We just went on an adventure that went from Paris to London to Cinque Terre to the French Riviera, through the French countryside and back up to Paris.
It was amazing- and one that we dreamed about and thought about for quite awhile and I promised to share a few tips on where we saved quite a bit.
Crazy Fact: We spent about the same on travel expenses for 2 of us to go to Europe for 2 weeks- that we spent for the 5 days- week we spent in Southern California for a book signing & media appearance in September last year.
How is that for a crazy comparison? There were some extra travel expenses with both- and we did a bit more indulging in Southern California on some things and dining out- but we did spend about the same for those trips.
So where did we save the most? First up- I am no expert! Just sharing what we did and what we learned- this was a first trip for us and we are already using some of what we learned for the next trip. I would love your tips as well if you would like to share in the comments. As I mentioned before, I did work while in Europe and one of the ways we saved was by working with some of the companies and there were quite a few ways that we were able to travel and enjoy ourselves and not feel like we spent a fortune for 2 weeks in Europe-even with local travel expenses, food and lodging costs and visiting 3 different countries.
Probably the biggest savings was on where we stayed and how we stayed.
#1. Airbnb / HomeAway
We stayed in apartments or houses instead of a hotel everywhere we went. We only spent 1 night in a hotel in the 2 weeks we were there- and that was only because normally airbnb require 2-3 nights and we had just 1 before we were moving along.
In Paris and London- we stayed with Paris Perfect/ London Perfect and I did work with them on this trip while doing several photo shoots and social media as well. And both of their apartments were right in the heart of wonderful areas of Paris and London and made walking everywhere -and saving on uber or bus tickets or train tickets -very easy.
In Cinque Terre- we found a 4 level home overlooking the sea right in the heart of Riomaggiore. It was a wonderful apartment that was absolutely perfect for relaxing in, cooking in and for soaking up the sea and flavor of Italy.
In Roquebrune-my husband found a 4 level home overlooking the sea that was absolutely wonderful. Roquebrune is a medieval village and we were so enchanted with it. We also stayed in a lovely apartment in Avignon.
All of those places were averaging about $100 -120 a night and had kitchens and several floors to enjoy. In contrast- the hotel we stayed in for 1 night in Paris was over $300. (I am certain there were less expensive ones though this was a weekend night and a room with a balcony and view)
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner…. all on the go or in a restaurant for 2 for 2 weeks?
Just figure about $20-30 each meal if not going to a fancy place, adding wine, bottled water, Gelato or anything else… x 3 per day x14 days…
Well, that can definitely add up.
Here is a fun fact for my husband and I personally with restaurants: We are not big ‘going out to dinner’ type of people.
It probably goes back to when we were first married: we were young and we struggled down to the dollar sometimes to make it each month. We never went out to eat- because buying ingredients went far further than paying for a dinner. And even when we could afford to go out for a nice dinner later on- for vegetarians at that time before they had a ton of vegetarian options on a menu like they do now- it was a salad or plain pasta or with marinara sauce if they didn’t use a chicken or beef stock in it.
So, we tend to prefer places we know are vegan restaurants or cooking ourselves.
We do eat out when traveling or date night in the city- but generally- we just are more ‘cook our own food rather than eat out’ type of folks.
So, we knew we were not going to be dining out all 3 breakfast, lunch or dinner while traveling.
And that goes back to the Airbnb places where we stayed.
After we got settled into our apt in each area- we shopped the local markets daily for breakfast and dinner. My husband loves to cook and he made us breakfast and dinner almost everyday.
We did enjoy a few bites of local cuisine – (because- when it France… 🙂 ) at restaurants for lunch daily & dinner and dessert in Paris- we did want part of that experience of local foods and restaurants as well- just not 3x a day- and we brought protein bars for snacks- which we always travel with.
So each day at the market for the days meals- fresh fruit & veggies, breads, eggs, cheese, coffee, pasta, etc – was about $20 total. In contrast- when we enjoyed lunch in Manorola, Italy at a cafe and people watched- that by itself was $25.
This is such a random thing… but I am a huge morning coffee person. And a pretty particular morning coffee person. When I am traveling- I almost always get up early and jog to the nearest Starbucks to grab coffee and bring it back to my hotel.
But we knew in several places we were staying that there would not be Starbucks or Peets and the local cafe shops were not usually open until 7:00am or later. We we were up at about 4:00am with the time change- and pretty much watched the villages and cities we were staying in slowly wake up each day. And to make sure we had coffee while doing so- we ordered foldable coffee pour overs that are for camping- but that work like a charm anywhere.
They packed up easily in our bags – and with just a bit of ground coffee and hot water- we made good strong coffee every morning, and sipped it while enjoying the view from our apartments. We are completely sold on them. They are about $10- (saved a couple in my travel section in my Amazon store- affiliate links) We will be packing these again and again.
Side note: Our apartments did have those pod coffee makers which we could have used- we are just strong cup of coffee types and haven’t really found that with pod coffee- so these pour overs were perfection.
#4. Walking everywhere
We didn’t grab a car, cab, Uber etc. unless it was going to/from the airport or further than it made sense to walk. We walked about 15 miles a day in Paris and London and when in Italy and Roquebrune, France- it was even more miles (remember all those stairs and that walk to Monaco?)
Walking is a great way to see everything from a different perspective. You hear people talking, feel the cobblestones under your feet- plus with all the fresh bread, wine and cheese you might be enjoying- it definitely helps keep those vacation pounds at bay. We both lost weight even with eating a higher carb diet.
#4. Train Tickets
You can’t walk everywhere as I mentioned- we went from Paris to London for example- that might take a bit longer than 2 hours to walk. 🙂 So we took the train.
The train in Paris was easy- most everyone spoke english and so we navigated that system without an issue.
