Author Topic: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?  (Read 9311 times)

Nick_Miller

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Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« on: August 01, 2018, 08:16:11 AM »
General Legalese: First of all, I wish we had a "Travel" section on the forums. I think that would be awesome. But since we don't, I just posted this here for general money saving advice. I can't promise to take all advice, but all advice will be considered, except that which conflicts with the following...

*Legal caveats, 1) yes we are going! 2) yes we are taking our kids! 3) yes we're set on the date, 4) yes we're going to London and Paris. So the basics are set, but we're still looking how many days, where to fly in first, what attractions to see, etc. If all you want to say is, "Don't go," please don't post. Otherwise, I would reaaaallly appreciate tips.

So the Nick Miller clan is hitting London and Paris for spring break, which for us is late March (like March 29th or 30th) and going for 7-8 days. This will be only our second international trip (we took a Caribbean cruise this past June), and we have our passports, and I'm turning 45 later this year, and I think it's time to start seeing the world. Woo Hoo!

Main Questions:

1. Airfare is the killer. Right now we're looking at roughly $4,000.00 total minimum. Right now we plan to fly into London and fly out of Paris, but that's not set yet. Any tips other than using credit card sign up rewards? We used Venture signups for our cruise, and won't be eligible for those again so soon. We are not big credit card users period, because I strongly belief less friction = more spending. So I'm not interested in trying to accrue points at 1 or 2%, but I would definitely do another big sign up bonus of $500 on travel or something like that.

2. Hotels versus airBnB? Any tips on how to choose? I feel like the airBnB might land us in a more "authentic" neighborhood, but I really don't see us cooking on vacation, so I'm not sure having a full kitchen, etc., really helps. Plus, we might prefer having hotel staff to ask for tips, directions, etc.

3. For experienced travelers to these cities: Let's say our vacation starts on a Friday, so its Friday-Mon in either Paris or London, and then Tue-Thur(or Fri) in the other, would you strongly recommend any particular city order? I've been reading about Paris, and it seems that Mon-Tue are bad because either the Louvre or Versailles are closed on one of those days, making the other super packed, but is London the same way?

4. How to save money on food? Do people literally hit a market and make a little picnic and eat in front of the Effiel Tower? I would assume that would save a lot of money; I just didn't want to look like an American hobo doing that.

5. If you could pick just THREE things in each city that are "can't miss," which would you pick, based on your previous travel experience?

We are saving up cash for this vacation, if that makes a difference. Looking at airfare alone, I figure we'll have to scrape up $8000-$9000 for the whole thing but would love to save money where possible.

Any other advice is welcome! I'm sure I forgot a lot!
« Last Edit: August 01, 2018, 08:18:45 AM by Nick_Miller »

Suit

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2018, 08:51:53 AM »
For flights you might sign up for Scott's Cheap Flights, they have a free level and a for pay level and they email out about airfares that are better than average and tell you which airlines and dates the deals are running. You might also try flying on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, because those days are less common they also tend to be cheaper.


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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2018, 09:26:01 AM »
Hi! Wonderful that you are going! I am from the US, but currently live in Europe. I've been to Paris and London recently with the kids and we LOVE both cities.  Don't have much to say by way of airfare. I think your instinct on order for visiting is right. My sense that more things are closed in Paris, whereas London is more like NYC. Re food, yes, absolutely people buy picnic stuff and eat on grass at Eiffel tower and any other place. So, definitely feel free to stock up a grocery stores and markets. Re lodging, check out airbnbs, or other apartments to rent. Kensington is great for families and near lots of transport options. Both London and Paris have excellent public transportation systems, which you should use. There is even a public bus that goes past almost all of the major sites in Paris, which you can use as your own personal hop-on, hop-off.  Must dos Paris: Eiffel Tower, Musee D'Orsay, Walk along the Seine, my kids LOVED the military museum at Les Invalides; Luxembourg Gardens; Must do London: The Tower of London, walking through St. James Park; the Churchill War Rooms; We loved the Tate Modern and I think it is free on Sunday.

KCM5

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2018, 09:27:01 AM »
Consider a round trip in and out of one of the cities then buying Easyjet or Ryanair flights from London to Paris. Make sure you pay attention to the airports they’re flying in/out of. It may or may not be cheaper or worth the hassle of the extra flight. Just something to consider.

Definitely go to the grocery store for food! Delicious, not silly tourists. Also, I remember on my first visit alone to Paris the guy at the fruit stand shamed me for daring to touch the fruit :) they’ll pick it for you - bewildered 22 year old me figured that out.

I still like to stay in hostels, even though I have a family now. They have private rooms, are often cheaper, shared kitchens, I like the vibe.

better late

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2018, 09:36:31 AM »
Off the top of my head:

Research to see if there are any European holidays during your vacation time and plan around them. Hard to arrive in Paris to find everything shuttered because it's a holiday (likely one you've never heard of).

I have never had a problem feeling odd picknicking in Paris. While the Parisianns may not engage in that very often, most all visitors do. But not at the foot of the Eiffel Tower -- that's the biggest carnival in Paris with people asking for $ to take your picture with someone in a gorilla costume Etc Etc and likely pickpockets galore. Not a place you want to hang out for long.

Know that drinks cost 2x-4x more outside than inside the cafe. Tips are included, and because they are servers tend to be all business.

Parisian metro is lovey.

Your kids might like the Pompidou center on a nice day. Musee D'Orsay is a don't miss. And my personal favorite are the tour boats that go up and down the Seine at night (not the dinner ones)
I know I know they sound totally cheesy. But it's lovely to see all the landmark  buildings and bridges lit up at night.

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2018, 10:01:52 AM »
I'd try to do delta for the flights to stay away from the ridiculous BA fees that they would charge if you did american for these cities.  The bonuses are at their high point right now

You really need to plan better/more in advance or just hack your way up with a bunch of points if you really want to cut costs .  I remember you cruise thread.  There is no reason with the amount of traveling you appear to be doing you shouldnt be just taking top bonuses when they pop up .  and then you should book your flight the day it becomes available in the system to get the lowest per point fare. 

but since we're past that already and delta bonuses look great right now 60k for gold card and 70k for platinum i'd sign up for both of these and hit the minimum spend you can use my journal if you'd like to do it a simple way to MS for very low cost or you can spend organically.  Just know the flight points prices arent going down. 

Here is a delta Amex Gold Referral - http://refer.amex.us/TAYLOHSfbS?XLINK=MYCP
Here is the Delta Amex Plat. Referral - http://refer.amex.us/TAYLOH0QCS?XLINK=MYCP
Here is a delta Amex business gold referral http://refer.amex.us/JESSHaHkH?XLINK=MYCP

The plat has a 200 dollar AF but you can buy 1 Delta 50 dollar gift card and get a 100 dollar statement credit. 

I'm not sure where you're flying out of to get there. but if you choose to use my link great if not thats fine too but if you got the gold card and then turned around and referred your wife you'd have 130k miles right there repeat with the platinum card and you'd be at 290k miles - repeat again with the gold business and you'd get to 420k miles. 

