Finding Travel Deals in Pricey Europe

Save money on museums and cultural sites by checking out days and times where admission is free or reduced, and by looking into passes that provide admission to multiple sites. BritRail's Great British Heritage Pass is good at over 600 historic homes, castles, gardens and ruins, including Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace in London, the Roman Baths in Bath, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and Bodnant Gardens in Wales. A pass good for four consecutive days is $35. A Paris Museum Pass — $22.50 for one day, $42 for three days — provides admission to 70 museums and monuments. Many sites, including the Louvre and Versailles, charge around $9.25 at current exchange rates, so the pass pays for itself after a few stops.

Use common sense about daily necessities, just as you would if you were home. Don't eat in restaurants three times a day if you're on a budget. Grab a muffin or croissant from a bakery and a piece of fruit from a market for breakfast. For lunch, buy a hunk of cheese and bread. Get a tart or truffle to go from a chocolaterie instead of ordering dessert in a restaurant. Take subways and buses instead of cabs, and buy passes that allow you unlimited use of public transportation.

Avoid currency exchange services, like the kiosks found in airports and train stations. Experts say even teller's windows at banks don't give the best deals anymore. "You get the best rate with ATMs," Dunnan said.

Finally, if you can take your trip in the offseason, you'll save a bundle. Paris in January and London in November — that's when you can find bargains. Round-trip fares this past winter to Europe have been as low as $190, but Ziff says "you'll be getting a great deal if you get plane fare for under $400" come the warm weather.

Ziff adds that there will be few last-minute bargains to popular destinations in peak season. "If you're traveling to Europe this summer, buy early; buy now," she said. "Don't wait too long, thinking you're going to get a better deal."

If You Go…

AMERICAN EXPRESS: (800) 346-3607 or www.americanexpress.com/travel BRITRAIL OR BRITISH HERITAGE PASS: (877) 677-1066 or visit www.britrail.net. CONDE NAST TRAVELER: www.concierge.com/cntraveler/ DISCOUNT EUROPEAN AIRLINES: www.ryanair.com, www.easyjet.com, www.airberlin.com, www.spanair.com. EuropeByAir (www.europebyair.com) sells $99 one-way passes within Europe to 150 European cities, but you must buy tickets before leaving home. EURAIL: (800) 4EURAIL or www.eurail.com HOLLAND AMERICA: (877) SAIL-HAL or www.hollandamerica.com PARIS MUSEUM PASS: www.museumpass.com TRAVELOCITY: www.travelocity.com TRAVELSMART NEWSLETTER: (800) FARE-OFF or www.TravelSmartNewsletter.com.

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