Here at the travel desk I am seeing the impact of the slowing economy on people’s choices when they are considering a trip to Europe. Every day I get calls from customers expressing their desire to discover new ways to save money on travel. Cost, of course, has always been an issue when it comes to planning a trip to Europe, and in some cases, people are feeling like they shouldn’t take a trip at all. I always hate to hear this because I know that your summer plans are often one of the highlights of the year, and offer a chance for people to spend quality time with their family. I thought I would do a 3 part series on how to save money when traveling. These are some tips that I have picked up talking to our customers. I think they offer opportunities to cut down on your vacation costs and enable you to enjoy your trip without worrying about money so much.
- Cut Down on Meal Costs: Spending on food is one of the biggest factors in how much a vacation ends up costing you. I always try to eat breakfast at my hotel as much as possible; this is especially true if breakfast is included with the room. In my experience in traveling in Europe the food is almost always good, and of course, that’s one meal every day that you aren’t paying for. Another good tip is to visit the local grocer and purchase some fruit or ingredients for sandwiches and snacks. This is especially helpful if you plan ahead and book yourself a room with a refrigerator. If your hotel does not have refrigerators in the room, you can always ask at the front desk if they will store your food in the hotels refrigerator. Make yourself a small lunch before you go out sightseeing for the day; not only will you be able to eat whenever you get hungry, but you should be cutting your lunch costs substantially. If you combine these two tips, you can get by with paying to eat out only once a day. I also really like this method because I never feel guilty about going where I want for that one meal I’m actually going to spend money on.
- Cut Back on Shopping Costs: Shopping during the course of your vacation can really add up to a significant portion of your overall expenditures. Everyone wants to take back souvenirs, gifts for friends, and other interesting things that you find along the way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending money on items to remember your trip by, just remember to be smart about it. Avoid touristy souvenir shops with inflated prices. When I’m tempted to spend €12 on that “I Love Paris” coffee mug or ₤25 on a “London Bridge” sweatshirt, I force myself to stop and take a moment to think about it. Will the item actually get used or will it just be part of next year’s neighborhood garage sale? Instead, think about purchasing something from the local market – like a your favorite French candy bar you discovered or authentic English breakfast tea. It won’t cost much and your family and friends will appreciate that you thought of them and you’ll save a bunch on your budget.
Also, don’t be afraid to haggle with vendors (in destinations where this is acceptable, of course). I can’t begin to tell you how many people there are who don’t haggle on price simply because they’re not used to it. However, you can actually save a considerable amount of money on purchases with a little verbal finesse. When haggling with people, I always pick a price that I am not willing to go above. The key part of this is truly forcing yourself to stick with that number. If they are unwilling to meet it, then walk away. I’ve found that 90% of the time vendors sense that you are serious, and you get your purchase for less than that top number.
Another tip: one of the most popular ways to save money, even while spending it, is to use your credit card. While most credit card companies charge a flat 2-4% fee on foreign transactions, they also have the best exchange rates. Talk to your credit card company about getting a PIN number so that you can withdraw money from foreign ATMs at the optimized exchange rate. It seems trivial, but these small savings definitely have the potential to add up over time.