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10 winter escapes in Europe for budget explorers

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A night shot of the city of Krakow, Poland, during the winter
Winter ready: 1.2 billion nights were spent in tourist accommodation in the EU over the first half of 2023 – Source: UNWTO | Photo: Jacek Dylag

As the temperatures drop – and so does your bank account balance after the festive season – a winter getaway could be a good option for those wanting a holiday on a shoestring to start the year. And if you are in Europe, options are aplenty.

In fact, many people are getting used to make the most of the winter. In the first half of 2023, according to data released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), an impressive 1.2 billion nights were spent in tourist accommodation in the EU. The number marked an increase of 10.8 million nights compared with the same period in 2019 (+0.9 %) and of 135.9 million nights compared with the first half of 2022 (+12.9 %).

Winter holidays can save you time (goodbye long queues to visit overcrowded tourist attractions), and money. Take Venice, for example. The Italian spot is definitely more affordable this time of the year as, between April and July 2024, the city will impose a £4.30 daily tax on all tourists for 30 days.

So, I went around asking seasoned travel bloggers, photographers, authors, and those planning a winter trip soon, about what are the top winter escapes in Europe for budget explorers.

The results are in: from music festivals to spa experiences and affordable skiing with locals, these destinations are not only easy on the eyes but also on the wallet. So, grab your scarf and let’s dive into the best budget-friendly winter destinations Europe has to offer in 2024.

Ria Formosa, Portugal, for biodiversity

“Ria Formosa Natural Park is a hidden gem that isn’t always in the spotlight: the. This extraordinary coastal lagoon system spans over 60 kilometres and consists of a series of barrier islands, marshes, and channels. What makes Ria Formosa a must-visit is its stunning biodiversity. It’s a haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts due to its importance as a migratory route for numerous bird species. Exploring the park by boat allows you to witness the diverse ecosystem, including salt marshes, dunes, and unique flora and fauna.

The park also provides opportunities for activities like kayaking, boat tours, or simply walking along the trails to immerse yourself in its natural beauty. Plus, there are charming, less crowded towns nearby, such as Olhão and Tavira, where you can experience authentic Portuguese culture and cuisine.”

Duncan Greenfield-Turk – Managing Director at Global Travel Moments


Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s second largest city, is an influential cultural hot-spots of Eastern Europe | Photo: Lorena Tintea

Cluj-Napoca, Romania, for affordable music

“This year my winter travel plans is taking a different turn and centre around Cluj-Napoca, Romania. The city is the perfect wintertime getaway on a tight budget in Europe and it hosts several lively winter music events. These gatherings of locals and visitors provide a reasonably priced opportunity to fully immerse oneself in the cultural pulse of the city. It’s an affordable one-of-a-kind winter experience.”

Sira Mas – Travel expert at www.serentravelty.com


Krakow, Poland, for cheaper quality accommodation


“I travel Europe quite a bit. One of my favourite places to head to in winter is Krakow, Poland. Not many people visit Poland in the winter because, well… it’s cold!.
However, Poland is extremely affordable. There are plenty of things to do, such as visiting the Tatra Mountains for some skiing, enjoying the center of town- the Stare Miasto- or relaxing at the Zakopane thermal baths.
You can find great hotel deals under €40 a night in Krakow, and they are beautiful places to stay. Plus, full meals with entree and a drink can cost less than €10 even if you are in a well-travelled part of town.”

Taylor BealTravel blogger

Athens, Greece, for discounted touristic attractions

“Most people tend to visit Athens in the summer, which is indeed a great
time to enjoy the city. However, winter offers the advantage of fewer crowds and significantly lower prices. Winter visitors can benefit from reduced prices at many of the city’s famous attractions, along with shorter queues. Plus: from November 1st to March 30th, a 50% reduced rate is typically offered for single-use tickets at all state-owned archaeological sites and museums.”

