If you’re dreaming of Parisian strolls along the Champs-Elysees or meandering through the canals in Venice via a gondola, now is the time to head to Europe if you want good deals. “The off season in Europe is from January to early April,” says Chris McGinnis, a travel expert with Best Western. “You can get half off your entire trip by going then.” Need another added bonus? “Fewer tourists and less crowds,” says Mark Kahler, the budget travel guide for About.com.
Besides timing it just right, there are a number of other ways to save big on overseas travel this winter. I know what many of you are thinking right now, “Europe on a budget? Yeah right! The exchange rate is crazy!” I know, I know, the euro is still way pricier than the dollar, but at least it’s dropped a bit from this summer. Despite the exchange rate not being in your favor, there are still great ways to save on European travel. Here’s the scoop on how you can save big on your getaways this season.
Take a “repositioning cruise.”
When cruise ships relocate to a new region, they often offer special fares for travelers. The reasoning is simple: Better to fill up the ship with paying passengers, than to travel all that way with an empty vessel. “These so-called “repositioning cruises” are an inexpensive way to get to a number of locations,” says Wayne Dunlap, author of “Plan Your Escape, Secrets of Traveling the World for Less Than the Cost of Living at Home.” Usually, these cruises offer the same amenities as any other cruise (you can still gorge yourself on the buffet or indulge in a massage!) but they may not stop at as many ports. Sites like VacationsToGo.com list such offers.
Check the lesser-known sites.
“Packaging your airfare and hotels together can save you a lot,” says Anne Banas, the Executive Editor of SmarterTravel.com. She recommends using the site Go-Today.com to find the best package deals. “The pricing structure is clear and you can choose to upgrade the hotel if you want,” she says. In addition, “Europe has a number of low-cost airlines like RyanAir to get between countries,” she says. “Just watch out for the fees — check their websites first to see what you might get charged for. To find low airfare (as well as hotels and car rentals) in Europe, check out EuropeASAP.com,” she adds. Finally, OffTrackPlanet.com also has a number of budget ideas for what to see and do in a variety of cities. Be sure to also check also the city’s tourism site to find deals and information on days when museum admission or events are free.
Take advantage of “bounce-back offers.”
Here’s how these work: Visit a variety of online airline and hotel booking sites and start the process of booking a flight or hotel. Get almost all the way through (to the point you have entered your travel dates and locations, email address and created a login), make sure you opt-in to receiving communications from the company, and then log off before you actually enter any payment information. “At this point, the company thinks you have gone to another site, so it will try to send you better offers via email,” says Dunlap. But note that bounce-back offers don’t happen all the time and you may have to wait a few days to get them. Still, they’re certainly worth a shot as you can get deals on airfares, hotels and travel packages, sometimes at half the price,” he adds.
Be picky about the credit card you take with you.
The best credit card for purchases in the U.S. isn’t necessarily the best card when you’re overseas. “Most credit cards charge you between 1% and 3% of the total cost of the transaction every single time you swipe the card, which can really add up,” says McGinnis. “Before you head overseas, call your credit card company and ask about its foreign transaction fees,” he says. Both Capital One Venture Rewards and Chase Sapphire Preferred waive foreign transaction fees.
Follow the disaster.
Admittedly, it sounds a little crass, but there are deals to be had if you head to a country that has recently had some kind of crisis. Think of China immediately post-SARS epidemic, Bali after the bombing, or the Greek isles after the uproar in Athens. “Tourism suffers after these kinds of things, so there are deals to be had,” says Dunlap. “You have more room to negotiate things like hotel room rates,” he says. Of course, it’s important to make sure the place is safe (was this truly just a one-time fluke occurrence?), so do your homework before you book the trip.
For more travel tips, check out MintLife’s list of the best apps for domestic and international travel.
“5 Little-Known Ways to Save on International Travel” was provided by Cheap Chic.