Traveling to Europe can cost a lot. This post will address the ways I saved money and how I planned this entire trip:
My total air ticket ended up costing $820, thanks to these online shopping tools:
- Airfarewatchdog http://www.airfarewatchdog.com/ – alerts if cheap flights have been spotted
- Bing http://www.bing.com/travel – with price predictor (tells you whether to wait for prices to drop)
- Orbitz http://www.orbitz.com – allows good customization of flights
Where to stay
Airbnb (http://www.airbnb.com/) was one of my most significant discoveries from this trip! Instead of staying at a plain vanilla hotel, I wanted to save some money and ended up using Airbnb to rent someone’s apartment. (You can save more more if you want a private room or just a couch!)
I ended up paying less than $80/night for the entire apartment to myself with wifi, washing machine, kitchen etc. The great thing about Airbnb is it’s not just for cheap places, but also high end places like a boat or even a castle…you get the idea.
Airbnb’s website was extremely user friendly. I just had to specify the dates I was looking for availability and region on a map. I continued by narrowing by price and amenities. I enjoyed looking through the apartment pictures to see if that’s what I wanted. If it was, I would star/favorite it, and review it with other ones later on.
Airbnb cleverly used my Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn as a simple background check for the host, letting them know I’m a legit person and not some creepster trying to rob their place.
What do you know, they have an Airbnb iPhone app here! =)
You can save $25 too if you use this special sign up page: http://www.airbnb.com/tell-a-friend?airef=vycyzf35d2zz5
Foreign Transaction Fees
Most people use their US credit cards in Europe, but there’s a 3% transaction fee (varies by card) you may not know about. You may be able to save more if you get your cash via ATM. By using my BofA card at Global ATM Alliance ATM machines, I was able to only be charged 1%. Check with your bank to see what they charge. This table may be useful to find your bank’s policy: http://flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php/Credit/Debit/ATM_Cards_and_Foreign_Exchange
Google Maps http://maps.google.com/
Use “My Places” and add your own placemarkers! Once you’re done, it should be obvious which places should be done together on the same day, allowing you to reduce travel time!
Google Docs (spreadsheet) http://docs.google.com
Use the spreadsheet to put down notes of places to see, restaurants to try, things to do. Best part is, you can collaborate with friends over the same spreadsheet. I’ve been using Google Docs for over 5 years now…a very solid tool.
This $3.99 iPhone app is not only an OFFLINE maps app (allows you to save multi-layered maps tiles via Open Street Maps), but more importantly allows your Google Maps placemarkers to sync onto your iPhone OFFLINE. That was extremely powerful for me in Europe where I didn’t have cellular or wifi coverage (can’t use the built in Maps app). I don’t know how else to put it…offline-friendly apps are super useful!
Email all your travel confirmation emails (from hotel, flight, train etc.) to Tripit, and they will collect everything together into one list. Very useful. They even have a free iPhone/iPad app here! Offline-friendly too!
It’s difficult enough travelling into Europe and not speak the language…but it’s even worse when you’re not able to contact your travel buddies who have wondered off. The best solution? A cell phone of course! If you have an unlocked cell phone, you can use Telestial’s rechargable $5 prepaid sim card: http://www.telestial.com/view_product.php?ID=MSIM-PPL2 You get a UK + USA number (SMS enabled), and works no matter which country you are at. Each country has a carrier it will automatically switch to. This was the best solution for an emergency phone. The rates are certainly not the best, but I don’t think anyone will complain. I’m impressed with Telstial’s simple and affordable offering.