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Europe on a Shoestring Budget

The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel’s resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She’s always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.

utahgidget writes, “My BFF and I are graduating in August from college and then two weeks later will be starting grad school. We’re on a super limited budget but we’d love to travel to Europe (we’ve already been to Latin America and the Caribbean) and we’re more than okay with hostels. Any advice for us? We’d be flying out of Salt Lake City, Utah, and our dates are semi-flexible as long as they’re between August 8 and 21.”

I find it endearing that not only do you have someone in your life you call a “BFF,” but that the two of you have seen so much of the world together. And I would love to help you both see a bit more of it. Europe can be a great place for two fresh-from-college women to celebrate. There are, however, several key things that make a “limited budget” trip to Europe in August a bit difficult.

August is peak travel season for most places in Europe, meaning that prices are going to be more expensive. It’s easier to save once you land, with hostels and saving on food, but airfare can be pretty draining on a graduate college fund. And since you are flying from Salt Lake City, you’ll pay even more than someone flying from a closer gateway airport like New York City.

For instance, I priced airfare from Salt Lake City to several European airports. I searched for round-trip flights leaving and returning on a Tuesday (typically one of the cheaper days to fly) in August, and found it costs $1,168 per person to fly to Dublin; $1,285 per person to London; and $1,316 per person to Paris.

In comparison, flights from New York City to the same cities on the same dates reflect quite a bit of savings: Paris costs $657 per person; London costs $695 per person; and Dublin costs $839 per person.

You can try to save by booking your flights between Salt Lake City and New York and New York and Europe separately, but it’s a bit risky. Round-trip flights between New York and Salt Lake cost about $388 for the same dates, meaning that a flight to Paris with a stop in New York would run about $1,045 per person, saving you $271. Taxes and fees are included in the above prices.

The next thing to consider is accommodations. I was able to find a mixed-dorm bed in a hostel in Paris starting at $27 per person in August through HostelWorld. As with anything, it’s wise to research where you’ll be staying before booking, and reading other travelers’ reviews through our sister site, TripAdvisor, is well worth it. After combining the cost of airfare (routes booked separately) and six nights in a hostel, a trip to Paris would cost $1,207 per person (with taxes and fees) in August.

You can also try to save by booking a bundled package.

Several vacation providers offer packages that may be worth further investigation. As a comparison point, Gate1Travel has a six-day Paris Vacation that starts at $1,079 per person (without taxes and fees) in August, and includes round-trip airfare from New York City (other departure cities are available at a higher cost), four nights’ accommodation, daily breakfast, and airline fuel surcharges. The total cost for this package, with round-trip airfare from Salt Lake City, is $1,559 (with taxes and fees). This package isn’t as good a deal as the trip priced above, but is about on par with what you would spend by booking airfare direct and comes with nicer accommodations (even if two fewer nights) and breakfast.

These are just a few examples of different ways to save when booking a budget trip. All you need to do now is choose your destination. Best of luck in your travels, and may the two of you always remain BFFs.

As for my other readers: Got any tips on where to go or how to save in Europe? Share your advice below.

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