Planning your itinerary to save even more money in Europe

Hi Frugalistas!

I’m planning on writing a series of posts on itinerary planning.  Before I start though, I want to focus on how to use your planning and your itinerary to save money on your trip to Europe.

Here are the principles I stick to help me balance the budget and travel to Europe more often:

1.  Some countries are more expensive than others

Europe is not created equal.  Regardless of their currency some countries really stand out when it comes to cost.  England is expensive, as is Scandinavia and Switzerland.  If you really want budget travel in Europe you need to consider “new” rather than “old” Europe – that means Turkey, Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic etc.  The situation in the economic crisis-hit countries is interesting.  I read recently that prices in Greece actually went up significantly in 2012 – my guess is that there are bargains to be had, but you need to do your research and find them.  In Barcelona recently I spent EUR92 for a double room and buffet breakfast (and free wifi!) in a brilliantly located 3 star hotel.  Good value by my reckoning!

My great value Barcelona hotel.  Half the price of where I stayed in London, but definitely not half as good!

My great value Barcelona hotel. Half the price of where I stayed in London, but definitely not half as good!

2.  Some cities are more expensive than others

London and Paris are definitely more expensive than Berlin or Barcelona – not just for accommodation, but also for food, entry fees to popular sights and shopping.  Venice is expensive, despite not being a “major” international city – the number of tourists and cost of getting goods into the city make it very expensive.  If you are an urban animal, seek out smaller cities or cities that are a bit cheaper.

Venice is very expensive, but it is still possible to find central hotels at a good price if you compromise a little

Venice is very expensive, but it is still possible to find central hotels at a good price if you compromise a little

3.  Cities are more expensive than rural areas and smaller towns

Not just accommodation, but also food.  You can eat exceptionally well in small towns for a fraction of the price of a city and not compromise.  At a saving of anywhere between 25 and 50% it’s a great option and gives you a completely different experience.  If you want to practice your language skills, the country is also the place to get more practice!

The gorgeous 13th century square in Mirepoix, rural France.  You don't see things like that in big cities!

The gorgeous 13th century square in Mirepoix, rural France. You don’t see things like that in big cities!

4.  Understanding the seasons for individual locations

When all of Europe is on holidays in July and August expensive cities such as Paris and Rome are cheaper.  Hotels are significantly cheaper, and while many restaurants and smaller shops will be closed, and the queues will be longer, if saving money is your goal, you will win!

Similarly, Mediterranean locations will be much cheaper in the cooler months.  Even ski resorts have seasons, so work out when the skiing will still be good, but when the prices are a bit softer (and the queues will be less).

Rick Steves also recommends business hotels for the European summer, particularly in Scandinavia.  When demand is lower, apparently the prices are significantly better.

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Here’s how I use these principles to get the most out of my dollar:

1.  I try and steer clear of really expensive countries

I’ve never been to Scandinavia.  I’d love to go there, but when I do it will be either a shorter trip than my usual trip length or I’ll be tackling it in small portions over a number of trips and combining it with cheaper places such as the Baltic states or Poland.  That way I can still have an enjoyable time and not scrimp.

2.  I try and avoid high season

Not only does that mean I avoid the huge queues, I also pay less for my hotels (and often for my activities).

3.  I reassess my choice of accommodation

I still look for central hotels in a safe location with breakfast and wifi included, but in expensive destinations I do moderate my expectations.  I give up any expectation of a view, settle for a smaller room and sometimes book a single room rather than a double when I’m on my own.  In Venice that still meant a great, historic little pensione overlooking the Guidecca with a restaurant over the water and a fantastic breakfast buffet.  My compromise?  A small, single room and no lift (elevator) in the building.

Do stay in central Venice rather than the Mestre.  Just moderate your hotel requirements to suit your budget

Do stay in central Venice rather than the Mestre. Just moderate your hotel requirements to suit your budget

4.  I mix city and town locations

Going from city to city can be exciting, but it is expensive, so I mix it up with a mixture of rural and city locations.  Some years ago my husband and I spent 3 weeks in England and in Paris.  We stayed at a B&B in London, then went traveling in rural England for a week, again staying at B&Bs (it was at a time when an Australian dollar was getting us 34pence……) before we went to Paris for a week.  That week in rural England was not only fascinating, but was a fraction of the price of our time in the cities – even with a hire (rental) car.

By understanding these price differences you too can save in Europe!

Related posts:  

How to Save Money Traveling in Europe

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – Traveling Round Europe

Credits:  All photos author’s own

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9 Comments on “Planning your itinerary to save even more money in Europe”

  1. tldarkroom 23/01/2013 at 5:22 am #

    Reblogged this on Timelapse Darkroom.

  2. Carolyn @ Holidays to Europe 23/01/2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Great article with lots of useful info. Apartments, cottages and holiday parks are also great money saving options and they give you the chance to eat ‘at home’ when you want to, helping you to save even more. I definitely agree that it’s better to lower your accommodation ‘standards’ rather than giving expensive cities like London and Paris a miss. Oh, and Scandinavia is beautiful – well worth the trip!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 24/01/2013 at 7:25 am #

      Yes, I agree with you about the apartments – particularly if you are in a group, they can be very economical. I also find that sort of accommodation fantastic with children.

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment – much appreciated!

  3. merlathompson 26/02/2013 at 9:25 pm #

    Good post! Thank you so much for guiding me through which countries in Europe are expensive or cheap. Now I know to which countries I will book my ticket through Travelrepublic!

    I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

  4. Renuka 22/04/2014 at 12:43 am #

    True, planning a holiday during an off season is always more affordable.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 7 tips for budgeting your trip – when to save and when to splurge when traveling | frugalfirstclasstravel - 05/02/2013

    […] Planning your itinerary to save even more money in Europe […]

  2. Itinerary planning 101: Part 3 – the finishing touches to your travel plan | frugalfirstclasstravel - 02/03/2013

    […] Planning your itinerary to save even more in Europe […]

  3. One itinerary, three budgets – anywhere in Europe regardless of your budget | frugalfirstclasstravel - 29/03/2013

    […] Planning your itinerary to save money in Europe […]

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