« Last Edit: August 01, 2018, 12:01:35 PM by boarder42 »

meghan88

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2018, 11:49:09 AM »
1. Airfare:  It's worth it to get a points credit card and do a referral to max the points.  Some cards will waive the annual fee for the first year, and then you can cancel the card once you reach the obligatory spend amount to get the points.  You have a lot of time to plan.  Though we are booking from Canada and YMMV, I find that the European airlines have great seat sales at the end of August and early September.  The last few years, we booked during the August seat sale, only to find out that the prices are even lower once September comes.  Sign up to the airline newsletters for alerts. We love Air France.  The food is soooo much better than any other airline, even in economy.  When we book during a seat sale, we pay about 800 Canadian per ticket.  Sometimes less.  As suggested, best to book return to one city, then easyjet or ryanair for a London-Paris return.  Or try the Eurostar.  Do be mindful of the airports.  It's not only a huge pain to change from Charles-de-Gaulle to Orly, or Heathrow to Gatwick, it also costs $.

2. AirBnB, definitely, and there's also VRBO, HomeAway and other sites.  Hotel staff ... pfft.  Just do some research on the interweb and you'll be fine.  Make sure you get a washer in your AirBnB, and that way you can wash as you go, and pack a whole lot lighter. We go for 6 weeks each year and we only bring carry-on.  Dryers are rare, so don't expect one.  Just hang your clothes to dry; most places provide the racks, but you don't want to be washing the night before your departure.  Count on needing a full day for things to dry.

3. Paris:  It's tough to find an open restaurant in Paris on a Sunday night, and Mondays aren't the greatest either.  Versailles ... ugh.  You couldn't pay me to go there.  Loads of big stinking tourist buses outside, long lines, full trains.  I had fond memories of visiting it once back in 2002 when I lived in Paris, and had friends who lived nearby, so we went back in 2013 and we were appalled.  You CAN have a bad meal in Paris, so do your research.  I recommend the Rodin Museum, but just do the garden for 5 Euros, not the interior.  The garden is where all his most famous sculptures (e.g., the Thinker) are located, and the gardens themselves are beautiful.  And please, please learn a few french words:  S'il vous plait (please), merci (thank you), and ALWAYS say bonjour (or bonsoir depending on the time) when you walk into a restaurant, store, or anywhere else.
London:  You probably won't have the same issue re. Sundays/Mondays in London, but it depends what you want to see and do.  We loved the British Museum.  If I recall, most museums in London are free (though donations are appreciated).  Not sure if that's changed.  Food-wise, London has improved dramatically in the last 20 years.

4. Saving on food:  In both cities, the supermarkets are great, and so are the bakeries.  In London, there's a chain called "Pret a Manger" that sells healthy, prepared, takeaway.  Also, there are lots of Indian restaurants for takeaway. In Paris, you might like the Asian takeaway places, or the fallafel joints (such as l'As du Fallafel).

5. Paris:  A cruise along the Seine, one really great meal (e.g. at a place like Au Trou Gascon in the 12th), and a walk through the Jardin des Plantes in the 5th (free!).  Or the Rodin Museum gardens if one of those is not to your taste.
London:  The British Museum, a walk down The Mall, and a stroll through Covent Gardens. Hyde Park is also nice.

Catbert

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2018, 12:03:23 PM »
With kids I'd probably go with AirBNB, Homeaway or similar.  European hotels generally won't let 4 people share a room, so you'd need 2 rooms.  With an apartment type set up you can put the kids to bed early (or for a nap) and close the door.  Then you can have lights on and talk in the living area.  While I understand not wanting to "cook" it's nice to be able to fix a quick breakfast or snack; keep drink cold, etc.  You can even look for a place with laundry facilities.

You might want to poke around rootofgood.com.  Justin has taken long trip with his kids.  Not to Paris and London but has some general insights on traveling with kids.

AMandM

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2018, 12:06:01 PM »
In Paris, I highly recommend the Hotel Marignac (the cheap one near Notre Dame, not the 5-star one on the Champs Elysees). It's a basic hotel with tons of family-friendly services. You can keep food in the fridge, you can heat up baby food, you can eat your own lunch in the dining room, they have a stack of guidebooks as well as being happy to offer advice. Plus the location is good.

Our kids' favorite memory from our trip there is seeing the Eiffel tower lit up at night. We didn't go up.

My family lived in London when I was 7 years old, and my favorite outings from that year were the V&A museum, the Bethnal Green toy museum, Hampton Court, and the Tower of London. Later, visiting again as a teen, I was really impressed by the contrasts between St Paul's, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Since you have plenty f time, I recommend reading books set in London and Paris to your kids. Places and sights are more interesting if they connect to something you already know. For adults, St Paul's, say, is interesting because you get to see a place that already means something to you, whether that's the location of Charles and Diana's wedding or Wren's great achievement. For kids, who don't have that cultural/historical background, fiction can provide an analogous context. So St Paul's might be "the place where Simon saved the Coronation in Blackhearts in Battersea."  The Madeline books are great for younger kids, because of all the pictures of Paris and London.

Have fun!

acroy

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2018, 12:25:38 PM »
DW and I visited Paris 10yrs ago with a 9month old. It was fun. A few notes

-We stayed at hostels. at the time AirbnB didn't exist, hostel (private room) was the only reasonable alternative to crazy-expensive hotels. this has probably changed a lot.

-Yes just walk around, buy food @ markets, and have picnics at parks and under the Tower or whatever.  Cheese, wine, baguettes, fruit, street-vendor paninis, crepes, just awesome. the entire 2 weeks we never wasted time/$$ at a restaurant.

-Take the double-decker city tour bus the first day. It gives you a real good lay of the city real quick, helps you decide what you want to see more of.

-trip to the top of the Tower was not worth it. Top of Montparnasse Tower was very worth it, in the evening, watching the sun go down over the city.

-Cemeteries

-Citroen park

-night walks (I assume it's still safe, we felt very safe @ the time). One thing to see it in the day, completely different thing to see it @ night. walk along seine @ night, jazz, dancing, street performers, etc

-The Army Museum

-Sacré-Cœur area. prettiest neighborhood in the city IMHO

more than 3 things. Big pretty city! good luck

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2018, 01:18:37 PM »
Oh you folks are a wonderful resource. I'm scanning through the posts, and will digest as much as possible, but obviously won't be able to respond to most of it just because there's so much!!

Many of the sights being mentioned do not ring a bill, so I'm googling a lot of it. If it makes economic sense, I am totally down for airBnB and hitting the markets for some meals and snacks, especially if most of the stuff doesn't really need "preparing" or "cooking."


gaja

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2018, 01:20:29 PM »
How old are the kids?

