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ABOVE: Booking through a discount reservations service could save you up to 35 percent at the Timhotel Montmartre in Paris.

Tip 3: Don't overspend on hotels.

English-speaking travelers are sometimes nervous about staying at independent, moderately-priced city hotels . But in most European cities, a three-star hotel isn't likely to be a fleabag, and hotels that are even cheaper can be comfortable or even pleasant. As for four- and five-star hotels, their extra stars may be based on amenities such as elevators and room service, not necessarily on better furnishings and location. (To a great extent, you'll get what you pay for, but if you're on a budget, why pay for services or luxury that you don't need?)

In many cases, you can lower your hotel costs by searching for bargains from secure booking networks such as our partner,  which negotiates discount rates with tens of thousands of hotels around Europe.

Another possibility, if you're staying in one city for more than a few days, is an apartment rental. On one recent Paris trip, we rented a studio apartment on the Place Émile Goudeau (across from the Timhotel) for about the same price as a hotel room. From the apartment's back windows, we could see all the way to Notre-Dame and the Seine.

photoLocal tourist offices often list available rental properties, and larger cities have agencies that specialize in holiday apartments. (See our articles about one- and two-bedroom flats we've rented on the Île de la Cité and in Montmartre in Paris, and near the Campo Santa Margherita and Campo Santa Maria Formosa in Venice.) Prices and neighborhoods vary, so do your homework before booking.

Hostels are yet another option, especially if you're flexible about location. Most of today's "youth hostels" have no upper age limits, and many provide  rooms for singles, couples, and families in addition to the traditional dormitories. Check with local tourist offices and Hostelling International for listings of official youth hostels, private hostels, and monasteries or religious institutes like the Augustinerkloster in Erfurt, Germany, where Martin Luther took his vows as a Catholic priest more than 500 years ago.

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