Andreas Giannopoulos – Entrepreneur at www.sunnyathens.com

Cartagena, Spain, for budget flights

Cartegena is the gem of Costa Calida, and despite being the second largest city in Murcia, prices remain affordable. It is said that to explore Cartegena is to explore over 2,000 years of history in three dimensions.

The city is compact enough that you can visit all of the main attractions on foot. Be sure not to miss the narrow old town streets, and some of the most affordable tapas in Spain. A small beer and a plate of tapas can be had for under €3. The new Región de Murcia International Airport is around 30 minutes away by bus (€8) and enjoys budget flights to a number of UK and EU destinations, with pricing starting from €17 form the UK, and €30 from Ireland.”

Carl MichaelTravel blogger

Svaneti, Georgia, for skiing with locals

“Though not typically on the European trail, Svaneti offers a blend of breathtaking landscapes and cultural authenticity that rivals any popular European destination, at a fraction of the cost.
During my recent visit, I was captivated by the region’s medieval defence towers and villages perched above 2,000 meters. The highlight was learning to ski on the towering peaks of the Caucasus, with lessons provided by local experts who embody the spirit of Georgian hospitality.

What makes Svaneti particularly appealing in the winter months is not just its natural beauty or cultural depth, but also its affordability. The cost of accommodations, activities, and dining are significantly lower compared to mainstream European destinations, making it an ideal spot for travelers on a budget. I am already planning to return there in February.”

Tiffany McGee – Relationship expert and founder at Nomadrs

Tiffany McGee: Cost of accommodations and dining are significantly lower in Svaneti, Georgia, compared to mainstream European destinations


Tallinn, Estonia, for affordable sauna experiences

“The Estonian capital, Tallinn, is located only a short ferry ride away from Helsinki, has a similar language and cultural traditions. However, it can be visited at a mere fraction of a cost. In general, plan to budget around €50-150 per person per day in Estonia. This makes Tallinn 40-50% cheaper than similar destinations in the Nordics.

If you’re interested in sauna culture and gorgeous snowy landscapes all with a distinctive Nordic vibe, Tallinn is the place to go. It also has a great mix of old and new, with a picture perfect old town for history buffs and the hip area of Teliskivi Creative City for those after youthful energy, arts and culture.”

Maggie Turansky – Editor at travel website The World Was Here First



Zakopane, Poland, for affordable ski resorts

“I visited Zakopane as a college student on a budget last February, and they made a perfect long weekend trip. Zakopane is an excellent choice for an affordable ski resort experience, offering skiing and snowboarding at much lower prices than neighbouring European ski destinations. The town has a welcoming atmosphere, and we even made a few friends at the bars on the main street that we still talk to today.”

Daniella Morgan – Writer and creator of Sampler Platter Travel.

Photo: Emilia Niedźwiedzka

Lisbon, Portugal, for cheap cuisine and transport

“An European winter getaway doesn’t need to be expensive. In Lisbon, where I am currently based, getting around is cheaper during winter. A day pass for metro and buses costing around €6. Also, restaurants offer “prato do dia” (dish of the day) specials on weekdays which cost from as little as €7 – quite a bargain for the quality of food you get.

Winter months can offer some of the best bargains, especially for travelers planning to visit Europe.”

Yulia Saf – Travel blogger at Miss Tourist

Budapest. Hungary, for historic thermal spas

“When it comes to budget-friendly winter trips, Budapest stands out as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities without breaking the bank. With the temperature dropping, you can soak in Széchenyi Baths (Europe’s largest thermal spa) for €24 Euros. This is the perfect warm haven after a few chilly hours exploring the city.

Exploring Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion (both are free!) provides breathtaking views over the Danube. Yet, my absolute favourite is witnessing the illuminated Parliament building (also free) amidst snow and ice from across the Danube.”

Viola Sender – Author at Away to the City

The 18 pools in Szechenyi Bath are open every single day throughout the year | Photo:
Linda Gerbec

Bonus winter getaways in  Europe

Porto, Portugal, for picturesque locations


“Planning for an economical yet enriching experience, I found accommodation in Porto from €30 a night. And I will make use of public transport while visiting Porto, as a single bus ticket costs only €1.85.