If you want service and local advice, I would look at BnBs (the traditional type, with a host who cooks your breakfast). I don't know much about Paris, but have stayed at some great ones in London. Be aware that the normal hotel rooms on our side of the pond are substantially smaller than in the US. If you look at tripadvisor reviews, you'll see that is a complaint that shows up in a lot of different places. If you go a little bit outside of the city centers, it might be quite a lot cheaper, quiter, and a lot more space. Public transport IS excellent, so you really don't have to sleep in the middle of the city to enjoy everything.

In London, I'm fond of Kew botanical gardens (especially in spring), the Museum of Natural History, Camden market, walking along the Thames past the Globe theather and Tate modern. If you pick up some food at the Borough market, you can have a nice picnic lunch by the Tate.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2018, 01:22:00 PM by gaja »

robartsd

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2018, 01:40:26 PM »
I took my first trip "across the pond" this year. Two of us flew non-stop round trip between OAK and LGW on Norwegian for about $850 (unreserved economy, no checked bag, meal service for one seat on the return leg - meal service was not worth the price, bring some food with you and order from the in-flight snack bar as needed instead). Trip was Wednesday-Wednesday (we were a bit flexible with dates to get cheapest airfare). We were there for a wedding in Southampton, but traveled to London on Sunday after the wedding (spending a little time in Brighton on the way to London). Two days was not nearly enough time to see the sites in London - I think just free admission attractions (we didn't visit any paid admission attractions) in London deserve at least 4 full days.

We didn't use one of the three open top doubledecker tour bus outfits - partially because staying an an airbnb we were not close to their routes which do service major hotels. Our airbnb in Hoxton was across the street from two routes of London's iconic transit buses providing frequent service to and from City of London. From City of London, we could quickly get to any of the sights. We used transit buses for all of our transportation needs within London (4.50/person/day with Oyster). We used resources from FreeToursByFoot.com to plan some of our sight seeing. To get to and from Gatwick airport, we rode Thameslink (a commuter train between London and Brighton) service during off-peak hours. We could have saved quite a bit (probably about 50%) on train transportation if we were confident enough with our itinerary to purchase advance tickets.

On Monday we visited the British Museum (we did experience a crazy long line here, and don't expect to get very close to the face of the Rosetta Stone without being somewhat pushy - it's on everyone's must see list) and the British Library (don't miss the British Library's treasures room - if I just had one afternoon in London, I"d spend it there looking handwritten works of Handel, Shakespeare, Da Vince, and many more). After the British Library, we attempted to follow a self guided bus tour utilizing public transit. This probably would have worked if we'd read the tour information ahead of time and allowed more time for it. As it got dark, we got off the bus to walk to the gates of Kensington Palace. Then made our way to a nearby Whole Foods to get some food for our late supper and breakfast before heading back to the Airbnb.

On Tuesday, Google Maps directions failed us trying to take Transport for London buses to the Tower of London (directions indicated transferring to another bus system in City of London, but we didn't know how to catch it or what it would cost). I had hoped to convince DW to utilize London's docking bike share system throughout the day, but she wasn't confident that she could ride on London's busy streets (I loved watching the cycle commuters from the top of the bus as we headed into town in the morning). We did use the bikes along part of the Queen's Walk as we made our way from the Tower of London to Parliament Square. The lines to enter Westminster Abby were long, so we didn't do that (it's also pricey). We did notice that the Supreme Court was open to the public and went in to look at the small exhibit in the basement there. From Parliament Square we picked up a different part of the previous day's bus tour for a while before heading to Trafalgar Square to see the National Gallery (I enjoyed the architecture even more than the artwork) and National Portrait Gallery (some great stuff to see, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it). After finding a pub for supper, we figured out a way to ride a bus across Tower Bridge at night before heading back to our Airbnb.

Oh you folks are a wonderful resource. I'm scanning through the posts, and will digest as much as possible, but obviously won't be able to respond to most of it just because there's so much!!

Many of the sights being mentioned do not ring a bill, so I'm googling a lot of it. If it makes economic sense, I am totally down for airBnB and hitting the markets for some meals and snacks, especially if most of the stuff doesn't really need "preparing" or "cooking."
We didn't do any cooking, but limited ourselves to about one (usually inexpensive) restaurant meal a day. Bought bread (great deal on a loaf from a vendor closing down a booth near the train station) and fruit from street vendors. Pick up yogurt and granola (probably more fruit too) at grocery stores. My basic pattern for keeping food costs down during travel: eat breakfast before heading out, carry sufficient snacks for the day (we bought protein bars to take with us on our trip and added fruit when we arrived), do your restaurant meals as late lunches, eat a simple picnic items supper when getting back to accommodations (shop for supper and next day's breakfast/snacks as needed on the way home).

In London, there's a chain called "Pret a Manger" that sells healthy, prepared, takeaway.
Didn't try "Pret a Manger" but it seemed to be everywhere!

In London, I'm fond of Kew botanical gardens (especially in spring), the Museum of Natural History, Camden market, walking along the Thames past the Globe theather and Tate modern. If you pick up some food at the Borough market, you can have a nice picnic lunch by the Tate.
I've heard the view from the Tate is great (and free - but we didn't get there during open hours).

dashuk

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2018, 01:44:44 PM »
then buying Easyjet or Ryanair flights from London to Paris.

Or just get the train (Eurostar). The ticket price itself will probably be higher, but you don't have to get to and from Gatwick/Luton/Stansted and Charles de Gaulle or mess about with getting through airport security, so the overall journey will be quicker and quite possibly cheaper.

Plus it's way better for the environment and you get to go in a train UNDER THE SEA!


It's probably been 15 years since I've been in Paris (student days, way before kids), but favourite area was probably Montmartre. Someone above mentioned Sacre Coeur, there's also the Dali museum up there (which may well appeal more to kids' tastes than the Louvre, depending on age etc), great views over Paris, and generally interesting neighbourhood.

You don't mention kids ages, but if they're old enough to just keep them up late I'd be tempted to just get a couple of rooms in a budget hotel (ibis, formule 1, campanile), but that depends how much you want to prioritise sleeping somewhere nice vs other stuff. If you plan to actually spend any non-sleeping time there then apartment probably better.

Probably similar length of time since I've been in Central (ie tourist) London, but the Science Museum and Natural History Museum are great, next door to each other, and free. As far as Experiencing British Culture goes, I'll leave that to your compatriots to recommend.

Buying lunch from market or supermarket... yes, fine. I'd extend that to breakfast in Paris too - just find the local bakery.

cats

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2018, 01:59:39 PM »

3. For experienced travelers to these cities: Let's say our vacation starts on a Friday, so its Friday-Mon in either Paris or London, and then Tue-Thur(or Fri) in the other, would you strongly recommend any particular city order? I've been reading about Paris, and it seems that Mon-Tue are bad because either the Louvre or Versailles are closed on one of those days, making the other super packed, but is London the same way?


