Written by Frederic Levesque
Thursday, September 12th, 2019
You've been setting aside some money for a few months now, perhaps even a few years, so you can one day splurge on your dream vacation. You've used a number of tips and tricks to save enough money to go to Europe with your family and you're now ready to start planning your trip.
Here are a few tips I used to get more for my money when I was planning my European vacation. The surprise? I managed to save over $4,300!
Tip 1: Choose an Affordable Destination
Of course, we all dream of Paris, London, the French Riviera and the Greek islands, but these can all be very expensive destinations. We took inspiration from this list of the 25 cheapest cities to rent an Airbnb in Europe and chose Slovenia and Croatia as our final destinations.
For a two-week trip, we expected to spend $400 less than if we had opted for France, the other destination we had considered.
Tip 2: Plan in Advance and Be Patient
It's a secret to no one: to get the best prices in terms of transportation and accommodations, you need to plan in advance. But above all, you have to be patient in order to snag the best deal possible. Start your search early to monitor price fluctuations.
We planned our vacation for over two years and visited booking websites regularly to find the best bargains.
Tip 3: Research Flights, Including Alternative Destinations
This is where major savings can be had. Of course, this makes sense because flying is the biggest expense when travelling. For a predetermined destination and period, prices usually vary according to supply and demand. It's impossible to know when airlines will raise or lower their prices. Ideally, use a search engine that will send you alerts when prices change.
For a round-trip flight to Venice, a city located not far from the Slovenia-Croatia border, I was able to book seats that cost me $300 less than the current average price. When I was checking, identical direct flights cost $900 more!
Tip 4: Collect and Use Points
The heaviest financial burden for this type of trip is to cover costs for the entire family. In our case, that's four people, children included. By using only one travel reward credit card for all of our common purchases, we were able to collect major travel bonuses over a long period of time, which we then used to cover the cost of two tickets and two checked suitcases.
This amounted to a massive saving of $3,050, for the flight alone!
Tip 5: Compare Ground Transportation Costs
Public transportation, cabs or car?
We were able to calculate the average rental price of a mid-size car that could comfortably seat two adults and two children. In the end, I finally found one at a discounted price and saved $240. When you see a price that suits you, jump on it and make a reservation. Rental cars can be refundable, free of charge, so that makes it easy to switch your rented car for a less expensive one. (Check your terms of service.)
Tip 6: Can You Book Accommodations Directly?
We were able to take advantage of a 15% discount on hotels and bungalows for the Croatia portion of our trip by booking 6 months in advance. I have the habit of booking my hotels one year in advance to get the best price. It's possible to cancel, free of charge, if you have to postpone your trip.
For Slovenia, I found the perfect country house on a well-known aggregation website. I was then able to find the host's personal website and book directly with him. Not only did that allow me to save the service charges, but I was also able to negotiate the waiving of clean-up fees and of our youngest child's stay.
Overall, we saved $665 in various accommodations expenses.
How to Save Once You're There
With the right plan, some patience and a bit of luck, you'll be ready for your trip, and you'll be happy that you managed to save some money for your stay. Here are a few tips to consider once you've reached your destination:
- Take advantage of the free guided tours offered in most major cities (it was the case in Venice, Ljubljana and Pula)
- Plan outdoor activities (Slovenian mountains and Croatian beaches are incredible)
- Find inexpensive grocery stores and eat locally
- Manage your money
Enjoy your holiday!