Booking in advance can save you money and make sure you have the best possible experience.
Here are some tips on what you should book in advance and reasons why you should plan ahead before taking a trip:
Before heading off it is wise to check whether there's a bus or train service from the airport going to where you want to be. Quite often people will hop off the plane and get straight into a taxi which could cost them a fortune. Here are some European examples of getting from the airport into the city centre:
In Berlin the train is cheap and can deliver you straight into the city centre from the airport. Buy your tickets at the machines in the station and remember to validate the ticket at the platform before departing on your train (or face a fine).
In Prague, there is a really cheap bus that leaves every half an hour from the airport that stops at both sides of the river in the centre of the city, terminating at the main train station.
It helps to look ahead sometimes. When we went to Kraków the train shuttle from the airport was not in service due to maintenance, so the only way to get into the town centre is by taxi or private airport transfer. If you purchase ahead of time online, the private transfer ends up being cheaper than taxi. As of now, the new train shuttle is now up and running.
Vienna offers a cheap shuttle bus service from the airport to a few stops within the city centre. Purchase in advance online or buy a ticket at the airport, either way the price is the same.
Booking excursions in advance is a must do mainly to avoid missing out, however there is money to be saved here too.
In Kraków, combining an excursion to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Wieliczka Salt Mine into one day can save you up to £20 per person.
Places like Iceland are expensive and are very popular. Booking a Golden Circle tour online before getting to Iceland ensures that you see everything you want to see and guarantees a spot on the tour on the day you want.
Shopping around online before going kayaking in Abu Dhabi meant we had our own private experience at a price comparable to that of a group activity, giving us great value for money.
You can go and visit quite a few Parliamentary buildings throughout Europe. These buildings are usually beautifully decorated and have interesting histories. Parliamentary buildings are usually cheap or even free to enter but due to the security risk you often have to book in advance.
You can visit the Hungarian Parliament building without prior booking but the queues for tickets get long and admission will be denied if the time slot has been sold out. To avoid disappointment, book online before you go (see Top5 Budapest on how to do this).
The Reichstag in Berlin is free to enter but you must register before you go. This needs to be done online at least 24 hours beforehand. The guided tour is very interesting and you get to go on the roof! To book simply click the link below:
Walking tours are one of the best ways to a city as well as getting local information and history about its culture. Many of these tours are free and can get very busy. Do your research before you go as even free walking tours like those in Seville and Budapest need to be booked in advance in order to guarantee a spot. Paid private tours can also be a great way to have a more intimate cultural experience but shop around before you travel to get the best price and find exactly what you are looking for (the wine and tapas tour in Lisbon being a particular favourite).
A bit of an obvious one here but don't rock up anywhere without having purchased accommodation (yes we all know someone that has). Last minute rates will likely be extortionate compared to booking a couple of months in advance. Hotel and flight prices often tend to fluctuate. I personally tend to book 4-6 months in advance and find flight prices to be cheaper on Tuesdays and Thursdays compared to other days of the week.
Paying for goods and services abroad:
Many websites allow you to book trips and tours in advance and when asking for payment online do so in either their local currency or your currency. When possible, always pay with a credit card (since they are a lot safer to use online than debit and you are protected by your bank) and pay in the local currency. This is because 99% of the time the conversation rate your bank offers on your credit card is much more favourable than the website's offering. For a recent trip to Seville, we saved over £5 on a £30 spend when purchasing a tour in Euros rather than in Pound Sterling.
Buying travel money:
We tend to buy travel money before we go on holiday and shop around for the best rate. Most banks and bureau de change have similar rates for the popular currencies like Euros and Dollars but you can prevent racking up a large bill from extra charges by remembering to do just one thing.
Where possible, avoid paying for your currency using a credit card. Your bank will charge a high fee for currency exchange on a credit card. This fee can be avoided if you use your debit card or use cash.
Hopefully this information has been of use to you. So please remember to plan your trip and of course abvoe all else; have fun.