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How you can save on a European summer holiday

If you’re on a budget this year, but still want a Northern Hemisphere holiday, don’t despair!  The time of year you go can make a big difference to your budget – and also give you some wonderful experiences that you’d never normally get in peak season.

Go off season or shoulder.

If you go when most of the tourists don’t normally visit, you might be pleasantly surprised at the lower prices and shorter queues.  Peak seasons are European holiday times (usually the month of August), Easter, Christmas, and summer, with shoulder seasons a couple of weeks either side of these times. This is when prices will be at their highest as operators take advantage of the tourist season.  Why not consider visiting Europe in September or October – it’s not really cold in most places, and there are still long days and golden light to experience, plus wonderful Autumn colours to enjoy as whole forests start to turn golden or russet-red.

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As the weather cools down the German Christmas Markets offer warm treats

Alternatively try Northern Europe, the USA or Japan in March if you can wait till after Christmas to take a holiday – there’s still a good amount of snow and skiing fun to be had.  You’ll find that accommodation is cheaper, it’s easier to get around and you can avoid the tourist menus and eat like a local – tasty and cheap.

Check out Beyond the Forest for something different in the autumn and winter months in Europe, or Ski Japan for snow holidays.

 Closed for the break

August is the month when Europeans down tools and head to the beach for their annual beak.  So you might find that your favourite holiday city – Paris, for example – is quite deserted! Great if you want room to move, not so good if you want coffee!  August is also when New Yorkers are on their break and heading for the beach or the lakes, so you might find much better deals here too.

Just check before you go whether services such as cafes and attractions will be open.


If you don’t mind risking the mud, camping can be a very cheap way to see the world.  Hire yourself a tent and the basics (or buy them at the end of summer) then work your way through the caravan parks of Europe.  You’ll not only save money, but you’re more likely to meet people who have time to chat. If you leave a bit of time you can be a bit less structured and more spontaneous with your choice of places to visit.  If you go in the high season though, it’s wise to plan and book ahead, to make sure there is room.

Backpack Europe has a great list of places to buy camping gear in Europe.

House sitting or swapping

House sitting or house swapping is not for the faint-hearted and you’ll need to decide if you are really OK with a strange family living in your house for a couple of months.  But trade this with the thought of living in a medieval German village or an apartment in Paris for 3 months and it starts to look very attractive!

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Paintings in a Paris street market

There are usually no costs associated with house sitting, but you should probably check with your insurance company about your level of cover.  Try the Homelink website – Homelink has local coordinators in most countries to help you along the way.

Think smart, plan ahead and see where you could save!

Other posts on the OTI Blog:

Watersports around the world
Top 5 ways to explore Rome
Parisian Food - 5 cheap eats in Paris
Super-cheap (even free!) things to do in New York