Austria Travel Guide
Austria Travel Guide

How To Really Save Money While Traveling To Europe:

Language: German (Deutsch) with some very basic English.
Suggested Length of Stay: You’ll need at least 5-7 full days to see the highlights of Vienna, Hallstatt, & Salzburg.  To really see everything you’ll want 10-14 full days.

Austria is one of the countries in Europe that just feels like it fits you the second you arrive.  It is clean, friends, and full of natural beauty.  You’ll find a great mix of Alpine wonders, colorful half-timber villages, and modern cities to keep you entertained for a couple weeks.  There is something about Austria that just makes you feel at home like you could live there forever.  Even on the busiest days, the fresh air leaves you relaxed and refreshed.  You will be able to visit grand palaces, tour the sights of the Sound of Music, and follow the footsteps of Mozart.  Austria is a wonderful country!

Planning And Budgeting:

1. Create A Vacation Fund & Plan:

Create A Vacation Fund & Plan: The best thing you can do to save money on your vacation is to save money for your vacation, even if you start at only an extra $50-100 a week into a savings account.  Starting a vacation fund can be a difficult task for many people either because it takes a little bit of effort or because they feel like they don’t have the extra money to set aside.  If you don’t have the time to do this easy step, do you really have time to plan a trip to Europe or even go on it?  If you don’t feel like you have to extra money to set aside per week, can you really afford to go?

It’s true you may be really short on time or be low on funds, but you only live once so you have to figure it out or you may never get the chance to go on your dream European vacation.  Make time, save money, make a plan.  You know your own bills and schedule better than anyone so start writing it down to see where you can make time to plan or how you can cut excess spending to save a little more.  You’ll probably find you waste too much time on Facebook or have non-essential expenses that can be cut to get your planning and saving in motion.

2. You Are Probably Budgeting Wrong:

Why Your Budget Is Wrong: Yeah I said it, you are probably budgeting for your vacation wrong, likely because you are thinking about it backward.  Many tourists start planning by creating an arbitrary budget number, book their flights & hotels, then don’t have enough money left over for all the activities to make it a trip of a lifetime. Below we will walk you through how your must-see list should be considered fixed costs that form your vacation’s minimum budget requirements instead of becoming causalities of it.

The first thing you need to do is write down the rough price that airfare currently looks like for when and where you are going; let’s say it is $1200 which is the start of your fixed cost.  Next, you need to make a list of the for sure MUST-SEE things you want to do in the cities you are visiting.  Without trying to plan every minute of your trip, take this must-see list and group the items together over the different days of your trip to see what items you can realistically fit in over the course of your vacation.  This method will help you to prioritize and honestly decide what you need to sacrifice on based on time instead of doing your initial trimming solely by cost.

With the list of must-see activities narrowed based on the time you have, you can now find the cost for each thing, total it up, and add it to the $1200 estimate of your plane ticket from our example.  Make sure to also include a ballpark cost for any meals at famous restaurants on your must-visit list and rough cost to get between cities or attractions.  Let’s say this new fixed cost total including your plane ticket is $2,000 and you were originally thinking you could spend $4000.  You may be in pretty good shape as you would have around $200 a day let over for hotels, additional meals, shopping, and incidentals.

While $200 a day can be plenty of money for most people, we need to do a final step to make sure it works for your trip.  It is always a good rule to assume a cushion of $50 a day when traveling in Europe, so we subtract it out to give us our target price of $150 a night or under for your hotel.  You can then do some searches for hotels in convenient areas of town for the dates and cities of your trip with $150 set as the max price filter.  If you are finding a number of hotels in your target area that seem to fit your personal minimum standards within the $150 price max, then you are ready to search deeper for deals and start booking.  Any additional money you save during booking can either be used to splurge, kept on standby for emergency money which is important, or can stay in your bank to start your next vacation fund.

Alternatively, if you are unable to find any acceptable hotels for $150 a night or under in this scenario, you are either going to have to find a way to raise you projected budget above $4000, are going to have to change your dates, or are going to have to compromise on the level/location of your hotels within reason.  Everything else in your budget should stay a fixed cost if you really want to have to the full experience you have been dreaming of.

