Europe is an extremely popular continent to travel to, and whenever we think of taking a big holiday, Europe is the top-of-mind destination.
Whether you are looking to plan a shopping trip at Paris and London or an Italian escapade, or anywhere else in that fascinating continent that has so much history, cultures and lifestyles to offer, planning a big trip may not be easy. There may be hidden costs that you never knew of, or miscalculations of supposed savings.
For first-timers to Europe, this guide will help you make more efficient and effective planning. If you have been traveling to Europe, can you resonate with these points and could you have saved more if you abided by these cost-saving tips for a holiday to Europe?
#1 LOOK OUT FOR AIR TICKET SALES FROM TIME TO TIME
We often score deals from our constant stalking. Follow your favourite airlines on their social media platforms, because that is where they will shout-out about their sales. They are more often than not early bird specials, and they can be as wonderful as a whopping 50% discount.
Let us paint you an example: a regular return ticket to London Heathrow Airport (out of Singapore) on Singapore Airlines will easily cost mid-S$2000. A promotional return flight can be as attractive as S$1,300 after taxes and fuel surcharges.
Other times can be dump rates, where last minute deals are offered simply because they need to fill up a flight. Impromptu holidays are always fun, yes? Book your sale tickets today, and fly tomorrow.
There is no fixed pattern per se. They all depend on several variables – season, demand, carrier, length of stay…
#2 CHECK YOUR OPTIONS FOR RETURN FLIGHTS – YOU NEED NOT FLY BACK FROM THE SAME CITY YOU FLEW IN TO
Yes, it is safe to say that it is mostly cheaper to fly in and out of the same city. Open-city tickets are typically more expenisve, but that does not mean you are spending more. In fact, the price difference may bring about more cost savings.
Say you are starting your holiday at Paris, and you fly in to Charles de Gulle (CDG) airport. Your last stop is Rome, which probably means you have to do an inter-city transfer back to Paris to fly out from CDG airport. That amount you are going to pay for your domestic flight ticket or train ticket may well cost more than the price difference we spoke about. The opportunity cost would of course be the time wasted on the inter-city transfer, when that time could have been better invested in more sight-seeing.
Check both prices – the return flights from the same city and the open-city option – then check your inter-city transfer options. Work your sums before you secure all your tickets.
#3 DON’T BE TOO OVER-AMBITIOUS AND CRAMP TOO MANY DESTINATIONS IN YOUR ITINERARY
Now, this is arguably the most important lesson we’ve learned from multiple trips to Europe. On our first, we were overly eager and psyched about the sheer idea of taking a big holiday. And naturally, it is human’s nature that when you invest this much money on air tickets and large amount of time on a holiday, you’d want to clock more destinations and go to as many cities as you can.
Sure, that is not wrong. But logistically and realistically, it won’t work out. Being over-ambitious when planning your itinerary will bring about fatigue, frustrations, and rat races. The frequent mistake we hear of (as with our own on our first Europe trip) is allocating only 3D2N per city. And why is this wrong? Let us illustrate.
You arrive at your first destination, you take some time to administrate your check-ins and to freshen up with a hot shower, you settle down with a first proper meal. By the time you are set to sight-see, your day might well be over. That leaves you with the next and only full day to tick off whatever you want to do in that city. Because the third day is your last and you are supposed to move on to your next destination, which only means you’d have to pack up and process your check-out, then make your way to the airport/ train station. Even if your flight/ train is at night, your tour is limited because there is only so many things you can do when lugging your suitcases.
‘Being over-ambitious when planning your itinerary will bring about fatigue, frustrations, and rat races.’
And the pattern goes on for your subsequent destinations. So you see, if you do a 3D2N per city, or even a 4D3N, your time per pit stop is very limited and please do not forget the possibility of unforeseen circumstances, such as unexpected long queues, unannounced one-day closure of a place/ restaurant for whatever reasons, rain and harsh weather conditions etc.
From our experience, it is ideal to map out your priorities when you plan your itinerary. Allocate more days for cities that you have a lot to clock, and have a list of must-sees and can-do-withouts so that you’d know where to head to first. Leave some breathing space for yourself; chasing flights are not fun, so is walking a mile to an attraction and having only ten minutes for photos before rushing off to your next point.
#4. THERE ARE MORE ACCOMMODATION DEALS THAT AWAIT YOU BEYOND PAGE ONE OF YOUR SEARCH
Of course, the top few searches are always your best bets. But for all you know, you may find steals if you would just scroll past the first page of your search results. Speaking from real experience, we promise. The ones that we end up staying at are often the ones that we found from much scrolling and filtering.