A tip- purchase your ticket ahead of time for the best rate. We waited not knowing what time we wanted to leave Paris and head to London- and the price of the ticket more than doubled overnight.
But we found a very inexpensive ticket leaving from Disneyland Paris going to London at the perfect time. So, we grabbed an uber to Disneyland, Paris (just outside of Paris) and hopped on that train for about 1/2 the cost of leaving from the main Paris train station- even factoring in the Uber ride.
And we got to see a bit more of the outer Paris area while traveling to that station.
#5. Tourist attractions
I think I mentioned before- my husband is Clark Griswold. He plans travel, how you can see as much as possible in the shortest amount of time.
BUT- we are not huge tourist type tourists. That doesn’t make sense I suppose- what I mean is-
We are tourists- but we don’t like to follow tour guides, or stop at every tourist attraction and take a selfie. So we talked about what we wanted to see in Europe ahead of time.
Him- the historic castles
Me- off the beaten path villages
So while we ran around and saw those landmarks- we also wandered. And we only paid to go into one tourist attraction in Paris- the Arc d Triomphe.
And something to note there:
We had no idea 2 things… that the view from there was INCREDIBLE. And that you had to climb 284 steps up the spiral staircases and again down those 284 steps and spiral staircases.
I honestly felt like I was dizzy by the time I was halfway down. But that stop was a suggestion of several folks on IG who said it was a must – because not that many people do it- and the view is spectacular.
#6. Tour bus & boat
Now that I just talked about how we didn’t do tourist attractions- we DID do 2 things that are touristy that we both recommend. We rode a boat to get from point A to point B in Paris a couple of times when we were running low on energy and were down by Notre Dame and needing to get back to the Eiffel Tower.
It was relaxing and fun really- you still felt like you were in the middle of everything and could sit and chill for 10 minutes.
And in London, at the suggestion of my stepdad- we hopped on the hop on/ hop off bus for a tour of the city one morning we were there. A GREAT suggestion actually- because you can see everything, save your tired feet a bit and learn so much from the guides who talk about everything. We didn’t really get off the bus, we just simply rode it for about 2 hours and saw the top 10 things to see.
The rest of the time we wandered through neighborhoods, through Kensington park and in search of Sherlock Holmes areas to send to my daughter. And we enjoyed meandering over & exploring several place- snapping wisteria and doors everywhere- and stopping for a bit in Notting Hill where we found a wonderful vegan restaurant and grabbed take away for a late lunch.
#7. Pack just a Carry On- and keep it light
Each checked bag was an extra $100- unless you bought a ticket that included 1 checked bag.
We happened to do so- as we wanted to choose seats on the plane- but if we hadn’t that would have added another $400 total ($200 there and $200 back) to include those checked bags.
We ended up deciding to bring just 2 carry ons- which I highly recommend.
Though watch the weight limits- because we did have to check our carry ons in Paris when they weighed too much.
Tip there- either upgrade or keep your bags on the light side.
(easier said that done for sure)
#8. Cell Phone plan
When you travel- you are racking up roaming charges on your cell phone- even if you think you might not. Instant email loading, text messages, that quick post on instagram or facebook- they all add up.
We checked into the options for our cell phones knowing we would be using them for navigating, checking in with the kids and house & dog sitter- and that I would also be using mine for work.
We decided to get a per day plan- which was free to add through ATT – and the charges only kick in you are traveling abroad.
I think it cost us about $10 per day per line ($20 per day total) but it was unlimited and is much less than International roaming charges. It meant my daughter could face time us everyday and that we didn’t worry about staying in good contact with everyone over in the states- or how much we were using our hotspot for wifi when we didn’t have a good signal and I needed to work on the computer a bit.
#9. Time of year
Of course, planning for the least tourist filled, least busy time of year to visit will save on expenses. We went the first couple of weeks of May and we probably could have saved some going in April. We thought the weather might be better in May and we were celebrating our anniversary in country as well.
The first part of May was not super busy-so it worked great and it was a little less than it would have been mid-May to June. In Cinque Terre- we were there right before the tourist season arrived- literally the day before we left. We got off the train that day because we were packed in like sardines – I kid you not- standing room only and no room to breathe. Kind of brings on the anxiety I tell you.
We were glad we had already enjoyed several quiet days in Riomaggiore and were heading to Roquebrune the next morning.
So plan accordingly for those less busy times and you can find deals and more options on hotels or apartments.
Next trip- I believe we will rent a car and drive through the countryside areas so we can see more off the beaten path. My husband has the international driver license and we found the rental cars are very inexpensive- if you are good with driving a stick shift. If you would like an automatic- which is probably what most of us would prefer here in the States – the price jumps quite a bit.
Note: In Cinque Terre- there is no parking and it is very expensive if you do find parking. The trains are the way to go other than when they are packed- but just wait for the next one.
Probably the top tip of alllll the tips. Just enjoy yourself and don’t focus only on how to save every single penny or cut your experience down too much. Just simply soak up all of the experience.
I think if you plan ahead and plan for doing what works with your budget- you will have the time of your life.
For us- it was easy to set aside some of the expenses because of the type of experience we were looking for in Europe. For others- it might look different. We didn’t do fine dining everyday, no cooking all vacation long or going on all the tourist attractions – which was what we wanted but on the contrast – was also a lot more work than just going out to eat and staying somewhere that has more amenities and might be more relaxing for sure.
I say there is no wrong way- pick and choose what works for you.
Plan ahead and decide what you are comfortable with and what experience you would like to have. And then get some comfy shoes and GO and enjoy yourself.
Up next- one more day in Paris- and where and what we ate, did and recommend there
and the doors of Europe- because, something we are working on currently was inspired by some of those doors.
Sharing more soon.
Happy Monday everyone!!