In the end, it is your accommodations that you need to sacrifice on in a tight budget.  You don’t want to be in a situation where you have to be too cheap and skip doing something epic like paying to see the inside of the Coliseum in Rome to instead only see it from the outside because you can’t spend an extra $20.  If you can’t sacrifice enough on the hotel to still do all the main things you want to do, then maybe you can’t afford the trip yet and need to wait.

Manage Your Spending Before You Travel:

3. Put Your Spending Into Perspective:

Put Your Spending Into Perspective: The first step you really need to do to save money for your trip to Europe is to start saving money during your planning process.  No this doesn’t mean that you have to build up a nest egg to pay for your entire trip before you can plan it, but it means putting your currently daily spending into perspective.

Would you rather have a few less Starbucks coffees for a couple of months to pay for having an amazing experience at a cafe in France?  I’d hope so.  You don’t have to cut out all of your normal indulgences, but you won’t want to have to pass up the ambiance of eating dinner in a romantic village square in Europe simply because it is overpriced by $10-30 do you?  Buy 6 fewer coffees or target happy hour deals when going out with friends before your trip and your romantic European dinner is paid for.

Remember that a Starbucks coffee a day Monday-Friday every week at $5 a time equals $1,350, which can pay for a whole lot of dinners in Europe.  When you go start to go over and track your normal non-vacation expenses you will likely find a lot of things are truly are indulgences which can be temporarily cut to save for your adventure.

4. Cut The Cable Cord:

Cut The Cable Cord: When you look at the course of most people’s monthly bills, cable TV is by far the number one non-essential “utility”.  Yes, you likely need internet at home to work, plan your travel, and to visit, but do you really need to pay $100-150 a month extra to watch a million re-runs of home renovation shows?  The answer is no, especially if you are really trying to save money for your trip.

Remember that you aren’t going to be sitting in front of a TV for hours a day during your vacation in Europe anyway so cutting the cord can be a good start to get used to it.  Even cutting the TV portion of your bill for 6 months at $80 a month in saving equals $480.  On top of the extra money in your pocket, you may be amazing and the extra free time cutting cable gives you to plan your trip or be productive.

If you still need TV to consider an over the air antenna, Netflix, or a service like SlingTV which lets you stream tons of live cable channels with no contract for $20-40 a month.  Services like HBO and Starz can also be steamed pretty cheaply without a contract so you can take important shows with you to Europe if needed.  Depending on where you are traveling to your Netflix subscription may be blacked out, but for $35 a year you can pay for a VPN and still stream while in blacked out countries.

4. Used Guide Books:

Hey You Buy Used: Guidebook sales are big business and travelers often spend $20-150 buying books every time they go on a vacation to tell them what to see and do.  Many of these books are extremely helpful for planning your trip, but you almost never need the newest edition.  A used book of off Ebay of a one edition old version from Amazon are often just as informative as the most current version.  Plus when you buy used you are more likely to feel comfortable writing in the margins, underlying key keys, or even tearing out just the sections that you need while traveling to save luggage weight.

Do you know that most local libraries in America also have collections of fairly new travel books for Europe which you can rent totally for free?  After getting your library card you can typically rent books for 3 weeks at a time with up to 3 auto-renewals before you have to return them.  That is plenty of time to read up on a city and figure out which brand of guidebooks fit your style

Saving Money Booking Your Vacation:

5. Be Flexible With Your Dates:

How To Be Flexible With Your Dates: Yes everyone and their mother tells you that you can save a ton of money by being flexible on your dates, but what does that even mean?  Does it mean flying on a Tuesday and coming home on a Thursday?  Maybe, maybe not, but it always means trying to visit Europe during Shoulder Season (April-May & September-October) over the peak Summer months (June-August).

