Who doesn’t dream of taking a big trip to Europe during college? Whether you’re looking to study abroad for a semester, head across the pond for a big summer trip or just take a winter or spring break vacay, there’s plenty of ways to see Europe for cheap. Between cheap destinations in Europe for students and budget tips for traveling in Europe, where to stay, how to find cheap flights and more, we’ve got the ultimate guide to how to travel Europe as a college student (on a budget!)
How to find cheap flights to Europe
If you’re searching for ways to travel to Europe for cheap, it all starts with finding a cheap plane ticket. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get to Europe cheaply and without sacrificing leg room!
How far in advance to book flights to Europe?
The best time to book flights to Europe depends on when you want to go. A good rule of thumb is to book your flights at least six weeks in advance, but no more than 3-4 months ahead of time. If you’re visiting during winter break (especially over Christmas or New Years) or peak summer months (July and August), book your tickets a bit earlier. The best prices for winter flights are generally in September or early October. For summer flights, the best months to book are February or March.
Don’t care when you go, just want the cheapest flights? Book in December-February for travels in February or March. You’ll definitely find cheaper prices!
How much does it cost to fly to Europe?
Major European hubs often have cheaper flights than smaller, regional airports. The cost of flying to Europe also depends, of course, on where you’re flying from. If you’re traveling from the East Coast of the US to a major European hub, a good price is somewhere around $400 – $600. From the West Coast, a good price is around $500 – $700. If you’re flying into or out of a smaller hub, expect the price to be a bit higher.
Still seems too expensive? Don’t worry—you can get discounts on flights as a college student! Just sign up on StudentUniverse with your .edu email address, search for the flights you need from over 220+ airlines, and book with a discount. You can regularly find flights to Europe for $200-$400 if you’re a student!
Or check for promo codes before you purchase. You’ll find deals for specific airlines, destinations and more. For example, right now you can get an extra $30 off your flights to Europe if you fly LOT Polish Airlines.
Cheapest destinations in Europe for students
Traveling to big cities in Europe will be more expensive than visiting smaller, off-the-beaten path destinations. While Paris and Rome absolutely should be on your bucket list, we’ve got a ton more destinations that offer just as much charm at a fraction of the cost. If you’re traveling Europe as a college student, here’s five destinations that need to be on your list:
History-lovers, architecture-lovers, foodies and hipsters can all unite in Warsaw! Although often overlooked, Warsaw (the capital of Poland) is a great destination for anyone traveling Europe on a budget. Visit markets and gardens, get a feel for authentic local life, wander through Old Town with centuries of history or head to Praga, the hipster capital of Warsaw for modern art, restaurants, street art and more. The average daily cost to travel in Warsaw is only $40.
Like other European cities, Budapest is home to cathedrals, castles, parks, historic districts and even thermal spas. Students will easily find relatively cheap accommodation, transportation and food options here. Even better? Many of the best things to see and do are free! Make sure to visit the Hungarian Parliament Building, Buda Castle and, of course, the Szechenyi Thermal Baths! The average daily cost to travel in Budapest is $42 a day.
Krakow is the perfect place in Europe to visit if you’re on a budget, want to have an authentic experience AND want to immerse yourself in culture and history. From the medieval city center to the Old Town to the Jewish Quarter, there’s plenty to see and explore. Visit castles and cathedrals, enjoy wandering through beautiful town squares lined with shops and cafes, or have a tour through the underground salt mine. The average daily cost to travel in Krakow is $38.
If Prague isn’t on your bucket list yet, it’s time to add it! This budget-friendly city is one of our favorite places to visit in Europe as a college student (or anyone). From the iconic bridges and historic Old Town Square to the unique architecture ranging from the ancient (the 9th-century Prague castle) to the modern (Dancing House, anyone?), modern street art to parks and gardens, there’s plenty to explore. The average daily cost to travel in Prague is $50 a day.
Sofia is often overlooked among European cities, but it’s an incredible destination—and one that’s easily explored on a budget. With Persian, Slavic, Greek and Ottoman influences, there’s so much to experience all in one place. Not to mention that it’s home to over 2,000 years of history, from the ancient St. George Rotunda Church to the famous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, there’s centuries of historical architecture, culture and traditions to explore. The average cost to travel in Sofia is $30 a day.
How to travel on a budget in Europe
Avoid tourist hot-spots in peak season. Prices will be MUCH more expensive, travel during off-season or visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations. You’ll save a lot of money AND have a more authentic experience, too! (Remember: for most places in Europe, peak season is July-August, as well as December.)
Shop during sales. Why pay full-price for flights when you don’t have to? Sign up for our emails and bookmark our promo code page so you’ll stay up-to-date on all the sales and deals. You can find discounts year-round to make your flights cheaper, whether you’re booking last-minute flights or planning ahead.
Find cheap accommodation. This is often the most expensive part of traveling, but there’s lots of ways to make it cheaper. Staying in hostels can save you a TON of money, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded travelers and new travel buddies! Airbnbs can also be a good option, especially in bigger cities.
Eat local. If you’re eating at fancy, sit-down restaurants for every meal, your budget is going to go out the window pretty quickly! Thankfully, there’s lots more options in Europe to eat cheaply. Check out local markets and cafes, get lunch at a street food stand, shop at local markets and grocery stores and make your own food and most of all, watch where the locals go! The small, unknown restaurants and cafes away from the touristed center of town are often much cheaper and just as delicious (if not more so!).
Get around Europe on a budget. Good news: there’s lots of cheap transportation options in Europe! If you’re staying in one city, use the local subway or bus systems to get around instead of renting a car or taking taxis. Or rent a bicycle or even a scooter if the city is on the smaller side!
Rail passes can be a good bet if you’re planning to take lots of long-distance trains in a short amount of time. For example, a 10-day Eurail travel pass costs € 301 ($349 USD). Many flights in Europe cost less than $50, so you may be better off flying between cheaper destinations and buying train tickets for more expensive ones. Long story short: do your research!
Red-eye flights and overnight trains are often a great way to save money when traveling Europe as a college student. Not only do you get a cheaper price (usually) for the route, but because your trip happens at night, you also save the cost of one night’s stay!