Author Topic: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?  (Read 9283 times)

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #50 on: August 03, 2018, 09:33:24 AM »
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)

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."

This is probably the best way to make it free.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #51 on: August 03, 2018, 09:38:52 AM »
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)


We have booked international tickets with airline or credit card miles every year for the last 8 or 10 years, mostly to Europe but also to Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia. For flights departing from the US, the taxes/fees can be as low as $5. We paid 42.90 each in taxes for a flight to Paris in June. For your flight back it's fairly high because the taxes/fees departing from Europe are so much higher. I think it was ~160 each departing from Amsterdam, which seemed particularly high. Looking back at other trips, its been about 80 out of Paris, so I guess it depends on the airline and the airport. United has had the lowest mileage fees, in my experience, and Air France had the highest. Anyway, this time paid $200 each for round trip tickets (into Paris, out of Amsterdam) in June. We also booked about 6 weeks ahead, so we would have paid 4-6x that had we not booked with miles. I consider that a pretty good deal.

Also, if you book a flight with credit card points (essentially using points as cash) then the points pay the taxes and fees. I did that for a flight to Rome in the winter.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #52 on: August 03, 2018, 10:07:13 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 don't do credit card churning, but I have booked a ton of international flights using miles. So I guess I earned those miles "organically", through flying and spending money. Here is my advice for someone who doesn't fly a lot.

I have the Capital One Venture card, and it is not great for miles. I don't really use it any more. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Citibank Premier Card are my two primary cards (each have an annual fee of 75-95, but given that I've saved over $15000 in flights, I think it's worth it). You can generally get a sign up bonus for those, and they both accumulate miles quickly from various types of spending. We put every single purchase on a credit card and pay it off at the end of the month. 

I like both of these cards because they allow you to use your points to book flights in 2 ways: You can transfer your points to to a specific airline mileage program to book (often a better deal, but with less flexibility), or you can use your points like money and pay for a flight with points. For off season travel when tickets are fairly cheap I like to use points as money. I booked a ticket to Rome last winter using my Citibank points as money, because the ticket was only $400, and the airline mile prices are based on distance. I think it was around 40K points, but I can't remember. I use airline miles for summer trips - booked two tickets to Paris, and two tickets home from Amsterdam for a trip this past June, and those were all done with miles. I transferred 60K Chase Sapphire Premier points to United for the tickets to Paris (30K miles each), and transferred 50K Citibank miles to FlyingBlue, the mileage program for KLM and AirFrance for the return trips (I have no idea why their legs are only 25K miles each).

Anyways, there are lots of people who know more than me about this, but I just wanted to give you a non-churners perspective on using miles.

Catbert

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #53 on: August 03, 2018, 12:06:54 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)

Look on United - I've found the fees low to Europe.  AA is often high b/c you are flying BA which adds fuel suppliments which can be a couple of hundred dollars each way.  And/or use a card that "erases" travel expenses:  Chase Sapphire Reserve and Barclay Arrival Plus spring to mind.

Edited just to give you a United example (one way to Madrid):

https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/flight-search/book-a-flight/results/awd?f=SAN&t=MAD&d=2019-05-08&tt=1&at=1&sc=7&px=1&taxng=1&idx=1
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 02:22:40 PM by Catbert »

robartsd

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #54 on: August 03, 2018, 01:19:33 PM »
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 know that "Pick up at station" was an option when I was shopping National Rail websites this spring. Some departure/arrival stations have a "Plus Bus" option that adds a daily pass on the local transit buses to your ticket (I don't remember if this was offered for London, but since we only planned a single bus trip in London to get to/from accommodations on the days we traveled by train it wouldn't have been applicable).

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.
We had a phone on a T-Mobile plan that included international 2G data - good enough to look something up as needed if free WiFi wasn't available.

boarder42

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #55 on: August 03, 2018, 02:26:43 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)

Look on United - I've found the fees low to Europe.  AA is often high b/c you are flying BA which adds fuel suppliments which can be a couple of hundred dollars each way.  And/or use a card that "erases" travel expenses:  Chase Sapphire Reserve and Barclay Arrival Plus spring to mind.

Edited just to give you a United example (one way to Madrid):

https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/flight-search/book-a-flight/results/awd?f=SAN&t=MAD&d=2019-05-08&tt=1&at=1&sc=7&px=1&taxng=1&idx=1

Correct that's why in my original post in this thread you'll see I recommend the Delta cards for Europe specifically to stay away from ba.

lentil

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #56 on: August 03, 2018, 10:55:23 PM »
Quote
Correct that's why in my original post in this thread you'll see I recommend the Delta cards for Europe specifically to stay away from ba.

