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How to plan your European interrailing trip on a budget

 

 

Last month I took my first trip of 2018 as I went inter-railing round Europe (again!) with my sister. After inter-railing round Italy together back in 2016, we were super excited to be back on the road again, but this time exploring three countries in a row: France, Luxembourg and Belgium! We’d planned the route fairly quickly and, once we decided that we wanted to use the Eurostar to get there and back, had chosen our starting point as Paris and our final destination as Bruges, so just had one stop in between meaning that Luxembourg was the obvious candidate! Getting to and from the UK and each city was extremely easy, and both stress and hassle free. My sister and I organised every aspect of the trip before we left and we managed to get a week-long stay, including transport to and from the Eurostar stations, national and international trains plus six nights’ accommodation in 3-4* hotels for just £437pp! We had given ourselves a budget of £600pp for the entire week and well and truly smashed it. I like to think I’m quite good at getting a bit of a bargain, and this trip was certainly a steal. Being the geek that I am I’ve even worked out all the individual costings for this trip and included them in my total  pricing breakdown below. Want to know how I got a week’s inter-railing trip for less than £500pp? Let’s find out…

 

UK transport

 

 

Obviously this one depends on where you’re based, and I am lucky to live in Oxford so am very close to London, but our capital can be reached easily by most of the UK’s major cities, which makes getting to St Pancras Eurostar Station very accessible. We were travelling on Easter Sunday which may have slightly put the prices up, but usually a one way ticket from Oxford to London costs around £10 per adult, and is cheaper for me as I have a young person’s rail card. The Eurostar tickets themselves, from London – Paris and from Brussels – London were pretty reasonable and each journey was less than £70pp return. Have a look to see which trains are cheapest/most expensive on the day of travel as you could save a lot of money by going later in the day, or earlier on in the morning, or even the day before or after if you’re really flexible and want to get the best deal possible!

Costings:

Oxford – London return train – 1x adult, 1x rail card holder = £28.90pp and £19.05pp

London St Pancras – Paris Gare du Nord one way train – 2x youths = £65pp

Brussells Midi – London St Pancras one way train – 2x youths = £53.30pp (don’t forget your ticket should state that departure is from any Belgian station and includes onward travel between cities ie if you’re staying in Bruges and need to get back to Brussels Midi for your departing train, the journey between Bruges and Brussels is included in your ticket price, you don’t need to buy an additional ticket).

 

International trains

 

 

Sadly we were hit by the dreaded SNCF train strike during our time away – they had only just started and it caused havoc! Our train from Paris to Luxembourg was cancelled and, because it was bank holiday Monday, none of the phone lines were working and no one on the website online chat/social media pages were able to get back to me. Luckily we were able to use our existing ticket free of charge on the next available train which was only 3 hours later than our scheduled train, but if that one had been cancelled I don’t know what we would have done! I would recommend downloading the SNCF app for live updates to your train as this came in handy when the website crashed! All other trains ran smoothly though and international train travel is so enjoyable for me as I love the scenery between cities and the excitement when I pass over the border into a new country! My top tip is to book your trains as far in advance as possible for the best rates, be flexible on timings, and don’t forget if you’re under 26 you qualify for youth prices.

Costings:

Paris – Luxembourg international train (direct) – 2x youths = £25.61pp

Luxembourg – Bruges train (change at Liege) – 2x youths = £29.14pp

 

Accommodation

 

 

We picked some fantastic hotels for our trip and it made such a difference to have somewhere cosy and warm to come home to after a busy day of exploring. I knew the cities we had chosen weren’t the cheapest on earth and so we would have to use a significant amount of our budget to cover the cost of accommodation, but I think we did well considering we got 6 nights for under £600 which is just less than £300pp for the entire duration. I usually look at private rooms in hostels to keep costs down, but actually we found hotels that were still within our budget and so decided to spend a little bit more in order to get maximum comfort and security during our stay. Being a travel blogger, I usually reach out to hotels and offer my services (writing a review/promoting on social media) in exchange for a discounted/complimentary stay, however sadly I didn’t find any hotels that were free on my dates that were able to collaborate with me on this occasion which was a real shame. I did expect this though as we went over Easter weekend and the kids half term holidays, so be careful when you choose to travel if you are trying to pitch to hotels!

I am a big advocate of using online promo codes/vouchers to book hotels though and my travel hack when booking accommodation would be to book using Expedia. I have used them for years and never had a bad experience! For every hotel I booked I was able to find a 10-15% off voucher online (literally just Google Expedia promo code and one usually always comes up!) and also received up to 200 nectar points for each booking which is another bonus for me. I’ll be talking a bit more about the hotels I stayed in over the course of the next few weeks as I will be putting together individual travel guides to each city, but I wanted to keep this post purely about the costings/planning of an inter-railing trip so hopefully these tips will come in handy when you’re looking to book something!

