Guest Author - Julie Emrich Fredrick
So, you’re planning a trip to Europe this year, despite the decreasing value of the dollar. There are ways to stay in Europe without emptying your nest egg, you just have to be willing to think outside the box and maybe step outside of your comfort zone. You do not, however, have to give up comfort completely. In fact, some of my suggestions below will likely open your eyes to a whole new way to experience Europe.
If motel-type accommodations are your priority, check out Europe’s ever-expanding range of chain hotels of all price ranges. Many of these chains cater specifically to the budget-minded traveler. One of Europe’s largest is Premier Inn, offering Motel 6- type of accommodation at budget prices.
No matter your religion, Monastery and Convent stays range from $150 to $30 for a double, but some offer a simple single bed in a monk’s cell or dorm room for free. (But donations are appreciated.) Typically, Convents can be found in most European cities, Monasteries are generally in more rural areas outside of the larger cities. If you choose one of these options, take advantage of the cultural experience surrounding you. There will likely be gardens and free tours of the buildings.
Hospitality exchanges and house-swapping are another great way to stay for free in the countries where you travel. The Hospitality Club is a free world-wide organization run by volunteers that helps to match the traveler and host in the desired area. Since the home owner is sharing his home with you, privacy should not be essential. Take advantage of living among the locals, learning the “insider scoop” of the area. Many hosts will readily play “tour guide”, and it is a nice idea to show your appreciation with a small gift or a meal in a restaurant.
Home Exchange is the largest program of its kind world-wide, at a cost of $10.00 per month. The advantage is that you and your family have an entire house to yourself, and oftentimes the use of the homeowners automobile, as well, making it easy to live like a local, purchasing food at local markets and saving even more money by preparing meals at “home”.
Apartment flats or country villas have recently become very popular. They are a wonderful and inexpensive way to explore your surroundings for those wishing to stay for a week or more. (However, most major cities have apartments for rent for a minimum of 3 days). A rental car is necessary if you are in a rural area. Utilize Google.com or your favorite search engine for listings.
Hostels offer bare-bones and cheap accommodations, and are not just for backpackers anymore. It is possible to stay in a private room, sometimes with a private bathroom.
One of my favorite ways to save money is to arrange night trains between cities, reserving a sleeper. Often much cheaper than a room, this option allows you to maximize daylight hours for sightseeing.
Last but certainly not least, plan to travel during non-peak times. Shoulder season (April, May, September and October for summer destinations) not only offers less expensive rates, but has fewer crowds, as well.