Home. Transitions Abroad founded 1977.  
Travel Work Living Teach Intern Volunteer Study Language High School

Budget Travel in Europe with Smart Planning

Eze, France on a budget.
Even the beautiful town of Eze on the French Riviera offers some lodging deals with great views, with fantastic deals available even in peak season. Photo © Transitions Abroad.

Many believe European travel is for the well-heeled elite or backpacking teenagers willing to rough it. That is far from the truth. Not only is it possible to travel in Europe on a budget, but it is also extremely enjoyable. In fact, you will experience a more authentic Europe and feel more connected to the destinations and communities you visit.

The Best Time to Travel in Europe?

Often, something as simple as visiting during a different month from peak tourist season or lodging in a city not at the center of tourism can save you hundreds. This can mean the difference between affording and avoiding Europe for Americans who visit Europe without much cash to spend. At the same time, it can bring European destinations within reach for a holiday or make it easier on the wallet for travelers from other countries. For example, late September through early November is still an enjoyable period in terms of weather. Yet, travel costs have gone way down, and there are far fewer tourists, making you more likely to experience the local way of life.

In future columns on budget travel in Europe, I will go into more depth on each topic below. This is an overview of the many intelligent tactics you can use to travel to Europe on a budget.

Transportation on a Budget

Driving a leased car on a budget.
Driving a leased car can be relatively inexpensive and allows you to go places you usually might not be able to reach off the beaten path at any age. Photo © Transitions Abroad.

The methods you use to get to Europe and get around can tremendously impact your travel budget. Depending on how far you must travel to Europe and how much traveling you plan to do, you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars by making adjustments.

For flying to Europe, the when and where of your decisions can dramatically impact cost. Sometimes, flying into or out of a different city, in a different season, or even on an extra day saves money. Getting around Europe on a budget can depend on many factors. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly within Europe, sometimes it is better to buy a eurail pass or ride the bus, and other times a buyback lease car rental is most affordable if you stay three or more weeks.

Dining on a Budget

Cheap but delicious breakfast in a French hotel.
The included breakfast at a hotel is often fit for royalty and will certainly not leave you hungry. Photo © Transitions Abroad.

For many people, sampling the excellent regional cuisines and native dishes is a primary, if not the primary, reason for visiting Europe. You don’t have to sacrifice this to save a few euros. In fact, sometimes the cheapest food options — a rural restaurant, a local market, fresh-baked bread at the neighborhood bakery — are the most delectable. There are also pricey dining options, including hotel breakfasts, which are often a waste of money.

Lodging on a Budget

Vacation home rental in France.
Many vacation home rentals are quite pleasant, and you can find deals, especially in the off-season. Photo © Transitions Abroad.

Many American travelers probably are under the illusion that a vacation in Europe is too expensive. Still, part of the reason is we are not exposed to so many delightful lodging options in the States. In Europe, the choices go beyond hotels, motels, and B&Bs. Most of the less expensive options are more authentic to Europe and provide a better chance to connect with your hosts or fellow travelers.

Even the camping options are much better, more inviting, more regulated, and sometimes provide more amenities than a typical chain hotel. Camping, in fact, is quite popular and much more mainstream in Europe than it is in the U.S. There are also many diverse options beyond the basics, from affordable castle stays to overnights on a farm to RV rentals.

Trip Planning in Europe

Where you go in Europe is the most deciding factor impacting the cost of your vacation. It influences everything from the cost of lodging and taxi rides to meals and sightseeing. European cities comprise four of the Most Expensive Cities in Europe in 2024, and two are in Switzerland. That means it is essential to avoid lengthy stays in cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen, and Paris — and there are cheap budget workarounds for all these cities, but that is for later articles.

That doesn’t mean you must avoid staying in super-expensive Paris if your heart is set on it. But be smart about it. Plan the rest of your trip in smaller, less expensive cities and end your travel with 3-6 days in Paris. By completing your trip there instead of starting it there, you also avoid spending all your money before you even get time to enjoy your European vacation.

Believe me, traveling in Europe on a budget is still possible. You need not be wealthy to stop planning your dream vacation. The key word is simply planning. With more research and planning, you can experience a memorable trip to Europe on a limited budget.

Related Topics
Budget Travel
Best Cheap Transportation Resources and Websites
Related Articles by Kelby Hartson Carr
Budget Travel in France
Budget Transportation in Europe
Lodging on a Budget in Europe
Budget Dining in Europe

About Us  
Contact Us  
© 1997-2024 Transitions Abroad Publishing, Inc.
Privacy Policy Cookie Policy Terms and Conditions California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) Opt-Out IconYour Privacy Choices Notice at Collection