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5 fantastic Europe vacations to take on a budget

Dec. 04, 2022
6 min read
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Looking to save money on your next epic vacation around Europe? Whether your idea of a dream trip is skiing the slopes, exploring a new city or basking in the sunshine on the beach, here are five diverse holidays to have in Europe without breaking the bank.

City break: Istanbul

Istanbul is ideal for an affordable city break. ANTON PETRUS/GETTY IMAGES

Although the European continent features various budget city breaks, one of the best is Istanbul. The city is, on average, approximately 40% cheaper than Barcelona, which means things like hotels and meals are very affordable for travelers.

With key attractions like the Hagia Sophia, the iconic Blue Mosque (free entrance!) and the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul is perfect for history fans. But tourists just looking for a city adventure will enjoy roaming Istanbul's streets, indulging in Turkish foodie delights, shopping at the Grand Bazaar and boating along the Bosporus.

Budget shoppers will love Istanbul's Grand Bazaar. JOEL ROGERS/GETTY IMAGES

Besides relatively low cash rates for hotels (some as low as $60 per night according to Hotels.com), it's possible to find budget points deals too. There are a number of Marriott Bonvoy properties in the city that cost between 8,000 and 20,000 Bonvoy points per night.

Ski trip: Livigno, Italy

Skiers on the Italian slopes. ZBIGNIEW OSIOWY/EYEEM/GETTY IMAGES

For Swiss-style powder at Italian prices, consider Livigno for your next ski holiday. The area, just across the Swiss border from St. Moritz, offers Swiss-style slopes at a fraction of the cost. Day ski passes cost about $32, whereas day passes at nearby St. Moritz can cost nearly double that price, or even more on peak dates.

A quick search on Airbnb shows that cozy apartments with mountain views start at just $85 per night. In contrast, fancy alpine resorts that would cost $500-$900 per night in ski destinations like Switzerland or Austria offer rates starting at $244 per night.

Livigno, Italy, is an alternative to pricier ski destinations in Switzerland and Austria. DAVIDE BARBANO/GETTY IMAGES

Livigno has another perk: It's tax-free for skiers that also love perusing the stores. This means you can shop to your heart's content without having to pay any value-added tax.

Related: 6 mistakes to avoid when taking your 1st ski trip to Europe

Beach vacation: Fuerteventura, Spain

Fuerteventura's beaches are windswept and beautiful. MARCO BOTTIGELLI/GETTY IMAGES

One of Europe’s most affordable beach destinations, Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands has wild, pristine stretches of sand. The best part? Besides being ideal for budget travelers thanks to low-cost accommodation and meal options, the island sees sunshine and warm temperatures all year long, meaning you can have an epic winter sun holiday or an iconic summer break — really, a beach getaway at any time of year.

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All types of surfing are popular in the breezy Fuerteventura. ROBERTO MOIOLA/SYSAWORLD/GETTY IMAGES

Once there, it’s a breeze to find cheap accommodation, from affordable all-inclusive hotels to low-cost beach rentals. Surfboard rentals cost as low as $11 per day, and the island is also exempt from value-added tax.

Train adventure: Prague to Budapest

Prague's Old Town is especially beautiful beneath a layer of snow. KIRILL RUDENKO/GETTY IMAGES

For a scenic and affordable adventure, take the train between two of Europe’s most beautiful and cheapest cities: Prague and Budapest, Hungary. The seven-hour ride costs as little as $21 each way on RegioJet.

The trip is as gorgeous as it is cost-effective. You’ll glide past picturesque landscapes like rolling hills and castles, even catching sight of the Danube River during the ride.

Budapest is one of Europe's most affordable capitals. ERIC YANG/GETTY IMAGES

Although Budapest is 12% cheaper than Prague, both cities reign when it comes to affordable dining, lodging and activities. For example, entrance to the Buda Castle is about $4, and it’s simple to find a pint of beer in either city for less than a couple of dollars.

Related: 10 things no one tells you about ... Budapest

Road trip: Croatia

Rovinj along the Istrian Peninsula. REPCRO/GETTY IMAGES

Whether you love iconic natural landscapes like far-flung beaches and glistening cascades or prefer discovering red-roofed villages and historical sites, a road trip adventure through Croatia has it all.

It costs less than $10 per day in the low season to rent a car at Croatia’s Zagreb Airport from popular rental agencies like Avis or Sixt, according to Kayak. From there, you have options.

You can head east to the Istrian Peninsula to discover beautiful fishing villages and quiet beaches, visiting destinations like Porec, Rovinj and Pula.

Road trips through Croatia are both affordable and incredibly picturesque. MATTHEW MICAH WRIGHT/GETTY IMAGES.

Another alternative is to head south but stay inland, stopping at the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park as well as Rastoke, which is known as the "mini" Plitvice Lakes. Or, head south along the coast to Krka National Park and Split. If you’re traveling in the off-season, continue on toward Dubrovnik, which is much more affordable (and less touristy) outside the busy summer months.

A Europe getaway doesn't have to break the bank

Whether you love a road trip or prefer to ski, it is possible to travel despite rising costs. Besides selecting the right destinations, now is the perfect time to dig into that stash of points to save on accommodations or airfare. Combining strategies, like picking affordable spots and using your points, means you may be able to have a luxury vacation without overspending.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
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Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
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Intro offer

Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

Fair/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for Credit One Bank Wander® Card
at Credit One Bank's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for earning alternative rewards for travel purchases
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel partner site
5XEarn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
1XEarn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel

    Earn 10,000 Bonus Points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    Fair/Good

Why We Chose It

The revamped Wander Card from Credit One Bank earns cardmembers up to 10 points per dollar spent on eligible travel purchases. With no foreign transaction fees, the card is also great for international travel. However, points earned from this card can only be used at a fixed value, so it may not be the best option for those striving to get maximum value from their rewards.

Pros

  • This card has no foreign transaction fees and earns up to 10 points per dollar on travel purchases through the Credit One Bank travel partner site.

Cons

  • While cardholders can earn a significant amount of points on travel purchases, there isn't any way to redeem points from the Wander Card for maximum value (beyond 1 cent per point).
  • Earn 10,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days and redeem for a $100 statement credit, gift cards, or travel
  • Earn 10x points on eligible hotels and car rentals booked through the Credit One Bank travel site
  • Earn 5x points on eligible travel, dining, and gas
  • Earn 1x points on all other purchases
  • Redeem your reward points for statement credits, gift cards, merchandise, flights, hotels, and more
  • With $0 Fraud Liability, you won’t be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Free Online Credit Score and Credit Report summary, terms apply
  • If you are a Covered Borrower under the Military Lending Act, you may get a different offer
  • See Rates & Fees