Jenn Paul

How to travel to Europe for less

For my 2018 Euro trip, I went to  7 European countries for 17 days for only $3300.

Yes, you read that right.

Averaging out at under $200 per person per day, me and my partner were able to book all flights, accommodations, excursions, and meals in 7 cities over 17 days. When you think about how much people spend on an all inclusive on an island for a week ($1500/7 days = $214/day)…I think we did pretty good!

This year we went to Dublin, Belfast, Amsterdam, London, Ibiza, Madrid and Reykjavik.

Our budget breakdown was approximately as follows (per person):

  • $1280 – Flights
  • $849 – Meals
  • $837 – Accommodations
  • $355 – Excursions

Here’s how we did it, and how you can too! (Please note that this post contains affiliate links).

Flights

This one is quite the process, but it’s worth it! We booked all of our flights as one way flights, and we didn’t book them all at the same time. We started booking months in advance, and were flexible on almost all of our destinations.

Step 1: Figure out when you’re going

  • First use Google Flights to see on average what days are cheapest to fly for your destination.
  • Then, set alerts on Kayak, Sky Scanner and Momondo for the days that work with your ideal timeline.

Step 2: Signup to save

  • Before you book your flight, sign up for TopCashBack.com, eBates.ca and eBates.com. All three sites have periodic promotions – so check out each one and sign up for whichever one makes the most sense. As a bonus, if you sign up using my referral links above, you’ll get a signup bonus.

Step 3: Book your flight

  • Now that you’re signed up for one of the above cashback sites, go to the site and search for FlightHub and CheapoAir. Both sites generally offer $10-$15 off on flights, and seem to be the best sites to book through for that reason.
  • MAKE SURE you’ve clicked through the appropriate cashback website prior to booking your flight. The cashback site needs to actually record your visit in order for you to get paid out.
  • If you have multiple flight segments (and if you don’t particularly care about being seated beside your partner) – book each flight segment separately. If you do it this way, you’ll earn cashback on each flight, which really starts to add up.
Accommodations

Most of the places we stayed were Airbnb’s. We were super lucky and had great experiences with our hosts. My favourite of all the places was this beautiful apartment in Madrid. The host was incredibly helpful, the apartment was gorgeous, and it was in the perfect location with so many wonderful tapas places and bars within a short walk. Just don’t plan on sleeping upstairs in the loft if you’ve had a few drinks, because those stairs are not for the faint of heart! 😉

Sign up for Airbnb using my link, and you’ll get $45 off your first trip of $95 or more.

Excursions

We decided to do a day trip up to Belfast from Dublin on our last day in Ireland. In the end, the tour cost about $72 CAD after all of the discounts. I’d say it was definitely worth the money. The tour guide was great, and we got to see the Dark Hedges (hello Game of Thrones Fans?), the Giant’s Causeway, the Titanic museum, and explore downtown Belfast for a bit.

Here’s how we managed to save $25 each when booking it it:

  • First we both signed up for Top Cash Back UK. This is a site that lets you earn cash back on your purchases. (If you sign up with my link, you’ll get £5 free. And sign up separately to double your savings!)
  • Then we both signed up for Viator’s newsletter to get 10% off our first purchase and waited for the welcome email to come in.
  • After that, we both clicked through the welcome email from Viator and added the day trip to the cart.
  • Then searched for Viator on TopCashBack and clicked through to the Viator site (that’s important!).
  • With the item in the cart, we checked out (note that sometimes there’s a weird glitch when you click through TopCashBack that voids the 10% discount – just reach out to customer service and they’ll credit your credit card).

I booked the trip at $97.98, but a few weeks later I noticed the price had dropped to $86.93 CAD. So I took advantage of their free cancellation policy and cancelled and rebooked at the cheaper rate. This brought the price down to $78.24. Plus I earned £3.46 ($5.85 CAD) from TopCashBack, bringing the final price to $72.39 CAD. Over $25 cheaper than the initial price.