I think it's quite common for MANY museums to be closed or have limited hours on Monday or Tuesday--this is not just a Paris thing, so you may run into a similar issue in London though I guess it's possible none of the potential London sites are as big a draw as the Louvre or Versailles).  I have not been to Versailles, I have been to the Louvre and I don't actually know that I would consider it a "can't miss" unless you are really into art museums or rarely get the opportunity to visit a decent (not necessarily world class amazing) one.  Personally I enjoy museums but I do find that after a few hours I need a break, so a moderately sized art museum with a few good galleries is, to me, about equivalent to a massive art gallery with many masterpieces (i.e. the Louvre).  And the big draw "masterpieces" at the Louvre (like the Mona Lisa) are going to be pretty busy, don't count on getting to sit around and contemplate them quietly for a few minutes.  Architecturally, I don't recall the Louvre being as interesting as, say, a nice gothic cathedral (I like cathedrals). 


I also recommend looking into Eurostar rather than a flight for getting between London and Paris.  I took that train once as a teenager and it was a much more enjoyable experience than being crammed into a budget plane.  Not sure about you or your kids but for me there is always something more "magical" about train travel vs. airplane.

mozar

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2018, 05:07:10 PM »
Not sure if your kids are old enough but I loved the bicycle tour through Paris.

Anette

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2018, 05:59:33 PM »
+1 for the Eurostar for getting from downtown London to downtown Paris, doesn't take longer than the flights when you include having to get outside the city to the airport, waiting time, flight and getting yourself downtown at the other end. Security is a big thing before getting on the train nowadays as well, though.
Book the train early for a good price (Eurostar)

Public transport is way cheaper in Paris than London

I am not certain Airbnbs are much cheaper than a hotel in Europe ( just tried to book an airbnb in Wiesbaden for a friend ( 1 person) for two nights in September and they wanted a ridiculous amount of money =367Euro, a hotel is much cheaper and the apartment wasn't anything special)

3000 - 4000$ for one week besides the flights seems a ton of money to me and much more than I would spend booking hotel rooms and enjoying dinner out each night (+ activities...)

My parents in law live in London, so we hardly need a hotel there. I love visiting the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square ( it is free)

Last Oktober we booked a Strawberry tour ( name of the company) themed Harry Potter. I think it was an hour long, you book online, meet in Lester Square walk around seeing film sites of the movies while having this and the other sights explained to you. This was a very fun thing to do with our youngest daughter.
( Rather than the usually booked out long in advance and very expensive HP museum outside London). The tour ends outside a HP themed sweet shop where you are asked to pay the guide what the tour was worth to you ( so not free really, we checked first what other tours cost and payed around that same amount)

There is a parc at the foot of the Eifeltower with benches and lawns for your picnic😉

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2018, 06:48:18 PM »
There are many free walking tours.  You should tip but the guides are super entertaining since they work just for the tips

SimpleCycle

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2018, 07:59:01 PM »
Are you willing to share you home airport?  That would allow us to know how to maximize airfare deals.

I would plan the trip based on which way airfare is cheaper.  For example, using Columbus, Ohio as my base airport, I found open jaw tickets to London and from Paris for $994, but the Paris first and then London was $1233.  But then if I play with the dates just a bit, I can find $798 to/from London flying Sunday to Sunday, and a round trip London/Paris ticket is about $100.  If you can fly out of a major airport, even better.  Direct flights from O'Hare to London are just $563.

After airfare, the biggest place to save is lodging. AirBnB is going to be pricey in those cities; if you actually want to save money I think hostels are still a good deal.  Booking.com has a really big presence in Europe and lists hostels along with hotels.  Hostels aren't just dorm style bunks - many have private rooms.  AirBnB looks a bit more doable in Paris than London, and if you get a place with a kitchen you can cook meals at home.

Meals in London are insanely expensive and British food does nothing for me, although obviously London has tons of international cuisine.  Pret used to be a cheap option, but I suspect prices have gone up in the last decade.  Definitely get Indian food while you're in London - curry houses are plentiful and reasonably priced.  Chinatown is also a decent option for a meal.  Consider packing sandwiches for lunches on the go.

Paris has more street food than London, especially crepes!  Seriously, just eat a lot of crepes and you'll be fine.

Honestly, I think your budget sounds fairly crazy.  I think you can do it for $3-4k in airfare and $1200 in lodging, and really you should be travel hacking the airfare for big trips like this to really save money.  I was hesitant to get into travel hacking because it seemed complicated and annoying, but I've literally booked four trips for three with hacked miles just this year.  You do have to plan further in advance to figure out the best way to collect and redeem rewards, but it's really worth it.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #19 on: August 01, 2018, 10:28:35 PM »
Ok. I’ll give my tips and I travel a lot.

First, I use kayak.com to find the cheapest fares and I do the plus/minus 3 days. Generally, it is always cheapest to fly on a Wednesday.  Fri-Sun is generally the most expensive, avoid those days. Kayak gives you a buy now or wait view based on trends, very helpful. I find the cheapest flight I can and then generally book directly with the airline.

Second, generally London (LHR) is always the cheapest place to fly to, but you might get a good deal to Paris (CDG) and it shouldn’t be that different, I’m looking now and about the same. So it doesn’t matter which one you fly into first.  Typically I would use easyjet or whatever is cheapest between Paris and London. The train is also viable and just as quick, maybe quicker when you count waiting time and security.

Third, pack light. I travel everywhere using one carry on bag and another little bag. Check out onebag dot com. This makes everything easier. Might not be able to convince your wife or kids, but try.

Fourth, I’d definitely do Airbnb. Hotels in London can be very expensive, but the ones in Paris can be cheap. I also use Agoda and Expedia for hotels. Sometimes I use Expedia to see what their flight/hotel package is to see if I can get a better deal than individually.

Fifth, you’re not going for that long (2 weeks would be ideal, a week each), here’s what I’d see with 3-5 days in each city:

London
Tower of London
London Bridge
Buckingham Palace
Something at the theatre
The Torture Museum
The London Eye
Westminster Abbey
Big Ben

Paris
The Louvre—Mona Lisa
Eiffel Tower
Montmartre
The cemetery where all the famous people are buried
Norte Dame
Rodin’s House—Musee Rodin
Musee d’Orsay
Musee Picasso
La Marais

Also, learn to say: hello, how are you, do you speak English and thank you in French. That’s literally all you need because that alone will make them not hate you. Then you just continue in English. Make sure the whole family learns those 4 words/phrases.

Good luck!



boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #20 on: August 02, 2018, 04:23:05 AM »
Why are all of you guys wasting dollars on flights this is by far the easiest thing to get for basically free

Mariposa

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #21 on: August 02, 2018, 06:39:37 AM »
I posted in your cruise thread what I'd do in the Chase Ultimate Rewards points universe. Basically, if you and your wife each get: Chase Sapphire Reserve + Chase Ink Preferred business card and redeem through Chase Reserve's travel portal, it would be $4500 in travel rewards for 4 cards.

