"The Penny Pincher's Guide to Europe"
Jonathan Larsen is an expert on European Travel and the author of "The Penny Pincher's Guide to Europe." He stopped by our studio to answer his most frequently asked questions about traveling on a budget.
You'll find more information about "The Penny Pincher's Guide to Europe" on our books page.
1. Best way to find a cheap flight?
Use a flight tracker on each of the major travel web engines such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Bing Travel. These will update you daily, alerting you of any changes in price. You can also use any credit card points or frequent flyer miles you may have toward the cost of the flight. Some people in the industry say Tuesday night is when the major airline carriers post their new deals for the week so stay up late on Tuesday to snag your deal. Once you purchase your flight never look back!
2. How to save on accommodations in Europe?
Hotels can be expensive in Europe, even 1 star hotels. Look into alternatives like B&B's, pensions, and vacation apartments which are rarely used by American tourists. Use tripadvisor to gain candid pictures of accommodations from tourist who actually stayed there, trust me I have learned from experience that a hotels pictures on their website isn't always what you get.
3. What is the best way to get around Europe on a budget? Train, rental car, public transit...?
Train is the easiest means of transportation with a vast network of trains across Europe, the Eurail Train Pass can be very economical. For larger stretches look into Ryan Air or Easy Jet for low cost flights within Europe that can be cheaper and faster than train, they are the Southwest and Jetblue of Europe.
4. How can I avoid baggage fees?
All carriers allow one free checked bag when flying international. Make sure you pack just one bag, it is as simple as that. Seasoned travelers know you don't need to pack the kitchen sink just the necessities.
5. Are restaurants expensive in Europe? How do I avoid spending too much on food?
You need to eat at restaurants in Europe to experience the delicious food, but not for every meal. Save money by eating a big breakfast at your hotel, for lunch eat what is called a "picnic lunch" by purchasing tasty fresh bread and cheese that is cheap in Europe. Take advantage of the yummy street food vendors that are inexpensive and some of the best food you will eat in Europe. Watch out for tourist trap restaurants that put signs out saying "we speak English" most times the food is more expensive and not as good. Set a food budget before you leave and stick to it.
6. Are group tours really worth the cost or should I travel on my own to save?
Sometimes they can be, but if you do not like being in a large group look into small group tours they cater more to the independent traveler. One thing you will defintiely save is time by having a guide, and sometimes that is worth more than money.
7. Is purchasing a city pass in big cities worth it?
Do your homework on the cost of museums and attractions in the city you will be visiting and then do the math to see if the pass is worth it. In most big cities like Rome and Paris the pass is well worth it, if you take advantage of seeing all the things listed on the pass. Most city passes also cover public transit while in the city which is great deal.
8. Being on a budget is travel insurance really worth the cost?
Yes! Don't think you can save a little money by skipping travel insurance. For a small anount of $50 or less you can almost receive full coverage on your trip and trust me you never know when you might need it.