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One thing you will always
hear people complaining about is how expensive it is to travel in Europe. True, flights from the U.S. to Europe can be pricey, but once you are on the
ground it is a whole different story. The Euro has been slipping for months now, and it is almost neck-and-neck with the U.S. dollar, which means you are no
longer paying extra just to be in another country. Even Switzerland, where they don't even use the Euro, is running close to the dollar, although this notoriously
expensive country is still pricey even when the dollar is up.
If you can get past the
airfare and stick to a budget, you can have a vacation that will rival any road trip in the U.S. cost-wise. If you pick your country wisely, you may even save more on your trip than
you could back home.
1. Eat locally
In countries like Italy, you will always get more for your money. The food is delicious, locally sourced
and cheap. You can have a decadent meal for two with a premium bottle of wine
for under 40 euros. Throw in a pasta dish or two for the kids, and you are
looking at one of the best meals of your life for under 50 euros. Skip the good
wine, and you could get it down to 30 euros. Let's not forget gelato either. You
will be served two heaping scoops of gelato for 2 to 3 euros. Even in France
you can expect to pay 3 euros for a tiny, almost melon ball-sized scoop.
Skip the hotel whenever
possible. Apartment and house rentals are the way to go whenever you are
traveling with kids. You will get more room for your dollar. You will also save
your sanity, since you won't be cramming your family into a tiny European hotel
room. Trust me, most are not very large unless you are willing to pay a premium
price. Your college studio apartment will feel like a palace. Enjoy a washing
machine, living room, balcony and more when you rent locally. Many even come
with a concierge service, as rental property companies jump on the vacation
3. Shop the markets
Now that you have your
rental, there is no reason you can't hit the weekly markets for fresh produce,
meats and cheeses. If the town you are visiting doesn't have a fresh market,
head to the grocery store to load up on milk, yogurt, meat, sandwich fixings
and other stuff to save on eating out. This comes in handy in countries like
Switzerland, where restaurants are a too pricey to visit regularly if you
are on a budget. Shop like you normally would for your family and see if you
can get under your usual grocery costs. You may be surprised how much you can
4. Load up on local merchandise
Now is the time to grab olive oil, cutting boards, Tuscan and French wines, designer clothes and
handbags that are made in Europe. The shipping fee has been cut out, the
outlets actually have the designer brands you covet, and you can hit the sales
rack without feeling like you are paying more because the dollar is down.
5. Splurge away
On previous trips to Europe, you might have had to count
every penny. You certainly have to do this in the United Kingdom, where the
pound is still much stronger than the dollar. In countries that are on the Euro, you can relax a little more. You don't need to do complicated math in your head
to figure out how much that teddy bear your daughter just has to have will
actually cost you. That 10 euro price tag is pretty darn close to what you will
see on your credit card statement. Go ahead and spoil your kids. Buy toys, take your husband out for a romantic dinner and hire a babysitter so
you can do so.