JC Travels: How to Plan a European City Break (On a Budget!)
I am a city break fan. Since I’ve moved to the UK 3 years ago, I’ve done at least 10. And let me tell you, most of them have been on pretty tight budgets. But, trust me, if you plan it right – you can most definitely have a budget city break almost anywhere in Europe. So I thought we would run through my, now well practiced, way of planning and booking a European city break.
Step 1: Research
Before you decide on where you want to go, research is key. I usually get googling and start pricing things up. When you are thinking about where you should go, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- If you know where you want to go, then start looking at seasons – shoulder season is always good, but also think about going in Winter. Like yes, it may be cold. But it’s probably going to be cold at home and you can get some real bargains.
- If you don’t know where you want to go, then blogs are the best at inspiration! Find some awesome travel bloggers, get reading and get inspired.
- Get Pinteresting – I’ve created a whole lot of travel inspiration boards which have ended up inspiring my May trip (which I yap on about in my recent life update!)
Once you have sorted your inspiration, then start thinking about your budget, it’s easy to see cheap flights and immediately book a trip. But the flights don’t necessarily mean the destination will be cheap. Flights to Scandinavia can be a bargain, but in reality, when you get there, not so much. Here is what I look for:
- Flight price – There will always be a few surcharges so keep that in mind. If it’s more than £100 one way then no way I will book it. Ideally £50-70 each way is what I look for. And I never take luggage – you can do a weekend in one bag!
- Transport – is there another way of getting to the location? Would train, bus driving or ferry work out to be cheaper and timely? Perhaps it would be better for you to hire a car using something like this eurocar company, as they can help you compare and save on the price of your car hire. If you would prefer to get a train though, then you should do just that.
- Hotel – Just throw it into hotels.com and have a quick view of average night prices, if you’re a hostel fan then investigate these.
- General google – I usually google the city and season and average price to get a bit of insight into food/attraction prices.
If a location passes all of the above then, it is selected and time to get booking!
Step 2: Book
Picking where to book is essential. I’ve mentioned this before, and promise this isn’t sponsored but I always book with hotels.com mainly because you get 1 free night with every 10 booked. They definitely build up and I’ve had and used 3 nights before. They are really easy to redeem and I have been super impressed with the site.
For flights – use skyscanner.net to start comparing different carriers. I generally go with Easyjet as I find them super affordable but really enjoyable to fly with. I’ve never had anything major go wrong and they are generally on time – ideal.
I always prefer to pay when I book, mainly so I can spread the cost of the trip and not feel it all at once. If I book the flight one month, hotels one month, then when it comes to the trip I know that the money I have aside can just be used to have a good time once I get there!
Step 3: Prepare
Once everything is booked, then woo! I usually do a bit of preparation before the trip itself, this generally includes:
- Printing off everything and putting in my travel holder – you can buy these around but they are essentially a paper holder with sections for passport, tickets, currency, and other documents. It is my main essential to take on every trip I go on!
- Currency – I always sort my currency out at home, the rates at the airport are always useless. If I’m just doing a Europe break then I usually go to the post office. If I’m going further afar and need more changing, then I usually go to Thomas Exchange which has a few outposts in London but I always get the best rate there.
- Liquids – if you’ve followed this so far and have decided to only take hand luggage then you may need to prep your liquids. Only taking cabin luggage is the much more convenient method of travelling overall, but the only downside is that you cannot travel with more than 100ml of any liquid. If you are desperate to bring bits across then Tiger has great little travel containers for you to decant things into – total bargain as well.
- A vague plan – although I don’t like planning out every moment of the trip, I do think it’s good to have a vague plan especially if you can save a bit of money this way. Always be sure to check:
- Museums – if they have a cheaper day or if you buy tickets online it may end up being a bit cheaper
- Restaurants – for those special ones you will probably have to book!
- Tours – almost always cheaper online than buying when you rock up. Walking tours are always really popular and most of them are free. When I went to Sweden, I found that there was a free walking tour Stockholm, and of course, I went on it. Free tours are pretty neat because you can always wander off if you want to and you don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything.
And with that, we are about ready to go. If I am going for a slightly longer trip than a weekend then I will usually map out the days on Excel. Just cause, you know, I do like a good spreadsheet every now and again. On there I’ll put any reference codes, cost of the hotels or other known costs and any bookings which I’ve made.
Step 4: Enjoy!
So with all of that under the belt, before you even get there, it just leaves time to enjoy it! I always try and see as much of the city as I can, as who knows when I will make it back to the same city again (the problem with so many awesome places in Europe!).
If this post has totally sparked your need to book an immediate city break, then I have actually guest post over on Sophie’s blog about 5 Europe City Destinations to see in 2016. So head over there and get some inspiration about the country which you need to hit up next!
So tell me, are you a city break fan? How do you prep for them? What do you do to try and save the pennies when jetting off around Europe?
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