But my sample math was actually from delta, which is why I was asking the question...

Thanks to all who answered my questions! I am learning a lot, and appreciate all who shared. I've learned I have some room to optimize, and that's always an awesome thing with travel (or any other expense)!

K-ice

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #57 on: August 04, 2018, 12:13:02 AM »
The trip advisor app is great & you can download major cities to use offline. Google maps also tracked where I was live while in airplane mode. Both frightening & useful.  I used zero data or roaming on a multiple week Europe trip.

Bee21

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #58 on: August 04, 2018, 01:29:12 AM »
If you have only one week, pick one city only. You do lose a whole day travelling, and honestly both London and Paris are so packed with things to see and do, that you would be dissappointed if you don't spend enough time.

Definitely use airbnb if you are a family. You don't have to cook, but having a fridge and a kitchen is handy. If you are staying for a week, def book a place with a washer .Read the reviews carefully before you book a place, and ask the host for recommendation re supermarkets, favourite restaurants, opening hours reasonable prices ....

I find the travel forums on tripadvisor very very useful, check them out, ask questions...people there seem to have up to date info and good recommendations. You can also do a 8 days in London search on Pintesrest, london with kids search etc.

I organize my eu trips using airbnb, booking.com, pinterest, random blog searches,  tripadvisor info(this is especially great for budgeting, ie the opening times, entry fees, best way to avoid queues, best time to visit, honest reviews about sights etc).  Every big city has a few free walking tours, though for some you will have to book in advance and even show a printed booking form (eg in Rome).

Christof

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #59 on: August 04, 2018, 02:22:26 PM »
The train between London and Paris is a better option. London-Paris is a 45 minute flight, but both sides the airport is way out of town in an expensive zone for public transport and you might have long security lines on either airport.

If you do have to fly into Paris, check if getting a limousine isn't cheaper than public transport. When you arrive late and leave early, so that the airport trip is the only trip on that calendar day, then a RER ticket for a family of four is quite costly. A company like sixt mydriver with a rebate voucher was cheaper and dropped us off at our hotel. Do the math.

If you visit the Eiffel tower don't take the elevator. It's cheaper to walk and a much nicer experience. If you worry about the height, even my 5-year-old son managed to walk up to the second level (130m) without any problem. One of the three entrances is stairs only and might have a much shorter line.

Regarding picnic: You can eat there, but don't expect this to be a cosy experience. The area around Eiffel tower is a zoo with thousands of people on a very small area. Paris has also built a wall around the Eiffel tower and heightened security just this year. There are queues everywhere: First queue is security so you can actually go into the fenced in area beneath the tower. Then you queue for tickets, then there is a second security queue just before entering the tower. If you take the elevator, you have to queue again. On the second level you can take the elevator to the third level (the top) which is another queue. Female washrooms have long queues, as well.

In May it took us two hours from the metro station to the first step on the tower, mostly spent queueing. Take food and beverages with you. Once you passed the first security check you are in the world of overpriced food.

BTW, both cities have seen multiple terrorist attacks, so security checks are quite common. More so in Paris, actually.

As for credit cards: Make sure you have either Mastercard or Visa with you. Amex and Diner's aren't widely accepted here. You still need cash in Paris in some places, less so in London. If possible get one that has a 0% FX fee.

London is switching to contactless payments. Paper based tickets are more expensive (always paid as peak time even at off peak times). The same applies to travel cards (Visitor Oyster Card). They do have a much higher daily cap (http://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares-2018.pdf). If you travel, you need one contact less card for everyone aged five or older. 5-10 is mostly free, but there are exceptions.

robartsd

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #60 on: August 06, 2018, 12:34:05 PM »
London is switching to contactless payments. Paper based tickets are more expensive (always paid as peak time even at off peak times). The same applies to travel cards (Visitor Oyster Card). They do have a much higher daily cap (http://content.tfl.gov.uk/adult-fares-2018.pdf). If you travel, you need one contact less card for everyone aged five or older. 5-10 is mostly free, but there are exceptions.
It's hard to tell if your card from the US will work with Contactless in London or not. My Citi Costco Visa had the Contactless logo, but didn't work for me on London's buses, so I had to buy an Oyster Card. Each rider needs their own card (either contactless bank card or oyster) to pay fares

There are two types of Oyster Card. Either can get a refund of unused credit (up to 10 GBP + deposit) at any London Underground station. While you can use Oyster Card to travel to Gatwick Airport, there is no way to process a refund there, so refund your Oyster Card and buy paper tickets if you're flying from Gatwick and don't want to take your Oyster Card home. Oyster Card balances never expire, so if you're planning on returning to London, you can keep your card for next time.

