paris eifel tower
Photo by Vonderauvisuals

By Derin Clark

Europe is an ideal place to take a family vacation. Its mix of history, culture, food, and world-famous landmarks provides a fun and educational trip for kids and adults alike. The main draw-back about Europe, however, is the cost. Many European cities have rightly gained the reputation for being some of the most expensive in the world, but don’t let the lack of funds put you off your dream vacation. Instead follow our tips for making a family vacation in Europe affordable – make your dollars, or euros, go further:

Hotels

When visiting Europe’s main cities consider staying in hotels outside the city centers. Often these will be less expensivethan central ones, plus as most European cities have great transport links, you won’t have any trouble travelling around. As well as this, they will often give you an insight into another aspect of Europe, rather than just the touristy places in the city center. A word of warning, however, many cities including London, Paris and Rome, have bad neighbourhoods, so ensure you research the hotel’s location thoroughly to ensure it is safe for you and your family before booking.

Transport

Europe is relatively small, which means that you don’t need to fly to get from one country to another. Mainland Europe has a fantastic rail network that connects many different countries, while you can get from London to Paris is just a few hours using the Eurostar. Alternatively, ferries are a great way of travelling. Many Brits take the regular ferry service from the UK’s south coast over to France, as well as from Britain to Ireland; while in some Mediterranean countries, for example in Malta and Capri, hopping on a ferry is almost like catching a subway train. Plus kids will love the novelty of travelling by boat.

Many Europeans are concerned about the environment, which means that most cities have fantastic public transport systems in place. So instead of relying on expensive taxis to get around instead join the locals and jump on a subway train, a tram, or a bus. Not only are they fun and quick ways of getting around but they will also help to keep costs down. London and Paris also have bike schemes in place that allows tourists and locals to rent bikes easily and cheaply, which are also a great ways of getting around these cities; even Will and Kate are said to be fans!

Eating and drinking

France, Italy and Spain are almost as famous for their cuisine as their fashion and culture, while even the British, who have long been ridiculed for their bland and unimaginative dishes, are starting to become recognised for their culinary talents. But this good food doesn’t come cheap and you’ll find a large part of your budget being spent on food and drink.

The good news is that there are ways of keeping costs down without having to spend your entire trip eating fast food.

Consider having lunch as your main meal of the day and just something lighter in the evening. This is the way many Europeans prefer to eat so you will find plenty of restaurants serving filling lunchtime dishes, plus eating at this time tends to be less expensivethan in the evening. Also avoid eating at restaurants and cafes next to main tourist sites, as you will find yourself paying a premium for the privilege. Instead head slightly further away from the crowds and you will discover small, quiet restaurants serving great food with friendly staff and at reasonable prices.

Another option is to head to grocery stores and stock up on food that can be used to make packed lunches that can be eaten while you’re out. The majority of European cities have green spaces or places where you’ll be able to sit, eat and rest before carrying on with your busy day of sight-seeing.

Site-seeing

On the topic of sight-seeing, you’ll soon find that another big expense is actually visiting all the museums, galleries and palaces that you’ve come so far to see. The key here is to do lots of research before you leave. Some cities, for example London, have lots of museums and galleries that are free, or very cheap, to enter, so try and find these out before you leave. Most of the main tourist sites will charge to enter, but again by researching the costs before you leave you’ll be able to ensure that your budget is sufficient to allow for this. Also read travel forums to find out which sites are worth the money and which are better avoided, especially if they are not suitable for kids.

Many European cities have stunning architecture, sometimes dating back to over a thousand years, meaning that you can easily spend a day wondering through old, cobbled streets and soaking up the historic atmosphere for free, rather than spending a fortune entering an over-priced museum where your kids will quickly get bored.

Out of season

If you’re able to arrange it with schools and work, try and travel out of season. During the summer months prices in Europe rise considerably as not only is it the time when many international tourists visit, but also when many European themselves are vacationing. As a result hotel prices, travel costs and even museum entrance fees increase. By travelling in the fall or spring, you’re likely to get better deals, plus you won’t have to battle through hordes of tourist crowds to see the main sites.

 

About the Author:

Written by Derin Clark on behalf of Direct Ferries, a company that provides a ferry booking service for destinations throughout Europe. More info about Ferries

Geraldine Jensen

Publisher and Editor of Families Online Magazine. Our experts provide warm, loving, and generous advice for you, your family and children, no matter their age -- infants, school age, 'tweens, and teenagers. Features include:Parenting, Ages and Stages of Child Development, Child Support, Cooking, Health, Children's Books, Nutrition, Christian Parenting, Relationships, Green-living, Education and School

Ms. Jensen is a leading advocate for families and children and was the founder and president of ACES, The Association for Children for Enforcement of Support.
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