Travel hacks for the young and restless: How to do Europe on weekend getaways only

By Samantha Shillabeer

As every seasoned traveller knows, fitting your holiday plans around your annual leave allowance is no simple task. Thankfully, we live in the age of the European city break and with a few pro tips, weekend travel is easier than ever.

With low-cost carriers and an abundance of routes, it’s never been easier to jet off after work on Friday and be back in the office first thing Monday morning. What’s more, with a bit of planning and a few clever hacks, you can really make the most of your time and money.

So check out our tips, and discover more of Europe for less. Then head to KAYAK and find your next European weekend getaway.

Explore flights with our interactive price map

Be open to any destination

Explore your options and go where the price is right

Because weekend breaks aren’t a huge commitment in terms of time or money, you can be more adventurous when it comes to deciding where to go. Need some inspiration? KAYAK’s Explore tool lets you search flights to ‘Anywhere’, and displays all your options on a map so you can compare prices at-a-glance.

Consider more than just the cost of the flight

It’s all too easy to fall for the lure of a cheap flight. But think about the bigger picture. A weekend of food, drink and accommodation in a Scandinavian city will cost a lot more than a weekend in an Eastern European city like Prague, for example. Often it’s worth paying a bit more for a flight if it means the overall weekend will end up costing you less.

Weigh up time vs money

We’re all for keeping costs down, but when time is limited it can sometimes make sense to pay for convenience. So think about what’s important to you, and budget accordingly. You might decide it’s worth paying for an Uber or a taxi from the airport, rather than taking the local bus, for instance. Similarly, while booking that super-cheap 6am flight might be tempting, take a minute to stop and think about whether you’ll actually want to drag yourself out of bed at 3am. (Depending on what’s important to you, sometimes, when the price is right, the answer is yes).

Plan ahead for big events

If you’ve got your sights set on popular events like Oktoberfest or the Cannes Film Festival, it’s worth planning ahead and getting your flights and accommodation booked early. Prices are only likely to increase as time goes on. While many weekend trips can be spontaneous, others still require a bit of planning ahead.

Make the most of bank holidays

Use bank holidays wisely when planning weekend travel

If your bank account is looking healthier than your annual leave allowance, consider travelling over a bank holiday weekend. Flight prices might be higher than usual, but you’ll get a whole extra day to explore. The first bank holiday weekend in May is a good one to aim for, as it falls outside of school holidays.

Extend work trips

Travelling abroad for work? See if you can fly out a couple of days early or fly home a couple of days late, and tag a weekend break on to your trip. You’ll probably have to pay for the extra nights’ accommodation yourself, but most companies won’t have a problem with footing the bill for your flights.

Consider paying for priority boarding

Most European low-cost carriers offer some sort of priority boarding, which comes with extra benefits such as fast-track security and being able to select your seat. You can pay per flight or, in some cases, sign up for a year’s membership. It’s a good option if you want to guarantee your hand luggage won’t be taken off you and put in the hold. You’ll save time by avoiding waiting at the luggage reclaim, which means more time to explore Barcelona, Amsterdam or whichever new city you’ve got planned for the weekend!

See if you can work remotely

Work from your home away from home to get a jump on weekend travel

If your company is on board with flexible working, see if your boss would be open to you working remotely for a day or two. For example, you could catch a flight Thursday evening, work from the comfort of your hotel room or Airbnb on Friday, and be ready to kick off your holiday the minute 5pm rolls around.

Know your luggage allowance

Different airlines have different rules when it comes to the size and weight of luggage. Double check before you book, and again when you’re packing, to avoid any surprise charges at the airport.

Perfect the art of carry-on packing

Packing light can save time and money

Travelling with just hand luggage not only keeps costs down, it saves you valuable time when you land in your destination. The good thing about weekend trips is you really don’t need to bring much at all. Check ahead to see if your accommodation provides items like hairdryers, and wear your bulkiest pieces of clothing (trainers and coats, for instance) on the plane. Need some tips on packing light, check out our guide to travelling with only an overnight bag.

Pack plane snacks

Low-cost carriers make their money through selling extras like food and drink. So unless you fancy paying £3 for a small tub of Pringles, you’re better off stocking up on snacks before you board. Keeping costs low wherever you can will afford you more to spend on the things that matter to you.

Have a travel-friendly credit or debit card

If you’re frequently travelling abroad, you’ll save a fortune by using a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. And, remember, when you’re paying on card abroad, it always works out cheaper to select to pay in the local currency rather than in pounds.

Try to negotiate a late check-out

No-one wants to spend the last day of their holiday lugging a suitcase or backpack around. Luckily, you can often arrange a late check-out at your hotel or Airbnb for a small fee (or for free, if you’re lucky). Failing that, they’ll at least usually store your luggage for you. If not, big cities often have luggage storage facilities in places like shopping centres or train stations.

Put your smartphone to good use

Make the most of your smartphone

You no longer have to pay any roaming charges when travelling within the EU, which means you can use your phone abroad without worrying about racking up a huge bill. Use Google Maps to navigate, browse OpenTable to discover the best places to eat, and go to town adding to your Instagram story.

Join a free walking tour

Time is of the essence on a weekend break. Joining a free, tips-based walking tour is a great way to tick off the main sights and find out a bit more about the history and culture of a destination.

Ready to book your next weekend getaway to Europe? Search for flights on today.