In this week’s post, I’ll share some tips that I follow so that I can afford to travel frequently to France (and other places in world). It’s all about stretchng one’s dollar!
Travel In Off Season To Stretch Your Dollar
If you can, try to travel when it is cheaper, which is the off-season or the shoulder season. In France peak season is when there are many more tourists and the weather can be very hot: mid-June to August.
- Shoulder season is April to mid-June and September to October
- Off-season is November to March
There are pros and cons to travelling in each season, however, from a cost perspective, the highest airfares and accommodation costs will be in high/peak season. I have travelled to Paris in January and it is lovely….and cheaper. Sure there was a bit of rain (once) but the skies were crisp blue and the sun was shining. The temperature was 11 degrees Celsius when I was there but the average is usually 7 C.
Invaluable Search Tools
Recently, a new app called “Hopper” came out. After putting in your destination and preferred dates, Hopper will present a list of possible flights. It is similar to Google Flights; however, it does one additional thing: it will monitor the price and notify you if it thinks you should book now or later. It was written up in Travel and Leisure magazine and they compared it to Kayak and other apps. Hopper did well. I booked a trip to TBEX in Florida and so far the price I paid has been the lowest.
I like Google Flights because it will tell you how much you will save if you go on alternative days.
On The Fly (ITA Software)
You cannot book on this website. Its matrix software gives you all the possible flights to your destination—direct, 1 stop, 2 stops etc. and will show you the prices. It’s up to you to book the flight(s) using their information.
Transportation: Car or Train?
There are times when renting a car is not cheaper due to the gas, toll, parking and drop off charges involved. It makes sense when you are in remote areas (ie. Provence) where there isn’t a lot of public transportation. There is a really good website called Michelin Route Planner which will calculate the cost of getting from Place A to Place B—-gas and tolls. I used this to determine if I should drive from Paris to the Loire Valley. Of course there are other considerations such as how long the trip will take; however, from a cost perspective, this website is quite useful. I have used it to calculate the price of travelling in Canada too.
Booking a train well in advance will give you the best price. Check with the website. Some open their bookings 22 weeks in advance so if you can book that very first day, it’s worth it. Here’s an example:
London England to Paris on the Eurostar train (Standard fare):
- Cost when booked 22 weeks in advance: 51 Euros
- Cost when booked 3 weeks in advance: 225 Euros
Accommodations: Apartment or Hotel?
If I am only going to be in a town a few nights, I will usually stay in a hotel; however, for a week’s stay, you can’t beat an apartment. Here’s why:
- you can make your own breakfast and save on the cost (in hotels they can charge anywhere from 7 Euros to 20 Euros or more. That is expensive for a coffee, croissant, pain au chocolate and maybe some cheese. You might get a buffet. It all depends.
- they often have a washing machine: comes in handy after travelling for a long period of time
- you don’t always have to eat out; you can buy groceries and make a picnic lunch and make your own dinner. You can splurge on a wonderful meal out without feeling guilty
- apartments often have free wifi (that is better than the weak signals in hotels)
- if you do stay in a hotel, try to get one that has a kettle and coffee maker. You can always pick up a pastry at a nearby bakery and voila, there’s your breakfast, much cheaper than having the hotel’s breakfast
Here are some previous posts about renting an apartment. It is only a small sampling of what is available.
Time, Convenience and Saving Money: The Delicate Balance
I have realized that not everything that is the cheapest is the best thing to buy or spend your money on. For example, the cheapest way to get into Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport is via the RER and Metro. It is about 8 Euros; however, there are a lot of stairs and you are at the mercy of transit strikes. You will sweat a lot lugging your luggage up and down stairs and through the airport and subway trying to get to your destination.
There are easier alternatives and they are slightly more expensive, but worth it and you don’t necessarily have to take a 60 Euro cab ride. I mix a shuttle bus to the Opera with a cab and it is convenient and much cheaper. Here is my explanation of the alternatives.
Be sure to check out my page on great Websites and Apps worth considering.
So, you can stretch your dollar, travel well and not spend a fortune. And in France I have it down to an art…..guess that happens when you’ve been there 24 times! It can be within your budget!