If you want to just start getting your feet wet, I recommend:

1. Chase Sapphire Preferred. $4k spend in 3mo. 50,000 points worth $625 through their travel portal.

2. Citibank ThankYou Premier. $4k spend in 3mo. 50,000 points worth $625 through their travel portal.

We fly at least 2x a year domestically and ~every other year internationally, and I haven't paid for a flight in three years. I calculate we're going to need about $6000 in flights through 2019 and so far have accumulated points to cover $4400. And I don't do MS; we collect the rewards through our regular spending.

Fomerly known as something

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #22 on: August 02, 2018, 06:57:35 AM »
On number 4, I'm not sure about in front of the Eiffel Tower, but I do know a bottle of wine and a picnic is completely normal along the banks of the Seine.

I would possibly look for "smaller hotels" or "hotel apartments" many still have hosts to talk with but I stayed at one in wine country France where it also had a kitchenette which allowed me to store refrigerated snacks and plan breakfast in my room at a minimum.  It also gave me the option to not eat out one night when I really didn't feel like it as dinner out in France starts a 7pm and you should expect at least 2 hours at the restaurant.

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #23 on: August 02, 2018, 07:11:37 AM »
there are much better uses for Chase UR's than booking flights thru their portal their portal is not great.  you get a refund of your points - but i can go find that flight at delta usually for cheaper when i just cash out my URs at 1% - i'd saying finding a flight in their portal cheaper than it can be purchased if you converted the cards to cash is few and far between.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #24 on: August 02, 2018, 07:59:13 AM »
Usually my wife overwhelms me with travel information; it will be nice to turn the tables this time!

Sure, I would love to go for a longer period of time, since getting over there is the big expense/hassle, and this might be the only time we see these cities in our lives, but the kids are in school. Since we're going on spring break, 7-8 days is about the most we can go. Plus, we can only take so much time off work.

And our kiddos will be 9 and 13, so they should be able to handle the walking and everything very well. I'm not big on giving out my home city, but I'll just say midwest. I'm actually running some numbers to see if going to Chicago and then just flying right out of there would save us decent money. Now would it be enough savings to compensate for all the gas/travel time/parking and other hassles? I'm not sure. We could fly out of our local airport, and my FIL would give us a ride, so we could get to our airport totally free.

Also, the travel guides we've been consuming recommend waiting until about 3-4 months out before booking flights, and mention that some sales happen sometimes in late August-September, so we'll probably be waiting on tix for at least a little while.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2018, 08:01:23 AM by Nick_Miller »

Cyanne

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #25 on: August 02, 2018, 08:36:56 AM »
We took our kids (10 and 5 at the time) to Paris for a week. The hotel we stayed at served croissants and beverages each morning so breakfast was included in our lodging. We went in November and it rained most everyday so did not picnic but we did buy food such as fresh bread, cheeses, meat and eat in our room for most of our evening meals.

Don't take any taxi rides. We did this once and it was slow and expensive. Use the subway to travel. It was perfectly safe and there were often musicians playing music in the cars. One of our favorite stories to this day took place on the subway. My son had white blonde hair when he was five. We were on the subway and holding on to the poles when a very elderly lady entered our car. She shared a pole with my son and reached down and touched his hair! My son looked up at me standing at the pole next to him and said, "Mom, she's petting me!" We still laugh about how our blonde children stood out in Paris.

I wouldn't try to jam too many things into one day. There were fairly long lines at the museums. One thing that worked out well for us is when we asked the front desk about tours and they arranged a private tour guide to take us to Versailles. It was a small car that we crammed into but we were able to request what we wanted to see and our tour guide who was fluent in both English and French was able to talk about the history of the areas we drove through and took us past some famous landmarks.

We bought our airfare and hotel package through go-today.com and saved a lot of money. At the time I didn't know anything about travel hacking. I am planning another trip myself but will be using airline miles to get free airfare this time around.

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #26 on: August 02, 2018, 08:38:13 AM »
just get the credit cards and book with points now.  that will be the cheapest way.

SimpleCycle

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #27 on: August 02, 2018, 08:48:43 AM »
So the great thing about booking with miles is it generally doesn't matter if you are booking a minor airport or a major airport, the tickets are the same number of miles.  Europe flights on American are 60k miles round trip, at least from midwestern airports.

But if you are going to pay money for flights, it is DEFINITELY worth flying out of ORD if you can swing it.  I see Iceland Air open jaw to London home from Pairs for $552 with a stop in Reykjavik, and United direct for $633.  That could be and $1800 savings on airfare alone.

Open jaw flight search: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #28 on: August 02, 2018, 09:17:39 AM »
So the great thing about booking with miles is it generally doesn't matter if you are booking a minor airport or a major airport, the tickets are the same number of miles.  Europe flights on American are 60k miles round trip, at least from midwestern airports.

But if you are going to pay money for flights, it is DEFINITELY worth flying out of ORD if you can swing it.  I see Iceland Air open jaw to London home from Pairs for $552 with a stop in Reykjavik, and United direct for $633.  That could be and $1800 savings on airfare alone.

Open jaw flight search: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/

Yep! I saw the Iceland layover flights last night! And honestly an 11 hour stop in Iceland sounds spectacular.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #29 on: August 02, 2018, 09:23:32 AM »
My husband and I have gone to Europe almost every year, often during the high season, often for a month, so I have some tips for you.

- It's way too early to buy flights, which is why the prices are so high. They will go down as you get closer to the date so put a price alert on and monitor them. I like google flights, but any flight aggregator will work. I bought flights to Paris in November of last year for a Jan trip, and it was $400 from the West Coast. My mom bought tickets for a late June trip to London in January or Feb, and she paid $600 from LA. $1000 per person is way too much.

- I have generally found airbnb to be way cheaper, and the hosts can give good recommendations. That is something you should start looking at now. You may not really "cook" but having a place to make breakfast, store picnic foods, and heat up leftovers can be nice. If you haven't used airbnb before, read the reviews very carefully.

- You can absolutely save money by picnicking, and you won't look like a hobo. My husband and I are big picnickers. We just get bread and meat and cheese and fruit, maybe some potato chips and chocolate.But I find that we spend more money on winter trips because I want to go sit somewhere warm and have something hot. It will be really cold. So you might decide to eat lunch in a museum cafe/sandwich shop/fish and chips place, and then do a more picnic style simple dinner at your lodging.

- Fun things to do: I really loved Versailles in Paris (just outside, actually), but I like looking at big fancy palaces and nice gardens. In London the Globe Theater is amazing, and they do tours and the plays are inexpensive and they may have activities geared towards kids. If you have a 13 year old he/she will be reading Shakespeare soon in school, so that might be a cool thing to do. The Musee d'Orsay is one of my favorites, all the best Impressionist works in an old restored train station. The museum cafe there is lovely and delicious and not terribly expensive.

