One week, five European cities, £150 - Is it possible?
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Everyone deserves a holiday right? My plan started when I read about St. Stephen's day in Budapest. It is a public holiday in Hungary with many festivities including a huge fireworks display along the Danube. I'm usually not a fan of travelling somewhere with huge crowds and prices usually shoot up but I wondered if it was possible to go away for a few days for a summer break.
St. Stephen's day is the 20th August. After a bit of searching I found a flight from East Midlands Airport on the 19th for £23. I found a great hostel for £10 per night close to the city centre. All that was left was to figure out was how to get home. To cut down on the number of flights I was taking I looked into travelling back via train, bus or ferry. This has the added of benefit of seeing more and reducing the amount of CO2 emissions through travel. I set myself a budget of £150 to include accommodation and transport and tried to find a route home.
The travel plan I devised is below along with the costs.
(Monday) East Midlands Airport --> Budapest - £23
3 nights in Budapest - £30
Budapest --> Prague - £16
1 night in Prague - £11
Prague --> Nuremberg - £13
Nuremberg --> Brussels - £30
1 night in Brussels - £14
Brussels --> London - £13
(Monday) London --> Nottingham - £5
Total - £155
So only a little over my budget but I manage to see five cities in the space of a week. I was impressed that I had managed to find something for August, the peak European holiday season. I'll be posting more blogs leading up to and throughout my trip about how to pack and what to see. For now, continue reading on for some top tips on how to plan your own cheap trip away.
Want to plan your own holiday?
Here are some of my tips if you want to plan your own holiday on the cheap.
Be flexible - Being self-employed means that I can plan my own time and schedule. Most cheap flights are usually mid-week, flying Friday-Monday may mean paying more. Being open with your options when it comes to when and where you go helps with keeping the costs down.
Multi-city stops - I am a huge fan of multi-city options. This means that you travel to one city and come back from another. If you plan on travelling long distance then that means flying both ways. You can do this by booking two singles but most airline companies will let you book via two cities if they fly from both destinations. You won't be able to search for this via an app such as Skyscanner but rather go to the airline company website directly. My trip is from the UK to Europe so I've planned a flight to Budapest and then travelling overland back to the UK.
Travel overnight - This is for the hardy travellers that don't mind roughing it for a bit. The benefit of this is that it saves the day for sightseeing and also saves you money by not having to pay for a nights accommodation. In order to plan this you need to think big distance. You won't be able to travel overnight from Budapest to Bratislava or Madrid to Barcelona. The distances are too short to cover a whole night. You may end up arriving in a city at 3 am which is not practical or safe.
Use apps - There are a few apps that really help when it comes to planning. Skyscanner not only searches between two destinations but if you search 'UK' to 'Everywhere' then you can find some great deals. Omio compares prices between trains, buses and flights. I used this app for planning my route back home from Budapest. If you book a ticket with a company that is linked to the app then your tickets are saved on the app and all you have to do is show your phone to the bus driver. Google maps came in handy for looking at which cities were easy to travel to. When I was planning I found that tickets from Prague to Brussels were really expensive. It was cheaper to break up the ticket throughout Germany. I needed to check the map to see which cities I could stop at along the way. The final app that I used was Hostelworld to search for accommodation. You can rank on price and filter on ratings out of 10. It is also possible to see where they are in relation to the city. This is handy because if you get in late or have to leave early it is a good idea to choose a hostel that is near to your arrival/departure point.
Have a note book handy - I ended up searching for all sorts of routes at all sorts of costs. Pen and paper are handy to write everything down because you'll be searching across different platforms on different dates and you won't be able to remember everything.
Think outside the box - What I mean by this is try to be savvy and don't accept the first price that you see. The way I see it is if it costs £60 to fly from your nearest airport to a city or £50 to travel overland and visiting two cities along the way you get more for your money. There is a time cost but if it fits into your schedule then you can make it work. If you live in the UK you don't necessarily have to fly to and from the UK. It's quite easy to get to Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels on the train or bus and you could fly from there. Make it part of the trip and stay a night or two. If there is big event on in a particular city then you may find that flights are expensive around that time. Have a look at a map and see which cities are nearby. Fly there instead and get a train the rest of the way. Travelling between two cities in two different countries can be expensive. This is because it is usually two different companies from two different countries that you end up travelling on . You end up paying a premium for booking both at the same time. If you do a bit of research you may find that by splitting the journey up and booking the tickets with each train company will save you a lot of money.
Plan and book early - This is simple. Plane, train and bus companies use dynamic ticket pricing and prices generally increase the closer to time of travel. So the earlier you book the more options that are available to you and at better prices. Even so I managed to find something with a month left to travel.