Costings:

Hotel De Seine, Paris – 2 nights = total £246 = £123pp

Hotel Parc Belle Vue, Luxembourg – 2 nights = total £204 = £102pp

Ibis Hotel Brugge Centrum, Bruges – 2 nights = total £140.98 = £70.49pp

 

Activities/optional tours

 

 

Luckily as a travel blogger I am able to reach out and pitch to tour companies/excursion brands in order to enhance my trip and book some much needed add-on’s. On this occasion I was lucky enough to work with tour company Triple and holiday company Euroventure whilst in Paris. I went on a guided tour around the secret passageways of Paris with Triple and went up the famous Montparnasse Tower with Euroventure and both of these experiences really enhanced our stay. Again I will be writing about both tours in more detail when my Paris travel guide goes live. I also worked with the Luxembourg Tourism Board whilst I was exploring their beautiful capital city and was offered complimentary visitor cards which enabled us to make use of free public transport, free museum entry and discounted entry to a range of other attractions which really helped our budget in a city which is quite expensive! Where possible, pitch to brands in order to keep costs down – you’re probably going to be writing about them for your blog anyway, so you may as well get something in return for it. Obviously we did more tours/trips whilst we were there, but here are the ones we pre-booked/pre-paid before we left and what they cost/saved us in money…

Costings:

Montparnasse access for 2 adults, Paris = £17pp – GIFTED to us by Euroventure

Guided passageway tour for 2 adults, Paris = £30pp – GIFTED to us by Triple

Luxembourg card for 2 adults, Luxembourg = £17.50pp – GIFTED to us by Luxembourg Tourism

 

Total breakdown

 

 

Transport: £284.55 (£142.28pp)

Accommodation: £590.98 (£295.49pp)

Extras: £129 (£64.50pp) if we hadn’t been kindly gifted them.

GRAND TOTAL = £437.77pp – still would have been under £500pp even if we had paid for the optional extras!

So as you can see, there were lots of different elements to this trip which did make it add up, but everything was kept at a relatively low cost, which definitely helped to stick within budget. Obviously we had additional spending money for food/drink, other excursions and attractions we wanted to visit, and this was covered by the euros we used for spends. When planning an inter-railing trip like this I would definitely take into consideration the time of year, dates of travel (ie try and go mid-week where possible) and try to book transport as far in advance as possible. As you can see, even with a train strike, we were still able to travel to our intended destination and it didn’t affect our holiday too much, but having as much planned in advance really helped to take the stress away from what was otherwise quite a hectic trip. We had a brilliant week away and I can’t wait for my next adventure… inter-railing is definitely my favourite method of travel and I hope this might inspire you to take a similar trip in 2018!

Have you ever been inter-railing before? Get in touch – I’d love to hear your train tales!

Love Jess x

 

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Wanderlust Wednesday: Top 10 European City Breaks

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my new Wanderlust Wednesday feature.. with summer fast approaching the time will soon come for me to venture abroad for my next European city break. I’m really in to booking busy sight seeing weekends away as opposed to week long beach holidays and I want to fit in as many trips as I can over the next few years! Im currently trying to book a break away during our next UK bank holiday which falls at the end of August but I have no idea where to go! So with the help of some brilliant fellow travel bloggers (pics credited below) I thought I’d compile a wanderlust list to give me some inspiration! Here goes…

1) Rome, Italy

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Image courtesy of Emily Pearson of A Befuddled Life

Top of my list and for very good reason, Rome is the place I am absolutely desperate to visit as soon as physically possible! I’ve always loved the thought of exploring the historic coliseums’, visiting the religious Vatican area and consuming copious amounts of Gelato – authentic Italian ice cream-yum! I’ve wanted to make a wish at The Trevi Fountain and walk down the Spanish Steps ever since I was a little girl so The Eternal City is definitely calling my name!

2) Copenhagen, Denmark

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This image & my feature image of The Little Mermaid statue are both courtesy of Shelly Borga of Norway to Nowhere

The capital city lies in the heart of Scandinavia and boasts many exquisite landmarks and popular tourist attractions whilst having a very laidback feel. Home to Denmark’s Parliament and Royal Family, this city is by far the largest in the country. I’ve always wanted to go to Copenhagen to visit The Little Mermaid statue as everyone knows how much of a Disney geek/storybook fan I am! The picturesque Nyhavn Harbor and breathtaking Tivoli Gardens also look amazing places to visit. Although quite expensive this city break is definitely on my next go-to list for the summer!