- We found the museum pass in Paris to be good value. It allowed us to skip lines, and feel like we could spend 30 minutes in a museum just to check it out or see the things we wanted without feeling like we should spend the whole day. There is a cool science museum with a lot of hands on things for kids in the 19th. Also, the museum of sewers (which were commissioned by Napoleon) is very interesting and takes you underground. The museum under Notre Dam is also super cool because Notre Dam is where the city was originally a tiny pre-Roman settlement, and they show the development of Paris into what it is now through models, maps, excavations, and a good audio tour.

BikeFanatic

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #30 on: August 02, 2018, 10:49:03 AM »
As far as credit cards are concerned Chase has a New IHG and  the bonus is 100,000 points plus a credit of some kind against the annual fee not waived. this card is available even if yo are 5/24 ( my wife is over and  just got it approved. ) Must spend 3K in first 3 months for bonus

EconDiva

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #31 on: August 02, 2018, 10:51:20 AM »
May not be an option but FYI:

If using AirBnB I always book at the VERY last minute and ask for about 20% off.  Most people have agreed.  Some met me at something like 10% off instead.  I think only one person ever flat out said no to me so far.

When you're booking like two weeks out many people would rather have someone in their property than risk not renting it out at all at that point.

However, I also agree with others that if you play your cards right this is an easy trip to cover flight and accommodations for free.  I absolutely love checking out/eating in markets.  In Paris, for some awesome local food, a bit of people watching (and on a good day maybe even a souvenir), do not miss the Bastille Market:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187147-d3249136-Reviews-Bastille_Market-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

In London, for a similar experience, don't miss Borough Market:
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g186338-d260500-Reviews-Borough_Market-London_England.html

« Last Edit: August 02, 2018, 10:53:12 AM by EconDiva »

Mariposa

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #32 on: August 02, 2018, 12:32:24 PM »
there are much better uses for Chase UR's than booking flights thru their portal their portal is not great.  you get a refund of your points - but i can go find that flight at delta usually for cheaper when i just cash out my URs at 1% - i'd saying finding a flight in their portal cheaper than it can be purchased if you converted the cards to cash is few and far between.

With Chase, you can cash out, or you can transfer 1:1 to a whole bunch of travel partners (British Airways, Southwest, United, hotels). I always compare flights in the travel portal to something like Orbitz to make sure I'm not getting a bad deal. Once in a while, I'll even see a good flight that's not available to the general public. It's always been better than cashing out for me. Chase UR is actually a great and flexible rewards system if you're under 5/24. I also have points with Citibank and Merrill+ currently, so I can pick the best offering.

We have a toddler and both work, so we can only travel on certain days and certain times. Getting flights through miles doesn't work as well for us at this stage.

Mariposa

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #33 on: August 02, 2018, 12:36:25 PM »
- It's way too early to buy flights, which is why the prices are so high. They will go down as you get closer to the date so put a price alert on and monitor them. I like google flights, but any flight aggregator will work. I bought flights to Paris in November of last year for a Jan trip, and it was $400 from the West Coast. My mom bought tickets for a late June trip to London in January or Feb, and she paid $600 from LA. $1000 per person is way too much.

Also agree with this. Tickets should be $500-600 each and, at the most, maybe $700.

lentil

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #34 on: August 02, 2018, 12:52:59 PM »
Quote
Why are all of you guys wasting dollars on flights this is by far the easiest thing to get for basically free

I'm interested in the characterization of international mileage tickets as "basically free." When I book them, there are booking fees (Delta charges around $50/ticket just to book) and then also international taxes/fees that I have to pay on top of that (which are typically more than $100/ticket for Europe/UK flights).

So even without any AF or credit card costs, FF tickets to Europe seem to cost at least $150-200 apiece in taxes/fees. To be clear here: I live near an international airport, and the last time I bought tickets to Europe, we paid a little less than $400/ticket. So my situation is totally different from the OPs. But in terms of my own math, once I start adding annual credit card fees, plus the fact that Delta's skymile tickets always seem to involve frustrating connections (so that I end up comparing a 24 hour skymile ticket to an 11 hour cash option), the minimal savings rarely rarely seem to justify the added hassle.

That's not to say the OP shouldn't be looking at it! Obviously, he's weighing thousands in potential savings, instead of just a couple hundred, and could maybe fly out of his home airport too. I'm just trying to figure out if I am missing something with mileage tickets that actually makes them closer to "free" for international tickets -- obviously you've dialed in the savings on annual fees, so what am I missing with regard to the rest of the fees/taxes?

AMandM

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #35 on: August 02, 2018, 12:58:16 PM »
Yep! I saw the Iceland layover flights last night! And honestly an 11 hour stop in Iceland sounds spectacular.

OH YES! On the way back to North America from England my family did this. We rented a car and just drove up the coast a ways and back. It was thrilling to walk on a beach made of volcanic debris and to know we were so far north. Everything looked very different in ways I could not articulate. It was magical.

Dee18

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #36 on: August 02, 2018, 01:31:48 PM »
Last spring I did London followed by Paris (one week each); this spring break I did Paris (only had a week).  I did London before Paris because someone told me there's a big departure tax if you fly out of London.  I took the train from London to Paris,which I loved.

I stayed in AirBnBs all the time.  I prefer eating only one meal out a day, and often it is lunch.  I like going to markets and in both cities there is so much amazing food to choose from at a market, including rotisserie chickens and other cooked meats if you want meat, freshly made pasta that will only take a couple minutes to cook, great fruits and vegetables.  I like fixing great coffee in my place when I first wake up, and I like eating mostly protein for breakfast.  When eating breakfast out I tend to spend a lot more and eat a lot more carbs, which don't keep me full until lunch. (I can't imaging what the food costs would be for a family of 4 eating out most meals...not to mention how tiring that would be to me!) Traveling with a kid I greatly prefer dinner back "home."  After a full day of sightseeing (by walking and public transit) we are usually ready to relax with our shoes off.  When I am fixing a quick dinner at the AirBnB I don't find my daughter being on her phone nearly as annoying as if we are out at a restaurant. In London and Paris there are bakery/cafes called Paul's that offer delicious sandwiches.  If we were off for a day's adventure, such as my favorite, Giverny, we would buy them to take with us.  A fun place for a casual child-friendly dinner in Paris (including Sunday night) is Breizh cafe.  You can make reservations online.

I would go to either Paris or London if I just had a week.  You eat up a day getting from one to another and either city offers more than enough for a week.  You can get a discount for booking an apartment for a whole week.  And some of the best airfares are only available flying in and out of the same city.  My spring break trip this year happened because I saw r/t tickets for $430 from a nearby airport.  I believe I purchased those in November and saw the price on SecretFlying, recommended above.  I would keep an eye out and if you see flights that are convenient for less than $450 I would go ahead and get them.

In both cities I used walking, bus, and subway to get around.  The bus/metro week pass in Paris is very reasonable and London's Oyster card was also reasonable and easy to use.  Both cities have easy public access from the airports.

It can be quite chilly and rainy in Paris and London at spring break, or balmy.  Any weather is fine as long as you have the right clothing and footwear to stay warm and dry.  I take a tiny umbrella...and used it every day this March in Paris, along with a hat.

