Discount European travel ideas



If you’ve always wanted to see the sites in Rome, Paris, Madrid or Amsterdam, now is the time to book that European get-away. Never mind the weak dollar. The silver lining in today’s troubled economy means bargains abound all over the Continent.


First you have to get there


Leisure and business travel are down, so airlines are offering great fares from New York and other east coast cities to Europe’s most popular destinations. But don’t count on the ticket agent at their 800 number to tell you about them. They’re catering to the people who have to travel. Or people who aren’t looking for a lower price.


The Sunday New York Times travel section is a great place to start your search for travel deals. Each week, there are dozens of discount European travel ideas in the ads. Don’t forget to carefully read the articles, too…tidbits on cheaper flights and other travel savings are often buried in the stories.


Another way to find cheap airfares to Europe is by signing up for newsletters and notifications on the airlines’ websites. Although more ads in your inbox can seem annoying, these messages often contain special discounts available only to subscribers. Some airlines even let you choose your favorite city of departure plus the destinations in which you’re most interested, so the offers will be very targeted to your needs.


Now decide where to stay


How do you want to see Europe? Are you a fan of 5-star hotels and incomparable attention to detail? Or would you prefer to experience the country first hand, while staying in a small pension, a busy hostel, or quaint bed and breakfast? No matter which end of spectrum you prefer, the global economic strife means deals are everywhere.


Check out the city or town’s website for links to local accommodations. Area newspapers, often available online or a larger newspaper and magazine shops, frequently carry ads for cheaper rates.


See if your airline offers special discounts with your flight. Many do, and the difference in price can be substantial.


Another source for discount European travel ideas is in your wallet. See if the clubs, associations, community groups or professional organizations you belong to offer discounts on hotels. And don’t forget your credit cards – many give members substantial discounts if they book using the card. Even some employers have discount arrangements with international chains. Usually, you don’t have to be traveling on business to qualify, but check to make sure before you decide.


I’m so hungry, I could eat a…


You want to sample the local cuisine and you want to eat well. Unfortunately in some of the larger European cities, the bill (or cheque) can look more like a car payment than the price of a meal.


The solution? Eat where the locals eat. If you avoid the touristy places, you’ll also avoid the touristy prices. Ask your hotel clerk, the taxi driver or the lady in the shop where they most like to eat. Not only will you save money, but you’ll experience the country more like the locals do instead of just as visitor.


Another way to reduce food costs is to eat fresh. Most European cities and town have a farmer’s market or green grocer. Make of meal of fresh fruits, raw veggies, local cheese and some fresh bread. Find a pretty park or a tranquil riverside – in most European cities, that’s easy – and enjoy your feast.


If you don’t mind a crowd…


When all else fails, you can always turn to the old stand-by in discount European travel ideas: the group tour. Admittedly, being hoarded on and off buses and into and out of tourist sites is not much of a vacation for some. But it is often much cheaper than traveling alone.


Try to find a tour that has some down days in the cities you most want to visit. That will give you a chance to explore at your own pace, and see the sites you really don’t want to miss.


Or check with a travel agent or tour operator to see if you can piggy back on part of the tour. Tour operators will sometimes even allow this for little or no cost if they’ve had a last minute cancellation and the spot was prepaid.


Bon voyage!


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