It’s finally summer and we all know what that means – time to take a break and go on holiday! I know what you’re thinking – you can’t afford to go anywhere this summer. But I’m here to tell you that holidaying this summer doesn’t have to be expensive. The number one trick to avoid breaking the bank this summer is to avoid the big holiday destination cities that are overpriced and might I add, overrated. If you can, avoid the hassle and cost of a flight and strap the kids all in for a road trip! What better time to bond you’re your kids then when you have them stuck in a car with you for hours?
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 European destinations that won’t bust your budget this summer. Of course there are other affordable options apart from these, just make sure you take the time to search family holidays online to get the best deals. Happy travelling!
1. Lisbon, Portugal
Often overlooked by most Europeans who prefer the nearby seaside cities of Cascais and Estoril, Lisbon is known as “Europe’s westernmost and sunniest capital.” Indeed, Lisbon offers a favourable climate year round and breathtaking scenic views from every angle. While Lisbon is affordable to visit any time of the year, in the summer time in particular, you can snag an amazing deal on five star, executive and luxury suites in the heart of the city. Moreover, because the city is Europe’s second largest capital (second only to Athens), you are guaranteed to have plenty of sightseeing to do.
From World Heritage monuments to an abundance of other cultural treasures and a flourishing museum scene to the charming medieval neighbourhoods, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a time when the Phoenicians, Celts, Romans and Visigoths ruled Portugal. Must sees while you’re there: Tile Museum, Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, St. George’s Castle, Berardo Museum of modern art, Design and Fashion Museum and the state of the art Oceanarium aquarium. If you happen to be going in June, don’t miss the Optimus Primavera festival taking place in nearby Porto, Portugal.
For those of you who have spent summers in Greece but can’t afford the ruinous price tag, Croatia is a great alternative. Not only will you be able to afford the nicest Mediterranean resort on a sandy beach with mountains in the distance, you’ll be able to dine like a king on many of the islands five star resorts. Price tag: £1,229 for seven nights in a suite in Villa Gelia (on the Croatian island of Ugljan), large enough to sleep eight.
3. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is a great destination if you are looking for beautiful beaches, breathtaking countryside and a rich cultural experience. The city, influenced by both Europe (Byzantines) and Asia, is home to ancient structures like the Hagia Sophia (once a Byzantine church, then Ottoman mosque and now a Turkish museum), Topkapi Palace, Galata Tower, Church of St. Saviour in Chora, and the walls of Constantinople. Shopping is incredibly cheap in Turkey as well – visit the Grand Bazaar and haggle with one of 5,500 vendors that fill the streets every weekday.
4. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Named Bulgaria’s “second city,” there’s nothing second rate about this place. In fact, some have dubbed it the “Paris of the Balkans” for its rich history and stunning topography, including sandy beaches and snow capped mountains. Start your trip exploring historic Plovdiv, from the 19th century neighbourhoods to the Roman ruins, including a Roman amphitheatre where operas are still performed today! But don’t pay £40 for a tour guide because every Wednesday there is a free city tour. Then relax by the beach or take a tour through some of the best vineyards in Europe. Indeed, like Croatia, Plovdiv boasts a handful of seaside resorts that are a fraction of the price of other Western European countries. What’s more, the exchange rate is still good in Bulgaria, so you’ll get a lot of bang for your euro. Where to stay: the centrally located Niky Hotel in Sofia and Antonio’s Apartments in Varna (both starting at 40 euros per night). If you prefer to stay in the mountains, Kapsazov’s Guest House starts at 30 euros per night, and includes spectacular home-cooked meals. Even the nicest hotel in Plovdiv, the Hotel Hebros, a grand 19th century Renaissance house, has rates starting at 89 euros per night.
5. Costa del Sol, Spain
Costa del Sol, located on the southern coast of Spain, is ideal if you are looking for a slow-paced, relaxing get away. A short drive away from bigger cities such as Ronda (home of one of the oldest bullfighting rings in Spain) and Gilbratar, home of the famous Rock of Gilbratrar. If you make it to Gilbratrar (2-hour drive from the coast), take a hike to the top of the Pillars of Hercules – you’ll be able to see Africa, just 16 miles across the strait. The best thing about Costa del Sol this time of year? Many hotels are offering cheap, all-inclusive packages, which is perfect if you plan to bring the kids along.