Oyster CardVisitor's Oyster Card
5 GBP deposit (refundable)    5 GBP activation fee (non-refundable)
Purchase in LondonMail order before trip
Refund in London onlyRefund in London OR
Refund after you return home (additional fee, not subject to 10 GBP limit)

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #61 on: August 07, 2018, 07:54:57 AM »
Small Update!

We are holding off on airline tix for now, investigating some of the credit cards mentioned, and seeing if we can churn for sign-up points like we did with our cruise this summer. Even if credit card bonuses weren't a factor, everything I've read here (and elsewhere) says we should wait at least a few months, as "100 days out" seems to be the best time for lowest prices.

We did go ahead and lock down an apartment in Paris through airbnb. It looks to be in a wonderful neighborhood (Latin Quarter), with shops and restaurants and parks, it has a view, it has a washer in the unit, it has American owners who quickly responded to our submission, AND it actually has a bedroom, which at our price point was VERY hard to find. (Wife and I both wanted a private bedroom for obvious reasons).
« Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 07:57:29 AM by Nick_Miller »

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #62 on: January 28, 2019, 01:15:54 PM »
I'm bumping this because we're just 60 days out and finalizing our plans! Just wanted to see if there are any other recommended "must sees."

It looks like we're heading into London right at the Brexit deadline! And there will also be "Royal Baby Fever" as Meghan Markle gets close to having her baby!

We already have our Euros and Pounds for necessary cash transactions. The Pounds look super cool, the Euros, no so much.

bacchi

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #63 on: January 28, 2019, 02:05:16 PM »
I didn't see mention of getting a true chip & pin credit card.

It sucks to be at a train station after hours, when the window is closed, and the stupid kiosk doesn't take American chip & signature credit cards. We ended up paying a helpful bystander in cash for the use of his credit card.

This wasn't a problem in Paris but was definitely a problem in the smaller towns.

Afaik, only Barclays has chip & pin cards.

iris lily

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #64 on: January 28, 2019, 04:43:03 PM »
I am excitd for yours kds to get to see Paris and Lndon! My parents splurged for a long multi week trip all over the UK  WhenI was 15 years old. Way cool!

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #65 on: January 28, 2019, 09:43:40 PM »
As a writer, go to Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. Also, the Tower of London. In Paris, Rodin’s House and Musee D’Orsay.

imolina

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #66 on: January 28, 2019, 09:49:17 PM »
In London, you can get good lunch meals from M&S (Mark & Spencer's) and similar supermarkets for a few pounds.  You can buy sandwiches, salads, chicken nuggets, sushi, etc.
We used to buy lunch there and then have a picnic in the sites we visited, you save money and time.

Polaria

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #67 on: January 29, 2019, 03:59:47 AM »
It looks like we're heading into London right at the Brexit deadline!
Considering how clusterfucked the Brexit process is right now, you might want to follow the situation closely to see how it will impact your travel plans.

danakado

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #68 on: January 29, 2019, 07:39:57 AM »
Have you sorted out how you will get cash out while there?  I'm heading to Europe this summer and am in the process of opening a Schwab checking account to avoid fees.  And I needed a new one anyway.... 
What did you end up doing about flights?  I fly out of DTW and had the same pricing issue.  We booked Air Canada out of Toronto for about half the price.  4 hour drive will not be so fun but totally worth the savings.  I've done some credit card mileage stuff but I didn't have enough to get all 4 of us there as I had been focusing on Delta points which recently have become very expensive to redeem (ie miles required went up for a lot of flights). 

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #69 on: March 27, 2019, 08:00:13 AM »
Well, the Miller clan is off to London tomorrow! And then three days letter, off to Paris!

My oldest is worried that I will embarrass her with my horrid attempts at French, and yes that is likely to happen, but c'est ce que sont les papas.

Good news is that Brexit was rolled so things are a tiny bit more chill than they would have been otherwise. But they're still having the yellow vest riots/marches in Paris, so that's a thing, but mostly just on Saturdays, which we will avoid. I'm glad because although yes, I'm as tough and scrappy as you would imagine, I prefer to avoid street toughs in foreign countries.

