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Save Money When Travelling: Hotels, Cars, and Trains

I Love To Find The Best Deals And Save Money

While planning my next trip to France, Spain, and Italy, I searched the web for the best prices on accomodations and transportation. I wanted to save money as this is going to be a one month trip! I was quite surprised with the big difference in prices, especially with car rentals. While I am sure I have not discovered all the best websites, here’s what I have found:

UPDATE (March, 2017):
I’ve recently discovered that I am not able to book through SNCF. I still don’t want to book through Rail Europe as there are service charges. I am now booking through Trainline. No service charges and you can get an online ticket.

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Booking Accommodations:Save Money When Travelling

Maybe it’s the challenge I like. I like to save money and like jumping from Expedia.ca to Booking and seeing who has better rates or deals. Most often the rates are the same and you can check travigo.ca and tripadvisor.ca to confirm the prices. Both websites show prices from each provider (such as expedia.ca, booking.com, hotels.com, etc.).

Booking hotels, France, Hotel St-Pierre, Saumur, Loire, save money
Hotel St.-Pierre, Saumur France

HOWEVER, I did discover two things you should consider:

  1. Because I have booked with Booking in the past, I have become a Booking.com Genius (don’t laugh). It’s given me an extra 10% off their rates on some properties. So, when you find a place that also has this Genius deal, it works out better than Expedia.
  2. On the other hand, because I have booked a number of flights and hotels with Expedia.ca, I am collecting “points”, much like airline points. These can be used toward future bookings. In the end; however, it all comes down to who has the best price.

Some other helpful hints:

  1. I usually book a room with no cancellation charges. While the room may be slightly more expensive, it is worth it. I have booked and cancelled many times and having this flexibility is worth it
  2. Don’t discount going directly to the hotel’s website. Sometimes they have better deals and can give you frequent flyer points (ie. Best Western, Fairmont, etc)
  3. More and more websites have loyalty programs. Hotels.com for example has a promotion that if you stay 10 nights at one of their “Welcome Rewards” properties, you will get a night free.  I haven’t used Hotels.com in years because they used to charge a cancellation fee and I have read numerous online complaints about their website. Oddly enough Hotels.com and hotwire.com are both owned by Expedia Inc. Booking.com is owned by the Priceline Group.
  4. For booking home rentals, check out one of my previous blog posts: Renting a home in France

Renting A Car In Europe:

car rental, save, France, travel
Renting a car is easy in France. Photo: J. Chung

The company, Autoeurope has consistently come up with the best prices, bar none. I have used them for as long as I can remember and I always save money. There are no surprises and if you have to cancel, 100% of the money is refunded. Here are the highlights:

  1. The only charge that will appear at the end of the trip is the road tax (in France) and charge if you picked up or dropped off the car at an airport or rail station.
  2. Changes can be done while on route. During one of my trips, I emailed Autoeurope and said I wanted to drop off the car in Lyon, rather than Paris. No problem and no extra charges.
  3. No drop off charges when picking up in one location and dropping off in another (within the same country, in most cases)

Some other helpful hints:

save money, car rental, France, roads
A narrow road near Gordes, France. Photo: J. Chung
  1. Remember that the roads in France (and most of Europe) are NARROW. We discovered this in Provence, travelling from Gordes to the Abbey de Senanque. We were just grateful we didn’t fall off the cliff!If you can drive standard (manual), do so. It will be cheaper
  2. You don’t really need an International Driver’s License
  3. The smallest car rental in Europe is usually quite large.
  4. Try to get a car that takes diesel fuel. It’s cheaper and found at all gas stations
save money, car rental, Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France
Arc de Triomphe, Paris France. Photo: J. Chung
  • Do not assume you can use your credit card at tolls. Most likely you CANNOT. I discovered this and ended up with a long lineup of cars behind me as I desperately tried to use my card. Bring cash (coins)
  • Finally, DO NOT be scared to drive around (and around, and around) the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile in Paris. The roundabout is a thrill to drive around and it’s amazing there aren’t (many) accidents. Just don’t try crossing the street. Take the underground tunnel to get to the Arc.
  • Rail Travel in Europe:

    The website raileurope.ca is a very convenient website that makes it easy to book a trip from within a country and between countries. You can book individual tickets or rail passes. HOWEVER, raileurope.ca is a provider and adds on booking fees and their tickets can be more expensive. You can save a lot of money by booking directly with the country’s train system; however, you need to be sure you “play the game”.

    When I want to travel within France or travel from France to another country I use the French rail site, SNCF.com. to save money. On this site, you will be asked what country you are from. If you put Canada, you are redirected to Raileurope.ca. You don’t want this! So here’s what you do:

    • On SNCF.com (France), choose “English” and then “Reservations”.
    • A pop up box will appear asking if you are booking outside of Europe.
    • Click “Stay” or “Close Window” and proceed to booking your trip.
    • When you have to indicate your “Country”, choose France. You can get an e-ticket and keep the bar code on your smartphone, pick up your ticket when you are at a French rail station, or, print off your ticket at home.

    I used this process to book my rail ticket from Paris to Barcelona, Spain and from Nice to Genoa, Italy.

    In the event of a strike (which sadly happens frequently in France), here are some options to consider:

    When you have FINALLY arrived in France (or some other place in Europe), check out these helpful hints which might save you money:

    Top 10 Helpful Hints When Travelling To France
    Transportation in France
    Travel Links (accommodations)
    Auto Europe Car Rental

    This website contains affiliate links to products and services that generate a small income to me if you choose to use them, at no cost to you. I only recommend products and services that I personally use and will always link to relevant information, regardless of whether or not there is an affiliate program. See my Terms and Conditions below for more information.

    If you would like to directly support me in a way that costs you nothing, you can do that via the affiliate links from Booking and AutoEurope. They earn me some commission with no extra cost to you.

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