3) Budapest, Hungary

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Image courtesy of Tangerine Trubiano of A Travelogue by Brock & Tanj

The capital of Hungary is split into two districts; Buda and Pest, hence the name, and is bisected via the River Danube. Home to The Hungarian Parliament Building, many museums and galleries and the largest thermal water system in the world, Budapest is a cultural paradise not to be missed! I’m so tempted to book a trip there this August and experience everything that this beautiful city has to offer.. prices are super cheap out there as well so that’s another reason it features high up on this list.. watch this space!

4) Berlin, Germany

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Image courtesy of Tangerine Trubiano of A Travelogue by Brock & Tanj

Famed for its large involvement in both world wars, Berlin offers a wealth of culture and history with plenty to do both in the summer and winter months. Well known attractions include The Brandenburg Gate, The Reichstag Building, Checkpoint Charlie and The Berlin Wall. I’d love to visit during December to experience their fantastic Christmas markets but have been told it gets bitterly cold with temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees.. thermals at the ready!

5) Lisbon, Portugal

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Image courtesy of Maaike Van Kuijk of A Travellous World

A quirky alternative to Barcelona/Madrid, the coastal capital of Portugal offers a mix of a busy sightseeing break with a more relaxed beach style holiday. I’m always on the go when I do city breaks as I like to pack as much in as I can and never get a chance to relax, so the allure of a beach in the same city appeals to me a lot! Main points of interest include the beautiful Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon Cathedral, the zoo and the oceanarium.

6) Bruges, Belgium

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Image courtesy of my good friend Stephanie Lett

This chocolate box capital in North West Belgium looks like something out of a fairy tale and I’ve been wanting to visit for years! Full of medieval buildings, winding canals and cobbled streets, the city offers tonnes of beautiful history as well as the best beer and waffles you’ll ever taste! What’s more, you can even get there via high speed Eurostar Train from London in just a couple of hours which is incredibly convenient and takes all the hassle out of flying.. there really is no excuse not to visit this beautiful city. Like Berlin, I’d love to visit Bruges at Christmas time to see the hundreds of little markets that take over the city centre.

7) Madrid, Spain

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Image courtesy of  Henar Gomez of Wanderwings

I’ve been going to Spain most years throughout my life and have visited a total of nine times so far! Spain is the perfect holiday destination for us Brits; sun, sea and sangria all within a two hour flight.. what more could we ask for?! The country boasts many beautiful beach resorts as well as plenty of interesting cities including Valencia, Marbella, Leon & Malaga and I’ve already been to Barcelona so would love to head over to Madrid to see how the two compare! Famous attractions include The Royal Palace (the largest in western Europe), Madrid Cathedral and The Bernabeu Football Stadium.

8) Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Image courtesy of Maaike Van Kuijk of A Travellous World

Best known for its colourful nightlife, elaborate canal system and artistic heritage, Amsterdam is the cultural capital of The Netherlands. Famous attractions include Anne Frank’s House, The Van Gogh Museum and The Royal Palace. In addition, The Red Light District is notorious amongst tourists with stag weekends a plenty so best to avoid this area if, like me, you’re looking for a more relaxed and cultural weekend break!

9) Venice, Italy

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Image courtesy of Sarah Gallo of The Five Foot Traveler

Perhaps the most romantic place in the world (along with Paris) is the stunning Italian city of Venice. Criss crossed with canals and pretty bridges, Venice is one of the largest pedestrian only areas in the world. I’d love to go here to experience the romance, although I think I need to find myself a boyfriend first!! This is probably one for my bucket list that I’ll definitely visit later on in life when I’m happy and settled.

10) Vienna, Austria

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Image courtesy of Menorca Chaturvedi of Europe Diaries

The enchanting city of Vienna, the capital of Austria, is well known as one of the most musical cities in the world, and was once home to the likes of Mozart & Beethoven. There are many museums, galleries and gothic Cathedrals to explore, or why not take a cruise down the River Danube for a more relaxed experience. I think I’d tie in a trip to Vienna with a weekend in Budapest and do the two at the same time, rather than booking two separate trips as the countries are quite close together.

All of the above cities are places I definitely want to visit soon so I’ve got lots of planning to do, but I think my top three are next on my immediate hit list. I’ll be researching each place in more detail before making my final decision, but I will of course let you all know once I’ve booked up… watch this space!

Love Jess x