Many Paris museums, such as the Louvre, are free for children under 18.  Many also have a free evening a week, for all ages.  While those are busy times, the spring crowds are much smaller than in summer.

Many AirBnBs have a host who will provide great information, often even guidebooks and maps in the apartment.  There are tourist offices in both cities.  And more than once I have simply walked into a nice hotel, walked up to the bellman and asked directions.  I don't find hotels to offer service worth the premium price. 

lentil

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #37 on: August 02, 2018, 02:29:43 PM »
Oh, and just so I'm not ignoring the original questions while I post my own!

Regarding accommodations (and overall frugality), I would consider that you may be doing your kids a favor by demonstrating how to travel cheaply. When I was a kid, we only stayed in hostels or campgrounds. It was what my parents could afford, but also, I loved it because it was always an adventure -- I was thrilled by the novelty, and just never learned to expect amenities like tv or room service. So when I grew up and could travel independently, it never occurred to me that I needed more than a tent or dorm cot...meaning that I have traveled a lot, to a lot of interesting places, without over-spending. While the trips I took as a kid were interesting, the real long-term benefits have been in the way travel has been within my reach as an adult.

Or to put it another way, if you can get the costs low enough, you could change your plan to take one once-in-a-lifetime trip to London and Paris, and instead take a $5000 trip to London this spring, and a $5000 trip to Paris next spring break. Worth considering, even if it's just as a mental exercise.

These days, we mostly stay in AirBnBs, but for short stays it may not work out to be cheaper. I find it exhausting to eat out for every meal, but do usually like to splurge on a few planned-ahead meals out. Except in London, where we pretty much never eat out, but do spend plenty on theater tickets...spend on the things you truly value is my advice overall! But many of my favorite travel memories tend to be the small stuff -- sharing a bottle of cheap red wine over a dinner of cheese & bread, sitting on the steps of a fountain watching other people walk past, ducking out of the rain into a random cathedral, and just generally being somewhere.

Have fun!!

kpd905

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #38 on: August 02, 2018, 06:58:13 PM »
If you grab the Barclay Arrival+ card and use it to book your flights or lodging, you will be able to use the points to subtract $660 from the expense.  Grabbing two cards is a pretty easy way to save $1300.

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #39 on: August 02, 2018, 08:13:02 PM »
It still baffles me when someone posts this question and says flights are the most expensive. Then starts trying to pinch pennies on a room or other things. Flights can be had for free a net 4k savings from the original statement. Everything else is small potatoes after that.

K-ice

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #40 on: August 02, 2018, 08:27:56 PM »
First, if you can find a place walking distance to the blue RER line that makes travel to and from the airport easy if needed.

I cannot insist enough to just bring carry-on. 1 roller bag + 1 small daypack (personal item size). We only have 1 kid so worst case we manage with 3 bags each and the kid shuffles. But generally be prepared to get on and off escalators with your entire family and luggage in tow.  Don't get you kids those cute character luggage. Get them something that is a decent size yet still carry-on-able.

I've traveled to Paris 4 times of varying length from 4 hours (layover) to 4 months.
Most recently I traveled 2+2 days in Paris w my 5y old kid and hunting down the playgrounds was a highlight. I book-ended a required trip in France.

We hit the major sites. Notre Dame (outside), Louvre (inside), Sacre Coeur (outside), Tour Eiffel (outside), & a day in Versaille (inside & out), fireworks watching while sitting on seine banks.

I've actually never been up the Eiffel tower. Didn't want to pay or wait in line.

But I want to share some hidden detail of my favorite area, the Latin quarter. 

The the Luxembourg stop on that blue RER line is close to some of my favorite things.
The area east of the part is busier, younger, dirty. We found a great little hotel on the West side which is quiet. I would look for AirBnB in this area.

You can explore this one small area in a busy half day as its all close:

First the Luxembourg gardens are free and good to see/ pick-nick. A great little park. A nice shaded pond with ducks and a playground (3 euro but well equipped). 

I am not sure what you are interested in but of you are any kind of a feminist science geek seeing the Pantheon and Marie Curie is a piece of history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panth%C3%A9on

Not far away is the Musée national du Moyen Âge (former Musée de Cluny).  On display is the Lady and the Unicorn.  I saw this as a late teen but something about Unicorns stuck.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lady_and_the_Unicorn

^^ maybe skip the Unicorn if you have boys.

Also, you can walk to the Cathedral of Notre Dame. We didn't go in with my kid but it's beautiful from the outside and might have amazing blooming cherry trees if you are there in the spring.

Apparently I'm not the only one who noticed, google "notre dame cherry blossoms"

https://www.solosophie.com/cherry-blossoms-at-notre-dame-paris/ 

For Dinner the rue Mouffetard gets lively with students at night and had lots of selection.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rue_Mouffetard

Oh.  And there is a McDonalds at that Luxembourg RER stop as well. As an adult I like to avoid American Chains in Europe but children sometimes need to be bribed with something familiar.

 Have a great trip. I've sadly never been to London.

cchrissyy

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #41 on: August 02, 2018, 08:40:56 PM »
your trip is far enough in the future that you can and should do it with miles.

I just returned from Spain (1 adult 3 kids) all on points, American in this case. Booked 2.5 months before a summer departure and there was plenty of availability. If you can manage to earn 120k points between now and then, fine, that's 4 one ways and you can pay cash for the other direction.   To the poster who said there is also a cost, mine was only $5.60 per person.  If you are seeing more, it might have to do with what airline partner you're using, or where the layover is. I mostly know from the perspective of AA's program and the thing to watch out for is codeshares with British airways, and/or stops in the UK, which have famously more taxes than flying direct to Spain, and I imagine the same is true regarding France.


As far as ABNB vs hotels,  my experience is that hotels cost more. I highly prefer ABNB to be in a real neighborhood, to save money, and to have laundry machines. Like somebody said above, we travel with only a carry on and do laundry during the trip. You don't want to deal with full size luggage at the airport, the trains, or walking around. Everybody will be FINE with their own small carryon as long as you have laundry access somewhere in the middle of your trip.

lentil

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #42 on: August 02, 2018, 08:55:50 PM »
Quote
It still baffles me when someone posts this question and says flights are the most expensive. Then starts trying to pinch pennies on a room or other things. Flights can be had for free a net 4k savings from the original statement. Everything else is small potatoes after that.

@boarder42 -- did you see my question above? I'm still curious about how you're getting international ff tickets to Europe for 'free,' and would love to know what tricks I'm missing (in case you didn't see it, the question isn't about accumulating miles -- I've got that down. My question has to do with international taxes & fees)

sparkytheop

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #43 on: August 02, 2018, 09:53:20 PM »
As mentioned earlier, when in Paris, say "bonjour" whenever entering a shop, market, hotel, etc.  Every time.  Then "au revoir" when leaving.  I learn the basics for every country we visit (hello, please, thank you, do you speak English, good bye).  We've never had an issue communicating with a map, hand gestures, whatever, and people have been very helpful even if they couldn't speak English (as long as we attempted their language to see if they could speak ours).

