If you rely solely on the weekend papers and your art gallery magazine, you’ll be forgiven for believing that the only possible type of travel in comfort in Europe is luxury travel. While that’s fine for those of us with deep pockets, many of us, even if we could afford the eye-wateringly high costs of luxury tours and cruises, prefer to recapture our youth and the freedom of travelling without a destination or date in mind. In this article, we give you some ideas of types of travel in Europe that won’t break the bank and enable you to be more self-sufficient. And if you’ve moved to a retirement village or land-lease community, you can be off without a care.
European buses: the hop-on-hop-off bus
We want to get this out of the way first: if you’re planning multiple stops and want to travel at short notice rather than booking in advance and locking yourself into specific dates, you’ll find coach travel is more budget-friendly than the train, especially in the UK. For example: the Eurostar London to Paris return within one month of booking will set you back around $450 while a coach will cost around $198. But the standout is the continental Europe Hop-on-hop-off intercity coach. Sadly, due to Covid-19, Busabout, the company behind the HOHO buses, has cancelled trips again for 2023 but it’s worth keeping in mind for your 2024 adventures. However, check in with the crew first to make sure the service is running again. We contacted them today and heard they’re not sure about 2024 yet. Never heard of the hop-on-hop-off European bus? The bus will take you to many major cities in Europe as well as regional destinations. You can plan your trip and make changes on the fly when you choose to stay in one place a little longer.
The Bus to London
Previously following the old 1970s hippie trail starting in India, the 2023 Bus to London now starts in Turkiye (the way Turkey now prefers to be known, pronounced TUR-kee-ya) and takes you through the Balkans, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, Scandinavia and Western Europe. The Bus to London is the longest bus journey in the world, spanning 22 countries and covering 12,000 km. And if the full trip sounds like too much, you can start and stop at different destinations along the way...but the full trip would be epic!
We mustn’t forget the Eurail pass that has tiered prices and gives you access to most of Europe with discounts for seniors (one bonus of being older!) See more about Eurail passes here.
A river cruise through Europe sounds like heaven. However, it can be challenging to find a cruise that isn’t billed as ‘luxury’ with the accompanying cost. We’ve found some cruises that will cost you from $200-$400 a day. When you consider that most include meals as well as your accommodation and travel, they’re good deals. However, you’ll need to search hard to find real bargains so start early.
Slow canal travel
Having watched and loved Great Canal Journeys (on Britbox) with Timothy West and Prunella Scales, we love the idea of heading down a canal at 4 kph to 6 kph. You can hire canal boats and self-drive or you could consider a river barge cruise. Most barge cruises aren't what we’d deem ‘budget-friendly’ but you can find cost-effective barge cruises and river cruises if you search. Note you can charter a barge with friends and that will work out at around $400 per person per day, noting that some lunches and dinners are included. See more about barge cruising here or at the links below.
Using the world wide web for deals
Talking to your local travel agent can be great if they’re experienced but most of the ones we’ve met haven’t done much travel themselves (plus they’re still getting an 18-35s discount). You can find some great deals by searching the internet or signing up to discount travel sites.
- Group discount travel sites
For some great travel deals, sign up to deal sites like Groupon or TripADeal (aligned with Qantas Frequent Flyer) or I Know the Pilot. We have friends who flew to the Caribbean for under $3,000 including flights.
- House-sitting groups
One of the biggest expenses is accommodation when travelling in Europe. However, there are solutions including house-sitting. If you’re on Facebook already, you’ll find many house-sitting groups like The Travelling Housesitters where you’ll see destinations all over the world. We like this site best as Britt offers plenty of advice on how to be a good house-sitter, insurance and support. Maybe have a few practice runs in Australia, though, before launching overseas. To get access to house sits, you’ll need to pay a membership fee but usually, these aren’t too high.
- House swaps
The best-known(to us) site for house swaps is Love Home Swap. This site offers tiered membership that starts at $18 a month, billed annually. To understand more about how it works, check out the website. However, if you have friends in Europe who’d love a holiday in the sun, why not offer your home in exchange?
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