This little travel series was originally published in the Spring of 2010, and here it is again...start packing your bags!
Last week I did a brief intro of how we frugal mamas can realistically get “across the pond” (if you’re just tuning in, you can find it here.
Now I’m going to get into the nitty gritty of travel to Europe.
Here’s how the next few weeks of this series will go:
March 13th: Get Yer Transportation On! (that's today!)
March 20th : Where to Sleep?
March 27th : Eating your way through Europe...yummo.
April 3rd: Shop 'till Ya Drop!
Okay, so let’s chat about booking flights. I know this is not necessarily a Dreamy topic, but let’s face it, it’s probably THE way you are going to get there, so you need to know about it!
Do not (I repeat, do not) book your travel through a travel office. If you have a ton of money to travel, these companies are great, but if you are trying to get there the frugal way, then you need to book tickets on your own.
1) I use the following airline’s sites: American, Northwest, United, and Lufthansa (Lufthansa is my favorite…better seats & better food!).
Occasionally I do find decent prices via Travelocity and Expedia, but for the most part, the best tickets I've booked have been through the individual carriers.
2) Hopefully your dates are somewhat flexible – flying midweek (typically Wednesday) is much cheaper than weekends.
Each airlines typically has a flexible fares chart that shows you pricing by day of the week or pricing throughout an entire calendar month.
3) There are often amazing flights leaving from NYC to Europe. I’ve booked flights using different carriers before. Example: A flight from Houston to NYC via Delta, and then a flight from NYC to Paris via AirFrance. You have to become your own travel agent, but it’s worth it to save some $$$ for other trip necessities (like shopping…).
If you think you won’t have the time for this, carve some time away from your typical online duties (ie Facebook!) and use that time for your travel homework.
4) If you would like to see more than one country (which I would highly recommend), we often fly into one country and then fly home out of a different country. Example: Fly into Paris, take a night train to Rome, then fly home from Rome.
To look at flights like this, most airlines have the Multiple Destination option to search.
5) Flight prices drop dramatically in early September and do not rise much until the end of April. I typically hit Europe in early September or early April as these are not peak months and the weather is still somewhat decent.
Summer months are when you see the crazy flight pricing…try to avoid summer travel dates if you can.
6) One last tip regarding booking flights is to consider baggage charges. When I was booking flights recently for this month's travel, I noticed that US Airways had a ticket that was much cheaper than American's.
I did a little digging and noticed that to check a second baggage, it was an additional $200 on US Airways, while it was only $50 for a second checked baggage on American.
That is very significant to me, as bringing some sweet stuff is at the top of my travel list!
So, now that you’ve made it across the pond, let’s chat about how you’re going to get around those cobblestone paths!
Trains, trains, trains! Most major cities have a metro rail and that is what we always use – incredibly cheap, convenient and fun to figure out!
Don’t be afraid to get lost – your fun little adventures will make for a great blog later on!
Most cities have their rail maps posted online, so you can study them prior to your arrival.
Here is Paris’ Metro
Here is Rome’s Metro
Here is Berlin’s Metro
Once you arrive in your city, you can purchase a Metro Pass that will save you a ton of money (see? Your shopping stash is growing by the minute…).
Most Europeans speak more English than we speak of their native language, so you can always ask for help. I have to say that the Swiss and Germans speak a LOT of English, even though they personally think their English stinks. The French don’t seem to speak as much English, and can be somewhat reluctant to help, but we have always found a good Samaritan in a pinch.
In any country, the key to starting off right is being able to ask for help in the local language. If you do need help at some point, at least attempt a little of their language - they will find your horrible pronunciation endearing, and they will in-turn help you out.
Just a Note: Nothing is more annoying to me than sitting in a quaint European bistro, and being interrupted by a loud American screaming, “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH ??!!!”.
Funny story: When I took my mom to Paris, she had this weird theory that if she spoke in English, very SLOWLY and LOUDLY then that would aid a non-English speaking person to suddenly begin to understand what she was saying. This theory does not work.
Do not attempt this.
Two more Tips before we part for today:
1) To work on your travel cash, start cleaning out your closet. You’ll make some cash in the meantime (don’t touch it!) and you’ll be making room for your new precious purchases from overseas.
2) To get really inspired about your destination, go get a Rick Steve’s book and start planning. Rick has always been right on the money and he’s a frugal dude as well! Here are some of his books on Amazon. You can always buy last year's version - they don't change that much from just one year to the next (more pennies saved!).
Start your planning now and you may be posting a picture that looks something like this:
Thanks for stopping by this week!
Stay tuned next week, as we learn how to book Your sweet Euro Apartment!
Now I'm off to pack, pack, pack. Three more days to go!
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