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January 22, 2010

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Our forthcoming trip to Europe is all paid for in dollars before we leave.
We are met at the airport, taken to the ship. All accomodations, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with complimentary wines are provided as we travel down rivers and through locks for 14 days and 14 nights. We are then taken to the airport for the flight home. The only foreign currency needed is for optional purchases of souvenirs or other items. Every day three sightseeing buses arrive at the boat to take the passengers on guided excursions. The other big advantage is that we only unpack once and avoid all expensive restaurant meals, taxis, car rentals etc. In the evenings shipboard entertainment is provided for the 120 passengers. An added benefit is that we won't get lost driving around in a foreign country, as happened in our much younger days and don't have to mess with public transportation and the risk of falling victim to pickpockets, losing our important documents, or having our rental car broken into. These trips are primarily for seniors.

You could also structure your trip to avoid some of the more expensive parts of the continent. The cost of eating out, entertainment and any number of other things in Lisbon versus Dublin is astonishing.

Or, throw a few small pieces of tupperware and some ziplock bags in the backpack, and minimize eating in restaurants. With good bread, cheese, wine, chocolate, and fruit much more readily available in much of Europe than in the US, it's pretty easy (and tasty) to do.

This is a good article. Traveling in Europe you get the "double" penalty of high exchange rate and already high prices. However it is worth it.

From personal experiences though food seemed to be the big killer. We took our son's on a 3 week trip to Spain with us 2 years ago. We did good but the quantity of food they ate literally torpedoed my budget. There is no fast food or buffets so it was either a cafe or shopping. It's hard to stock up on groceries in hotels so we did a lot of cafes and picnics. Food is still high and it was hard to fill up a linebacker, quarterback and soccer player on just bread and meats... this excludes the wife and I. Needless to say we lost weight but ate well and had a good time. We're looking at going to France in the summer so we'll pack plenty of energy bars for the son's, they're loaded with protein, calories and fiber for filling up.

When we travel in Europe we save a lot of money by getting 2/3 of our daily meals from grocery stores. The prices are very good, and we can feast on basic European staples that are luxuries back home. There is also the added benefit of being able to see the food before selecting it, unlike in restaurants where you may struggle to understand the menu if you don't speak the language. We find great inexpensive treats like hard boiled eggs, pastries, bread and olive oil, fresh fruits, cheese, etc for breakfast and dinner, and then eat out at lunch when the prices are lower (and we are not exhausted yet from sightseeing.

" . . . or wasting an afternoon queuing up for hours for a cut-price ticket."

If you are referring to Leicester Square Half Price tickets, I have never waited more than 20 minutes. I would highly recommend checking it out for last minute deals as well.

(Now,yes, in NY? You can wait up to 2 hours to get half priced tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square . . . but usually the wait is only about 45 minutes. Big savings, plus you meet really cool people in line. ;-))

And I love, love, love the London Oyster card!!! Big savings!!!

My husband and I find it quite cost effective to rent a condo or apartment with a kitchen (and it's often cheaper than a hotel). We then buy groceries for breakfast/lunch all week. We eat out for dinner every other day so we feel like we are treating ourselves a bit. Another advantage is that we eat much healthier food than we would find in restaurants.

We have done this in Mexico and Hawaii for week-long trips and saved about $200-$300 by our calculations. I imagine that with prices in Europe being what they are (especially in major cities like Paris or Rome) the savings could be even higher.

We like this arrangement so much, we consider a hotel to be a last resort when we go on vacation.

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