A long weekend break has become a regular occurrence for my boyfriend and I in the last couple of years. Not only does it mean I get to travel more often (using my previous holiday time at work wisely!) but it means we get to explore so many more countries than we would if we spent a fortnight every year laying on a beach in Benidorm. It can also be much, much cheaper!
The main thing for us is sticking to a specific budget and making sure we fit in as much as we can in this break whilst we’re there. I’ve put together this post for Student Life with some tips and tricks about booking a budget holiday in Europe!
First things first, deciding where and when you want to go. Unfortunately we’re working around a full time week day jobs, so Friday-Monday breaks are our favourite option. However, it’s often far cheaper (flights & hotels) to book three nights away during the week so if this is a possibility for you, go for it.
Ryanair are my go to airline, despite the bad rep they get. It’s budget, so you get a budget service but I’d much rather save £100 than get a free airline meal and some extra leg room. The cheap flights section is so easy to use and there’s amazing deals on upcoming flights around Europe. I prefer to book a few weeks in advance so I can plan the rest of the trip but the offers change daily, keep checking back for variances in flight fares.
I have previously spent 19 hours on a Megabus across Europe and I certainly wouldn’t do it again! Yes it’s cheap, but it’s not particularly enjoyable (even with your best mates) and it takes up a HUGE chunk of the time you could be spending actually exploring the city you are on your way to. When we’re looking at a weekend break, time can be precious!
Depending who you are travelling with or how many of you there are, a hostel is a good bet. There are hostels all over Europe (check out HostelBookers.com) where you are very likely to make friends and it’s the best way to save some money to spend on doing exciting holiday things instead.
If there is a large group of you, you might get lucky and be able to all share a room. Otherwise, it’s likely you will be sharing with other travellers. I’ve never had any issues in this respect but it’s a good idea to pay for a locker at reception for your valuables if you leave them for a long period of time.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little more luxurious, Lastminute.com is fantastic for finding cheap hotels and we once managed to bag a lovely 4* hotel in a great location in Berlin for next to nothing. As you’ll only be there for a short period of time, a Room Only deal is spot on because you’ll want to experience as many cute cafes for brunch and lovely restaurants for dinner as you possibly can!
When visiting a new city, there’s ample things to do that won’t cost you the earth.
Research, research, research before you go. Choose a few touristy things you want to do that have admission fees or will require travelling to but try keep it to a minimum. You’ll be surprised at how many places you can visit for free around Europe and if I’m honest, you’re likely to see a truer side to the cities this way.
Many cities offer a visitor pass or tourist card that allow you to get great deals on entrance fees to all the popular attractions. If you want to experience a lot of museums, boat trips etc. then one of these may save you a fortune.
Explore. Walk everywhere or if there’s a great transport service, use it to see as much of the city as possible. If you’re unsure of what there is to offer nearby, ask the locals you’re sat next to in a restaurant or your taxi driver. It’s likely they are a mine of information when it comes to finding fun things to do and hidden gems in the city you’re staying. One of our favourite experiences in Dublin was a pub recommended to us by the taxi driver from the airport!
Europe is fantastic because it has such a variety of culture and food specific to each country. Ask at the hotel or hostel for advice on where to go eat and drink because they will know best! Additionally, you’ll find street food is popular in many European cities. Is there anything better than picking up a beautiful snack, made on demand for less than €5 whilst seeing the sights?
Pre-trip, The Guardian website has some fantastic lists of where to go, what to do, what to eat all over the world so definitely check these out too.
Look into what currency you need (I am a huge fan of the € luckily!) and roughly how much you think you’ll spend. Tot up all the admission fees you plan on spending and a rough amount of travel and food per day. Then add an extra €50 (or currency equivalent) per person because believe me, it’s nice to have it in an emergency!
A Caxton FX card has been a lifesaver for me when it comes to travelling. You can load money is your currency and it’s automatically converted at ATM machines and shops abroad, wherever you see a Mastercard symbol. Find out more on their website.
It’s easy to be frugal when it comes to eating out, don’t opt for an expensive restaurant if you know you’ll have to scrimp on something else the next day. I always, always recommend you spending money on doing things because you might not get the chance again. Being able to remember a fun day out is more important than an instagram picture of an expensive steak!
I hope some of these tips come in useful if you’re planning a trip soon. Some of my favourite places to consider are – Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, Liverpool…