One of the most sought after international getaways is a winter holiday in the Alps. It’s the world’s elite destination for skiing and snowboarding and one other critically important hobby: splitting time between admiring the breathtaking views and drinking hot chocolate by a fireside (definitely a sport in our books).
Despite the elitist associations, holidaying in the Alps can fit into budget travelling. This incredible experience and winter escape isn’t reserved for the Beckhams, Cambridges or billionaires. Skip St. Moritz and explore endless affordable alpine experiences just waiting for you.
More: Top 12 ski destinations in the world
Here is how to plan a budget winter holiday in the Alps without the royal price tag.
1. Skip Switzerland and France
The Alps is one of the largest mountain chains in the world and here is a secret: the Austrian Alps are just as beautiful as the Swiss or French alps. Alpine beauty has no borders.
Picking a destination which isn’t a hotspot for luxury travellers will also give a cosy hometown feel to your experience. One of my favourite destinations for skiing is Schoppernau, Austria. It’s the type of place where families return annually. The locals all know each other by name. Hotel staff, ski instructors and restaurant owners will remember you from your last visit, even if it was years ago. It’s by far the most hospitable traveling experience I’ve had and no resort could ever equate to the warm welcome received from Austrian locals.
A few great budget-friendly towns in Austria to consider:
- Soelden (Sölden)
2. Start planning the winter before you want to travel
If a winter holiday in the Alps is on your bucket list, waiting until the last minute is not an option. The towns fill up fast.
It’s best to start the planning process several months to a year beforehand; this is when you’ll find the greatest availability and options for lodging and transport.
Also make sure you set aside an activity budget in advance. This will eliminate any surprise costs when it comes to equipment rentals, lift passes and any après ski activities — all of which are easily affordable in Austria compared to bigger resort towns in Switzerland or France.
3. Don’t pay resort fees
The natural splendour and sporting opportunities will keep you outdoors for most of your stay. Time spent indoors will involve warming up by the fireside, drinking hot chocolate or eating countless bowls of goulash at local eateries. There is no need to pay high fees for resort amenities you won’t use; rent a chalet or spacious apartment instead. Nightly rates usually fall below or around €100. Plus having your own cooking space will eliminate half of the dining-out costs.
These are a few Austrian winter lodging options available via Airbnb:
- Fuzzi Flyers Lodge — Around €35 a night
- Hausbernadette — Around €55 a night
- Haus Gamskogl — Around €120 a night
4. Take along company
Another way to cut down on already low costs is to invite friends or family on your winter holiday — it’s truly “the more the merrier” in the Alps. Since you’re planning well in advance, see if a trip to a magical winter wonderland fits into the plans of your nearest and dearest.
Most of the lodging options can accommodate several people so it’s best to make use of that space. Splitting the nightly rate and cost of groceries will slash the costs of your alpine retreat to a ridiculous low.
More: How to travel on a tight budget
5. Take advantage of low-key activities
Skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only activities you need on your itinerary.
Long snowy walks are one of the best and most magical parts of a winter holiday and they’re free. Take advantage of other fun activities with little or no price tag — sledding, visiting local bakeries, relaxing in a sauna or exploring a neighbouring town.
If that isn’t enough, drop into one of the local hotels to see what activities they offer for guests; friendly staff are more than happy to accommodate all tourists for an affordable price.