Cash vs. Credit Card

Before we left, we did a ton of research into the best travel credit card to take overseas, since we didn’t want to have too much cash on us. We found the Rogers Bank World Elite Mastercard to be the best overall in terms of value. Most credit cards charge some sort of foreign transaction fee, including this one. However, with this card’s 4% cash back minus the 2.5% foreign exchange fee…you still end up earning 1.5% cash back! Plus it allows you to sign up for free additional cards, so myself and my partner were both able to get one in our names. And the fact that the card has a $0 annual fee, is just icing on the cake.

The Best Places I visited in Dublin, Ireland

The Irish Whiskey Museum Tour and Tasting

I’m not a huge Guinness fan, so we decided to book the classic tour at the Irish Whiskey Museum Tour instead. The classic tour option came with a free tasting of three Irish Whiskeys (the premium tour comes with four).

The experience itself was great. Our tour was led by a self professed “poor art student” – who was a great host, and told us all about the history of prohibition in Ireland, Scottish Whisky vs. Irish Whiskey and much more. I’d say that especially considering the tour includes three generous shots of whiskey, it was well worth the money for the experience.

Note that we booked our tour on 365tickets.com instead of the official website, because they are listed on TopCashBack, which let us save about 10% off the price of each ticket. Sign up for either the American Topcashback.com or the UK TopCashBack.co.uk, depending on what makes most sense for you.

Kilmainham Gaol Jail Tour

The jail is a little bit of a ways from Dublin, but was worth the trip for us. The history of Modern Dublin is a huge deal in Ireland, and for good reason. I found it really interesting, and the tour itself was both informative and haunting. They take you into the cells of some of the former inmates/political prisoners involved in the 1916 Easter Rising. This year they also have a new exhibit honouring Nelson Mandela in honour of what would have been his 100th birthday, which is another cool thing to check out while you’re there.

St. Michan’s Church Crypts

This was probably my favourite little bit of history that I got to experience in Dublin. I find mummies fascinating, and the crypts in the basement of St. Michan’s church did not disappoint! You weren’t allowed to take photos out of respect for the dead, so I can’t show you what I saw – but honestly it’s something you should experience yourself.

Tickets can be purchased inside the church, and they were a very nominal price (€5?). After you get your ticket, the tour guide will lead you outside and then downstairs. You’ll have to be careful not to bump your head – the stairs are steep and the ceilings by the entrance are low. Once you’re in, you’ll feel that the air is cool and crisp and you’ll find yourself in a short dark corridor with room doors on each side. Each room tiny – probably about 7×7 feet if I had to guess.

Over time, some of the coffins have decomposed, allowing them to break open and the contents to be seen. Thanks to the limestone walls and dry air, the bodies have been preserved beautifully. The guide tells you about the history of the crypts, including how some of them are still “active” – meaning that there are some families in Dublin who are technically still entitled to bury families there. Most interesting to me was the mystery of the 800 year old”crusader” as they call him. How did this mummy end up here when all the others are 400 years old or less? Fascinating.

Dublin Palace

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in many castles…but this place was absolutely massive. One of the best parts for me took place near the beginning of our tour. The guide took us downstairs to see the ruins of the original castle, which was really cool. After that he took us into the church that was beside the palace, and then the actual palace itself. The palace was filled with beautiful artwork and paintings, though honestly I think I got bored about halfway through and we left the tour early to find ice cream 🙂

 

Day Trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland

We felt like we had seen a good amount of Dublin in the few days that we were there, so decided to venture out and do a day trip before we left to Amsterdam. I’ll be writing more about that soon.

 

All the food I ate in Dublin, Ireland

Boxty

One of the first meals that we ate in Dublin was at the Temple Bar restaurant, BOXTY. The restaurant itself is located in the busy Temple Bar area, and had a cute ambiance and Irish inspired dishes.

We opted for the Boxty Tasting Slate, which came highly recommended by online reviews. Everything on the slate was made with Irish potatoes. It included Boxty Dumplings with Honey & Chilli, Toasted Boxty Loaf topped with St. Tolas Goats Cheese and a Tomato and Red Onion Salsa and Boxty Fries with a Rocket & Garlic Dip for €12.90, and didn’t disappoint. The “dumplings”, or gnochi was really nicely complimented by the sauce that it was dipped in, and the fries were crispy and flavourful. It was a good snack!

