Author Topic: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany  (Read 3182 times)

Workinghard

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Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« on: January 31, 2015, 07:32:45 AM »
We're going on a vacation next summer with family members. My husband, who is rapidly approaching Medicare age, hasn't been "home" in over 15 years. We expect this will be our last international trip. Part of me is reluctant to spend the money, although we have it set aside, but I don't want any regrets if we don't go. Both cars are over 15 years, we have no debt, and are FI but still working. He has another year to work, not sure when I'll cut the rip cord.

Any ideas or suggestions to cut down expenses? And yes we're going in peak season due to kids and school. Sigh. We will probably need to rent or lease two vehicles.

DanielleS

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2015, 08:49:43 AM »
Hey, first of all have a great time!!!! Especially if this is a once in a lifetime trip, at some point you have to turn off the money-saver-critic and just enjoy it (when you get there, that is - right now is a great time to do this kind of budget analysis!).

These are some tips we use when we go overseas:

1. Stay at an apartment or other facility with kitchen whenever possible. We stay almost always at apartments. vrbo and airbnb are great places to look. Especially if you're looking to go with other people, renting a house with enough bedrooms for everyone can be a lot cheaper than the same number of hotel rooms.

2. Make a lot of your own food. The ease of this is predicated on your doing part one! Breakfast (good coffee/tea/whatever and your favorite breakfast food) only takes a few minutes to prepare while you're all gathered around the kitchen table discussing your awesome day to come. Packing sandwiches for lunch along with apples also only takes a few minutes and then you don't have to worry about stopping somewhere. Alternately, have a great lunch out at an awesome sidewalk cafe and then go home to a snack dinner with a glass of good wine to talk about all your great things you did today along with putting some cream on your sunburns. :)

3. Get some great guides now to avoid paying a lot later. You can borrow some good travel guides from the library, but in this case I think it's a good use of real dollars to purchase an up-to-date version as well. First check out your library's selection, then purchase what you need to. Personally I like Rick Steves' guides which are budget-conscious with lots of free activities.

4. Free or cheap is often just as memorable as expensive. You'll be going to a fabulous list of cities and countries!! Just walking around will be perfectly awesome!!

5. Go your own way for the day if others are doing something expensive you don't want to do. You don't even need to say anything about budget if you don't want to, just say you'd rather do Y than X and just do it! Stay positive about what you'll do instead of negative about what you aren't doing.

I am sure there are other travel threads around here that give the same type of advice I've given you. You can make a search of the forums and come up with other tips.

Irishtache

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2015, 11:26:28 AM »
+1 to Danielle's advice. Across Europe are two chains of supermarket, Ali and Lid, both German in origin. In Austria, Aldi is known as Hover. Great value for all food, wine and liquor. Enjoy.

MsPeacock

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2015, 11:37:44 AM »
Not sure how long you are planning for your trip - but stay put in one city as much as possible. Getting from Paris to Amsterdam, to Berlin, to London - is expensive and eats up valuable vacation time. If you only have 2 weeks pick two major cities w/ day trips to places around those cities. Many a European vacation have been ruined by overly ambitious itineraries. Avoid doing a 2 days here and 2 days here and 3 days here sort of trip - exhausting and lots of lost time and money that way.

+1 on everything DanielleS already said.

aschmidt2930

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2015, 11:42:44 AM »
Not sure how long you are planning for your trip - but stay put in one city as much as possible. Getting from Paris to Amsterdam, to Berlin, to London - is expensive and eats up valuable vacation time. If you only have 2 weeks pick two major cities w/ day trips to places around those cities. Many a European vacation have been ruined by overly ambitious itineraries. Avoid doing a 2 days here and 2 days here and 3 days here sort of trip - exhausting and lots of lost time and money that way.

+1 on everything DanielleS already said.

This is very good advice. Of course it depends how long you're there, but I would recommend cutting one of the destinations out. You'll enjoy your time more by not being rushed, and save some money with less travel.

Bicycle_B

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2015, 01:12:05 PM »
If it's a once in a lifetime trip, pick one or two top priorities, design the trip around those, and you'll find ways to get what you are looking for.  Minimize the attempt to achieve too many priorities at once, so you can enjoy what you do end up doing.

That said, once the basics are covered, you can add the other things where cheap and convenient.  FWIW, half the joy of travel is seeing regular things in new places, such as "What is Aldi's like in Germany compared to USA?"

Last thought: With all due respect to those who say not to overschedule, there is an exception if you like the feeling of movement, and seeing many things in brief bursts.  In other words, if you the train trips from place to place are a thrilling adventure, you can maximize them instead of minimize them.  Trains in Europe are something special from a US perspective, at least for some of us - so if that's part of what you want your trip to be, research multi-use train passes!

Anyway, enjoy. 

thirtysomething

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2015, 01:44:26 PM »
We did a three week trip through Europe two years ago.  Provencial France, Nice, Venice, Vienna, Germany, Luxembourg. It was great. With three little kids in tow. We used home exchanges and Google to find cheap accommodation (most expensive part, homeaway.co.uk?). We lived in London at the time, so easier to exchange houses. Personally 3-4 days was enough in any one place - but to each their own. We enjoyed driving and stopping in small towns along the way (pick up and drop off rental car in the same country to save a ton). Rental cars (but not minivans) are cheap ($40 per day), so driving our family of five was way cheaper than train tickets. There were a few crazy driving days between Nice and Venice and Vienna, but the kids slept in the car. By staying in houses or apartments we could get groceries from the local store to save. And we'd try a restaurant every day or two. We preferred the outdoor markets to buy local food we could cook at home (though we are rubbish at bartering in French). You'll love it. Personally I'd decide between Europe OR the UK. You could spend two weeks in either one, but both could be a bit crammed.

Also, FWIW, European trips seemed like once in a lifetime trips before we moved there. Now that we've been, it's more like once every 5-10 years. It's not THAT far or expensive (if you use miles and look for deals).

My wife blogs about it on livingandtravelingwithkids.com (if you are interested). You will love it!!

Workinghard

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Re: Travel: Amsterdam,England, France, Germany
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2015, 04:31:58 PM »
Thanks for all the replies and suggestions. We're planning on being there about 3 weeks and will split off the last week. There will be 7 of us. I hate  the thought of extra money with it being peak season but can't do much about that.

Twenty-one years ago we had a baby in tow and leased a van--cheaper than renting back then. Hopefully we can pick up some cheaper housing on some of the bases.

No doubt if both of us were retired, and we didn't have time constraints, we could pick up some cheap international deals. I'm just not sure how much we'll enjoy international travel as we age. On the other hand, we're planning on doing more in the states.

Definitely have to look into pick up and drop off of rentals in the same country. Amsterdam was just a flight destination but it might be cheaper to fly somewhere else.

Danielle, thanks for the "list." I imagine we'll split up quit a bit. More than likely we'll be early birds and the other group will be out later. :)