Park carefully. Thieves recognize and target tourist cars. Judge the safety of a lot by how it twinkles. Broken glass means thieves like this spot. Paying to park in a garage with an attendant can be a good investment.
In many northern countries, train-ticket holders get discounts on bikes rented at the station. And in many cases you can rent a bike in one town and drop it at another for no extra charge.
Pay with cash, not credit cards. While credit cards get you a good exchange rate, many places offering Europe's best deals — from craft shops to bed & breakfasts — accept only cash.
When changing cash, avoid exchange bureausthat don't show both the buying and selling rate. By seeing both rates you can derive the profit margin — which should be within 5 percent. Places showing only the selling rate are hiding something... an obscene profit margin.
Wear a money belt. You'll save money by not losing it. Thieves target Americans not because they're mean but because they're smart. They know we're the ones with the good stuff in our purses and wallets. Assume beggars are pickpockets. Be wary of commotions in crowds and fake police who ask to see your wallet. When you know the scams, they're almost entertaining.
Students, families, and seniors should ask for discounts. But be warned: Because the US doesn't reciprocate, many countries don't give their standard senior citizen discounts to Americans.
In any transaction, understand all fees and expenses. Ask to have bills itemized. Assume you'll be short-changed. Always ask how much. Do your own arithmetic and don't let the cashier rush you. Smile but be savvy. You'll save lots of money.
Travel with a partner to share and save. A single hotel room often costs nearly the same as a double. And by splitting taxis, chores, guidebooks, and picnics couples save both time and money.
Buy your maps in Europe at half the price you'd pay in America. And you'll find a wider selection.
Communicate online rather than by mailing postcards. For the cost of a postcard and a stamp you can be online in a cybercafé for about 15 minutes. Many libraries, hotels and hostels offer free Internet access.
Europe's 2,000 hostels offer countless cheap dorm beds. A hostel membership pays for itself in four nights. And it's not limited to youths. In fact, those over 55 get a discount on a hostel card. Using the hostel's kitchen, you can cook for the price of groceries — a great savings for traveling families.
Take advantage of department stores anywhere in Europe for cheap folk art, souvenirs, and post cards. Local shoppers eat cheaply at department store cafeterias and restaurants. Savvy travelers can too.
While notorious for ripping off tourists, flea markets can offer some great deals. Prices are soft, so haggle.
Consider using a budget airline to connect distant cities. Europe's highly competitive no-frills airlines — such as Ryanair and Virgin Air — can often get you from one city to another faster and cheaper than the train. You generally book the flights yourself by phone or on the Web. Beware though: Cheap airlines often use small airports located far from town, which can cost a little extra time and money.
Hike in the Alps. Even if you pay for a lift ticket to get you quickly into the high country, the glories of the Alps are one of Europe's great values. The Alps are littered with helicopter-supplied mountain huts offering cheap beds and menu prices that don't go up with the altitude.
Know your hotel's cancellation policy and keep track of what you reserved. No shows are generally charged one night. If you won't make it, cancel long in advance. Reconfirm all hotel reservations two days in advance. Even a fine hotel can mess up a booking. Arriving and finding no room can become a huge and costly headache.
Avoid travel agent and tourist office room-finding services. They charge a fee and generally offer only the highest-priced rooms with no discounts. For the best accommodations values, use a guidebook, shop around, and go direct.
Find rooms on the fly, and check business hotels for off-peak deals. Brussels and the Scandinavian capitals, which cater to business travelers, offer deep discounts to travelers who arrive without reservations when business traffic is slow. During summer and weekends year-round, you can get a fancy business hotel room at a cheap one-star hotel price. It's not unusual to score a $300 double for $100.
Throughout Europe, budget chain hotels rent rooms at B&B prices. Since these cookie-cutter rooms cost the same for singles, couples, or even a family of four, they offer the greatest savings for traveling families.
Be smart about hotel choices. A three-star place (with room service and a 24-hour reception desk) is a bad value for a budget traveler who's satisfied with one-star services. Lavish lobbies can hide crummy rooms. See, smell, and hear the room before accepting it. If you're interested in sleeping, choosing a view room overlooking a noisy square is a mistake. Opting for the shower and toilet down the hall can save you $30 a night.
Ask for a deal on your hotel room. You'll have the best chance of getting a discount if business is slow. Go direct (a room-finding service costs the hotel a booking fee), offer to pay in cash, or stay at least three nights.
Pack the room. The more people you put in a hotel room, the cheaper it gets per person. A quad is only a little more expensive than a double.
Avoid hotel breakfasts. While convenient, these are rarely a good value. If breakfast is optional, increase the character and lower the price by joining the local crowd at the corner café for your coffee and croissant.
Throughout southern Europe, drinks are cheaper at the bar than at a table. The table price can be a great value if you'll linger and enjoy the view. But those just tossing down a quick drink do it at the bar for about half price.
Every country has early bird and "Blue Plate" specials. Know the lingo, learn your options, and you can dine well with savvy locals anywhere in Europe for under $15.
Don't overtip. Only Americans tip 15 to 20 percent in Europe. We even tip when it's already included or not expected. Ask locals (who are customers rather than employees of a restaurant) for advice.
To save money in restaurants, couples can order a side salad and split an entree. To save more, request tap water instead of mineral water, drink the house wine, and skip desserts.
Make the most of public transit. Many single tickets are actually good for round-trip, transfers, or an hour of travel. Three rides generally cost more than a day pass. Airports almost always have cheap and convenient public transit connections to the town center.
Museum passes can save time and money. The Paris Museum pass, for example, pays for itself in three visits and saves you hours by letting you skip the long lines and scoot right into each sight. Also, with some passes, you'll pop painlessly into sights that might otherwise not be worth the expense.
If you get sick, see a doctor sooner rather than later. While it seems stressful to get medical help, visiting a clinic in Europe is actually an inexpensive and interesting experience. Any hotel or tourist office can point you in the right direction. You'll be diagnosed, have the proper medicine prescribed, and be on the mend sooner in your trip.