I am thrilled about my upcoming weekend in Portugal, renowned as one of the most affordable countries. I can’t wait to immerse myself in its vibrant atmosphere and make the most of its picture-perfect colourful houses.”

Kevin Mercier – Photographer and travel blogger

Photo: Vitaliy Paykov

Basko, Bulgaria, for long-term winter holidays

“Located about a 2-hour drive from Sofia, Bansko has become one of the most visited places in Europe by remote workers and winter sports enthusiasts due to its competitive cost of living and good infrastructure. That is why this place has become my home for the past four winter seasons. There is a feel of community and a very fresh international vibe among expats and seasonal skiers. Renting a one-bedroom apartment can be as cheap as €20 Euros per day. And ski lift passes are competitively priced too, starting from € 45 Euros per day.”

 Andy Magri – Travel Videographer at ProjectGO

Marcio Delgado is a Journalist, Producer and Influencer Marketing Manager working with brands and publications in Europe, America and Asia.

Travel

Fred Olsen wins leisure website of the year at the Growth Awards

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Fred Olsen wins leisure website of the year at the Growth Awards
The UK Digital Growth Awards recognise work that is transforming business and revolutionising customer experience

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines has been unveiled as the winner of the Travel and Leisure Website of the Year at the UK Digital Growth Awards 2024. The ceremony was held in central London on June 20th, following judging by a panel of experts from across the digital sector.

The UK Digital Growth Awards recognise work that is transforming business, revolutionising customer experience and adding real value. The prize comes after Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines launched its new-look website last year, with extensive work undertaken to streamline the booking process and more opportunities for guests to personalise their cruise experience.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have won the title of Travel and Leisure Website of the Year. It is recognition of our whole team’s effort and dedication to improving the experience of our guests when visiting our website,” says Ben Williams, Head of Digital at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

The judges noted ‘the outcomes achieved by this website were clearly conveyed and impressive, showcasing a direct correlation with the results’ and ‘their end-to-end web redesign project yielded remarkable results’.

They also praised the website’s ‘meticulous audience segmentation and content alignment, effectively attracting and engaging it’s intended visitors’.

The accolade is the second win for the digital project having picked up the Travel Website of the Year title at the UK Dev Awards in February.

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Discover Airlines wins German Brand Award 2024

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Discover Airlines wins German Brand Award 2024
The airline, which was previously known under the Eurowings Discover brand, presented its new brand identity to the public on 5 September 2023

The Discover Airlines brand was not even a year old when the leisure airline was presented with the German Brand Award in the main category “Excellence in Brand Strategy & Creation” twice at a festive ceremony in Berlin this Thursday. In the category “B2C Brand Strategy” and in the category “Brand Strategy of the Year”, the rebranding strategy developed with Scholz & Friends impressed the judges. The German Brand Award honors strong and successful brand management in Germany once a year. In the case of Discover Airlines, the focus is on brand strategy, concept and campaign.

“The awards are a highlight for our entire team. We are proud that in less than a year we have succeeded in establishing Discover Airlines as a strong, likeable leisure brand on the market and to charge it with the attributes of quality, joy and ease. People fly with us to the best time of the year, and this should also be reflected in our brand identity. The awards are a wonderful recognition for us and an incentive to continue on our path with the same passion and enthusiasm for strong brands,’ says Maximilian Meintgens, Director Product & Marketing.

The leisure airline, which was previously known under the Eurowings Discover brand, presented its new brand identity to the public on 5 September 2023. The Discover Airlines design is inspired by colors and elements that awaken memories of holidays as well as the desire to travel. The gradient of colors evokes the view from the aircraft window looking toward the horizon or the view of the sea. The blue color scheme also stands for quality and the connection to the Lufthansa Group.

The German Brand Award is an award for successful brand management in Germany. It is initiated by the German Design Council and organized by the German Brand Institute. Every year, a panel of experts from brand management and brand science honors outstanding brand strategies and creative brand management. The award not only promotes the winners, but also their respective industries and enjoys great international resonance.

