Discomfort tolerance can save money on European trip
By DAVID KOENIG
AP Airlines Writer
Europe never seems to lose its appeal to American travelers, and the growth of discount airlines and alternatives to expensive hotels make visiting the Old World a bit more affordable.
Whether a first-time visitor or making your first trip in many years, travel experts say there are ways you can get to Europe for less and make your money go further once you’re there.
Airfares to Europe this summer are expected to be slightly higher than last year – blame the rise in jet fuel prices – but that’s an overall, average figure. On some routes, fares are running well below last year’s prices.
Average 2018 prices are down 30 percent or more on a handful of popular routes, including New York’s JFK Airport to Amsterdam; Newark, N.J., to Paris; and Chicago to Gatwick Airport outside London, according to travel-search site Hipmunk.
Discount international airlines including Norwegian Air, WOW Air and tiny Primera Air are or will soon be flying on those and many other transatlantic routes. The bigger U.S. and European airlines with more familiar names have been forced to match or at least reduce their own fares.
With many reasonable airfares out there, visitors to Europe are likely to spend a much bigger chunk of their budget on lodging. Hotel rates in tourist destinations (and important centers for business travel) such as London and Paris are very high.
It can be cheaper to rent an apartment or a house through Airbnb, VRBO and similar services, particularly if you’re with a family or large group. Plus the kitchen means you can cook for yourself rather than eating every meal in a restaurant.
You can also stay in dormitory rooms that universities rent out while students are on summer break.
Credit-card offers can help with lodging. Marriott and Hilton have both run promotions with sizable bonuses after hitting minimum spending targets. The points cover two or three nights in a hotel, making a week in Europe more affordable.
The dollar isn’t as strong as it was at this time last year, which will make everything from hotels and meals to tchotchkes more expensive.
Travel experts say there are other tricks for stretching your money. Restaurant prices are usually cheaper for lunch than dinner, so you can save by making lunch the biggest meal. Research tipping customs where you’re going. The standard 15 percent to 20 percent in the U.S. might not apply.