For getting around Paris, you can buy a "carnet" of 10 tickets for the the subway.  It's a good deal.  We had a rail pass that allowed us to use many trains (we did 9 countries over 5 weeks).

We booked everything through booking.com.  We traveled pretty "spontaneously" so I would often book a room the night before, when we knew where we'd be heading.  We looked for cheap, well rated, and near public transportation.  We had a great experience and stayed in some amazing places.  We averaged less than $100/night for rooms (my son and I).  We stayed in some apartments, some hotels, etc.

In London, if you buy your public transportation through a train station, you can get in on a lot of "2 for 1" deals.  You might have to print out vouchers before you leave, I'm not sure how they do it now as that trip was a few years ago.

I did not bother to get any kind of data plan when we went.  Free wi-fi is common enough that it worked for us.  We'd take a photo of a map at a subway station, wherever, and use that to find out way to where we wanted to go.

Absolutely stop in the small neighborhood markets for a little grocery and picnic shopping.  When in Paris, pick things off the shelf for which you don't understand the labeling and try new foods.  One thing I've noticed they DON'T do in the areas is walk around all over with a cup of coffee.  Drink it at the cafe/room/restaurant, and stash a water bottle in your bag.

The best thing, in my opinion, is to just keep an open mind about things and go with the flow.  We've found some of our best memories getting completely lost in the city (walking).  It's all an adventure, so just have that attitude and it will be an awesome trip.


Goinganon

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #44 on: August 02, 2018, 11:11:07 PM »
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It still baffles me when someone posts this question and says flights are the most expensive. Then starts trying to pinch pennies on a room or other things. Flights can be had for free a net 4k savings from the original statement. Everything else is small potatoes after that.

@boarder42 -- did you see my question above? I'm still curious about how you're getting international ff tickets to Europe for 'free,' and would love to know what tricks I'm missing (in case you didn't see it, the question isn't about accumulating miles -- I've got that down. My question has to do with international taxes & fees)

My husband and I racked up enough Chase points for what we wanted, transferred them to British Airways Avios, and then used those Avios points to purchase 4 flights on Aer Lingus from the US to Ireland.  There were some relatively small fees and taxes (less than $100/passenger, but I can't remember exact amounts) when I was booking.  However, I used a Barclay's card to pay for those costs and paid off those costs with the travel statement credits on the Barclay's card.  For an overview of using BA Avios to book Aer Lingus flights check out this post (https://www.travelmiles101.com/booking-aer-lingus-with-british-airways-avios/).

I'm not the most experienced/knowledgeable about credit card rewards points so I'm sure that there are other ways to fly "free."

Hirondelle

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #45 on: August 02, 2018, 11:34:22 PM »
My favorite for getting around in Paris is the hop-on hop-off boat. It's wonderful to watch the city from the Seine, it's cheaper than an actual canal cruise, it's more fun than hop-on hop-off busses and will save you lots of walking as some sights are quite far apart. I think I used to pay 12.50 for a day pass but that's years ago.

For cheapish food; there's cafes that give you free appetizers with drinks, usually around 4-5 PM. If you have a big lunch, having a few drinks at those can be plenty of food for dinner.

I do agree with some others that if you've just got one week it's way more interesting to visit only 1 country and take some out-of-city trips. Plenty of interesting spots around London or Paris that require lots less travel. Plus smaller places are often just more fun than the big bucket list items (to me at least..).

Oh and Iceland layovers are awesome! I did a 4 day one and can't wait to go back for a longer trip.

startingsmall

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #46 on: August 03, 2018, 08:41:00 AM »
Confession: I've been trying to follow all of this credit card miles discussion, but it's honestly a foreign language to me. Since we got married 10 years ago, husband has not flown at all and I've flown three times (always through work). So we're kind of idiots on this miles thing.

Can anyone point me towards an idiots guide for airline miles, or give me a REALLY dumbed-down explanation? Or something?

Currently we use a Capital One Venture card for all of our spending and use that to reimburse travel (hotels/AirBnB), but it sounds like we should try something different. Like OP, we're also planning our first trip to Europe - London and/or Paris, 7-10 days, 2 adults, probably next spring.

me1

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #47 on: August 03, 2018, 08:51:19 AM »
Confession: I've been trying to follow all of this credit card miles discussion, but it's honestly a foreign language to me. Since we got married 10 years ago, husband has not flown at all and I've flown three times (always through work). So we're kind of idiots on this miles thing.

Can anyone point me towards an idiots guide for airline miles, or give me a REALLY dumbed-down explanation? Or something?

Currently we use a Capital One Venture card for all of our spending and use that to reimburse travel (hotels/AirBnB), but it sounds like we should try something different. Like OP, we're also planning our first trip to Europe - London and/or Paris, 7-10 days, 2 adults, probably next spring.

I asked this same question about a year ago and have since become a full fledged churner.
The advice I got here was to start with the free course on travelmiles101.com
this explains all the basics. From there I started reading r/churning religiously.
Good luck! I have only redeemed a few of the miles I have earned so far, but I now have a ton saved up for next summer which I am itching to redeem!

startingsmall

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #48 on: August 03, 2018, 08:58:28 AM »
Confession: I've been trying to follow all of this credit card miles discussion, but it's honestly a foreign language to me. Since we got married 10 years ago, husband has not flown at all and I've flown three times (always through work). So we're kind of idiots on this miles thing.

Can anyone point me towards an idiots guide for airline miles, or give me a REALLY dumbed-down explanation? Or something?

Currently we use a Capital One Venture card for all of our spending and use that to reimburse travel (hotels/AirBnB), but it sounds like we should try something different. Like OP, we're also planning our first trip to Europe - London and/or Paris, 7-10 days, 2 adults, probably next spring.

I asked this same question about a year ago and have since become a full fledged churner.
The advice I got here was to start with the free course on travelmiles101.com
this explains all the basics. From there I started reading r/churning religiously.
Good luck! I have only redeemed a few of the miles I have earned so far, but I now have a ton saved up for next summer which I am itching to redeem!

Thank you!! I'll check out the course!!

Jouer

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #49 on: August 03, 2018, 09:27:26 AM »
A lot of great tips on here already.  A few I have for Paris:

1. for the Eiffel tower, walk up to the first landing instead of getting in line for the elevator. I found it really cool walking up and the wait was likely 1/4 of the time. It might have been cheaper as well...but can't remember.

2. check out the Paris Pass. Price out the sites you want to see and then see if it's more or less expensive than the Paris Pass. The pass was excellent value for me so I went that route. Bonus: skip the line access at the venues. I passed about 500 people in line at the Louvre. Saved myself hours.

3. Paris is very walkable. Anywhere outside of your walkability, the subway is easy.