6 Tips to Help You Plan a Budget Friendly Summer Trip to Europe
My childhood friends, Carolina and Maritza, and I attended college outside of our hometown, NYC. After college we all returned home and enjoyed two years of adventures together. Following those two years, I moved to North Carolina to attend graduate school, while they all stayed in NYC to study and work. During that period, I probably saw them a handful of times :insert crying face emoji: so we were in serious need of some quality time. In May 2015, Carolina and Maritza, and I graduated from graduate school, and Frances was taking off in her self-started social media consultancy. We decided that we turnt up so much domestically over the years, that now was the time to take our turnt up talents abroad to celebrate our accomplishments. Besides Frances, no one had a permanent job secured after graduation (because life) so we wanted this trip to be as cost-efficient as possible.
Here are six tips my friends and I used to travel for 12 days in Europe under $2000 in the summer:
1. Where to Next?
Choosing a geographically logical route. We ended up going to Valencia, Milan, Lugano, & Amsterdam. They were relatively close to each other, which maximized our time and money spent.
2. That Price is Way too High, We Need to Cut it!
Secure cheap tickets. Use the resources available to you. E.g. KAYAK’s Price Tracker! Once we decided our travel dates, we set up a price alert on Kayak.com six months prior to those dates. We booked after a month of tracking. We flew from JFK to Valencia with AirEuropa. In economy class, meals weren’t free and there were no TVs. Luckily we ate before and slept through the flight . On the way back, we flew from Amsterdam to NYC with Iceland Air. They had TVs and fed us.
Purchase your tickets on an iPad or iPhone
In my experience, plane tickets for international flights are always at least $75-100 cheaper on my iPad or iPhone compared to on my computer.
Use local travel airlines
We used Ryan Air to travel between Valencia and Milan, and to Milan and Eindhoven. From Eindhoven we took a 1 hour and 45 minute express bus toAmsterdam. Make sure that your luggage meets the requirements for Ryan Air. They are very strict!
Use local transportation
Traveling in a group of four made taxi rides less expensive. Sometimes taxis are absolutely the only option, like the time we went straight to the airport after our last night of partying in Valencia. However, most of the time we took local buses, trolleys, and trains, which were affordable (local transportation can cost about $5 per day). But, walking is the best mode of transportation because it’s free and you stumble upon places you wouldn’t have seen otherwise!
Total Transportation Costs: $1,256
Flight from NYC to Valencia: $594.33
Flight from Valencia to Milan: $75.67
Train from Milan to Lugano (r/t): $25
Flight from Milan to Eindhoven: $49.99
Flight from Amsterdam to NYC: $381.20
Express Bus from Eindhoven to Milan: $29.95
Local Transportation: ≈$100
3. House in Style
Use Air BnB. We thoroughly enjoyed our Air BnB experiences because we got a more authentic feel of the cities we travelled to. Most Air BnBs provide towels and amenities, so that’s a few less things you have to worry about packing. Our criteria for selecting our places was that it was no more than 30 minutes away from the airport and it was in an area that was close to main city attractions.
Total Housing Costs: $400
Amsterdam: $155 for four nights
Milan: $156 for four nights
Valencia: $89 for four nights
4. Cheap Eats
Cook a few meals at your accommodation. Another benefit of Air BnB is that most places give you access to their fully furnished kitchen. Everyday we cooked at least one of our meals at home. For each city, we spent about $25 each for groceries and drinks. We were walking distance from supermarkets and bakeries.
5. Bend it like Beckham
Be flexible. Prior to arriving in Milan, we had planned on taking a day trip to Lake Como, but our Air BnB host advised us against going as the weather was very crappy that day. We decided to be flexible, packed our lunch, and headed to Milano Centrale Railroad Station (their main railroad station) to randomly choose a day-trip destination. We decided to go to Lugano, Switzerland because it was only an 1 hour and 47 minute train ride and it cost $25 round trip! We ate our lunch right in front of the serene Lago di Lugano and had some delicious gelato.
5. Culture on a Budget
Choose museums and activities wisely. Most European museums and activities are very costly, so it is important to include a good mix of free and low cost activities to do in your itinerary. In Amsterdam, we visited Anne Frank Huis ($10) and attended the Taste of Amsterdam, a food festival where the best Dutch and International chefs serve up culinary realness ($13 for admission; and $5-7 per dish). In Valencia, we visited the City of Arts & Sciences and went to Las Arenas Beach. In Milan, we went to see the Duomo, hung out a lot on the Navigili strip, and took the day trip to Lugano.
The total costs for flights, housing accommodations, and local travel was $1,631. We spent about $300 eating out, buying souvenirs, and other activities.
Here’s a recap on how to make this happen:
1. Choose a geographically logical route
2. Secure cheap flight tickets
3. Use Air BnB
4. Cook a few meals in your accommodation
5. Be flexible
6. Choose museums and activities wisely
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