When the kids have flown the nest and a little more disposable income becomes available, many of us will start to think about travel … possibly longer trips to faraway climes, especially if there’s any chance of long service leave or retirement on the horizon.
Even if a little more spending money does become available, getting the most out of your dollars whilst you’re away is imperative, and today the lovely Carolyn Schonafinger who blogs at “Holidays to Europe” has some useful money saving advice for all of us thinking about long haul travel whether it be to Europe or beyond.
How to get more bang for your buck on an overseas holiday in Europe
So, you’ve made the decision and you’re ready to start planning your long-awaited holiday to Europe. You’ve talked about your trip with family and friends who’ve no doubt offered you plenty of advice on where to go and what to see and do. But how do you ensure you get the best value from your hard-earned dollars and don’t return home disappointed?
Firstly, have a realistic budget, including what you’ll need for spending money. If you’re a 4-star kind of person allow enough in your budget to cover this standard of accommodation, remembering that some European cities are very expensive.
Remember, too, that your European holiday may well be a once in a lifetime trip, and it’s often worth ‘blowing the budget’ once in a while if there is something you really want to do. There’s nothing worse than returning home and wishing that you had allowed a little extra in your budget to cover the 100 Euros for a cable car ride in Switzerland, or a gondola ride in Venice if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do.
And hey, dinner on the Eiffel Tower might be far more expensive than you’d ever normally spend on a meal, but you’re not going to eat there every day! Try and allow a little ‘excess’ in your budget for that ‘must do’ extravagance.
Have a realistic itinerary – visiting 10 countries in three weeks is no fun (and little value!) if you have to spend long days on the road or on a train getting from A to B. Quality time spent at a destination is always recommended over the quantity of places visited.
- Even if you’ve never considered a coach tour before, don’t rule one out. The benefits of escorted coach tours are many: all accommodation, transport and sightseeing arrangements are made on your behalf and all you have to do is be on the coach at the correct time each day. Even your luggage will be taken to and from your hotel room – there’s no lugging suitcases up flights of stairs, along cobblestone streets or on and off trains! Maybe doing that was fun when you were 20 but you deserve a bit of pampering now!
- Book early to take advantage of early bird deals on airfares, coaches, etc. Generally speaking, the further in advance you can book your flights and other travel requirements, the more money you’ll save. Airlines generally release their ‘early bird’ fares around September/October each year for travel to Europe the following year. Booking and paying in advance can save you hundreds of dollars. Many coach tour companies also offer early bird savings, too.
- Pre-book and pre-pay for as much of your holiday before you go as possible. This way, you’ve already covered the majority of your expenses and you don’t have to dip into your holiday ‘spending money’ to pay for large expenses. As one traveller recently remarked, “Pre-booking everything may reduce the spontaneity but it certainly takes the stress out of travelling.”
- Ensure you have adequate travel insurance to cover you against cancellation fees, medical expenses, loss and theft of luggage, etc. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
- Sturdy but comfortable walking shoes are a must. Forget fashionable – when you are walking on cobblestone streets all day or on alpine tracks, comfort is the order of the day.
- Consider taking a travel money card, available from most banks and financial institutions. These cards can be used just like ATM cards but allow you to pre-load them with foreign currency. You choose how much to load onto your card and lock in the exchange rate at the time of purchase, avoiding any currency fluctuations whilst you travel.
- Save on the cost of meals by enjoying picnics. A few basic items from the local market or supermarket can make a delicious lunch and when you eat it by the Seine, on a Swiss mountainside or in St Mark’s Square, it will taste twice as good!
- Be aware of international roaming fees when calling or sending text messages to family and friends from your mobile phone. Consider purchasing a phone card for the country you are visiting and call home from a public phone box. Skype is another great way to stay in touch. As long as you have an internet connection (beware of excessive connection rates at hotels, etc), you can call or message your friends via Skype on your phone, iPad or laptop. Visit McDonald’s or Starbucks for free WiFi if your hotel doesn’t offer it.
- Learn a few words of the local language – not only is it polite, it’s also fun. Greeting a person in the local language is a must and you should try and learn a few basic phrases so you can ask directions to the toilet and find out how much something costs. Even if you make an appalling attempt, the locals will be appreciative of the fact that you’re prepared to have a go and you’ll get a much better response.
- Travel with an open mind. Things won’t be exactly the same as they are at home – if they were, there’d be no point in travelling! Try new foods, cope with the shops closing between 12 noon and 2pm, stumble your way through a greeting in a foreign language. By embracing the local culture you will be much better for it.
Carolyn Schonafinger is the editor of www.HolidaysToEurope.com.au where she blogs about her travels in Europe. She’s also the author of Europe with Kids – How to travel Europe the easy way.
Lifestylers, do you have any money saving tips for long haul holidays? Please share your words of wisdom in the comments section below. Oh and please pin the Pinterest graphic below if you’re on Pinterest x