By no means am I a travel expert, but I am a college student able to see the world on an incredibly tight budget, and that’s got to count for something, right? I just got back from the European vacation of a lifetime with my best friend. In just under a month, we visited Hungary, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Scotland, and England. We ate, drank, explored, and did it all for under $4k. Here are some tips and tricks that helped us along the way.
Tip #1 - Ditch your parents
Grab your best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, cousin, neighbor, random person you met on the way to the airport, literally anyone except your parents, and hit the road! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE traveling with my parents, but there’s such a new perspective to be gained by traveling with your peers. Not having mom and dad around may make things harder, less comfortable, and most definitely more expensive…but I promise it’s worth it.
Tip #2 - Travel off the beaten path
It’s no secret that Europe can be crazy expensive. Popular destinations can be borderline unaffordable if you’re planning on staying for more than 20 minutes - but don’t let that scare you! I HIGHLY recommend throwing some destinations into the mix that make your friends say, “you went where?”
For us, it was Slovenia, the most beautiful storybook country we didn’t know existed. We happened to stumble upon Slovenia while looking for a cheaper alternative to the beautiful lakes and stunning alps of Switzerland. Going in with no expectations, we were absolutely blown away by what the country had to offer.
Tip #3 - Do as the locals do
Once you’ve made it to an incredible European country, there comes the costs of living and exploring. “Would you rather eat lunch or go to that museum?” was an all too real question we asked ourselves almost daily. We found it best, and cheapest, to do as the locals do. We took advantage of museums with free entry, student discounts, local festivals, hole-in-the-wall bars, picnics in the park, and cooked at our hostels and Airbnbs whenever possible.
Tip #4 - Stay outside the city
Trying to find affordable accommodation in a popular destination can be tough. We ran into this problem in Amsterdam, with hostels completely booked three months out and even the cheapest of hotel rooms soaring into the triple digits. Our solution? Stay on a houseboat a few miles outside of the city! Not only did we get the chance to explore even more of the Netherlands, but we also were able to save money for other aspects of our trip.
Tip #5 - Utilize not-your-average forms of transportation
As mentioned above, staying a little further from the city can save you loads of money, but then comes the question of getting into the city you're trying to visit. Well, sometimes you’ve got to get creative! We decided to do as the Dutch do, and rented bicycles. We enjoyed an incredible ride through the Amsterdam forest and stumbled upon hidden gems like the Het Bacchus Wijnfestival, a whimsical food and wine festival in the middle of Amsterdam’s biggest park. Some things you just can’t see by car
Tip #6 - Don’t forget to treat yourself
You’re not in Europe every day. Order that extra glass of wine, spend a night in a nice hotel, add your dream destination to the itinerary. Just don’t go overboard! We decided to splurge on a night at The Garden Village Eco Resort in Bled, Slovenia. As avid adventurers, the idea of spending a night sleeping over a river, under the stars was too hard to pass up and totally worth every penny!
Tip #7 - Be flexible
Traveling is not always as glamours as it seems. When the dryer fails and you have to travel with a suitcase full of wet clothes, embrace it. When the weather isn’t ideal, explore. When all you want to do is take a nap, power through. And when given the opportunity, travel. Travel as far and as widely as possible. Travel doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to be for long. So what are you waiting for?