As I travel to France so frequently, I have figured out how to reduce my travel expenses yet still have an amazing trip. Basically, it’s getting “more bang for your buck”. I do NOT, however, follow the “France on $5 A Day” philosophy from ages ago. I’m too old for that!
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In previous posts, I have written about ways to reduce your travel expenses by:
- stretching your dollar, not your budget;
- saving money on hotels, cars, and trains;
- saving money when flying to France using frequent flyer points;
- and saving money using the Paris Museum Pass.
In this post I’ll share with you more of what I’ve learned travelling in France over the past 38 years (yikes!) specifically related to Transportation and Accommodations. I have found many ways to cut costs and I hope they can save you money too.
To give you some context, let me point out a few things about my travel style:
- I don’t rough it. I don’t camp (hate bugs) and I don’t stay in hostels. Nothing against them. It’s just not me.
- I will go luxury if I can afford it (aka if it’s a good deal) or if it’s so unique I “must” experience it
- I will rent cars but will also take the train or even fly, if it will save me time.
- I will take public transportation within a city, but I will also take a taxi or Uber if I need to
- Time IS money and if I need to spend a bit more to save myself a ton of time, I will as my trips are often not particularly long. Some have been 10 days and others have been 6 weeks long
- Although lately I’ve been checking my bag on airlines (usually free for overseas flights), the majority of my trips have been carry-on only
15 Tips For Reducing Your Travel Expenses
So here are the 15 tips that I live by. They have helped me reduce my travel expenses and have helped me afford travelling to France (gulp) over 26 times.
1. Sign Up For Airline Newsletters: I subscribe to various airline’s newsletters as they will notify you of upcoming sales. For my trip to France this coming May, I was able to profit from a seat sale with Air Canada. I got an email from them and booked the flight 8-1/2 months in advance. I have NEVER paid this low price for an airfare—-direct, return, Toronto to Paris: $643!
2. Fly Out On Certain Days: I fly out on a Thursday and return on a Monday. Why those days? Cheapest days to fly: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
3. Book Your Car Rental Early: and keep checking if the rate has gone down. I used AutoEurope many years before joining them as an affiliate*. They have the best rates on car rentals and I have found their customer service to be excellent. Just do a comparison and you’ll see that even with corporate rates with Avis or Budget, AutoEurope has lower rates. They are basically a broker with ties to many different car rental companies.
[* As an affiliate of AutoEurope, a small income is generated if you choose to use the company, at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services that I personally use.]
4. Rent A Manual Transmission Car: they are cheaper than automatic. (Often there is an 8€ per day Environmental fee for automatic cars)
5. Request A Diesel Gas Car: I ask for diesel gasoline cars because diesel gas is cheaper than regular unleaded. Usually there is no difference in the rate between a diesel and regular unleaded gas car.
6. Utilize Your Credit Card’s Auto Insurance Coverage: Car rental agencies can charge up to $30 a day for a loss/damage waiver. Sadly, this can be even more than what you might pay for the car rental per day!
7. Bring Your Own Automobile GPS: mine has North American and European maps where I can update the maps every year, for free. Car rental agencies can charge up to $16 a day to rent these. If you don’t have one, use Google Maps on your smartphone if you can.
8. Don’t Pick Up Or Drop Off Your Rental Car At A Train Station Or Airport: I try as much as possible to NOT to do this. Why? Many car rental companies have a surcharge of 40 Euros or more to do so. If I can, I’ll find a rental agency located near my hotel. It’s worked a couple of times so I have saved some money.
9. Do Not (in most cases) Pick Up A Car In One Country And Drop It Off In Another Country: When I was looking into doing this (France-Spain), the extra charge was $500!
10. Don’t Pay For Drop Off Charges:I have never had to pay a drop-off fee (picking up in one city and dropping it off in another, within France). Be careful that the rental company doesn’t have a drop-off charge. Auto Europe rarely, if ever, does.
11. Fill Up The Tank: Before returning the car, I always fill up the tank so I won’t be charged for gas at a very high premium. I use my GPS to show me the closest gas station to the car drop-off location.
12. Be Loyal To One Hotel Booking Site (if it has a deal): I book hotels with booking.com often because I can usually get a cheaper price being a frequent, loyal customer (they have “Genius” rates and I have checked and found that they ARE cheaper than other booking sites. It just depends if the hotel has a “Genius” rate).
There are also hotel sites which offer rewards programmes for frequent customers. For example, hotels.com offers one free night for every 10 booked. You’ll have to check their website for all the details. expedia.ca (and expedia.com) has a point system where you accumulate points for flights, hotels, car rentals, etc. When you reach a certain level you can use these points to save on future travel expenses. Like booking.com, it also has special rates for members called “Member Pricing”.
13. Book Your Accommodations OUTSIDE Of Major Cities: as they tend to be cheaper. Yes, this means you might need a car; however, it can really be worth it.
Here are two examples of hotels located outside of the city:
Les Chambres De La Renaissance , pictured above, is a renovated chateau located in Sainte-Julie, a very small town 40 kilometres north of the Lyon airport where I was flying out of the next day. My room was designed like I was in a boutique hotel. Cost: 69 Euros ($98 Canadian)
La Détanche, is a chamber d’hôte (bed and breakfast) located 1 kilometre from the centre of Evian-Les-Bains. I could easily walk to the main area in 10 minutes. I LOVED the room, bathroom, and especially the view. And the breakfast spread was unbelievable. Cost: 90 Euros ($128 Canadian). While some might find this expensive, it wasn’t in comparison to the hotels closer to the centre of town.
14. Free Parking: I look for accommodations that have free parking or cheap parking nearby. The last thing I want to do is get a great deal on a room and then discover that parking will be $20 a day. I am also careful to read the reviews about the parking. Too often I read that it’s a tight squeeze or the guest’s car got damaged or vandalized.
15. Kettle Or Coffee Maker In The Hotel Room: More and more hotels are charging extra (ie. 10 Euros or $15!) for breakfast and to be honest, I get really tired of croissants and baguettes with jam (typical breakfast). A hotel room with a kettle and coffee maker can be a bonus. I’ll often pick up some fruit and breakfast items at a local grocery store and have breakfast in my room.
Be sure to check out all the Money-Saving Tips on my website (in the menu Travel Tips—->Money Tips):
I will continue to write posts on how I’ve saved money when I’ve travelled to France. If you liked this post and would like to be notified of future posts about unique experiences or money-saving tips, please consider signing up to my newsletter if you haven’t already done so. I send out posts once a week. For all my subscribers, you will receive a free pdf guide to “The Top 10 Photo Locations In Paris”.