People are always coming up to me and asking, “Hey Big John, how can I see Europe on the cheap?” and “What’s the best way to travel Europe on a dime?” and “Why are you so ruggedly handsome?” Okay, so nobody’s ever actually asked me any of that stuff; but if they did, I would have a thing or two say about it!
Big John knows about traveling cheap and really making that dollar stretch! But you don’t have to take my word for it. I was only voted the number one travel consultant in the entire industry by Frugal Travel Guru magazine (it’s one of those lesser known publications). Because you are all such loyal readers, I’ve compiled a never-before-seen list of my most cost-effective strategies to travel Europe on a dime. I would ordinarily charge thousands of dollars for this information but today I’m giving it to you absolutely free!
Strategy #1: Get the lowest airfare possible.
There are several different methods one can employ to get a cheap flight or to at least not pay an arm and leg for a ticket. These methods include being flexible on your departure and arrival dates; being flexible with your departure city and the destination city you choose to fly into; thoroughly checking all search engines; and applying any and all discounts when available. There are also several budget airlines out there such as Ryanair that have been known to have ridiculously low rates getting in and around Europe.
Fly budget airlines to travel Europe on a dime.
Personally, my favorite strategy for getting the lowest airfare possible is to devise a plan where I pay nothing at all. “How does a person go about doing that?” you ask. I will let you in on a secret but please do not share this strategy outside our little circle. This is F.Y.E.O.!
Think about it. What is the best way to fly anywhere for free? That’s a no-brainer for sure! The best way to fly anywhere for free is to become an official member of the flight crew. Why rake out hundreds of hard-earned dollars to fly coach when you can stretch out in a spacious cockpit, tell aviator stories with peers, and just look and feel really, really cool?! What’s that you say? You’re not a pilot… You’ve never been to flight school… You don’t have an official pilot’s uniform… Now would Big John have brought you this far into things if I didn’t intend on seeing you all the way through? Absolutely not! You don’t need any special credentials, training, or flight hours to become part of a flight crew. All you really have to do is wait a couple of days and the answer to your prayers will come knocking on your door… Literally!
I think the best way to explain all of this is by utilizing illustrations which I’ve posted below. Now as you can see, the only difference between a Jehovah’s Witness and a commercial pilot is the bicycle helmet. That’s’ it! No questions asked! When you let those biblical boys on bicycles into your home and really become interested in their pamphlets; they’ll do anything for you! They‘ll even give you the shirt off their back… and that’s what you need. You need their shirt, their tie, and their pants too if you can manage it. I had to buy three of their bibles and get baptized twice, but the pants can be gotten at a reasonable price.
Jehovah Witnesses Commercial Airline Pilots
I’m seeing double here. There’s absolutely no difference between the two.
Strategy # 2: Find a low cost alternative to staying at ordinary hotels.
All throughout Europe there are a number of options one can take to avoid paying the high prices of hotel rooms. The most popular of these options is probably the hostel. For those of you unfamiliar with a hostel, it is an open-bay room or dormitory full of bunk beds. They usually come equipped with a shared bathroom, kitchen, and occasionally a lounge area too. The rooms can either be single-sex or coed; although private rooms can usually be found at a higher price. While privacy isn’t usually a feature at one of these places; a low-cost place to lay one’s head is. The average night’s stay at a hostel is between $20-$40 max.
Another option, one that’s just beginning to gain traction, is to rent a single room in a private house or dwelling for a short period of stay. Of course, there may be a bit of risk involved. Those people have no idea who they are letting into their front door. If this option sounds appealing, there are a few websites such as Airbnb.com and iStopOver.com that facilitate these types of arrangements.
Now I’ve just given you a couple of good strategies to finding low cost lodging in Europe. But if you’re anything like Big John, you don’t want a low-cost option. You want a no-cost option! If there’s one thing they have a lot of in Europe, they have plenty of monasteries and abbeys. In all of my travels I’ve never known one of these sacred places to turn down a poor and humble Franciscan monk. By donning an itchy brown robe and cutting the crown out the back of your head, you can easily assimilate rank and file into this pious brotherhood. Now, if you find incessant singing and chanting tiresome than you’d probably be better off revisiting one of the options previously discussed.
Strategy #3: Always eat with a budget in mind.
One of the most expensive things about traveling Europe is the price of food. One sure method to saving money on food is to eat where the locals eat in lieu of the more populated touristy places. Another great strategy when dining out is to eat your largest meals for breakfast and lunch since dinner entrees tend to be the most expensive thing on a menu. The most practical solution is to avoid dining out altogether. Whenever possible, do some shopping at the local markets and grocery stores, and then just prepare your own meals. You would be surprised how fun a picnic can be in the romantic countryside of France!
Of course, there’s always that other, less orthodox option. I found that if you can get your hands on a walking stick and some really dark Ray Ban sunglasses, you can pretty much go anywhere and eat totally free. It’s really so simple. Find a restaurant you’d like to try, Italian is always one of my favorites, and walk right in the front door. Do not stop at the hostess’ booth. Do not wait to be seated. Simply scan the room for a table with lots of food and an empty chair; then sit down and start to eat. No, the people already seated at that table won’t say anything… and if they do, just apologize for your embarrassing mistake and remind them what a hardship life can be when you have cataracts.
Try the fresh markets when traveling Europe on a dime.
Strategy #4: Use various means and modes of transportation to get from place to place.
They say that on your journey through life, it’s not so much where you end up but rather the paths you took to get there. I don’t know if they really say that, but it sure did sound good-didn’t it? When traveling through Europe there are numerous cost-effective options for getting from place to place. Ryanair is probably the most budget friendly airline around. When booking with this airline, it is possible to find flights between countries for $25 to $30 one-way. If air travel really isn’t your thing, you can likely find some amazing deals on the high-speed rail services such as Eurostar. These super-sonic trains are usually inexpensive and cover vast distances across the face of Europe in a relatively short amount of time.
Of course, Big John enjoys backpacking and using his thumb to get him where he needs to go. Hitchhiking is a totally free and fun way to travel; but it can also be the most dangerous option around. If you decide on hitchhiking, allow me to offer a bit of advice. (This is one lesson I learned the hard way!) While it may seem like an extra bonus to get in the car with someone offering candy, he’s usually got plans to share more than just a pack of Twizzlers with you! Always choose your rides carefully so you can arrive at your destination with your self-respect and dignity still intact.
Finally, if any of these tips and strategies I’ve shared with you on how to travel Europe on a dime should fail… worse yet, if any of these tips and strategies should land you on the next episode of Locked Up Abroad- don’t go calling up Big John trying to find somebody to blame! I’m just a travel consultant.