Also letting you in is the fact that the web will display results they want you to see and act on. Of course, that may mean the site is commissioned to displaying those “deals” as the top few. Don’t be fooled by those instigating messages like “Only for 1 day” and “1 room left”. You don’t know how infuriating it was for us when we fell for those, only to go back to the site a week later and realize that the supposed last room we paid for is still available – sometimes even cheaper!
#5 BOOK YOUR STAYS WITH AIRBNB
In case you don’t already know, we are huge fans and believers of Airbnb – especially when we take trips to Europe. There will always be apartments that fit our budgets, no matter big or small.
And they make better accommodations because European hotels tend to be small and cramped and leaves you with no space to walk after you open up your suitcase, but Airbnb apartments usually offer more space. And that’s more bang for your buck!
Stay where the locals stay, breathe in the neighbourhood and learn from the locals on where they wine and dine; Airbnb stays are always more atmospheric and charming. Sign up for your Airbnb account via our link and enjoy S$34 off your first booking.
#6 DO NOT STINGE ON YOUR ACCOMMODATION AND COMPROMISE ON THE LOCATION
We are done with compromising on locations just to save a few more euros at a farther hotel/ apartment. Nope, not gonna do that anymore.
Stinge on your accommodation and you get a lousy location that will have you walk for what seemed like eternity before you reach the nearest bus stop. Or it may also mean you have to change a hundred buses plus walk for a century before you get to the main shopping street/ attraction.
‘Airbnb will always be apartments that fit our budgets, no matter big or small. And they make better accommodations because European hotels tend to be small and cramped.’
Waste of time, waste of money on multiple trips and long taxi rides, and waste of energy. Pay a bit more to stay next to the train station, or of walking distance to the areas that you will be going to a lot. You will be thankful to have parted with that extra amount of money.
#7 THERE MAY OR MAY NOT BE A NEED TO BUY UNLIMITED TRANSPORT PASSES
Many cities offer passes for unlimited bus and train rides. Those can be pretty value-for-money, especially if you know you are going to travel within the city quite a bit to get to your many points. But you may not need it too, if where you are putting up at is strategically located within the main areas.
We can’t say for sure when you would or would not need one, so don’t rush into buying one. Study your itinerary, do simple calculations on the number of trips you would need to take on the bus/ train, then decide if you need one.
#8 MUSEUM PASSES AND FAST PASSES, TOO
Some cities offer passes of such that grant you unlimited museum visits and/ or fast passes. They may not come cheap, so be sure to decide on the attractions you intend to visit before you make a commitment to buy these passes.
But more often than not, they bring about cost savings – both literal and opportunity costs. For example, a Roma Pass costs approximately €30. It includes two museum entrances and fast passes. What do you know? We skipped the crazy snaking queue of 2 hours to enter the Colosseum!
#9 INTER-CITY TRAIN TICKETS MAY BE ON SALE
If you are headed to various cities by train, check out the website regularly prior to your trip. Don’t book the first one you see, because for all you know, there will be a half-priced ticket for the same fleet when you check back again three days later.
Same as air ticket sales, there is no fixed pattern. But all you need to do is to spend a minute every day to try your luck on the booking sites, and the moment you see a significant “dip” or an unheard of price, then you know that is the ticket for you.
Well, spontaneity may also bring about cost savings. And risks. We tried buying tickets for the same day travel at the train station itself, and some had us paying a premium, while some saw savings of almost 50%.
#10 PREP YOURSELF WITH CONNECTIVITY BY SECURING TRAVEL WIFI DONGLES OR PREPAID DATA CARDS
Another important point to note is the availability of travel wifi dongles and/ or prepaid data cards at wherever you are going to. Some cities offer really good deals with immediate activation, while places like Paris would require a painful 3-day activation – which means you might end up paying for nothing because by the time your card is activated, it is time to kiss the City of Love goodbye.
You know what? Place your trust in Changi Recommends. Their travel wifi is a life-saver and it is completely hassle-free. Just make your booking prior to your departure, pick it up at the terminal you are flying off from, and activation is immediate upon landing.
#11 BRING MORE CASH TO SHOP
Simply because credit cards’ exchange rate are usually not favourable and you will end up paying more for that Chanel 2.55. No biggie for small items, but if you are already planning for your luxury shopping, then have the cash ready. Sounds oxymoronic, but shop with cash to save more!
#12 DO YOU REALLY NEED A CAR?
Lastly, if you fancy driving overseas, think again – do you really need a car? Would it incur more costs instead? Parking in Europe is not cheap, and that is to say the least. Some historic places and protected areas forbid parking altogether, so you might end up spending another sum on taxi or public transport to get to the attraction.
Do your research and have a better understanding of the parking costs and availability before you decide on whether to rent a car or not.
A trip to Europe is always an exciting one to look forward to. From jaw-dropping landscapes to majestic structures, each holiday there feels like a unique adventure. So make your trip a fruitful one with these 10 things to note before travelling to Europe.