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Holiday costs rise with every degree of heat

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A family on holiday in a sunny beach
New Research reveals families could be spending up to £972 per degree of heat when booking their summer holidays | Photo: Natalya Zaritskaya

The price of a family holiday increases by up to £96 for every additional degree of heat in Spain, a study has found. Researchers have calculated how much the price of different holiday destinations rise as the weather warms up in peak season to help families keep costs down.

Looking at the cost of flights from London and accommodation in Benidorm, Spain, for two adults and two teenagers, a week-long trip for four in May when the temperature is 22 degrees will set you back £803 per family for seven days. But this rises to £1,570 in August when the mercury hits 30 degrees – £96 for each extra degree.

Families who opt to travel to their favourite destination outside of peak weather window could be saving an average of £231 for each degree lower in temperature to spend on other aspects of the trip, such as activities with the kids, meals out or shopping.

This doesn’t mean compromising on sun. While a week-long holiday for a family of four in Florida costs £2,100 in May when the thermometer typically reads 29 degrees. But this nearly doubles to £4,043 in August when average temperatures are just two degrees higher at 31 – an additional £972 per degree.

The research was commissioned by Post Office, which also found trips to Cyprus set a family of four back £737 for a milder 24 degrees in May. This ramps up to £1,272, or £89 per degree, for a week in 30 degree heat in July.

Greece is among the more reasonable options, with a family paying around £1,793 for 28 degrees in August, but costs just £1,285 in May at 23 degrees.

It comes after research of 2,000 travellers found four in 10 who are planning a holiday this year intend to go ‘out of season’. Overall cost savings (58 per cent), fewer tourists (51 per cent) and a quieter journey to and from their destination (37 per cent) were among the reasons why. One in ten (11 per cent) have saved over £400 by travelling outside peak season.

It also emerged 42 per cent appreciate the ease of traveling outside of peak times, while 51 per cent relish in peace from a lack of tourists.

Laura Plunkett, Head of Post Office Travel which commissioned the research to mark the launch of its Travel Money Card across all 11,500 branches nationwide, said: “It’s evident from our research that holidaymakers feel warm weather is an important part of the holiday experience, and so are the memories we make while away. It can be increasingly difficult to budget for yearly holidays, especially for those travelling with children who are restricted to peak holiday prices due to the school holidays. However, there are savvy ways to save money on holiday.

“Our research has shown that families can still enjoy hot holidays at a better price point by considering October half term for travel. In fact, a holiday to Cyprus is £321 cheaper in October than August, and still a balmy 25 degrees. Families considering Florida could also save £406 in October, when it is 29 degrees – just two degrees cooler than August.”

Another popular way 77 per cent of travellers have cut back on costs is to fly mid-week, avoiding peak weekend prices.

The study also found 87 per cent of travellers prefer to spend their trips abroad in warmer climates. As many as 85 per cent have either been away already or plan to this year, with Spain (31 per cent), Italy (15 per cent), France (14 per cent) and Greece (14 per cent) among the most popular destinations.

September (18 per cent) is the month adults are more likely to vacation, although August still proves popular for 14 per cent despite being the peak of the summer break.

However, holiday costs could be limiting family travel for many as nearly half (44 per cent) of families feel priced out of travelling during school breaks, with 44 per cent wanting more affordable travel options.

The research, conducted via OnePoll, found the typical adult who travels abroad will budget around £773 for a week-long trip to a country with a typical temperature of 25 degrees.

Laura Plunkett added: “People put a lot of time and effort into making sure they get a great deal on their flights and accommodation, and booking out of season can be a smart way to maximise your holiday experience within your budget.

“However, timely booking is just one way that holidaymakers can save money. It’s important to think carefully about how to get the most out of your spending money as well, which can often be left until the last minute, leaving you exposed to poor rates or unexpected card fees. Keeping an eye on exchange rates and getting your travel money or a pre-paid card when rates are good is another way to maximise the holiday budget.”

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