Over the Christmas break, my brother and I traveled to Europe and managed to do the trip without spending much money. In my life, I have always had a deep fascination for traveling and have been interested in European history and culture. One of my major goals was to one day go to Europe. The persistent problem that college students have with traveling is the cost. I will share how we kept the costs low so that maybe you can travel to Europe, or somewhere else, as well.
Buying the plane ticket was the part that was by far most expensive. There are a few tips to keep in mind when you are purchasing your plane ticket. It is imperative to purchase the tickets very far in advance. If you wait until the month of the trip to buy your plane ticket, it is almost certain that you may end up paying double what you could have paid if you had purchased your ticket earlier.
Also, keep in mind that flying to big international airports with as few connections as possible should save you money. For example, my brother and I were trying to get to Freiburg, Germany. Instead of flying to a nearby airport, we flew directly from Charlotte to Frankfurt then boarded a train to Freiburg. If we flew to a local airport near Freiburg, we would have certainly paid a great deal more. It is worth noting that the transit systems in western Europe are generally top-notch while also being inexpensive. Therefore, if you want to save a great deal of money, I would recommend flying to a big airport then boarding a train to your destination.
On our trip, we went to multiple German cities over a two-and-a-half-week period. We started in Freiburg, then took a train to Leipzig, then took a train to Dresden. While we stayed in these cities, we took smaller regional trains to get to cool locations like Hochburg Castle near Freiburg.
We purchased a day pass for all of the regional trains. This way, we spent around 15 euros for full access to the transit systems to anywhere we wanted to go in the region. This was dramatically less expensive than taking a taxi, as taking a single taxi would have cost around the same price as a regional day pass. The cities that we went to have local trolleys and subways that can also get you anywhere you need to go, which are covered under the day pass. Take advantage of the wonderful transit systems they have available.
For food, do not be afraid of the food trucks in cities. They are incredibly cheap (2 euros for currywurst) and it is a great way to try the local food. In the cities we went to, there were probably hundreds of tourist traps that appear to be cool, local places, but they are very expensive and not entirely worthwhile. The food trucks offer about the same quality while being far more inexpensive.
My brother and I also went to a Borussia Dortmund soccer match in Leipzig, and one of the ways we saved money on tickets was connecting with Dortmund Facebook groups. It sounds odd, but we were able to get tickets for about 30 euros from an individual who was not going to make it to the game. Elsewhere, the tickets were going for around 120 euros.
Probably the most enjoyable part of the trip was hiking. It was totally free and absolutely astounding walking through der Schwarzwald (the Black Forest). If you are trying to go to Europe on a budget, consider going somewhere where you can enjoy your travels without having to spend money to enjoy it. For example, the Dolomites are an astoundingly beautiful mountain range that you can just go and explore for absolutely no cost.
Of course, many of us aren’t into hiking, and that’s fine because there are so many ways you can make a trip to Europe happen even if you do plan on spending more time in the cities. Geography is important when going to Europe. When we were in Eastern Germany, everything from the food to the cost of hostels was immensely cheaper. If you’re in Paris or a more touristy area of Europe, it will be difficult to find hostels cheaper than 40 euros a night. So, check beforehand what the local prices of hostels and food will be before you start planning a destination.
I saved money for a long time to go on this trip; however, after we got home, I still had some money left over. It seems intimidating to plan a trip so far away. It certainly was for me, at least. However, you will find that it’s very possible to go and have a wonderful time without spending exorbitant amounts of money.
photo courtesy TripSavvy