Stressful Day Holiday Daydream
August 23, 2011 10:15 AM   Subscribe

Thinking about a break in the springtime, somewhere in Europe, somewhere cheap with stuff to do. Is this an impossible dream?

We went to Paris last year and loved it - went over on the Eurostar, which was really quick and easy, and stayed in a Formule 1 which was basic but exactly what we wanted as a base just to sleep after wandering the city. I paid for myself and my OH, and I would like to again this time, hence the need to stick to a reasonable budget. (For reference: it cost about £200 for the travel and hotel last time, plus spending money.)

I have decided that I liked going on holiday so much that we should do it again! And it would be good to have a goal in mind as I try and curb my pointless expenses and save up some cash each month. However, not only is the Euro strong, but I haven't flown from the UK for eight years and I can't for the life of me work out whether it's cheaper to travel to an out of town airport and fly budget, or take British Airways from Heathrow (which I can get to easily). And the baggage limitations confuse me too - with the Eurostar you just turn up with whatever luggage you want to take. Am I overthinking it (especially as nothing is going to be planned for a few months)?

But aside from that - where to go? I've always wanted to go to Scandinavia but I think this will get crazy expensive. OH likes the idea of travelling around by train, and Eurail passes exist, but is this something proper grown-ups can do? Is it feasible to expect to be able to sleep in the train, or to travel to several countries within a week? I don't think either of us are keen on hostels unless private rooms are available (certainly not if they involve callow youths playing bongos and guitar all night - I'd have to take OH to hospital to get the grimace to go away) and couchsurfing is out as well. A basic clean and safe hotel is fine, though, and we don't mind travelling a little bit to get into the centre (we don't drive but public transport is fine).

We like museums, nice old buildings, twee seaside resorts, zoos, pretty parks, quirky shopping, interesting architecture and streets, flea markets for maximum photography/acquisition of pointless tat, crafts, boardgames and foreign supermarkets selling delicious wine. Relaxing is good, but so is getting out and seeing things. There are several places that will fit that bill but everything in Europe seems so expensive right now (we might be in London but being a tourist is always more expensive somehow) so if anyone has any tips or ideas I'd like to hear them.

Recently I've been looking at Tallinn with an added day-trip to Helsinki, or possibly Lisbon - I've been to neither but they both seem like very pretty towns and pretty cheap to stay in and eat nicely, although I'm not sure what's there to be done. Any experiences of either?

(PS - last time I posted a question like this someone suggested we go to Asia. We would LOVE to go to Cambodia. But I checked the cost of flights today to see if there was any remote chance of making them a Christmas present, and they are £799 per person, so sadly this is a longer term plan. Boo.)
posted by mippy to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Budapest & Prague - cheaper than much of the rest of Europe, and equally beautiful.
WTF is an OH?
posted by coolguymichael at 12:03 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm in the Czech Republic right now and can tell you that is definitely cheaper than other parts of Europe and the architecture is stunning. CR has all the things you mention you like.

coolguymichael: OH = Other Half.
posted by miles1972 at 12:23 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: Yes, 'other half'. Sorry, picked that up from another forum I post on as 'boyfriend' makes me feel like a teenager!

Prague looks lovely, but we were concerned that many of the cheap drink cities are infested with stag parties most weekends. Are drunken lads easy enough to avoid?
posted by mippy at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2011

Response by poster: example
posted by mippy at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2011

I've lived in Tallinn all my life so if you need recommendations, hit me up via mefi mail. Easyjet flies here from Stansted. Tallinn is cheaper than Helsinki (but not crazy cheap) and having been to Helsinki at least 20 times, I think there's more to see here, too.
posted by marais at 1:23 PM on August 23, 2011

I think there is technically baggage restrictions on Eurostar too, but they don't make such a big thing of it. You are overthinking it, if you're only going for a week or so, and you're not a crazy packer who needs a suitcase just for your shoes, you're not likely to have too much problem.

Do what I've done before - wait till EasyJet or Ryan Air have a sale on, then buy tickets to whether you can get cheaply, find a hostel using one of the many online search engines and have fun!

I recommend - some where in Poland - Gdansk, Krakow, Warsaw... or Vilnius or Riga.

You know how in London it's easy to avoid the West End on a Saturday night? It's the same in most other places.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:30 PM on August 23, 2011

I'm going to be the only one to suggest this, but... Germany has all the museums, parks, zoos, architecture etc. you could hope for, and can be surprisingly cheap. I've stayed in single rooms at perfectly respectable hotels for €25-€30 a night in Frankfurt and Hanover; double rooms would be more expensive, but not twice as much. Last weekend - peak of the holiday season, place full of tourists - I stayed in Mainz for €50 a night.

This is not something you asked for, but I mention it in case it's useful information: when it comes to finding hotels, I've had the most success using and (German, but has an English version - there's a language drop down at the top right corner) for hotel bookings in Europe.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:01 PM on August 23, 2011

I'd suggest just picking one place (like you did last year -- Paris) and exploring that thoroughly. It's much lower-stress and cheaper than bouncing around to different cities, which often means there's higher travel costs, less time to find inexpensive meal options, and you get to know a place better.

Pick some cheap flights on EasyJet or RyanAir, as people suggested above. Take a look at or one of the other similar sites to see if you can grab an apartment at a decent rate for week -- can be cheaper and more comfortable than hotels!
posted by polexa at 7:46 PM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

What about Poland? There are many cheap airlines connections between the UK and Poland. Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw would suit those needs: museums, nice old buildings, zoos, pretty parks, quirky shopping, interesting architecture and streets, acquisition of pointless tat, crafts, foreign supermarkets (without delicious wine). Train travel, accomodation and food is still quite cheap in Poland.
posted by rom1 at 4:00 AM on August 24, 2011

When I think cheap, I think places with churches, most of which are free to enter. Churches aren't on your list above, but if that was just an omission, I remember Rome being supercheap, mostly because we spent so much of our time wandering from church to church. I'm currently planning a couple of days in Istanbul, where mosques are donation-only, and some museums seem pretty cheap. Then you've got the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, as well as ferries up the Bosphorus, that seem right in your wheelhouse. Don't know how mch flights there from London are, however.
posted by troywestfield at 6:45 AM on August 24, 2011

« Older What sound is this?   |   Brooklyn Wholesae Beer and Wine Distributor for... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.