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How to Save Money While Traveling This Summer

Ask Savvy: How Can I Save Money on My European Vacation?

Dear Savvy,

On June 10th I'm leaving to go to Europe for two weeks with my roommate. Her family is loaded, but mine? Not so much. I've been working a lot but since I'm in college, I really am trying to have a budget. Basically, do you have any tips on saving money while there? I'll be going to London, Paris, and Rome for four days each. All I've heard about is how awful the exchange rate is so I understand I'll be spending a significant amount of money. I think there are different currencies in London than there are in Paris and Rome, so I'm assuming I'll need different types of money as well. I could use any advice you could give me, like should I use my credit card overseas — basically any kind of money saving tips! I'd really appreciate it!

To see my answer just,


A couple months ago we talked about tips for traveling abroad in terms of using credit cards and the best ways to exchange money, and a lot of you had some incredibly useful tips based on your travel and living abroad experiences. In case you missed it, you can find all of that information here.

As for saving money on your travels, I think you have the hardest part down — you understand that it's going to be expensive and have realistic expectations of what things are going to cost. It's obvious that you're not going to justify making extravagant purchases while abroad just because you're on vacation, and that's an unfortunate mistake that many excited travelers make. Just a word of advice: have a chat with your friend about your budget before you're on your trip so that she's not constantly suggesting restaurants or activities that are out of your price range. You're more likely to follow a budget if you're not trying to keep up with your well-off friend.

You can have a blast on a budget so don't let it get you down. You just have to choose your expenses wisely. For example, since you're hitting up three amazing cities you should commit to having just one "experience" meal while you're in each city. The rest of the time, eat like a local! Pick up items from the grocery store, including snacks for your purse. Picnics are a wonderful way to enjoy a city without breaking the bank — enjoying the weather and some local treats while chatting with your friend is just as memorable as chilling in a local cafe. It's just a little easier on your wallet.

Another area where you should look to save money is on souvenirs. It can be tempting to pick up little tchotchkes for your friends back home, but with exchange rates pitted against the dollar right now you're going to be paying way too much for items that are already overpriced. A better idea? Take amazing pictures, and when you get home select a photo for each friend you think is deserving. Have them printed a bit larger than usual and buy inexpensive frames for the photos. Those gifts show thoughtfulness and you're likely to see them up on the barren walls of their college abode, rather than stuffed in a drawer. Thinking ahead, this could also be a good idea for holiday gifts.

Bon Voyage! You're going to have an unforgettable trip. Don't forget to share your gorgeous photos on TeamSugar when you return!


