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!
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!
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 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.)
(and these from IMDb)
(and these from IMDb)