Europe: One of the easiest places to get around, with so many diverse things to see around every corner.
I know, I know: flights can get expensive, and trains and buses are time consuming, BUT here are a few things to consider when planning your trip that will cut these costs in half!
Your initial flight:
- Book at least 6 months in advance.
- Shop around… along with your national airlines try www.skyscanner.com , www.hipmunk.com , or www.flighthub.com. They compare all airlines and find you the best deals.
- Fly into major hubs. Where? Heathrow (London, England), Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris, France), Frankfurt Airport (Frankfurt, Germany), Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Amsterdam, Netherlands), Istanbul Atatürk Airport (Istanbul, Turkey), Barajas Airport (Madrid, Spain), Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (Rome, Italy).
- Do try to fly mid-week.
- Do fly in low season (Spring or Autumn).
- Do fly early in the morning or late at night.
- Do book on a sale.
- Don’t book your ticket less than two weeks in advance.
- Don’t fly on public holidays.
- Opt for return tickets for your initial flight, but keep in mind, in most cases airlines will charge extra fees for changes of date or time so dont book unless you are sure
Flights within Europe:
- Positives with air travel in Europe:
- MUCH quicker than train/bus.
- MUCH MUCH quicker than train/bus.
- Fairly cheap
- Negatives with air travel in Europe:
- The airports that the budget airlines use are often secondary airports built outside of the main cities. You will require an additional bus/train ticket once you are there into the city from the airport. They sell these on the flights as well as in the airport. They arent expensive (anywhere from 5-20Euro), however it does sometimes take up to an hour to get into the city after your flight.
- Very strict on deadlines, and baggage regulations.
- You need to check in online (It is an additional 70Euro at the airport…)
- Try to sell you add ons, priority boarding, infant fee, child equipment fee, baggage fee.
- They aren’t comfy. They aren’t fancy. But they get you where you need to go… cheap.
- Flights typically range from $30-$250 depending on the stretch.
- Try skyscanner to search all sights however individually the most popular ones are: RyanAir, EasyJet, AirBerlin, Vueling.
- Remember: These flights are often non-refundable, non-transferable (if yours happens to be, it will probably cost more to change it then to just buy a new one), deadlines are strictly enforced, luggage is extra and usually a minimum of 15Euro, however this rises in peak season and only includes up to 20Kilo, after this is it an additional 10-30Euro PER KILO! So pack lightly. They are also very strict with carry on baggage (weight and size) and will often charge people for a second piece of checked luggage if they go over the weight or size allowances.
Trains within Europe
- Good news, the train system within Europe is remarkable. You can go almost anywhere by train, however it will cost you.
- Think about a EuroRail Pass. Check out the link to find out more information. If you want to do Europe by train, getting a EuroRailPass is your BEST and cheapest bet. Tickets range from $56-$700.
- Pros: Will take you right into a city, flexible.
- Cons: Takes a long time to get from place to place, fairly expensive, restrictive (times of travel, types of trains – no use of high speed trains. Only regional trains – these take 1.5-2x longer than a high speed train).
- Trains can get very expensive. Look for discount tickets such as in Germany they have a “Schones wochenende ticket” which will cost you 44Euro for use of up to 5 people for an unlimited travel in one day across Germany in 2nd class on all regional trains. Different countries have variuos offers like this. If ever in doubt, ask someone in information at a train station for the cheapest way to get to “……….” They are very helpful!
- Always print out your tickets ahead of time if buying online. It’s impossible to find printers in or around train stations when you’re in a hurry.
Driving across Europe
- Cars can be expensive to rent, HOWEVER depending on where you are I highly recommend it!
- I spent a week in Corfu (Greece), and a week in Ibiza (Spain) and on both occassions we had access to a car for the week. We were able to head to local beaches, events, and activities that would have taken us hours to get to via bus. On these occasions they were also cheaper as for example in Corfu we were staying in a smaller beach village – a bus to the main city was 5Euro and a 1 hour bus ride, from there we had to find our next bus which took us another hour and another 5Euro to get to the beach where we wanted to go. Instead the 3 of us pitched in 20Euro a day to rent a car, and it took us a 40min round trip instead of 2+hours. HIGHLY worth it!
- Highly recommend opting for a navigation system. It’s really hard to read signs in other languages…eek!
- There is a large carpooling community across Europe called Carpooling.co.uk or Mitfahrgelegenheit in Germany. In both cases, people post where they are travelling to, how many people they can take, and the cost to take you. This cost is usually fairly cheap and just covers the drivers gas costs. Drivers are rated so that you can see who you are travelling with and that safety is important to the company and that person. It’s a good option if you just want to head to a neighboring city in the same country.
This all seems like a hassle right? Here’s my two cents.
- Plan ahead of time. (Write down the countries/cities you MUST see, write a secondary list of WANT to see’s.)
- Decide on a starting location. See where the cheapest flights are to one of your Must see locations, doesn’t matter if its the farthest or nearest place, start with that. Make a basic itinerary going from cheapest location to the next. Your schedule might look a little crazy going from North to south to west to east and back again multiple times, but you’re flying so the max flight length will be 4 hours (much much better than on a train), and you’ll be saving a ton of money.
- I literally sat down with my best friend, opened up the Ryan air website, and said “where can we go from Frankfurt that’s awesome and cheap – great Paris”. “Now where can we go from Paris that’s awesome and cheap – great Barcelona!” and so on. It was a ton of fun to plan.
- Not a planner? Go on the website a few days before, book, print out your boarding pass and fly.
- Take day trips out of main hubs with trains to get to outlining areas. Return to that or another larger hub to fly out of again. (Can still use a smaller euro rail for this portion!).