Travel to Europe on a Family Budget

Where to Stay in Europe, Part 2

HOSTELS Aren't these the stomping grounds for college backpackers? "This is actually a big secret: More than 80 percent of hostels in Europe have family rooms, often with a private bathroom," says Cynthia Harriman, author of Take Your Kids to Europe. They may even be in a charming, centuries-old building. In Scotland, for example, you can stay in Carbisdale, a real castle that comes with a resident ghost and free breakfast for around $75 per night. Check out guideforeurope.com and hostelworld.com.

EUROCAMPS (eurocamp.co.uk) You can rent a cabin or "bungalow" with multiple bedrooms and a kitchen in one of 200 locations in country areas throughout Europe starting at about $500 per week. They have kids' programs, pools, restaurants-basically resort facilities at camping prices.

CRUISES This is Europe as buffet; you can sample short bites of many different places and return at another time to explore favorites in more detail. Prices, except in August, are comparable to hotel-room rates, with the budget bonus that they include meals. At cruisecompete.com, enter the parameters of where you want to go and agents anonymously bid. For example, European Costa Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines offer weeklong cruises around Italy, Greece, and Croatia for $730 per adult.

HOME SWAP Cheapest of all? Consider a home exchange with a European family. Of course, you have to be comfortable with strangers staying in your house and have a bit of flexibility in your schedule to find a match, but that means going to Europe costs you nothing but airfare. "A home exchange comes with separate bedrooms and often a car," says Harriman. "Plus, your host family may arrange for you to meet friends." Check out: homeexchange.com, homelink.org, and digsville.com.

BOTTOM LINE If you abandon the traditional hotel room, a week's accommodations sharing one "family" room could cost you less than $1,000.

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