Planning a Safe and Purse-Friendly European Vacation
Trying to plan a spring break trip to Europe that won’t leave you broke? Good luck; those things are expensive! When you add up airfare, hotels, daily transportation, meals and alcohol, you could be spending close to $1500!
What’s a girl to do?
A few years ago, I backpacked through Greece with a close friend. We spent eight days traveling throughout the country, taking ferries, visiting the islands, lounging on the beach and shopping. It was a fabulous vacation and we both managed to spend under $1000! How did we save so much money? We didn’t eat huge meals, took transportation during off-peak hours and stayed in hostels.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: hostels are gross! And to tell you the truth, they are. But, if you’re traveling in Europe and want to save a few bucks, you’re going to have to stay in them. Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips for hostel survival and general vacation budgeting from someone who’s been there:
1) Never travel alone- It’s always best to have a buddy with you, especially if you’re staying in large communal rooms. Although I traveled with a girl friend, having a boy around definitely couldn’t hurt.
2) Book ahead for your first night- Even if you’re planning on winging it and staying wherever your feet (or that strange European train) take you, you’re going to want to have a guaranteed bed your first night, so figure out where you’re staying before you leave the country. For the remainder of the trip you can use the hostel’s computer or go to a local Internet cafe to book your stays the day of. By booking last minute, you can choose your next destination based on the price of a room…
3) Think about going suitcase-less- If they’re making me pay $15 a bag just to fly from Boston to Baltimore, I can only imagine how much they’ll charge to bring my suitcase all the way to Europe. Instead, try to consolidate your clothing, toiletries, etc into something you can carry on the plane. Think about it this way: you’ll not only save money but also have less stuff to schlep around from place to place.
4) Bring shower shoes- Even if you’re packing light, you can re-wear them on the beach. Communal showers are disgusting. End of story.
5) Take the top bunk- My second night in the hostel in Athens, I found myself tossing and turning and unable to sleep. I kept having this dream that the guy in the bed next to me was watching me. Well, it wasn’t a dream. When I opened my eyes, the creepy guy was staring at me. Plus, his feet were in my bed. Now, I realize that creepy guys can still watch you sleep when you’re in the top bunk bed, but they’ll definitely be less likely to try to climb in bed with you. Another option would be to ask ahead and see if they have an all female room. Yeah, you could run into some crazy ladies, but they’re a lot less threatening than creepy stalker men!
6) Skip the communal room and “splurge” on a private one- If the above story or that awful movie Hostel (which I refuse to see) freak you out, you should definitely get a private room. The night after the incident, my friend and I opted for a hotel. But honestly, you don’t really have to do that; the price of private rooms is not all that much higher than staying in a communal room, especially if you’re traveling in a big group.
7) Take advantage of the hostel’s knowledgeable staff- Want to find the hottest beach or the best place to get a cheep beer? The people working at the hostel are your best bet. Sometimes they can even give you restaurant coupons; I know we scored 10% off our first Greek meal simply by asking for restaurant recommendations!
8 ) Don’t go to Starbucks- It’s not like you don’t have 5 of them on your campus already. Why spend money on an already overpriced drink at a boring American location, when you can discover a little cafe unique to your destination?
What are your money saving vacation tips?