O’Neills’ Food Pub

We were craving some late night eats, and wanted something authentic, so stopped by O’Neills Pub. I can’t even begin to describe how massive this place is. The Pub reminds me a lot of Madison’s in Toronto – it’s a maze of seemingly endless levels of seating and multiple bar stations and even live music. Luckily we got there in time to grab some food before the cafeteria style kitchen closed at 11pm. We ordered the traditional Irish stew (lamb, carrots, potatoes – €11.95) with a side of mashed potatoes (because you can never have enough potatoes). The lamb was tender and the stew itself was really flavourful. The mashed potatoes were just okay in my opinion, so maybe try one of their other sides if you go here.

Queen of Tarts

We wanted something sweet, so we headed to Queen of Tarts in the Temple Bar area for a treat. The inside was adorable on all accounts, and they’re so popular they have another location just a short walking distance from the one we visited. They had a bunch of yummy looking treats, but we went with a slice of the Bailey’s cheesecake and it was delicious. Recommended if you like cheesecake!

The Pieman Cafe

Our next stop was The Pieman Cafe for the Beef and Guiness Pie with gravy. It was reaaaallllyyy good. The crust was perfect and the filling was great. Personally, it rivalled the pies we ate in London. And you can tell I was hungry because I forgot to take a photo before I started cutting into it!

The Rolling Donut

It was hard to walk by these donuts in the window and not stop. The Rolling Donut has a bunch of locations in Dublin, and their window displays are super tempting. But looks can be deceiving, and this was probably one of the least favourite things that I ate on this trip. We got a Pistachio Salted Caramel donut – two of my favourite flavours! For me, the icing portion was way too sweet and the dough itself wasn’t tasty. It tasted too…bread like? Although maybe that’s just how European donuts are. I’m probably a little too used to my Tim Hortons and Krispy Kreme 🙂

147 Deli

The reason that we were in Dublin was for the Longitude Festival (which was fantastic btw) – so before getting on the 45 minute bus ride to Marlay Park, we decided to grab a snack for the way.

We stopped at 147 Deli for the Bacon & Sausage Buttie sandwich (€5). It was filled with smoked bacon, pork sausage, and their house smoked ketchup, and made a great little snack.

I have no idea what this place was called

…But it was one of the best things I ate in Ireland (and probably also the cheapest). This was from one of the vendors at the Longitude fest – curry cheese fries. Probably the closest I could have gotten to Poutine this far away from Canada. It was so good that we got it two days in a row. Yum!

 

 

 

McDonalds

Okay. I may or may not have eaten a whole lot of McDonalds on this trip, but that’s because the McDonald’s menu varies slightly in each country and I had to try all the things!

20 nuggs were only €5 and the cheese bites were delicious. The snack wrap of the day happened to be Sweet Chilli Chicken, which wasn’t bad at all for the price.

No regrets!

Lovinspoon

We had to try a traditional Irish Breakfast when in Dublin. We stopped at Lovinspoon and enjoyed our experience there. The restaurant itself has an eclectic decor, with mismatched tables and chairs. You order at the counter, and the kitchen was quick to turnaround our order. We weren’t super hungry, and decided to share, and they were nice enough to throw in some extra sausages with our meal. The only thing on the plate that I wasn’t a huge fan of was the pudding (those two round things), but that’s probably more of just a personal preference thing than anything else.

Murphy’s Ice Cream

The lineup for this place was massive but was worth the wait. The staff at Murphy’s was super generous with samples for the indecisive ice cream lovers (aka us). After trying samples of the Sticky Toffee Pudding and Dreamy Creamy Caramel, we went with a scoop of chocolate and salted caramel. Both super creamy and great choices.

Fun fact: apparently the worst flavour they ever made was Smoked Salmon ice cream (ew).

Simon’s Place

We heard good things about the cinnamon buns at Simon’s Place, so had to give them a try. What a treat! The pastry was soft and flavourful, and as a whole it wasn’t too sweet. And it was nice to have a cinnamon bun without the super sweet icing that we’re used to in North America. Definitely recommended.