Join The Conversation
mlen mlen 9 years
london is expensive but great. i always grab a sandwich from pret-a-manger (sp?) for lunch- they are fairly cheap- good, and filling. also buy a tube day pass for zones 1 and 2- that will get you most places and if you use it 3 times it pays for it. or walk- a lot of central london is totally walkable. same with rome- i walked all over rome- rarely took a taxi. if you do take a taxi watch out- they like to scam you and drive all around and jack up the fare. this only happened once to me cause i wasn't paying attention. then when i realized we were going a very long route to get somewhere i told the driver to stop. and then i didn't tip him cause he tried to scam me. my advice would be to keep a map on your lap when you get in the taxi and follow along and speak up if you think you are being lead astray.
sfbutterfly24 sfbutterfly24 9 years
This is making me re-think London!!
fauxtographic fauxtographic 9 years
for london, getting cheap eats at the grocery store is a great idea. tescos, sainsbury, waitrose, marks & spencer (my fave) - they have GREAT sandwiches and pre-made meals that are great for eating on-the-go or for a picnic. plus wee little bags of chips for snacking with less guilt - and awesome salads, too! :) i'm sure i mentioned this on a previous post - for all europe stuff, if you have a debit card, call your bank and find out about withdrawal fees before you leave. since they can be around $5 a pop, and you don't want to carry a lot on your person (i.e. ROME!), you can negotiate a flat-rate for the month for maximum withdrawals and then just take what you need wherever you are. last time i went to europe, my bank charged me $25 flat, that way there are no ludicrous fee surprises when you get home. then just call your bank when you get home and switch back to your usual plan for july :) you just have to watch out for the machines that might ding you on top of bank fees - use the "big-name banks" machines. in london, there are a couple of banks which advertise "no extra fee" right on / beside the ATMs at the airport and major train stations - use those as much as possible. also for london, you can get a day pass for off-peak hours (like after rush hour) during the week for something like 8 pounds for unlimited tube travel in the core. worth it if you're running around a lot. paris, you can get a three day or full week metropass. it's worth it if you're making in the range of 4 or 5 metro trips per day. i think it costs 30 euros? (last fall, anyway) bon voyage!
karadisexo karadisexo 9 years
thanks for answering my question savvy! i really appreciate it... and wow i didn't think so many of you would have such great ideas. especially with eating on the street.. i'm really excited to go! thanks everyone!
Sammi_784 Sammi_784 9 years
I only live a few miles from London and i visit the city regularly. In response to bellasugar's post about the food being expensive, Marks and Spencers is one of the most expensive high street food grocers in the UK, but it does sell the nicest food. If you're looking for cheaper alternatives, try the supermarkets such as Sainsburys, Tescos, Somerfield etc. When I've been in London, I always seem to find little Sainsbury's stores more than the others. A good place to visit is Camden market. A very different vibe than the rest of the city and the noodle stalls in the main market sell yummy meals (loads of different cuisines) for around £3.50 ($7). If you're sightseeing on a budget, visit the museums as they are generally free entry and definitely worth a visit. London DOES have a different currency to Paris and Rome. London has the pound whereas Paris and Rome have the Euro. Sorry I couldn't be more help with the other cities.
shanimalcracker shanimalcracker 9 years
P.S. It really isn't a very good idea to use credit cards abroad; there are lots of fees for doing this that can up to double the price of your purchase. Also, do be sure to tell your bank that you are going abroad so they don't freeze your account based on identity theft worries.
shanimalcracker shanimalcracker 9 years
Someone mentioned pickpockets in Rome and is right; I just went to Rome last month and got my wallet stolen (with my cards) at the Palatine. Anyways, hopefully you have a Bank of America account because that makes life so much easier if you have to go to the ATM. In those cases, use the Barclays in England and the BNP Paribas in France; those don't give you ATM charges. :)
MindayH MindayH 9 years
When you are at the airport/on the plane be talkative and friendly, I have gotten some of the best local tips from people traveling - cause for the most part, people like to talk about where they are from and the things they love. Last time I went to London, I knew that I was going to be doing a lot of sightseeing so I took a bunch of cliff bars (prior to my transition to Lara Bars), turket jerky and other healthy snacks and was able to save a bunch on food and not feel nearly as guilty when I induldged in the local cuisine. The other great thing was that I had a little extra space in my bag for the items I purchased as I consumed.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
I love the bus in London, great tips everyone
Beauty Beauty 9 years
