Food, shopping, transportation… it can add up quickly if you’re not careful. Here are some practical ways to keep your travel costs down.
1) Pack Well
In particular, make sure you have adequate footwear and layered clothing. Otherwise, you may be forced to purchase clothes (at a premium) during your trip. I am perpetually tempted to take my “nice” shoes rather than my “comfortable” shoes. I gave in to this temptation twice – once on a trip to Italy and a second time to Boston. I have a new pair of shoes to show for each trip – and yes, they are nice shoes, but I paid way too much… and frankly, I would have rather been seeing the sights than searching for a shoestore!
2) Pack Light
Many airlines are now charging hideous amounts of money for extra baggage. So make sure you know your airline’s requirements and streamline your packing process. Share toothpaste and soap with your companions. And remember to leave some room for the return journey!
3) Use Public Transportation
Booking a villa or apartment near some form of public transportation is a fantastic way to save on the costs of car rentals. Trains are everywhere in Europe, and most smaller towns have stops where you can catch a ride to any destination you like. Big cities usually have metros or excellent bus systems… use them! Honestly, it’s also more fun.
4) Photos – Not Souveniers
The best souveniers are your memories – and the best way to preserve those memories is to take lots and lots of photos. Buy yourself a compact digital camera with a nice big memory card and go for it. You could also add a fun twist – take a stuffed animal to photograph at every site, or photograph every meal you eat. The time you don’t spend shopping in tourist traps can be put to good use relaxing by the pool at your villa, exploring the countryside, or enjoying a nice picnic lunch.
5) Eat Local
Popular sightseeing attractions and transportation hubs are usually surrounded by restaurants catering to tourists. While these places may seem convenient when you’ve been hoofing it all day, they are neither cost-effective nor authentic. Instead, plan ahead. Assuming you’re not staying next door to a main attraction, keep an eye out for local markets, bakeries, and delis around your villa or apartment. Stock up on breakfast items and anything you can use for a picnic lunch.
6) Talk to Locals
Yes, that’s right – talk to people! I’ve rarely taken a bus in Europe without ending up in some interesting conversation with a complete stranger. Easy conversation starters are usually things like, “Excuse me, am I on the right bus?” or “Could you tell me what that sign says?” Be polite and courteous, but also make sure you step out of your comfort zone a little. After all, you’re here to experience the culture! Ask your keyholder or that guy in the bakery where he likes to eat dinner. Investigate whenever you see a “hole-in-the-wall” with a line of locals out the door. Explore! Not only will you find great deals, you’ll meet some wonderful people and make memories to last a lifetime.