Time is not an issue if you have plan ahead. It is possible to travel on to any five to seven beautiful European countries on a budget of three thousand dollars including meals, lodging, transportation, & museum tours, within two weeks by using deals given by airline and hotels online, using public transportation pass, learning about credit card and smartphone fees, and being a smart and alert traveler.
Lodging and airline prices vary each season and if you do not like long lines, avoid the high season. If you are a solo traveler, impromptu country hopping can be a breeze and you can usually book a room effortlessly. If traveling with a significant other or a family, you can book a private room at a hostel but they charge per person. For better deals, visit websites such as AirBnB.com or a three-star hotel through websites such as hotels.com or Expedia.com. Avoid websites that do not charge you until the time of booking especially during seasons with higher exchange rate. Also, consider hotels that are close to the free ferry ride, train station, or bus stop.
Cities like Amsterdam offer free ferry rides to the Central Station. For your first time traveling to a city like Paris, it is good to invest on the hop-on/hop-off tour bus. The buses takes you to tourist attractions and you can use it as a means of transportation to your hotel if you’re in walking distance to one of the stops. This bus is also useful in time constraint. Car rentals can be pricey due to high gasoline cost but if you are traveling with four or five people and splitting costs, it could be a great option. Some cities offer one day to a monthly train or buss pass and a ten percent discount if you are a Eurail Pass holder.
Invest on a Eurail Pass only if it suits your travel. The Second-class Saver pass, for two or more passengers, offers great savings if you are hopping from one country to another especially during the night trains. Websites such as raileurope.com allow you to identify stops that require reservations. Book the reservation early; each train has about twenty couchettes allotted for Eurail Pass holders. If you want privacy, buy the First-class Eurail Pass it will allow you to book a private room for your party. When on a train, do not forget to pack a meal or snack especially if you board the night train. There is a café on the train but it will cost you twice the amount of money compared to buying them at the local grocery store.
A few months ago, two couples insisted they ate like locals. Pointing them to the farmer’s market and a grocery store, they insisted to go to restaurants with at least four Michelin stars and ended up paying a lot more than what was budgeted. Locals do not always to go high-end restaurants; you can find the best foods on the streets and in cheaper hole-in-the-wall places. While the rest of the crowd enjoyed a day gallivanting, the couples had to sacrifice by being on a day train to Munich. Albeit free, they wasted up to seven hours in the train from Amsterdam to Munich to save money.
Turn your smartphone data off and allow it to make WiFi calls. Unless, you want to be constantly on your phone, you do not need to have the data plan running. There are numerous establishments in Europe with free WiFi such as McDonald’s, a café, a hotel, and anytime there’s a sign on the window that says “Free WiFi.” If you do not feel safe without the ability to call someone right away, there are also prepaid phones available. There are free mobile applications that do not need WiFi connectivity to produce maps and self-guided tours.
CREDIT CARD FEES
Enroll in a credit card and debit card that does not incur foreign transaction fees and ATM fees. Credit Cards such as Capital One or Chase Sapphire, do not charge foreign transaction fees. You may think you won’t need a credit card and withdraw certain amount of cash, but you will. In case you run out of funds, you will need to withdraw money from an ATM. Please chose a safe spot to withdraw money, such as ATMs located adjacent to the bank. Withdrawing money from your credit card is pricey. I have a credit union account that provides money back for ATM fees. Also, separate your cash to your carry-on, purse, & pockets.
Be a smart traveler, losing your passport or being pick-pocketed is a waste of money and time. Do not venture to a neighborhood you are not comfortable walking around especially at nighttime. Make a copy of your passport, email it to yourself or save it on a cloud drive, and keep the paper copy separated from your original passport. Sounds obvious but thirty percent of people I accompany make these mistakes. They call it going on mental vacation.
So, planning your own vacation on a budget within the usual two-week vacation time is doable. Being frugal and knowledgeable about the places that you’re going means making the most of your time and money. Planning ahead of time and overcoming the fear of crunching numbers can offer you an eye-opening vacation. A moment filled with memories of not only famous monuments and tourist attractions but also opportunities to engage with locals that you might surpass when you’re in a large scheduled group.