If anyone is interested, I'll likely post a trip report when I return.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #70 on: March 27, 2019, 10:15:43 AM »
Bon voyage to the Millers!

danakado

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #71 on: March 27, 2019, 10:20:50 AM »
Yes please reply when you are back, would love to hear about your trip. 

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #72 on: April 07, 2019, 12:04:58 PM »
For better or worse, the Millers are back in the US of A!

The main lesson I learned from this is...if you want to go, GO! As long as you can be fairly responsible, GO GO GO. See the world! Don't wait until you're too old. You get a lifetime, no more, no less (paraphrasing from Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series).  I'm 45 now. We walked a LOT in London and Paris. I was totally worn out by the end. I'm not sure I could have done this when I'm 55, let alone 65 ("normal" retirement age for most people). Although we spent a lot of money, I don't regret any part of this trip. It increased our happiness, and we made lifelong memories and saw a part of the world that I wasn't sure I would ever see. Seeing how people live in different countries gives you a broader worldview when you get back home, and that's a good thing for everyone.

Ways we saved money:

We had some cheap breakfasts, especially in Paris (think total of 6 euros for breakfast pastry items)

We walked a LOT. Whenever possible, we tried to limit use of the metro to getting somewhere in the morning and then getting back home at night.

We used airbnb. They weren't what I would call cheap, but they were cheaper than hotels in the same areas.


That being said, we still spent a ton of money. London and Paris are just very very expensive, especially for a family of four. A meal at Five Guys that would usually cost $40 max was double that. We tried to limit ourselves to one "real" meal per day, but even doing that added up.

Highlights for me:

1) An awesome medieval feast on our last night in London. It was about $150.00, but for that we got 3+ hours of entertainment (think jester, acrobat, singers, sword fights, etc), a four-course meal that was really good, unlimited ale and wine, friendly table mates from California and England who we talked with all night, and a ton of memories, including my youngest repeatedly yelling "Wench!" to our server (to be clear, this was encouraged and our server was awesome) And the performers were really good too.

2) Thames river cruise - It was about $50 for the four of us, and our guide was so funny. We saw lots of sights and got loads of info on the various buildings along the river. It was also a gorgeous day.

3) Seeing Notre Dame. Wow it is just amazing that people built this so long ago. I spent 20 minutes reading all the details of how they built it over the course of about 150 years. We took a tour up to the highest tower and wow my anxiety kicked in, but it was worth it. And totally free with our Museum pass (which saved us a decent amount of money).

4) Just walking in Paris, especially our neighborhood in the Latin Quarter. It was just pretty. So many 200+ year old buildings, flower shops, cafes, trees in bloom, it was amazing. I could have spent days just hopping into all the little bookstores.

And did I mention the weather the whole trip (other than our Disneyland day) was GORGEOUS. Lots of sunny days in the 50s/low 60s. I couldn't have dialed up better weather.

Here are some pics from London. I'll post a few Paris picks in the next post as we are limited to 4 pics per post. (I don't know why some of them are sideways)
« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 12:08:13 PM by Nick_Miller »

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #73 on: April 07, 2019, 12:10:51 PM »
And pics of Paris! There might be a more beautiful city somewhere, but man it's hard to believe Paris could be topped. The language barrier was intimidating, but the architecture made up for it!

It actually makes me a little sad when I think to myself, "Nick, there is SO much out there to see that you will never see in your lifetime,"  but I realize that is just a fact of life. Still, we're focusing on having an awesome trip every year and giving our kiddos experiences we didn't have growing up. I think Disney World and Alaska (cruise) will be our next two trips, and then after that, maybe a return to Europe in 2022 (Italy? Spain? Germany? It's hard to choose)

« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 12:14:58 PM by Nick_Miller »

Hula Hoop

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #74 on: April 07, 2019, 03:06:51 PM »
thanks for the update.  Makes me want to look and see if there are any cheap Ryanair flights to Paris. 

If you visit Italy, drop me a line.  I can give you some good mustachian tips for here.  Italy is actually surprisingly mustachian - probably because our salaries are so low.  Bad for us but good for you with your American money.

