Are you starting to plan for an upcoming Euro-trip? Don’t go at it alone. With the right tools and travel tips, you can stash some major cash away for your next trip to Europe.
So before you book any hotels or flights, hear us out. Going abroad can be expensive, but you don’t have to come up with the funds all by yourself. There are a lot of ways to budget for your trip and save on major expenses like airfare and lodging, and we’ve gathered up 10 of our top tips that are guaranteed to help you travel smarter. So whether you’re spending a week in London or Paris or doing the grand European tour, this little guide will help you save your Euros for the really important stuff (like croissants) and budget for the best trip of 2020.
10 Ways To Save for Your Europe Trip
- Earn points and miles
- Put your tax return to good use
- Book your trip outside of peak season
- Find the best flight deals
- Sign up for a high-yield savings account
- Download money-saving apps
- Pick up a weekend side hustle
- Consider alternative lodging
- Do your research ahead of time
- Plan on taking advantage of public transportation
Don’t have a travel rewards card yet? Think about getting one. Top travel rewards cards can help you to save big when it comes to the major expenses associated with your trip — like airfare and hotel stays. After racking up points or miles, you can redeem them to pay for one or both of your flights, depending on the time of year you plan to travel. (One of our writers recently saved over $18,000 on her European vacation by using points and miles!)
Many of these cards also offer 2x the points on all travel-related purchases, meaning you can also earn points every time you use the card to pay for something during your trip — whether that’s a glass of wine on the flight or a night out at a top restaurant. Another great perk of signing up with one of these cards is the generous welcome bonuses.
For example, if you were to sign up with a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred, you could earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Even if you don’t have the points to get free airfare for this trip, signing up just before you plan on having major expenses is a great strategy to kickstart your points-earning potential for future travel.
Another great strategy to pay for your upcoming trip is to use part of your tax return to fund the big expenses. If you don’t already have your tax return money slated for something else, then you might just want to dedicate a chunk of it to your trip. Like we said before, you should plan on the bulk of your expense happening between airfare and hotel stays, and having even an extra few hundred dollars available can make a big difference when it comes to planning. Get your taxes done early this year so you can see just how much of your returns you might be able to allocate towards your growing Europe fund.
If you have some flexibility when it comes to travel dates, consider booking your trip outside of peak season. Peak season for trips to Europe includes most of the summer, with June through August boasting the highest rates for airfare and hotel stays. But if you’re able to book your trip during one of the shoulder seasons (April through mid-June, or September through October), then you’ll probably save yourself quite a bit of money.
Booking during the off-season (November through March) is another option for those traveling to more southern European destinations (like Greece or Portugal), where the weather can still be enjoyable during the winter. Depending on where your travel plans take you, consider booking at least part of your trip outside of peak season to stretch your travel budget that much farther.
No matter what time of year you plan on heading overseas, be sure to spend the time finding good deals on flights before you book. Airlines are constantly (quietly) lowering the cost of flights and sites like Dollar Flight Club and Scott’s Cheap Flights can help you map out the cheapest time to book. By signing up with your email, preferred airports, and travel destinations, these sites will notify you the minute prices drop, so sign up well in advance to have the best chance of scoring a deal on your flights abroad.
Another way to budget for your upcoming trip is to literally start stashing away the cash to pay for it. This is where opening something like a high-yield savings account comes in handy. Just as the name implies these savings accounts will earn you higher returns than the standard 0.10% that comes with most savings accounts. And while there can be some downsides to opening one (such as the fact that it may take a few business days to access your funds whenever you’re ready to withdraw), as long as you can plan ahead, this account will ultimately earn you more money for your big trip.
Whether you’re looking to save money on basic necessities at the grocery store, gain more insight into your spending, or get cashback rewards on your purchases — well, there’s an app for all of those things. Money-saving apps won't make you rich, but they can help you cash in on deals for things you’re already buying or budget for your travel goals. If you’re even a little curious about what these apps might have to offer, do yourself a favor and check them out. Most of them don’t cost a penny to sign up for, and hey, who says no to free money?
If you’re starting to crunch the numbers only to realize you may, in fact, need more of a budget to fund your upcoming travel plans, it might be time to pick up a weekend side hustle. The best part about side hustles is that there are so many options to choose from. Whether you like spending time with animals or kids, or are more interested in doing something on the computer, there are gigs for all of those interests. Starting a side hustle in your spare time is also a great way to build up your savings to meet your financial goals, whether they’re for travel or paying off debts.
Depending on how long you’ll be traveling around Europe, you might want to consider alternative lodging options. Hotels can be crazy-expensive and they’re often located in the busiest (and most touristy) parts of town, meaning that unless you have the points to pay for them, they might not even be worth the cost. If you’re looking for a more relaxed travel experience (that’s also is a bit easier on your wallet), it’s probably worth checking out local Airbnb’s, bed and breakfasts, hostels, or even short-term rental options. Being open to other types of lodging will stretch your travel budget further and also allow you to get off the beaten path and explore more authentic neighborhoods within your chosen destination.
Another solid way to save money on a trip abroad is to do your research ahead of time. That means looking up what tours and activities you’d like to do and even checking out the reviews on local restaurants. You can map out a tentative itinerary for yourself that falls comfortably within your budget, balancing cheaper dining options and free activities with the more expensive ones. Nothing’s worse than arriving at your destination without a clue on how to spend your time or where to eat. Major tourist destinations are often rife with scams that will lead you down a rabbit hole of overpriced and disappointing experiences. Avoid being in that situation by researching your destinations in advance — that way you’ll know what’s actually worth paying for and what you’re better off skipping.
One way to blow through a travel budget quickly is to spend it all on taxis or car rentals. Many European cities have truly amazing public transportation systems that can get you from point A to B both efficiently and on the cheap. Another option you have is to plan on walking a lot. Invest in a comfortable pair of shoes before your trip and take full advantage of the nice weather days. By getting around on foot or via public transportation like the locals, you’ll not only see more of the city itself, but you’ll also save a lot of money doing it.
The final word on saving for a trip to Europe
International travel is always a bit pricier than domestic trips, but with the right planning and research, you can make it an affordable experience. Take the time to decide exactly what you really want to get out of this trip, and where you’re willing to cut corners on expenses.
Maybe you can stay somewhere cheap and allocate more of your budget towards five-star restaurants. Or maybe you’re more interested in activities and tours, in which case you can research inexpensive dining options, or if you’ll have a kitchen — a nearby grocery store that will allow you occasionally cook. Whatever your travel goals are, by figuring them out in advance, you’ll be better able to optimize your travel budget and achieve them.
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