Canadians flock down south in the summer months to have the time of their lives on a reasonable budget, with the idea that Europe is too far out of their price range to explore instead. In attempts to escape hectic work schedules and generally cooling temperatures that Canadian summers have to offer, relaxing on the beach for a week sounds like the ultimate summer vacation– until you’ve had a taste of Europe.
Many are frightened by the idea of spending their pay on travel when they have student loans to pay off, or are simply determined to work their way up the career ladder by attaining internships or working nonstop during their time off from school, only allowing themselves a quick and affordable getaway that travelling south is known to provide. What they don’t realize is that a longer flight for an even more spectacular experience is just as easy to pull off.As a university student travelling on a strapped cashier’s salary, I have learned a few helpful hints during my budgeted Europe travelling that I would have loved to know before embarking on a summer adventure. They say that “where there is a will, there is a way.” So get ready to grab some Euros and pack your bags. Diving into crystal clear waters without feeling too deep a plunge into your savings account is no longer just a dream away. Here’s how:
TRACK YOUR SPENDING
It’s hard not to be tempted by the rich cultural aspects European countries have to offer, to want to absorb the country’s delicacies and savoury foods that blow Canadian taste palettes out of the water, and to want to splurge on everything in sight from food and wine to shopping and sightseeing. However, the temptations are sliced as easily as a knife through French cheese with a careful budgeting system.
LEAVE YOUR CREDIT CARD/BANK CARDS SAFELY STOWED AWAY. Depending on the duration of your stay, create individual baggies with some coins and bills of the proper currency that will be enough for a day’s worth of getting through the city to keep your budget in check.
EMBRACE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION/USE YOUR WALKING SHOES. Whether you’re in Rome or The Netherlands, the streets are fairly easy to navigate and the people are helpful with directions in the event of becoming desperately lost. Taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists in particular, and the underground systems are usually much cheaper and more efficient for your stay.
SAVE YOUR CRAVE. A small breakfast and lunch will get you through the day as long as you’re constantly hydrated. You can also save money by refilling empty water bottles at public fountains. Many restaurants are looking to feed hungry tourists by dinner, with some adding perks like a free glass of champagne with your meal if you eat with them.
GET THERE CHEAPER AND FASTER WITH BUDGET AIRLINES
Why stay in one place when you can see a number of countries for ridiculously low prices? Flying within Europe can be as little as 20 Euros if you find the right airline. With a little research, RyanAir is my go to for European travelling. The flights always leave on time, and are comfortable and extremely affordable. Beware of extra charges for baggage or making an error while booking: the cheaper flights will find ways to make a little extra pocket cash themselves. Travel with carry-on baggage if possible, triple check passport numbers and name spellings, and avoid the stresses of endless train rides or bus trips.
READ THE REVIEWS
TripAdvisor may have given it an 8.0, Booking.com even an 8.2, and it may be the “best deal you’ll find today”. But what have previous travellers said? Customer reviews are always more informative than the website’s ranking. If you have specific needs that must be met for you to have an enjoyable trip abroad, whether it’s wifi access or air-circulation in your room, carefully read through client reviews before purchasing nights at a hostel or hotel. You may be getting a cheap deal, but some will still require you to pay the full duration even if an early checkout is necessary. Wifi may not work well or at al even if the site claims it to be. Your room may be entirely confined without air circulation and reach 48 degrees Celcius. Never judge an accommodation by it’s rating and claims for quality service at a cheaper price. Trust your fellow travellers.
ESCAPE DURING OFF-SEASON
July and August are a tourist’s worst nightmare: the heat is typically unbearable, the streets turn you claustrophobic, and the monuments and sights are often too crowded to get any Instagram worthy shots. If you can plan your getaway anywhere from April to June, you get to enjoy the spring weather which already feels like a Canadian summer without the chaos of sunglasses and oversized hats in your way. Mornings are also an easier time to avoid crowds and heat, getting you in and out of your desired pit stops comfortably, giving you more time to enjoy afternoons sunbathing on park blankets with a deli lunch or to leisurely stroll the ancient cobble-stone walkways.
GET TIPS FROM LOCALS
Whether it’s places to eat or a great place for cheap drinks, the locals know best. If you don’t speak their language, not to worry: majority are tourist-friendly, especially in the bigger city centres, and are happy to accommodate. Don’t be afraid to chat to others when you do go out for the evening: many are thrilled to talk to Canadians and learn about you just as you are excited to learn about the beautiful countries they live in.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE TOURS, OR BECOME YOUR OWN TOUR GUIDE
Many major European cities offer free guided walking tours of the city’s highlights at absolutely no cost. These tour guides are just an knowledgable as any other, and are always jovial and entertaining amidst the hours of absorbing European history. Tips are not mandatory either, but after spending 3+ hours with someone who made your free tour worth your time and energy, you’re more than willing to leave them with a parting gift. If you prefer enjoying the sights on your own, hotels and hostels will always offer maps to help you find your exploring destinations, and the staff will also be happy to recommend the must-sees that the city has to offer.
PLAN YOUR ITINERARY CAREFULLY
Planning ahead is always a safe bet to ensure that your trip will run entirely smoothly, but plans often change. Your beach day may be freezing cold and rainy. A surf tour may have to be cancelled if the weather doesn’t help the waves. A gondola ride on the Venetian canals may have to be cancelled if your train is too delayed to make it in time. Try to book only the tours or excursions you’re certain you can do rain or shine, or that don’t involve extra trips to get to the destination, and save the money lost on cancelled excursions by instead making a day trip out of your location of interest, and finding a cheaper and better option provided by smaller programs that offer similar amenities.