In London, I always eat at Wagamama for a treat, and then I buy breakfast and lunch at the grocery part of Marks and Spencer. Be prepared for severe sticker shock when it comes to food in England. You can't really find cheap eats the way you can even in New York; it's ALL expensive. I tend to agree with Oxymoron: Don't buy any souvenirs in London. In Paris, it will be pricey but not AS bad. Street food is delicious, and you can get amazing pastries almost anywhere. Go to L'As du Falafel in the Marais for the best falafel you'll ever have (plus, it's cheap). Know that local wine will be cheaper than American soda, so there's your excuse to sauce it up. ;) I would also recommend finding bare-bones lodging. It's not like you are going to be in your hotel room all day, so why spend a lot for it? Last time I went to Europe, I Pricelined a London hotel for 30 pounds a night. in Paris, I like to stay at the Hotel Eldorado; it's not fancy, but it's clean, and just two blocks from the Metro stop. Finally, I would get familiar with the different currencies before you leave. Figure out how much one pound means in dollars, that sort of thing. Something might seem reasonably priced, like a T-shirt for 20 pounds, until you realize that 20 pounds = 40 bucks! Knowing what things cost will help you spend your money wisely. Have FUN!
debkadeb debkadeb 9 years
Paris and Rome should have the same exchange rate so just use Euros for both. One tip on Rome.. DO NOT carry a lot of cash or your passport with you because there are many many pickpocketers. Some Cafes in Paris offer a lunch menu for 12-15 euros where you have an appetizer, entree and dessert, coffee included. You can also enjoy Crepes from the streets and I totally agree on the premade crepes. Those taste like crap :( When taking money out of the ATM, try to take as much as possible since you don't want to pay too many fees for making many small withdrawals. Also take the subway and tube as much as possible when in Paris and London. In Paris you can also purchase Paris visite, for zones 1-6 1, 3, or 5 days where you can pretty much use it for the days u need and go everywhere you want. (if you plan to take the subway and the bus a lot, otherwise you can just walk, and enjoy the view.) As for shopping, you an always shop at places where they offer tax return, and get some money back on your way back home :)
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
If you're going to London, use the bus intead of the tube as much as possible and buy an Oyster card to travel, as it saves you loads of money on both. If you're traveling by rail across the different destinations, there are lots of discount cards available. You'll also find in London that a lot of places do set menus and meal deals for dinners and lunch, which are worth it, so don't get roped into tourist trap restaurants!
Oxymoron1 Oxymoron1 9 years
Don´t buy anything in London! It´s really expensive! Rome is OK and Paris is a bit expensive, but OK if you compare it with London.
jesser80 jesser80 9 years
Two tips... 1: Read Rick Steves ... he's got a lot of great tips on less expensive places to stay and eat. Check out his site too ... because if he hasn't been there, someone who reads his site has. 2: Eat like a local. Skip the big fancy places and figure out where the locals eat. More authentic, yummy and much cheaper.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
Great tips. I will be using them on my trip to the Caribbean and Asia! :WOOHOO: Have fun and Good luck!
silly3 silly3 9 years
My sister and I traveled around Spain several years ago and she was on a tight budget, while I was still supported by our parents, so she was really good at finding ways to eat without spending too much money. The crepe stands in Paris are excellent and can totally fill you up cheaply (beware the Gypsies though - I was approached while waiting for a crepe. Just ignore them or they will persist in trying to take money from you - they'll ask if you speak English and just keep doing whatever you're doing.). Back on topic: my sister and I would purchase food - fruit, crackers, cookies, yogurt, and to-die-for chocolate mousse - from a local grocery store and could mostly live off that. Also, to save money on tourist attractions, just go for a walk! In Paris last year, I didn't want to spend much, and ended up wandering around the city and it's various parks and cathedrals and museums and had a lovely time. Enjoy your trip!!
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 9 years
Or donairs...those stores are everywhere! And they are cheap...and you get your veggies hahaha or even grocery stores too! Is epnt 3 months in Europe with a 50-60 Euro a day budget INCLUDING bed and food, if you need some more help PM me :)
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
when i go, i call my credit card company and tell them i will be traveling abroad. then they don't suspect fraud, and there will be no surprises if I try to use it. try to get as much out as possible when you go to an ATM, without feeling like you're carring an uncomfortably large amount of cash. The bank fees can be as much as $5 a pop! I agree that street food is a good choice. and use your euro change. you end up getting back so much of it, and when you get back to the states the banks usually will only exchange bills, even if it adds up. I came back last time with 5 euro worth of coins in my pocket, that is useless because the bank won't change it for me.
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
Instead of Europe I would go somewhere where I can get a favorable exchange many options. It is just what europeans are doing with their vacations.
colleenb colleenb 9 years
In Paris and Rome, I would just eat street food. One could just about live crepes. Oh! But watch out for the stands with premade crepes that they just heat up. Non, non, non! Those are the tourist-trap ones.
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