Europe will always be a top travel destination and with good reason. Its variety of landscapes, history, cuisine, language, and architecture across a rather small continent seems unrivalled. With the ease of travel once within the European Union, there are few excuses not to explore all it has to offer. For budget travellers though, the European dream can seem out of reach. It can break the bank, but if you want to know how to travel cheap in Europe, the answer is proper planning and a few tips and tricks. HomeExchange has compiled our cheap ways to travel in Europe so you can save on your next Euro Trip without sacrificing the quality of your experience, starting with a home exchange.

Discover How HomeExchange Works

Stay in a Home Exchange

cheap vacations to Europe photo by Clarisse Croset

Accommodation is usually the single most expensive thing when traveling, so imagine if it cost you little to nothing. With HomeExchange it’s easy. Propose exchanging homes with European residents.

A classic exchange is when two families exchange homes, simultaneously or on different dates. The second way is to exchange with GuestPoints. If you find another Member with an available home, but that Member doesn't want to stay at your home in return, you can offer them GuestPoints. Later, they can use their points to stay at another Member's home in the destination of their choosing.

HomeExchange even helps you calculate how much you’ll save. It’s our best tip for those asking how to travel Europe on a budget.

Travel During the Shoulder Season

cheap Europe travel photo by Roman Kraft

There are a few key things to remember when searching for how to travel cheap to Europe. The first is timing. One of the easiest ways to save money on your European adventure is to travel during the shoulder season.

This is the period between peak and off-peak seasons when the weather is still pleasant, but the crowds have thinned out, and prices are lower. Shoulder season typically runs from April to June and September to November, depending on your destination. By traveling during the shoulder season, you can save money on flights, accommodations, and attractions.

Get the Best Price on Flights

how to travel cheap to Europe photo by Eva Darron

Browse the internet and you’ll find lots of great hacks for making sure you get the best flights to travel cheap to Europe.

Sites like Skyscanner are popular options, but there are a few techniques to keep in mind too. It’s widely believed that Tuesday is the cheapest day of the week to book flights. Plus, be sure to always use an incognito browser window as well, so that browser cookies can’t gauge your interest and propose higher prices based on its assessed urgency of your booking.

When possible, plan ahead and book international flights 8 to 10 months in advance as this is when you’ll get the best fares. You can also follow travel influencers who specialize in giving hacks for booking affordable flights.

Travel with Light Luggage

how to travel Europe on a budget photo by Yousef Alfuhigi

One of the easiest ways to continually run up costs is paying for extra or overweight baggage. So travel as light as possible with just a carry-on size and a personal item whenever possible. While most of us are onto airlines charging for baggage these days, you might be surprised to find that in Europe, some train lines also charge for large pieces of luggage.

So pack light and remember, if you really need something you didn’t have the space to bring along, you can surely find it in Europe. The purchase cost will probably be less than paying to tote it around on planes and trains.

Take the Train

how to travel Europe on a budget photo by Abbilyn Rurenko

If flying isn't your thing, taking the train is another affordable way to travel in Europe. Train travel is comfortable, convenient, and often more scenic than flying, which is why it's one of the best cheap ways to travel Europe. The stations are usually in the city center, so you also save time and money by not commuting to far-out airports budget airlines often serve.

Many countries offer discounted rail passes for travelers, allowing you to explore multiple destinations for a fixed price. Eurail passes are the most popular, and definitely worth it if you plan on moving around a lot. You can also save money by booking your train tickets in advance and traveling during off-peak hours. Planning to travel by train mid-day on weekdays will likely give you the most affordable ticket options. You can even opt for standing tickets for short distances to save more.

Consider Ride-sharing & Carpooling Apps

cheap ways to travel europe photo by Tim Foster

When traveling from place to place in Europe, train and plane itineraries aren’t always convenient or affordable. It’s one of the reasons that in recent years ride-sharing applications have become popular. For example, BlaBlaCar is available in 22 countries including the majority of Europe.

It’s a safe and affordable way to get from place to place, as you can browse trusted reviews of suggested drivers and read other riders’ experiences. Carpoolers are asked to contribute a small fee, but it's far more affordable than having to rent your own car, as well as an ecological choice when looking for cheap ways to travel Europe.

Cook Your Own Meals

how to travel cheap in Europe photo by Mylene Larnaud

Eating out in Europe can be expensive, particularly in tourist hotspots. By cooking your own meals, you can save money and experience local cuisine at the same time. Staying in a home exchange makes cooking during your travels easier than ever.

Homes vs. hotels means easy access to a fully equipped kitchen everything you need. Plus, it doesn’t mean you have to forego local experiences. Source your ingredients at the charming open-air markets, butchers, cheese shops, and more that Europe is so well known. It’s an amazing local experience that you can’t get at restaurants and one of our favorite cheap ways to travel Europe.

Use Public Transportation

cheap ways to travel Europe photo by Mediocre Studio

Europe is well renowned for its amazing public transportation. You may know the London Tube or the Paris Metro but even ancient cities like Athens have a subway for modern public transportation that is affordable. It’s typically more efficient than private transport and definitely cheaper than taxis and car hire services.

From trollies and trams to buses and boats, opt for public transportation whenever possible when looking for cheap ways to travel Europe. Many cities also offer discounted public transportation passes for tourists, allowing you to explore the city at your leisure.

Plan Your Trip Around Free Attractions

cheap ways to travel Europe photo by Jacek Dylag

For cheap vacations to Europe you should take advantage of all the free attractions on offer when deciding which places to visit. Most of the beauty of Europe is free and can be enjoyed by all just by walking around and taking it all in. It’s one of the things that makes it so amazing!

Many museums, galleries, and historic sites also offer free entry year-round or on specific days of the week, month, or holidays. There are also a myriad of free and affordable apps for smartphones that offer guided walking tours around European cities that allow you to go at your own pace and save costs vs signing up for group tours.

Take Advantage of Discounts for Children, Students, & Seniors

how to travel Europe cheap photo by Joshua Rawson Harris

Europe is often aiming to make attractions more accessible for a variety of visitors. One way of doing so is by offering discounts or even free entry for students, children, and seniors.

When purchasing tickets, they may prompt you but if not, be sure to ask if there are any discounts you might qualify for when entering museums and historical sites, or even taking public transport.  Be sure to carry your student ID and regular ID with you at all times as proof of eligibility. You can also sometimes find better prices for tickets online if you book in advance than paying upon arrival.

Cheap Vacations to Europe with HomeExchange

how to travel Europe cheap photo by Caleb Miller

Some people wait a lifetime to travel to Europe because they think vacations to Europe cheap just aren’t possible. With the right research and planning, they can easily be accessible to budget travelers. Start saving right away by planning your cheap vacations to Europe with HomeExchange. HomeExchange is the world leader in home exchange vacations. With over 100,000 homes in 133 countries, it's an affordable, authentic, and safe way to visit Europe.

Home exchanges offer you further opportunities to save by allowing you dine-in and get local suggestions from your HomeExchange hosts. Plus, it will make you feel more at home in Europe. Find a HomeExchange and follow these tips and tricks to make cheap vacations to Europe possible all without sacrificing the quality of your trip.