If you’ve been following the blog [or my personal Instagram] over the past two months, you probably know that this summer I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Toledo, Spain.
While in Spain, I visited eight cities and two countries [which would have been 13 cities and five countries, had my purse not been stolen the final weekend forcing me to cut my trip short]. A lot of people don’t know how easy [and cheap] it is to travel through Europe, so here are my “do’s and don’ts” for traveling through Europe on a budget.
When traveling to near-ish [i.e. 250 miles or less] places — TAKE A BUS
Buses in Europe [and South America, if you’re curious] are SO much roomier and cleaner than buses in America and I would 110% recommend taking one if you’re traveling within one country or if you’re in a city near a border [i.e. Barcelona]. Bus tickets range from $15 to $100 roundtrip, depending on how far you’re going and how populated the area you are headed to is. The time for the trip will be a bit longer but when money is on your mind, losing six hours and saving $150 is definitely worth it.
If you’re traveling alone, stay in a hostel
While there are some preconceived notions about the safety and quality of hostels from stereotypes portrayed in certain movies [i.e. “Hostel”], all the hostels I have stayed in over the years have been great. When looking at hostels, always go to trusted hostel websites like hostelworld and hostels. From there, make sure you’re in your price range. Whether your budget is $20 a night or $200, you’ll be sure to find something. Next, I always make sure they have metro access, are at least somewhat close to popular attractions of the city, have lockers and offer breakfast. Finally, I read the reviews to find the best hostel for me. I have yet to stay in a bad hostel [knock on wood] just by following these easy rules.
If you’re traveling with a group, stay in an Airbnb
I’m sort of new to the Airbnb scene because I really haven’t done much group traveling until Spain. In Madrid, Cuenca and Barcelona, I traveled with a group of people [four to nine of us for each trip] and we stayed in Airbnbs for all three. The Airbnbs were always nice, spacious and in perfect locations. I followed roughly the same rules for finding Airbnbs as I did for hostels and we were pleasantly surprised each and every time. Airbnbs make group travel much easier than a hostel [hostels fill up fast and there is no guarantee that you will be sleeping in the same room as your friends]. There also isn’t a common space to cook and hang out in a hostel. This isn’t as much of a problem when traveling with one person, however, with nine people, it’s sort of a hassle. Airbnbs offer all the commodities of a house or apartment which fit the needs of every traveler. You can spread out after a long day of walking, cook dinner, open a bottle of wine [or four] and play some card games all in the comfort of your own kitchen,
Use incognito mode
Airlines will hike up the prices for flights when they know you’re looking so make sure whenever you’re searching for hotels, flights, etc. you are using incognito mode [meaning your data and cookies won’t be saved, so websites can’t keep track of what you are searching] on your computer. This will save you so much time, money and you will be less stressed when you don’t see the prices change every time you refresh your page.
Picking the days of the week for your trip is SO important
When I went to Paris over my birthday weekend, I wanted to go from Thursday to Sunday. I couldn’t find a single flight below $200 to return on Sunday and I was becoming so disheartened. Would my dream of spending my birthday weekend in Paris not come true? Then, I changed the days of flights I was looking at to Friday to Monday. I booked a roundtrip flight for $96 [with RyanAir —100% recommend them for weekend trips when you aren’t packing a lot]. I was floored. Yes, weekends are the ideal time to travel for you, but that means they’re also the ideal time to travel for everyone else. Miss that Monday morning class and stay an extra day in Paris [SUCH a sacrifice], you might save over $100 😉
Use Trip Advisor or sites similar
I love doing touristy stuff when I go new places. Walking tours, museums, bus tours, etc. and Trip Advisor and Civatitis are the places to look. I booked free walking tours, bus tours, boat tours, and more using these websites for a lot cheaper online than with a travel company in the actual city. Through these, I not only saved tons of money but I met a lot of other solo travelers who I wound up spending the rest of time in that city. It’s truly a win-win.
Traveling through Europe isn’t just reserved for social media influencers and retirees. With these simple tricks and a little bargain hunting, anyone can make their dream of basking in the Tuscan sun or having a cappuccino while wearing a beret in Paris a reality.