Tips for European Savings: Even for those of us who benefit now from a stronger dollar, Europe seems expensive starting with the airfare! For leisure solo travel this is especially true since those traveling the world alone have no one to split the bill. The good news? Our research has found 4-5 star hotels that are $199 or even far less/night.
I began dreaming of traveling to Europe as 12 year old studying French, Later, as a European exchange student, I discovered that it was better to plan ahead when traveling abroad, especially on a slim budget. This became clear the night that a friend and I spent locked in the Brussels train station. We had been surprised to find out trains did not run all night. That left us with two options at midnight: We could stay put until daybreak or wander around outside looking for lodging. Fortunately, those days are over, but I still find planning ahead results in savings and better quality.
Although many people say they don’t book ahead at least beyond the first night, you are then stuck with whatever is available at any price. In recent years following business meetings in Switzerland, a colleague and I rented a car to travel through the French countryside flying home via Paris. The one night we could not find lodging at any price it looked like we would have t o sleep in the car in chilly 32 degree weather. Although we finally found a B&B, I was too tired to notice that, absent room service, my morning coffee made from the tap was filled with rusty water!
Tips for European Savings: Tip 1:
If your destination is a major city, such as London or Paris, check out listings in the suburbs and consider an apartment/house swap or short-term rental via the Internet. Pick a location on a principal subway/commuter rail line for easy access back into the city center.
If cost rather than charm is compelling for you, look at comparative pricing at airport motels. Since international airports are far from most cities, generally there is access to public transportation. I found a real steal at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Most airport hotels are modern with WIFI and health clubs.
Tips for European Savings: Tip 2:
Go beyond the suburbs to stay in a nearby town with local sightseeing and easy access back into the capital.
Great examples abound outside of Paris: Versailles, Fontainebleau and Chartres have abundant charm and local tourists’ sights worth at least a full day at a more affordable rate.
Nearby to London: Oxford is filled with history and interesting architecture about an hour away.
In addition, smaller towns are perfect for leisure solo travel/trips for single travelers. They provide more opportunity to meet people who live there and give a truer glimpse of daily life.
Tips for European Savings: Tip 3:
Europe is filled with chateaux hotels converted to B&B’s. While full of history, they generally have been renovated to provide WIFI, exercise equipment and other modern necessities.
The good news is that most are very well priced because they tend to be in rural areas. In addition, prices may be good where ancestral homes are faced with rising taxes and the sheer costs of maintaining and running such a grand residence.
Tips for European Savings: Tip 4:
As they say, timing is everything in life so take advantage of off-season top solo travel deals.
I routinely use this strategy since off-season rates in Europe appear almost immediately by Sept 9 and in the spring until April or May depending upon the location.
One great splurge for me was a 2-3 day luxury stay in the French Riviera at Beaulieu sur Mer, a true 5 star member of the Relais et Chateaux group. A standard room during the season is $1,200/night reduced by 50% in early Sept. I have several times had a college friend join me bringing our individual nightly rate to $300/night each. Although not cheap, it was far less than the standard $1,200 rate!
Most affordable are the winter rates in Europe. On my 9th trip to France one January, I found many 4 star hotels at 50% off even in chic areas of Paris. An added bonus is that international airfares go down between summer until the holidays resulting in added savings.
Tips for European Savings: Tip 5:
For solo travel destinations, comparison shop between European countries and cities. If you are looking for historic sites, interesting architecture, sampling varied cuisine/wine and learning about new cultures, you can find it off the beaten path at a real savings.
For example, this week I have found 5 star Romanian resorts currently listed at 100 Euros. The culture varies substantially from the capital Bucharest to the Danube River and Transylvania giving the feel of many trips in just one destination.
Spain and Portugal continue to be much less expensive and have much of the allure of France and Italy. They offer castles, centuries of complex history, art museums, varied architecture from the Middle Ages to the millennium and even their own “rivieras”!
Budapest is another European jewel where even the 5 star hotels can be affordable.
Lastly, for winter, I have skied in Norway and Andorra avoiding the steep tariffs in Switzerland. The snow was world-class as was the warm hospitality.
In sum, our best solo traveler tip? If you are flexible on timing and destination, with planning, you can tailor a European jaunt to almost any budget! Time to dust off your passport. Use our tips for European savings, and and hit the road.