Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Travel Studies: Europe on a Shoestring

Book by Arthur Frommer

Remember this book? I bought a used copy for my semester abroad in 1969. I thought I was so smart, until I noticed it had been published in 1957! Over the years the title has changed . . . $10-a-day . . . $40 . . . $75 . . . now I think they're calling it Europe on a Shoestring. (The jump in prices isn't as noticeable that way.) The numbers are higher this year, but it's still possible to go to Europe on a budget. Here are just a few tips for saving money:
  1. Travel off-season. Airfares and hotels are much lower in March and April, and after September 15th. Springtime weather is more fickle, while it's often warm until November. We've been to Europe in the winter, too, and loved it, except the days are very short. Always check several days around the time you want to fly when looking for airfares. Last September I saved $200 by going on Friday rather than Monday! (Our Paris hotel was $90 cheaper the 2nd night because the rates went down that weekend.)
  2. Choose small towns over big cities. Of course you'll want to stay in London, Paris, Venice or Rome, but spend fewer nights in those expensive places and experience cheaper villages that often have more personality. For instance, Delft is a small picturesque city an hour's train ride from Amsterdam. It's very walkable, with many family run hotels and B & B's. Rooms can be double the size and half the price that you'd find in Amsterdam. A few more of these gems: Bruges is an hour outside of Brussels; Colmar is three hours from Paris; Brienz is thirty minutes from Interlaken, Oberammergau is two hours from Munich. But it's silly to stay in a town just because it's cheap; you can discover magic places if you . . .
  3. Invest in guide books. Don't get these at the library because you want the most up-to-date information available. The Rough Guides, Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, and Let's Go are my favorites. Read up on the places you want to go. Check opening and closing times and days. It would be a shame if the day you planned on going to the Vatican was the day it's closed! Look at travel magazines, and research places online. I love to visit tripadvisor.com, travelgator.com, and I find ideas for hotels at hotels.com.
  4. Get good maps. Know how far it is from Madrid to Rome. Once you're there, have a list of the sights that are free. I always get a good city map and mark the inexpensive places I want to visit with a bright colored marker. For instance, in Paris I might circle the passages (19th century arcades with galleries and shops,) the I'le de St Louis (a tiny neighborhood on an island in the middle of the river,) and the bookstalls on the Seine. Tours are expensive; wandering is free. The view from the top floor of the Galleries Lafayette department store is free, so is the vista from the steps of the Montmartre. Looking up at the Eiffel Tower is as spectacular as looking down from it, and it saves you about $80!
  5. Eat your big meal at lunchtime. Breakfast is often included in the room charge. If it isn't, go to a bakery. (Pack a plastic jar of peanut butter and a plastic knife for an instant sandwich anytime.) When there's a fancy restaurant you want to try, go there for lunch, when it's cheaper. Buy sausage, yogurt, cheese, pastries, and fruit at the outdoor market, or at a corner grocer for dinner. Shopping for food at a market is a cultural experience, too.
We list the number of days we'll be traveling,



Consult a map and decide where to go,



Check train timetables (Thomas Cook)


And add and subtract places until the pieces fit together.

Expecting the unexpected is especially important when traveling to Europe on a shoestring. We've taken twenty-six trips to Europe and we collect hotel experiences like souvenirs: showers too small to turn around in; no hooks, hangers, doorknobs or towel racks anywhere in the room; rock solid pillows shaped like hot-dogs; beds so high we needed stools; lights that turned off automatically, set on an illogical timer; maids that popped in without knocking and changed the towels no matter what we were doing . . . But isn't that why we travel?

In my Special Collections (on my sidebar) I've assembled experiences in Austria, Germany, Poland, France, etc. under Europe. Try some of our favorite bargains and splurges. We always spend more than $5 a day, but it's worth every cent.

Homework: Pick one assignment that appeals to you.

~Where is your ancestral home? Most of us have roots in several places. Pick one city or country you'd like to visit, find it on a map, and explore some travel websites, just for practice. A few of my favorites are: multi-map, Rick Steves, Cheap Flights, Budget Travel.

~ Someone found your blog and emailed you saying they're visiting the city where you grew up. Write an itinerary for a one-day tour of your hometown. Prompt: "When you're there, you can't miss____. There's a great view from____. My favorite place for lunch is_____, and the kids would love____."

~Write a postcard to your grandma from someplace in Europe you want to visit someday.

(Just a note to a couple of readers: Please don't take my School Days Seminar posts and present them as your own ideas. I'm flattered that you like them, but I'm putting in a lot of time! I'd appreciate it if you linked back to my blog. Thanks!)



