2 Chicks Planning a Trip – Part 2

http://www.zazzle.com/san_sebastian_postcard-239052563112264807

San Sebastian postcard from VictoriaShaylee on Zazzle.com

 

In Part 1, we tackled the first few steps of travel planning: imagining the ideal, researching the costs, and finding a way (financially).  Now that we’ve found our way, it’s time to get into specifics and fill in the blanks.

First, before solidifying dates, be sure to check if there are any public or bank holidays that will fall during your trip.  This can put a damper on your time if everything is closed.

Getting from A to B

 Doing this helps solidify decisions regarding timing and budget, because as with life, travel is a constant balancing act between time and money to get maximum joy.  After you get the general sketch, you can start coloring in the lines!

With airfare covered to our first stop in London, it was time to see how much else we could squeeze in.  I knew it was cheaper to take a car across the channel to France on the ferry, but how long would it take to get from Paris to Rome?   Ahh….time to examine logistics  – the thing that usually gets in the way of my grand plans.

A friend mentioned that the Eurostar gets you from the center of London to the center of Paris in about 2-1/2 hours. It would save us the trouble of getting to and from the Dover to Calais ferry and when I researched it, it costs the same as just the ferry ride without a car.  Sold! 

Image from GE Tours.com

Then, it turns out the driving distance between Paris and Rome is about 950 miles, or around 1530 kilometers. That’s a lot of driving. And then I found one travel website that said: 

“The blunt reality is that even for experienced Europe travelers, driving in and around some of the major cities, especially Paris and Rome, can be very, very challenging for driving, parking, etc.  Are you ready and experienced for this type of driving adventure?” 

I flashed back to my last trip to Paris when I drove just from Paris to Monet’s House in Giverny, on to Versailles and back.  It was all fine until we tried to get back to our hotel in Paris and couldn’t find our way off of the highway called the Peripherique! There was a tantrum involved.  I’d like to avoid tantrums.  So I’m NOT up to this driving adventure.

The Eurail from Paris to Rome takes 11 hours. We can save on one night of hotel expense if we take the night train, but we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the sight of Provence’s fields of flowers at night. And we aren’t so into flowers that we’d want to waste a day that way. 

Luckily another friend told me that flying costs the same as the train – and she was right!  And it gets us there in about 4 hours, even with a short layover in Switzerland.  The airfare wasn’t that much more to fly us back to London to catch our flights home either, even with stops in Germany.  Time and budget balanced. Sold!

The moral of the story:  Talk to your friends!

(The wonderful vocalist for this video/TV ad is Nadia Ackerman. Check out her stuff on Facebook!

Getting around A, B & C

A great way to get an overview of a city is from the hop-on, hop-off tourist buses. They give you the highlights and a bit of history, allow you to explore what interests you and offer a day or two of easy transport options for one price. They range from $13 – $36 and some offer discounts on museums and such too! 

In London: The Original Tour

In Paris: The Red Bus  OR L’Open Tour

In Rome: Trambus – 110 open tour

I then suggested top my friend that if at all possible, we should try to stay 3 nights in each city. That might enable us to get out of the city to see something else, like Stonehenge, Versailles or The Vatican.  She made it happen!

Where to Stay

We have the option of staying with friends in London and saving a few nights of hotel costs, but it would also limit our freedom a bit. We’d worry about imposing upon their time and might cut our evening revelry short to accommodate their schedules, so we decided against it for this trip.  But it’s always a good option if you’re traveling alone and have to keep the budget down. 

After the travel expenses, we can afford about $150-$200 per night for 9 nights, but we want aren’t necessarily comfortable with the idea of a super-budget hotel.  Instead, I began looking at any and all available discounts at my disposal.  Frequent flier miles and their partners, credit card points, discounts available from professional organizations, etc….  I’m still working on that.

In the meantime, Trip Advisor.com is a great resource for the hotel search.  I’ve found Yahoo Travel to be useful as well.  Both let you select by price, amenities and location and offer reviews. It’s a bit of a science distilling all the information into something useful, but it’s a money-saving endeavor that can assure a quality stay!

Next time, we’ll hone in on things we definitely want to do and see in each city.  Until then, here is some homework for you: watch these movies to put you in the mood and help you decide! (Mouse over the links to see who was in it and what year it was made.)