Candace

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #75 on: April 07, 2019, 03:26:36 PM »
If you go again, I recommend getting Rick Steves guides. He's all about saving money and hassle in British and European destinations. He also has a website with good discussions by experienced and inexperienced travelers.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #76 on: April 08, 2019, 02:05:17 AM »
I beg to disagree with Candace.  At least for Italy (not sure about other countries) Rick Steves is not good.  He's incredibly judgmental and recommends certain restaurants, streets, towns, hotels and areas of Italy and it makes no sense why he chooses these over thousands of other just as good options (who knows?)  And the places he recommends are completely over-run by a certain kind of middle aged and elderly American tourist and therefore usually over-priced and packed with people speaking English.  He bills himself on being "authentic" but you see gaggles of Rick Steves guide-clutching tourists all doing the exact same things in the exactly the same places.  If you want a guide book - I'd recommend something like Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide over Rick Steves.  And Tripadvisor has great reviews of various tourist attractions. 

A lot of my favorite places in Italy aren't even included in the Rick Steves guides.  At least Lonely Planet and the like try to cover everything and allow you to make the decision about where to go.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2019, 02:08:04 AM by Hula Hoop »

reeshau

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #77 on: April 08, 2019, 04:15:11 AM »
@Hula Hoop , while it's true that many of Rick's places are now over-loved and over-run, I think if you listen to his philosophy, what @Candace says is true.  I do wish Rick and his company would find some way to scale, but I also think if you look to the forums for other ideas of "Rick-like" places, which may be more authentic now because they have not been featured for 25 years.

Going back to the Berner Oberland in Switzerland for the 4th time for my 25th wedding anniversary.  I'm so happy late August is also shoulder season!  We have loved Muerren in September, but alas are now slaves to the school calendar.  June was nutsy.  In addition to saving costs, traveling in the shoulder season is another way to tone down the buses / groups / rude fellow travelers, in Europe or anywhere.  (My favorite Disney tip, too, actually--if you time it right, they actually keep the parks open later as the hotels fill up.  Lovely arbitrage!)
« Last Edit: April 08, 2019, 07:49:21 AM by reeshau »

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #78 on: April 08, 2019, 07:24:27 AM »
We actually had the Steves guides and we had flipped through them; they helped a bit. I think that's how we knew about the Museum pass in Paris.

And with just 3 days in London and 4 days in Paris, we really didn't have the time to go off the beaten path too much. We had 2 or 3 things to see each day, and by the time it was 5PM, we were all tired and hungry. Part of me wishes we would have just chosen a single destination and "drilled down" more, but on the other hand we didn't know when/if we'd be back to Europe, and it was just a shortish Eurostar trip between the two cities, so it seemed unwise to not take the chance to see Paris too.

And we had to work in "fun" things (i.e. not museums, monuments) for our kids. To no one's surprise, their favorite things were the river cruise, the medieval feast, and Disneyland.

danakado

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #79 on: April 08, 2019, 09:07:52 AM »
Oh thanks for sharing.... so glad you had a great time!  Can I ask approx how much per day you spent on food in Paris?  From what you've described I could take this as a baseline for our upcoming trip as we are also a family of 4.  Although I love food the rest of family isn't that interested so I'd rather not spend too much time and money eating.   

reeshau

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #80 on: April 08, 2019, 09:36:26 AM »
Oh thanks for sharing.... so glad you had a great time!  Can I ask approx how much per day you spent on food in Paris?  From what you've described I could take this as a baseline for our upcoming trip as we are also a family of 4.  Although I love food the rest of family isn't that interested so I'd rather not spend too much time and money eating.

Biggest tip in Paris: take your food to go!  Throughout Europe, really, it's more expensive to eat at a table.  Just grab the same food, and find a park bench!

Having said this, people watching is definitely a thing, particularly in Paris.  So you should sit at a cafe, at least once.  But plan on picnics, or grab something to go.  Bring a blanket to sit on and watch the Eiffel Tower light show from the grass on the Trocadero.  Every city has a public park or square for a picnic lunch--it's what the locals do.

robartsd

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #81 on: April 08, 2019, 11:36:25 AM »
Biggest tip in Paris: take your food to go!  Throughout Europe, really, it's more expensive to eat at a table.  Just grab the same food, and find a park bench!
This was also true in London. I think the primary reason was that dine in was taxed more heavily than take away. And of course every mustachian knows that you can save by picking up picnic items as a grocery instead of going to a cafe.

Part of me wishes we would have just chosen a single destination and "drilled down" more, but on the other hand we didn't know when/if we'd be back to Europe, and it was just a shortish Eurostar trip between the two cities, so it seemed unwise to not take the chance to see Paris too.
I'm pretty sure there was plenty of advice here to pick one.

