A guide to seeing Europe with little to no money:
I knew that when I was over in England I wanted to do as much traveling as humanly possible. So for the past two weeks me and my travelling partner in crime have been scheming our great European adventure. This as the hardest part of planning our journey. We had to figure out where we wanted to go and find cheap transportation between the places we desired to visit. Traveling around Europe can be relatively inexpensive if you know where to look. We used ryanair and easyjet when looking for flights between our destinations and back to Manchester. Here you can find really good deals on flights, but there are some catches. You have to pay for your checked luggage, you can only fly to certain city and there are limited times to fly. I spent a lot of time reworking our schedule around flight schedules to find the cheapest option. Another great transportation service is megabus. This is an inexpensive bus service that runs in England, the USA and several countries in Europe. I heard of megabus before coming overseas and have used the website to look up bus tickets to New York City. The website is super easy to use and you can get some really amazing deals. On our adventure we will be using megabus twice, cutting out some really pricey train tickets. The bus tickets we are using each cost £12 and we will be saving roughly $100 by cutting out the train rides. Now that is what I call thrifty shopping. When originally planning our trip we looked at a lot of train tickets and to my surprise they were all really expensive. I thought that travelling by train was very typical around Europe, but prewarning this is not the case. If you are planning a trip around Europe keep in mind that there are several options in doing this on a budget. I was a little scared when we began planning our trip because I have anxiety when it comes to spending money and I knew that this would be pricey adventure. So being able to find cheap modes of transportation really eased my stress.
To be honest we also planed the trip around where we could stay for free. Oh free, one of the most beautiful words in the English language! To our surprise Sam has family that lives in Brussels and they offered us a place to stay. For those of you who don’t know Brussels is in Belgium and is the capital of the European Union. I also emailed my friend from college, who has done a ton of travelling in Europe, for advice on our trip and suggestions of where to visit. She suggested that we stay with her family that lives in Switzerland. Now I was really excited because I never thought that Switzerland would be an option because she told me how expensive it is there. Luckily we found great flights on easyjet and it became a possibility. Plus Basel, where her parents live, is right on the border of France and Germany, so that means we will get to visit Germany. This I am very excited about because my family came from Germany and better yet they came from the area where we will be visiting! Talk about success. My suggestion to you when planning a trip is to ask around and find out if you have family or even friends of family that live in the areas that you will be travelling to. It is a great way to have a guaranteed place to stay and a friendly face for guidance.
There were a couple of places we definitely wanted to see, those being Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and Rome. Then fitting in the places we could stay for free, we built our schedule and found our flights, bus tickets and one train ride. Our final schedule includes Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rome, Venice and Basel. Six cities and travelling to six countries. Wahoo!!!
With the schedule set we had to figure out where we were staying in Paris, Rome and Venice. We were already taken care of for five nights and we just had to figure out four nights of sleeping. Keeping with the budget friendly options I began to explore different websites offering cheap accommodations. I started my hunt with couchsurfing, which is a website where people offer their spare room to “surfers” aka travelers for no cost. Now, I’ve never used this sort of thing before, but I’ve heard a lot about it. The way it works is you create an account, put in information about your trip (when you will be arriving and leaving, how many surfers and a bit about what you are looking for in a host). After this you are brought to a page with a bunch of hosts and you pick the ones you want to send a message to about staying with them. This site is a really good place to start, but it hasn’t worked out the best for this trip because many of the hosts don’t get back to you right away, so plan accordingly. I know that this is not everyone’s cup of tea, so if you aren’t into staying on a strangers couch there are still other options. Hostels are the next option for budget friendly travel. I’ve been using hostelworld.com to look up places to stay, but there are other hostel booking site. I really like hostelworld.com because you can filter based on price and ratings, all while looking at a map showing where the hostels are located. This feature is really helpful because you obviously want a place that is centrally located, close to tourist attractions and near public transportation. We will be staying in hostels in a couple of cities for about $30 a night. Lastly, I’ve also been looking at rental sites on which you can find private rooms to whole apartments to rent. Now this is the most expensive option I’ve been looking at. With that said these places you will be renting are of much higher standard and you can even have a whole place to yourself. The sites I’ve been looking at are airbnb.com and holidayletting.co.uk. Both of these sites offer different rental styles with a range of prices. If you are going to be traveling with a group, renting is actually a really good idea because on these sites you normally pay by night and can just split the final cost. These have been the three accommodation styles that I have been looking into while planning all my trips. There are other options of course, like camping, hotels and motels. My final suggestion on choosing a place to stay is look up the address on Google maps. By doing this you can see what the building looks like from a street view, this way you can see what the neighborhood looks like, and you can also see the location proximity to the metro and other public transportation. Also, you can put in the directions to some of the sites you want to see and find out how long it will take to get there by walking. This is a great way to get an understanding of the location and how to plan out your days.
The final step in planning our trip is deciding what to do! Now this is the fun part. For certain places there are obvious things to do and see, but why limit ourselves to just what we know? Using the glorious internet you can find hidden jems in cities, lists of free activities and helpful tips about navigating through the European streets. One of the best places to start is on pinterest. You need an account, but once you have one you are free to explore the millions of posts from fashion, DIY, cooking, movies and travel. In the search bar just look up the city or area you are going to and bam a bunch of pins come up about planning your vacation. Another great tool is tripadvisor.co.uk, here you can look up by location and seem lists of attractions separated into several categories such as culture, performance, landmarks and museums. Tripadvisor can also be used for finding hotels, flights and restaurants. It is all around a great website when planning any sort of trip, very helpful, plus you get real people’s reviews on things. Finally, blogs are a great place to find out information. I follow several travel blogs which provide a ton of info on how to prepare yourself for a trip and what to do and see. You can find travel blogs through search engines or on blogging sites. If you want to get a detailed summary of a persons experience, reading a blog is the way to go. Also my best friend Google always has your back! Last night I spent some time on Google images finding sightseeing and metro maps. This way I just have to print the maps off and not have to buy a tourist book.
Basically, when planning any sort of trip you have to do your research. Plan according to your budget and use the internet to the best of your abilities. I’m a list maker and I have a notebook filled with information about this trip. I’ve made schedules, plans and packing lists. Be prepared when you are travelling and you can take on any challenge. I will be writing a blog post for each of the places we visit, though I’m not sure if I will be able to post them while in Europe because internet will not always be available.
Until next time…