French Kiss with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline '95

London: Notting Hill, Love Actually, and Bridget Jones’ Diary 

             (and these from IMDb)

Paris: Amelie, French Kiss, An Education, Da Vinci Code (and these from IMDb)

            for Versailles, Marie Antoinette, and The Affair of the Necklace 

            (and these from IMDb)

Rome: Only You, Eat Pray Love,  Angels and Demons, and Jumper 

               (and these from IMDb)

Eat Pray Love 2010

2 Chicks Planning a Trip – Part 1

For my 40th birthday, I chose to celebrate with travel, and went to Cambodia to explore the Angkor Wat temples.  So now that my good friend is about to turn 40, I thought she should do the same.  But unlike me she hasn’t traveled beyond North America, so I started thinking of places she really ought to see. Then I thought I’d share the process with all of you! So here are the first few steps: imagining the ideal, researching the costs, and finding a way (financially).
STEP 1 – IMAGINING THE IDEAL
For her, I chose these, from the most ideal to the extremely acceptable:
  
• Europe – There was a time when all well-bred and educated young people took a trip to “the Continent” –especially France and Italy. It was known as “the grand tour”.  While I did the tour just after graduating from college when I was 23 (part of my 2nd trip around the world, thanks to travel-loving parents), I think it might be time she completes her education. 

 • England – Both of us being Jane Austen fans with a general appreciation for literary history, we could do a tour of locations from Jane Austen novels and films and also visit King Arthur’s Tintagel. She also shares my love for the modern day romantic comedies of Richard Curtis—Love Actually, Bridget Jones Diary, Notting Hill, and Four Weddings and a Funeral. We could do a tour of those locations. 
 
• New York – We’re both fans of musical theater, and quite a bit of America’s literary, film and social history has taken place there.  It’s one of the world’s greatest cities and everyone should visit at least once. Plus we both have When Harry Met Sally memorized, (she orders food like Sally does too!) so we might need to pretend we’re in it.
 
• New Orleans – This city is a beautiful, living piece of Spanish and French colonial history, as well as some of the more colorful parts of America’s backstory—Pirates, Riverboats, Plantations, Swamps, and Ghosts!  (I fell in love with it because I’m an Anne Rice fan.)

STEP 2 – RESEARCHING THE COSTS

Airfare– it’s the biggest piece of the cost of travel, followed closely by accommodation.  But you gotta get there before you need a place to stay. 

• Online Searching – I used to be able to get significantly cheaper airfare from Lowestravel.com, but now they have pretty much the same airfare options as Expedia, Travelocity, Cheap Flights, or Orbitz.  Searching through TripAdvisor.com lets you compare, and is a good way to keep track of your searches for hotel as well.

• Choosing Dates – Keep in mind that travel costs will vary depending on the season and the day you want to travel.  Her birthday is actually in the first week of June, but I found if I used a date at the middle to end of May, the airfare dropped by about $300.  Also, fares tend to be cheaper when they’re on a weekday. It is supply and demand in action – more people want to fly on weekends, so they can charge more for the privilege.

Other Transportation –  
 
• If we were going to travel around England, I would rent a car, or maybe get a BritRail Pass. 
• If we’re going to Europe, we’d need to get across the channel from the UK, and around Paris and Rome.
So I did some basic research on all the options. 
• Car rental/Britrail Pass – A search for “car rental in London” brought up familiar U.S. chains Hertz and Enterprise.  It looks like $200-$250 for a week. A Britrail pass costs $249 for a week.  So the cost is about the same, we’d have to weigh the pros and cons of carrying our luggage and walking from train stations.  We’d probably rent a car.  We’re American after all – and born & bred Los Angelenos at that.  We love our cars!

• Ferry/Eurail – To cross the channel via ferry from Dover to Calais is actually less expensive if you have a car for some reason.  We could rent a car in England and drive to Paris.  It’s £39 with a car and £59 without. I usually just double that to estimate the cost in dollars.  But to be specific, I go to xe.com’s universal currency converter— £39 = $63, £59 is $95.

I’ll have to check how long it would take to drive to Paris from London.  I’ve driven in both England and France before, and I’m used to driving on the other side of the car and other side of the road (from the US perspective) from living in Sri Lanka. 

A Eurail pass for 2 countries within 4 to 10 days is advertised as “from $169” – but upon closer inspection, for adults 26 or older, a 2nd class saver ticket for France and Italy is $275 per person.

STEP 3 – FINDING THE WAY (FINANCIALLY)
 
It has been my experience that once I know how much money I need to create the trip I want, the rest sort of falls into place somehow.  So I never wait until I have enough money saved up.  I start planning the trip first, and then find ways to make it happen.  This is how The Law of Attraction works!  (Check out my articles on The Power of Thoughts & Goal Setting.)

So many people put off doing the things they want to do in life until they have enough money, but the money always gets spent somehow until they’re too old to enjoy it when they’ve got it. 

Within days, she and I had found the money.  Hers came from a bunch of people who love her. They all chipped in to give her a great 40th birthday present when I suggested my plan.  Mine will come from a creative use of available discounts, frequent flier miles, and accumulated credit card points.  Neither of us will need to go into debt to pay for this trip! 

So it’s been decided, she can take a week off of work without negatively impacting her budget. We’ll meet in London (she’s flying from LAX, I’m flying from Sri Lanka), and do 2 days in London, 2 days in Paris and 2 days in Rome.  
Next time we’ll get into the serious planning!

All images from http://www.zazzle.com/vintage+postcards — buy them as prints, t-shirts, mugs, etc!