Guess what?! It’s time to drop EVERYTHING, purchase that plane ticket and travel to Europe. If you have any doubts as to why this is the best decision EVER, take a look at these 5 reasons why NOW is the time to see all that Europe has to offer…
1. Your money is worth more than it ever was.
With the Euro at an all-time low, you have almost an even exchange when it comes to your dollars. YEP, that’s right. Americans traveling to Europe used to lose about 30% of their money, but now it’s less than 10%. That extra 20% can definitely come in handy during your backpacking adventures. It can be another place to stay for the night or another delicious meal that you previously couldn’t afford. Travel to Europe used to be a burden to your bank account, but that’s no longer the case! Take advantage of this money-saving trend, and pull the trigger on your plane ticket. Who knows how long this currency exchange will last, so be sure to plan your journey as soon as possible!
To keep track of the exchange rate, download the “XE” app on your smartphone. You can view a live feed for currency exchange rates. We’ve kept track of the exchange rate, and even decided to exchange $1,000 American dollars for Euros NOW, even though we leave in July. This way, just in case the Euro’s gotten stronger come July, we have less to lose during the move.
2. Off the beaten path accommodations.
The variety of accommodations in Europe is amazingly vast. There is no longer just the option of an expensive hotel or an over-crowded hostel. You can find the right accommodation for you, at the right price, with a little bit of research! From couch surfing to house-sitting, to staying in monasteries or renting an apartment, there’s an abundance of options available for travelers to explore.
Here are just a few for your reference:
Couch Surfing – Couch surfing is the epitome of living like a local. It is a free service, which is definitely a plus, but some might not feel 100% comfortable with the idea of literally sleeping on a stranger’s couch. Maybe it’s something you ease into as you become a more experienced traveler. Totally up to you! But just know the option is out there. Especially if you are looking to see Europe as a true European instead of as a tourist, and make new friends along the way.
House-sitting – House sitting is another less traditional form of accommodation. You stay in another person’s house while they’re away and take care of their home and pets for free, in exchange for free accommodations. If you are open to a wide range of travel destinations and times, this is a great option. It just may take some time to develop references and build a good reputation in the housesitting world. But for some, to be fully immersed in a neighborhood and to enjoy a comfortable home environment, the result is well worth the effort.
Monasteries – Yes, you can actually stay in a monastery! To raise money for charitable work, monasteries have started allowing travelers from around the world to stay and enjoy an affordable place to sleep. MonasteryStays, in particular, is great place to look for monastery stays in Italy and allows you to book online. The benefit is most accommodations have private bathrooms and are extremely clean and safe, but of course you’ll need to follow their rules ie: non married couples cannot bunk together. Make sure you do your research before you commit – some may be a lot stricter than others and may impose curfews or dress codes.
Hostels – Of course we can’t forget about hostels – the classic backpacking accommodations of Europe. They provide an ideal environment to meet other travelers and are extremely affordable. Hostel World is a great place to go for all sorts of accommodations in Europe. They focus on hostels, of course, but you can also search bed & breakfasts, hotels, apartments and campsites. And with every European city you’d ever want to visit included on their site, the options are LITERALLY endless.
Airbnb – Airbnb is one of my favorite sites. You can stay in anything from a private room in someone’s home to a treehouse in France. And best of all, the website is extremely reliable and user friendly. You pay the site directly, not the individual, which gets rid of any hesitation or worry that you’ll be left stranded, and there are plenty of reviews from other travelers to make you feel at ease. It has the widest variety and most unique accommodations that I’ve come across in my research. Accommodations can be affordable or luxurious, private or not private. Stay in an airstream trailer or gypsy wagon. The choice is yours!
Click THIS LINK and get $25 OFF your booking!
Vacation rentals – Vacation rentals offer another type of accommodation. You’ll have an entire home or condo all to yourself. Spread out and enjoy all the conveniences of home. I have found Homeaway is a great site for rentals, and you can search places all over the world. There are MANY other websites available, which you’ll find right away with a quick google search. VRBO, FlipKey, Vacation Rentals are just a small selection of ALL the options out there.
3. Open borders means easy exploration.
The best and most desirable reason to travel Europe is how easy it is to see SO much. With one tourist visa, you can visit 26 countries of European Union! The Schengen Travel Visa is what most will need to obtain, but lucky for some countries (including the US), no travel visa is required AT ALL for a 90 day period!
For a full list of what countries require a visa, be sure to check the Schengen Visa info available. You can also read ALL about our own experience at the Austrian Embassy where our visa questions were finally answered.
Once you’re in Europe, getting around is simple! In most cases, when traveling between countries in the Schengen area, you’re not even required to show a passport! For example, driving from Austria to Italy, is like driving from state to state (if you’re from the US). You can leave Salzburg (where we’ll be stationed), arrive in Italy 2 hours later, grab an authentic Italian pizza, hang out for a few hours and drive home. How convenient is that?! (It definitely got us excited!!) Of course, it is always recommended to keep your passport on hand at all times, just in case.
And whether you’re walking, driving, flying or taking the train between countries, the transportation options available to you are endless. It all depends on the budget you have and what type of experience you want to walk away with. The train is the most common form of transportation, but a quick flight can also be affordable, especially if you’re on a time crunch. Whatever mode of transportation you choose, getting from point A to point B in Europe is simple.
Here are some options for cheap travel within Europe:
Rail Europe and Eurail– Travel through as many as 28 countries with one pass.
Flights within country – RyanAir and EasyJet are two of the most established airlines, but check SkyScanner for other options.
Buses – One of the cheapest ways to travel through Europe and the most off the beaten path. Eurolines gets you to 33 different countries!
Walking hiking tours – For a true adventure, see Europe by foot!
4. Discount flights are the norm.
Flying on a budget is a travel reality in today’s technologically-rich world. Discount travel sites are no longer limited to just your basic search engines. There’s an abundance of new resources available to ensure you find the best price out there. And if you’re flexible with location and dates, you definitely have the upper hand! After all, when you travel Europe, as long as you arrive in one of the Schengen countries, your starting point is not necessarily the most important thing.
We chose to set up travel alerts with departures from three US cities to five different European cities on AirFareWatchdog. Why not do the same? When the right price comes along, be sure to PURCHASE, as prices fluctuate constantly. A previously $700 flight can turn into a $900 flight within days. And who wouldn’t want an extra $200 to spend while they’re abroad?!
The best time to book is about 3-5 months before departure. Wednesday is said to be the cheapest day to purchase a flight, but in our research, we’ve found it hasn’t made much of a difference. I’d recommend checking daily for the best deal! And be sure to follow accounts like The Flight Deal on Twitter and Facebook, where mistake fairs and discounted flights are posted daily.
5. …Because, it’s EUROPE!
It’s as simple as that! Vast history, delicious food, unique cultures, breathtaking landscapes. These are the reasons why most travelers add backpacking Europe to their bucket list. Each city that you venture to will have its own unique personality. Its own historic landmarks and traditions. You can travel in Europe for months and STILL discover something new..
So, START NOW! Get out there and explore!
Even if it’s just for a few weeks at a time. Traveling throughout these magnificent countries is the perfect way to open your eyes, appreciate the world around you and grow both as an individual and as the world traveler that you are!