips for how to save money when booking your Europe trip and I hope you were able to learn something that can help you out.
Booking a trip to Europe is as daunting as it is expensive, so it’s important to know where to save money when you can.
For more tips on planning your Europe trip, check out my last blog post: 8 Essential Things I Learned While Planning My One-Month Europe Trip