Since traveling within a reasonable budget will be crucial for us, I am doing a lot of research on transporting our family of six within Europe. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with how inexpensive some option are. Meeting my ambitious budget of $500 per month appears possible. (We will travel once every three months so the costs will be $1,500 per each leg of the trip but that includes any taxis, Metro, etc.).
Flying a budget carrier, by far, is the cheapest option. For example, I found a Marseilles-Istanbul flight on Pegasus airlines this September for $491.55 all-inclusive one way for all of us! Or London-Inverness flight on Easyjet for $256. Incredible prices. Of course, the prices vary depending on a season and availability. Buying approximately three months in advance seems to be the best. Also, the luggage fees are supposed to be quite expensive, so pcking light will be essential.
Among the best aggregators-websites for research is Skyscanner. I especially love that you can just indicate a country and that you are “flexible” all year or specific time period and it will search for the best flights out of that country. Naturally, I also searched Easyjet and Ryanair for available routes and cheap fare.
Last time we were in Europe, we traveled by train and car. As it turns out, these two modes of transportation are the most expensive. Although it sounds very romantic to travel by train and the trains in Europe are quite nice comparatively to Amtrak, I couldn’t make the budget work even with the passes and special deals.
Car rentals are also much too expensive. There is an interesting option about leasing a new car from Renault or Peugeot which helps the French car companies avoid paying VAT by selling to a foreigner. They make it convenient but the price still comes out to about $1,000 per month. And let’ not forget about how expensive the gas prices are in Europe. Another intriguing option is buying a new German car and accepting the purchase in Germany. Again, it comes with pleasant perks and it may be convenient especially if the new car purchase was already in the plans. But it’s more suitable for a shorter stint in Europe centered around Germany.
When on the Mainland and in London or Barcelona, we will experiment with a Zipcar which is beautiful and economical option of paying for only the time the car is used. This option is my favorite – it’s cheap, convenient, and green. Unfortunately, it’s not widely available in Europe and is primarily concentrated in college towns.
I didn’t consider the buses and the ferries just because we have children with us and it may be too cumbersome. The one notable exception to the train option was French TGV which had a Paris-Marseilles fare of only 20 Euro per person if purchased three months in advance.