Keeping costs low on flights and transportation = More spending cash for activities!
Once or twice a year I fly to Europe. My preference is to reside in one city for at least three weeks, taking dance classes in the evenings, working remotely and semi-living-like-a-local during the week. For one weekend I choose to play "tourist" and visit another city. Recently I've taken quite a few trains, busses and flights in Europe and my approach is a bit flexible and usually looking for a budget solution. Tips #1 and #2 are my approach to finding tickets to Europe based on my #digitalnomad travel style, including a little-understood visa tidbit. Tip #3 is the best! I list the links to the websites and apps I use to travel around Europe on a budget.
1. Only book flights TO and FROM Europe on large search engines. For cheap flights WITHIN Europe, price-compare on each budget airline's page directly (see budget airline list at bottom)
Large search engines like GoogleFlights, Expedia, etc. do a decent job of finding low-priced flights to Europe from the U.S. Exceptions: Black Friday, Cyber Monday or any time that an airline might have an excuse to create a promotion with such a narrow profit margin. On days like this, go directly to each airline's website for the best price. I missed out on $200 savings by not doing this on Cyber Monday!
Large search engines do not usually display the lowest prices within Europe. Again, the profit margin is so narrow that the budget airlines can't afford to split any of that with a large search engine.
For rock bottom prices for flights within Europe, price-compare on the budget airlines' sites directly (see the list of budget European airlines at the bottom of the page).
Hint: major cities almost always have the cheapest flights. Of course, it's worth checking the pricing for smaller cities and simply weigh whether a more expensive flight is worth it to you. It's a personal choice.
Things to consider when weighing if a more expensive, but closer airport is worth the extra cost:
How much would a train, bus, car rental, ride share, drive and parking be to the smaller or larger city?
Am I physically or mentally willing and able to make the trek to those cities?
Is the ease of taking a more expensive flight worth taking that amount out of my budget that could be used to enjoy more activities, eating out or shopping?
2. Tip for #DigitalNomads : Consider buying a one-way flight into Europe
Because I work remotely and I have some flexibility, I often buy a one-way ticket for approximately $350 to Lisbon, Madrid, Malaga, Paris through Expedia or Google Flights.
That gets me into Europe. The city usually becomes my "home base," from where I work remotely as a digital nomad.
Note: not all countries will allow you to purchase a one-way ticket. Look up the country's regulations on one-way tickets. If you buy a one-way ticket and the country has policies against it, the airline will allow you to purchase the ticket online, but at the airport the staff will not issue you a boarding pass and will not allow you to board unless you have a ticket exiting the country you are trying to fly to.
You can always buy two, separate, single tickets from two different cities. For example, when I flew from Miami to Europe in May, I had a one-way ticket to Spain and another ticket to Paris. While in Europe, I bought a one-way ticket from Dublin back to the U.S.
3. Trains, BlaBlaCar, Ride Shares, Busses and Budget European Airlines
From there, if I want to head anywhere I first look at trains. Trains are by far more pleasant, uncomplicated, time-efficient and cheaper than flights.
If you've not taken trains, you'll become a huge fan after you compare the ease of a train ride with the the security, passport control and anxiety of an airport.
Rome2Rio.com is an excellent website to help you figure out how to get around. For busses, GoogleMaps is also a good resource. GoogleMaps is more difficult to interpret than Rome2Rio, but still an excellent guide for busses.
Note: always double-check on the train and bus company's official website information related to the stations, schedules, policies and updates regarding holidays, traffic, etc. Rome2Rio and GoogleMaps simply do not have correct details about the stations and these details can set you back many hours and maybe derail your trip.
Ride share from city to city! BlaBlaCar.com has already worked out in Europe what the U.S. is struggling with: affordable ride sharing from city to city! I've used BlaBla Car once in France and it was quite easy and acceptable. I've tried similar ride share websites in the U.S. and they simply aren't as user-friendly or useful.
Aa a last resort, check out these budget airlines whose rock-bottom flights do not appear on the larger search engines.