During Shoulder Season the costs for flights and hotels are usually way cheaper, the weather is pleasant, and there are fewer tourist crowds, making it more than ideal.  You can often find that for the same budget that gets you a 7-8 day trip in peak Summer can get you a 12-day vacation in Shoulder Season in addition to being less crowded.  Many schools let you take your kids out of classes during the school year for culture trips like visiting Europe and have both plans and advice on how to make it happen.

If you have no choice because of work or your kids’ school break but to go in peak Summer, then look at the cities you are visiting to see if maybe you can be flexible with the order you see them.  As an example, you may find that Paris is much cheaper during the weekdays while the tiny French village you are targeting is still very affordable on the weekends with advanced booking.  This is what it really means to be flexible if your dates when you calendar has limited options.  You just need to write down the major attractions you want to see in each town to make sure they won’t be closed on the dates you are there and everything pieces together rather quickly.

Are you going to Europe to celebrate a specific festival like Oktoberfest or the Christmas markets?  It is going to be expensive regardless but the same rule usually applies to soften the blow.  You can be flexible with the order of your cities by doing the larger (busier) cities on weekdays and the smaller towns on weekends.  Make sure to book any small town hotels in advance though as they often have a limited supply of accommodations.

6. Finding Deals On Your Flights To Europe:

How Really Save Money On Your Flights: The best thing you can do is the first figure out what major cities you want to visit and then think outside the box with your booking.  Maybe there is a round-trip flight to Paris that is a crazy deal and only $600 a person from America, but is it best for your trip?  If the major cities you are visiting are Paris and Rome, how do you plan on getting to Rome then back to Paris for your return flight?  How much time and money will that hopping around take?  See there is a lot to think about to really save money.

One of the best things we have been doing to save money is by writing down out main cities then jumping right into Google Flights (website).  You can also use SkyScanner (website), but we find Google Flights to be quite a bit better.  You put in your departure city and the date and it will show you on a map how much it costs to fly from your location to tons of cities in Europe.  Play around with it and you may find that it is much cheaper to fly into Belfast than Dublin for your Irish vacation even and you plan on going to both of them anyway.

With cities that are much further away from each like our Paris and Rome example, Google Flights even lets you play around with Multi-Destination Tickets (formerly called Open-Jaw).  These tickets could let you fly into Paris and home from Rome without the need to backtrack and can often be cheaper than a normal round-trip flight.  The calendar function will let you flip-flop the cities and give you suggestions on moving your vacation a day or two to the left or right to save money.

Once your roughly narrow your flights down you can use the Hopper App (website) to enter your days for more certainty.  Hopper will look at the route, dates, and how far out you are looking to predict if the rate is likely to rise or drop based on historical data from the route.  We have through we were getting a pretty good deal before, only to have Hopper tell us it would most likely drop 10% in a week and they were right which led to us booking.

6. Cheapo Hotelo:

How To Save Money On Your Hotel: You can book ahead, book directly, stay far, or stay in a hostel.

7. Put A Value On Your Time:

How To Find The Value Of Your Time: Once you do some planning and figure out what a rough estimate of what your fixed flight, hotel, transportation, and attraction costs you know your cost per day and can value your time.  We totally understand that most people, including ourselves, have a very limited amount of discretionary cash to spend on vacations, but your time is also a valuable currency.

At some point, you have assign a dollar value to every day of your trip then measure if the amount of time you lose doing with an inconvenient flight or slower train is worth the amount of cash you may save.  Let’s say your estimated cost for your flight and hotel for a 10-day trip is $3000 before you even do any activities. This $300 a day is, therefore, the base value of each day of your trip.

With an example, is saving $100 on your flight to waste half a day with longer layovers or getting in at 5pm instead of 8am really a good deal?  If you are only saving $100 to waste $150-200 in time value of your vacation, then you are already losing.  We often even put an extra premium value on our time as, unlike money, you can’t manufacture more time once your dates are set.

8. Booking Your Trip In Advance:

What You Should Book In Advance: While it seems like a no-brainer that flights, hotels, and even train tickets are going to be way cheaper in advance while the inventory is high, many people wait way too long to book these things.  Some of the waiting is because people can’t commit to specific dates far enough in advance to get deals, or they sit around waiting for what they heard is the ideal time to book and the prices only go up.