*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, link it back to TravelinOma. And please leave a comment here with a link to your blog as part of our class discussion. I'll be keeping track, and spot checking your work, giving points for participation. You can grade your own work, based on your individual progress. (A for Accomplishment, B for Basic Effort, C for Class Comments, D for thinking this post is Dumb, and F for Failure to Communicate.)

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved the article!! Its great!!
Here I also have a very good link to find nice,hidden and beautiful hotels: www.escapio.com
Enjoy your holidays ;-)

Christie said...

LOVE these posts. I'm tucking the travel ones away for that SOMEDAY trip your son owes me.

Miranda said...

These posts make me feel so much more optimistic about the possibility for travel. I don't feel like it is something that we'll never be able to afford, or that we have to wait until we're retired to do!

diane said...

I love traveling to Europe and I agree that small towns are like little jewel boxes. Lots of hidden treasures to be found.

You have great travel tips.

marta said...

you are the go to travel guru. you have a knack of describing things you're passionate about!! i love that about you!!

it takes courage to go out on a shoestring. to be brave, adventurous and open to new experiences. i learned more from our 3 week euro experience than i did the rest of the year in school. thank you for teaching us that is with the adventuring spirit you squeeze the most out of life.

and nothing is ever wrong with meeting up with some friendly ants.

Robin Halverson said...

I am such a home buddy. My husband, Mike has helped me to appreciate the adventures one can have while traveling. Hopefully I would like to have an adventure in Europe some day and now I know where to get the tips. For now, my dream is to take our baby boy (who is now 23) back to Homer, Alaska to see where he was born.

lisa said...

Just so you know...I'm doing some of the homework but I don't know how to make a link back to you...I'm kind of new at this Sorry. I think I've credited you though. Hope that's okay...

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

Eek. I think I was one of the people who didn't link back yesterday by accident. I'm so sorry. I fixed the post.

Anyway, what a fun topic for daydreaming today. :)

Link to Assignment 7

ELLOUISESTORY said...

Such good advice. I love your sayng- expect the unexpected. I hope to write something about that -

~Kristina said...

GREAT prompts today. Oma, they just keep getting better and better.
Do come see what my postcard from Athens would say.
http://tinastree.blogspot.com/2009/09/travel-studies-europe-on-shoestring.html

Queen Scarlett said...

This one was so much fun.

Aloha!

ELLOUISESTORY said...

For a long time I have wanted to work on a story about my first trip to Europe. You have prompted me to take a stab at it. I have started a piece on my blogabout "expect the unexpected" when you travel.

audrey said...

I loved this! I dream about traveling all the time and have loved my "shoestring" adventures.

Here you go.

smeagher said...

Holy smokes! I can't believe how many times you've been to Europe. I would love to go there soon... my hubby and I are working it into our goals for the next year or two.

This was a fun assignment! Mine was more history based than travel based, but still a lot of fun!

Sara's assignment: here

Allison said...

Great post and prompts as usual! I couldn't help adding my own tips to yours...

link

dalene said...

next time i go to europe i want to stay in a hay hotel.

and here is my homework. my dog did not eat it.

{jordan} said...

I loved Europe when I went. Never ever forgetting that one.

So I realized AFTER I posted that I misread {for some reason} one of the assignments. I guess that's another side affect with my Mommy Brain. I hope what I wrote still counts!

Here's my post.

crissy said...

You almost had me stumped, but I pulled through. Of course, now that I've gone on this imaginary trip I want to go on a real one!

here it is

Thanks for the comments. I love getting feedback on my work :)

soybeanlover said...

A day late, but still a good effort.

~j. said...

I took a different angle on this one, I hope it will suffice. I think it does. And then some.

KJ said...

http://sassypiggy.blogspot.com/2009/09/writing-assignment-travel-studies.html

ELLOUISESTORY said...

Side tracked on a ppossible story I continue to add to "expect the unexpected." on my blog - ellouisestory.blogspot.com

Kiasa said...

I have loved the opportunity/encouragement to learn more about where some of my ancestors came from. Better late than never, right?!

La Yen said...

See, there was this dog...and he ate my keyboard...and then...

My assignment

Katie H said...

I totally did one more post today! I know. I'm a rockstar. (Really REALLY bored at work. This is good therapy.)

It was supposed to be on traveling & turned more into a reflection on a little town in England where some of my ancestors came from. Ah well.

Thanks for the prompt! :)

http://jarednkatie.blogspot.com/2009/10/once-leake-always-leake.html

Holiday Accommodation UK said...

Loved your post. I am visiting Europe next year and this sure will help although for a preson on shoestring budget most recommended place will surely be thailand and India.