Rick Steves Revealed The Absolute Best Way To Visit Europe Without Breaking The Bank

When you think of a budget-friendly vacation, Europe isn't usually top of mind. But believe it or not, there are ways to experience this rich continent without paying an arm and a leg. One of the best ways to save money is by switching from hotels and Airbnb to camping, according to travel expert, guidebook author, and TV host Rick Steves. He shared his best tips about camping in Europe via his blog, Rick Steves Europe.

The travel expert's first tip is to know that camping in Europe is not quite the same as it is in America. It's not as much about getting away from it all in the wilderness. In fact, it's much more of a social activity for middle-class families keen to explore new places. Compared to U.S. campgrounds in the middle of nowhere, Europeans prefer to camp just outside big cities for easy access. In many cases, the campground is just a short walk or bus ride away from the tourist attractions.

Camping registration and fees

Registration is similar to camping in the U.S. When you arrive, check for a sign-out front to see if the campground has any open spaces. Even if it's apparently full, you may still be in luck. Ask the staff if the full lot applies to tent campers, too. Sometimes campgrounds will make space for a couple of campers even when all the RV spaces are taken, shares Rick Steves via his blog. To register your campsite, you'll need to show your passport, fill out a quick form with your basic information, and look over the rules of the campground, including quiet hours and checkout.

One thing that's different about camping in Europe compared to the U.S. is that you won't just pay per car or tent. Instead, you may be expected to shell out a few dollars per person, per tent, and per car, says Steves on his blog. If you take trains, city buses, or ride a bicycle, you'll save a few dollars. All in all, expect to pay between 10 and 50 euros per campsite, depending on what time of year you go.

Services and equipment

Like the U.S., many European campgrounds are equipped with a general store or cafe, coin-operated laundry machines, and metered showers, though the hot water is unlikely to last as long as a hotel. Use a tool like Campspace or Camping App EU to see what kind of amenities will be available on-site. For example, some places require that you bring your own equipment, while other campsites have "turn-key" options, where all you have to do is show up, says Rick Steves on his blog.

To save on camping equipment, the same principle applies in Europe as it does at home in the States: shop for the basics at large superstores instead of specialty stores. You'll fare well with a three-season sleeping bag, which will keep you warm in temperatures that dip as low as 15 to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect for visiting during the shoulder seasons. While camping may not beat the dreamy hotel at the top of your bucket list, it will stretch your dollar further so you can enjoy Europe even more.