9. Don’t Chase Or Waste Reward Points:

Be Careful With Rewards Programs: Chasing statues, earning miles, and gaining points can be an addictive thing for travelers which can often cloud our perspective of what a good deal really is.

11. Book Tours & Museums Online:

Booking Ahead Online is Very Important: There are some many major attractions in Europe that now limit their daily visitors you need to book ahead online not just to save money, often just to be able to get in at all.

Some museums even offer free admission on specific days like the Louvre in Paris does the first Sunday of every month.

Saving Money During Your Vacation:

10. Be Physically Prepared:

Why You Need To Be Physically Prepared: You don’t need to start running marathons or working on your beach body, but you do need to be physically prepared for your trip to Europe or you are wasting money.  Remember, your time is a currency with a real value and excessive rest should be by choice for leisure and not from pure exhaustion.

We LOVE to relax and have downtime on vacation, but if because you are physically too sore to move after walking around a city then you didn’t prepare for your vacation.  At the end of the day, your downtime needs to be enjoyable because it’s a vacation and not filled with pain because you can’t physically move.

If you have to stay in your hotel for a whole day bedridden because your legs or feet hurt too much from walking then you basically wasted $300 in addition to being miserable.  This is assuming that for your ten-day trip the flight was $1000 and your hotels were $2000 giving you a base cost of $300 day.  That is a lot of time and value to unexpectedly waste on your vacation because you weren’t physically ready.

To prepare for Europe, you have to expect that even in a small town, inside a single museum, or on a relaxing beach you will end up walking a couple miles day and not even realize it.  This walking is often during warmer months and on uneven cobblestones which can be demanding regardless of your pace.  To lower your chance of being overwhelmed in Europe, you should walk a couple miles each day before your trip to prepare your body.  You also need to avoid buying new walking shoes right before a trip unless you have a few weeks to break them in or a lack of comfort or foot blisters can ruin a vacation.

As you loosely plan out your days for your budget to see how must each day cost, you should also make note of how much walking your activities involve both directly and in getting from place to place.  This is a great way to decides what is a reasonable amount of stuff for you to tackle in a day.  Knowing your limits, taking breaks, and drinking tons of water is very important, especially when you are in a new and exciting place.

10. Snack Attack Is Back Jack:

Snack More, Do Restaurants Less: Bring snacks and know that lunch is often cheaper than dinner.  Try to get breakfast included in your hotel, but be aware of the price difference between having it or not.  Try not to eat and anyplace you can already visit back near your home.

When you do go out to eat know if tipping is a custom in the city you are in or not.  Tipping in Europe is usually only at half the rate as in America, but is often include already on your bill as a service fee.

10. Liquor Is Quicker:

Buy Fewer Drinks At Dinner: Get more at the liquor store.

10. Taking Out & Exchanging Money:

Be Careful Exchange Your Money: You and planned the perfect trip and saved up the money to pay for, but then comes the tricky part, actually paying for it in Euros.  What on the surface may seem a bit straightforward often results in many tourists either wasting a lot of money or just flat out getting ripped off.

Use ATM at an actual bank instead of in the stand-alone ATM or one inside a convenience store.

10. Avoid Cabs In Most Cities:

Be Careful Exchange Your Money: Most airports are connected by metro as are almost every major attraction.  Unlike New York which can have shady subways, the ones is pretty much all of Europe are very modern, clean, and safe.

10. Negotiate When Buy Souvenirs:

Be Careful Exchange Your Money: You and planned the perfect trip and saved up the money to pay for, but then comes the tricky part, actually paying for it in Euros.  What on the surface may seem a bit straightforward often results in many tourists either wasting a lot of money or just flat out getting ripped off.

Use ATM at an actual bank instead of in the stand-alone ATM or one inside a convenience store.

10. Get Your Vat Back:

Know What To Know: You may be able to get money back when you leave