I beg to disagree with Candace.  At least for Italy (not sure about other countries) Rick Steves is not good.  He's incredibly judgmental and recommends certain restaurants, streets, towns, hotels and areas of Italy and it makes no sense why he chooses these over thousands of other just as good options (who knows?)  And the places he recommends are completely over-run by a certain kind of middle aged and elderly American tourist and therefore usually over-priced and packed with people speaking English.  He bills himself on being "authentic" but you see gaggles of Rick Steves guide-clutching tourists all doing the exact same things in the exactly the same places.  If you want a guide book - I'd recommend something like Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide over Rick Steves.  And Tripadvisor has great reviews of various tourist attractions.

Rick's guides are fine for people who are trying to see as many "must see" locations in a limited time frame. His travel philosophy is great (pack light so you can be mobile and flexible - use guidebooks to research well in advance so that you can maximize your trip - stay in smaller accommodations closer to the center of town). For an American on a 1 or 2 week trip to Europe and little to no foreign language skills, Rick provides a reasonable value. Good to know that Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are also worth looking at.

Hula Hoop

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #82 on: April 08, 2019, 03:45:50 PM »
My problem is that Rick's advice just seems like common sense to me.  Who wouldn't advise you to pack light when travelling or research your trip ahead of time? Does anyone ever say to someone else going on a trip "pack heavy!  Don't forget to bring your curling iron and at least 5 pairs of shoes".  Staying in the center also seems obvious to me -especially if it's a short trip.  He has packaged all of this advice - which is really just what anyone would do and sold it to people.  I agree that it's nice to know about museum passes etc. ahead of time but these can be researched easily on the internet including museum websites, trip advisor and city tourist office websites which are generally in English throughout Europe. 

And a lot of his guidance seems counter-productive to me.  For example, he doesn't cover most of southern Italy in his Italy guide.  Why?  It's simply full of amazing stuff with a lot fewer tourist hordes.  And he guides people away from certain places and towards others for no apparent reason.

reeshau

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #83 on: April 09, 2019, 06:21:26 AM »
My problem is that Rick's advice just seems like common sense to me.  Who wouldn't advise you to pack light when travelling or research your trip ahead of time? Does anyone ever say to someone else going on a trip "pack heavy!  Don't forget to bring your curling iron and at least 5 pairs of shoes".

Nobody would ever say this, but you can look at any airport or check-in line and see many people who need this help.  Kind of like common-sense financial advice, no?  ;)

I think trips like cruises tend to be antithetical to this advice, where they want you to have occasions to dress up (and spend) but also to relax.  That variety of venues causes people to bring things they need for only a short while on their travels.  And many fancy places have porters to help you with your heavy luggage.  I think most often with Rick's advice for packing light is skipping the luggage carousel altogether--this tip, alone, is worth a lot.

Admittedly, now that I am traveling *from* Europe back to the US, I am packing much heavier--at least, on the way back--because I am stocking up on those things I miss most, or hauling things for my family.  Many world travelers are doing the same.  But I have seen enough people who have roughly the same destination / purpose as me creating a bad day out of a good day as they settled down with their heavy burden, or rushed on to their next destination.

Conversely, I have seen amazing feats of packing light, too.  One of the most memorable was a lady going through security in Paris, just after a FIFA match.  The security guard advised her to remove her outer coat before proceeding, and she proceeded to remove *5 LAYERS* of clothes, before she got to her clothes for the day.  She had literally worn her clothes for the trip--all of them--and had only a handbag for other things.  That's not for me, but wow, that would change how you travel significantly.

Nick_Miller

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #84 on: April 09, 2019, 07:10:34 AM »
And to bring my take-away full circle, again I say GO GO GO.

I get that some people are happier staying home or have other priorities, and that's great for them; we all need to maximize happiness in our own ways, but if you want to see the world, make it happen while you're still young(ish). Don't be one of those "America is the greatest country in the world!" people who haven't ever actually set foot outside the US.

I have not ONE regret about this trip. It was awesome and life-affirming.

And now I have to dig out of a giant pile of crap at work. Ugh.  (Okay, so that's the one negative)

reeshau

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #85 on: April 09, 2019, 09:03:17 AM »
And now I have to dig out of a giant pile of crap at work. Ugh.  (Okay, so that's the one negative)

I'd say address the root cause, and get rid of that big inconvenience called work ASAP!  It's in the way of your traveling!

Hula Hoop

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Re: Money Saving Tips for European Vacation?
« Reply #86 on: April 09, 2019, 03:35:45 PM »
Travelling is the best.  Wanting the freedom to travel when I want (within school schedules though) is one of my main FIRE motivations.