Something I frequently hear is “you must be so rich to travel as often as you do” – wrong. Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive. I don’t stay in 5* hotels and I budget my money to ensure I make the most out of my pennies. I’ve managed to go on weekend trips that are cheaper than getting a train into London for the day. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly frugal person but I do watch my pennies (absolutely essential if you want to travel as much as I do).
I have come up with the following tips to help you book a cheap weekend away in Europe
- Do your research. Okay I might have gone a little far when I created an excel spreadsheet for my two week interrail trip last September, but seriously if you want a cheap weekend you need to do your homework. If you’re not sure where to go then I suggest going on to Skyscanner, putting in your dates and seeing where is cheapest. When I first started exploring Europe I didn’t mind where I went at all which made finding cheap flights a doddle. Now I’ve seen a fair chunk of the continent I must admit finding cheap flights for places I want to go is getting harder, but it’s by no means impossible.
- Use Hopper. This app is my favourite after Skyscanner. You put in the flights you have found and it tells you when is the best time to book. It’s an absolutely genius idea and if you’ve already found the cheap flights on Skyscanner it’s super useful as it stops you procrastinating and puts the pressure on to book before any price increases.
- Stay in hostels. I’ll admit it, before I began travelling the idea of hostels petrified me, but now I wouldn’t stay anywhere else. Seriously, I have no idea why I was so worried to stay in them – they’re great! I’m not kidding, some are even better than hotels. I won’t lie to you, I’ve stayed in some that weren’t great, but I take full responsibility for that as I didn’t do enough research. Every major city has hostels, most of them have a massive array you can chose from. I could write an entire post of hostels, and I probably will in the future, so for now I’ll just make it clear – hostels are the best places to stay when travelling!
- Avoid taxis. This one is probably pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised to know how many people I’ve met on the road who still travel by taxi and then complain they have no money. I try to walk everywhere when abroad if possible. If you get a hostel in the centre of town, there’s no reason you shouldn’t travel by foot. Walking is the best way to explore a new city and sometimes getting lost takes you to amazing places you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. My job is office based and sometimes I barely get 5000 steps under my belt so I really make the most of walking when travelling. If walking isn’t your thing then it’s worth working out the local public transport. Buses and trains are a cheap way of seeing a city & if you do your research properly you may find deals on day passes etc.
- Join up to reward schemes. I must have been on 4 or 5 Wizz Air flights before I joined up to their reward scheme and this was such a mistake. Wizz Air are by far my favourite airline now. For only €29.99 a year you get discounted flights, cheaper baggage allowance & frequent “members only” sales where you get 20% discount on flights. Now I know it sounds like I’m promoting them, but I’ve no affiliation with Wizz Air, I’m just a really happy customer. Equally, other airlines have reward schemes that are worth investigating. Popular airlines for cheap flights around Europe also include Ryanair and Easyjet. If you don’t fly regularly enough to make the most of a reward scheme it’s always worth following airlines on social media as this is frequently the platform they promote deals on.
- Sign up to mailing lists. I absolutely hate getting a tonne of emails but if I hadn’t have joined up to as many mailing lists as I have, I wouldn’t have been able to grab so many deals. Aside from airlines, I’ve joined up for mailing lists with my favourite travel magazine companies (far too many to name), with fellow travellers blogs, with travel show alerts, with STA Travel and with hostel booking websites. There are probably so many more mailing lists I’m on too, I just get so many emails I cannot keep track. It’s worth it though, I can scan through them quickly and keep an eye out for a bargain.
- Pre-book airport parking. Even if you book the day you’re due to fly, pre-booking always works out cheaper. I try to get my parking sorted as soon as I book my flights. However, if there is public transport to the airport this is definitely worth investigating. Sometimes it works out cheaper, sometimes it doesn’t – a little bit of research will help you work out the most cost effective method to get there.
- Search activities on Viator. This website/app is my favourite. Whenever I book to go somewhere new I have a look at the sort of activities I can do there/ places I can visit. Viator have a great range of tours and day trips at reasonable prices. I’ve used the website several times and haven’t had a problem with them at all. The best bit is, if you use the app on your iPhone you can download the ticket so there’s no worrying about paperwork or trawling through hundreds of emails to find your booking reference.
- Avoid Restaurants. When I say restaurants I mean big chain restaurants that are on every high street from Madrid to Melbourne. Local food is often cheaper, more authentic and it gives you a chance to mix with natives.
- Don’t buy souvenirs. You can show your family and friends you love them without bringing them back a cheap shot glass or photo frame. Take some gorgeous photos or send a postcard instead.
- Go on Free Walking Tours. You will find free walking tours across Europe & they are a great way to explore a new city. They are usually run by a local so you get to learn so much more about a place. All you have to do is give a little tip to show your gratitude at the end- easy.
- Budget. This might seem like the most obvious bit of advice but so many people don’t actually work out a budget and blow extra cash. Set yourself a budget and stick to it. The only way to travel frequently is to be savvy with your pennies.
Think I’ve missed anything? Add to the comments below…