Tue 22 Mar 2011 - Wed 23 Mar 2011 60 °F
Lessons Learned: Traveling Cheap in France
This week we rented an apartment in Lyon and let me tell you it is nice to sit still for a while. I start another class online and we get a break from the trains. We'll talk about the apartment more later but boy has it been cheaper. This brings to mind some real interesting travel lessons we are accumulating while in France. Monica and I have been taking a real hard kick in the keester our first time through France together and let us tell you times are tough even within Europe. Prices are high and owners seem to be a bit desperate and even at times deceptive. The following info lists some things that we’ve noticed right off that are tips we’ve picked up for traveling “cheaper” in France. First I’d like to say that we are no longer young teenagers who can sleep on subway floors, eat baguettes and honey every day, or sleep in a dorm where you are saying goodnight not only to your spouse but to the eleven others bunking in the same room using the same bathroom. Being two professional adults who have a steady income and time to research efficiently we don’t see the need to live the backpacker or hostelling life. This isn’t to say that responsible adults who have a steady income and money saved for travel shouldn’t be trying to save money and be prudent though. Especially for the reason that if you don’t watch were you spend your Euros and Pounds you’ll find they’ve vanished quicker than you might’ve thought they would. So here’s our small list thus far….
Rent a car – unless your sticking to the large cities believe it or not in the long run it will be cheaper than traveling the train and metro systems and much more freeing. A car may average you about 500 US dollars a week all expenses included but the opportunity it offers will be what saves you the money! So following with this line of reasoning number two is…
Rent apartments and Gites (small houses or holiday rentals) – Rent these places Instead of hotels. A gite is a small rent-by-owner townhouse or addition to a house r something of the like that people will rent for a fraction of the cost of an apartment or hotel. Hotels that average about 100 Euros (140US) a night adds up to 700 Euros a week but a gite often will go for 100-300 Euros a week! Not only this but renting an apartment or gite say on VRBO’s website will offer the opportunity to….
Eat out less often – now we’re not trying to take away the little experience of eating a baguette and sipping a cappuccino in a small French café but we are saying do this in moderation or you’ll run the vacation fund dry simply from eating out every meal. Go to the grocery store and buy some breakfast food for 30 Euros that will last the week instead of spending 30 Euros a day just on one breakfast for two.
Don’t buy things like water – I know this sounds silly but Monica and I just came from the Middle East where water isn’t safe to drink and thus end up buying all our water bottled. You can imagine the savings and surprise we found when we realized filling up at a local tap was permissible. One can end up spending up to 4 Euros a bottle at some tourist destinations but if you simply filled a couple bottles beforehand you would’ve spent nothing! If you’re really just attached to drinking bottled water go take a walk to a corner store and instead of the 4 Euros each you can find a six pack for the same amount! This nicely leads to the next thing which I’ll call….
“Don’t get trapped” and “Try a picnic” – Basically what I’m saying is that you can stroll right into a great tourist destination like a castle not realizing that you may be there several hours. After a while you realize its lunch time and so decide to stop at the little café you saw coming in. What!!! A sandwich is how much! Well now you have a choice, start eating your spouse or girlfriends sweater hoping to stave the starvation that awaits you or dish out a whole lot of money (up to 50 Euros sometimes) for a small uneventful meal. So bring food and snacks along the way and always take a look at the itinerary to see where you’ll be and when and plan accordingly.
Look out for the additional costs – I say this because taxes and fees are something you always have to be leery of when traveling. For instance Monica and I started seeing that when you rent an apartment little things like deposits, cleaning fees, and taxes showed up in maybe 40 percent of places we saw. This is silly as a good owner will include these in the cost up front. For example, you rent a place for 560 Euros a week and upon arriving to your apartment find that they demand a 200 Euro damage deposit n case something goes wrong. (maybe you trip on a cord and smash your head on the floor denting the tile) Added to this they’ve also asked if you saw the cleaning fee of 50 Euros a day that was listed in microscopic font at the bottom of their add on the website? Well no and you can’t back out now because you’ve already made plans and paid for and/or placed a deposit on the rental! Now you’re at 1110 Euros because you didn’t look at the additional costs. Always take the time to look thoroughly at anything you decide to buy I guess anywhere you go eh…
French eat small portions? – When you go out to eat it will be worth your while to note a couple of things. First, you think you’re in France where all the people stay thin by eating full 4 course meals but having very small portions, right! NO! We still don’t know how French people stay so thin but we do know the portions are NOT SMALL! We went into a small soup shop in Carcassone thinking that the small soup was going to be maybe a cup or so in size and my salad even though large would be like about a nine inch plate. Boy were we wrong. Monica’s small soup looked like Marmaduke’s (a fictional massive size great dane) dog chow bowl and my salad may have fed the giant of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Fee Fy Fo Fum. When you eat out its not bad to try eating one meal each and then if you’re still hungry and the portions turn out being too small to then add food.
To Menu or Not to Menu, that is the question – It turns out that at most restaurants that if you’d like they almost always offer course meals in a “menu.” For instance you can have a appetizer, a main meal, and a dessert for a fixed price that says at the top of the page “15 Euro Menu.” You’ll have a choice of maybe four or five of each of the courses and it will indeed save you money if you desire a full course meal. Ah Ha! This little “money saver” could also double as a good marketing scheme. Some people wouldn’t eat this much and may look at the menu thinking it will save them money but would’ve originally just have chosen to eat a small 4 Euro appetizer , an 8 Euro meal, and water. Instead of the 12 Euros you may have spent you went for the “15 Euro menu” page and chose there.
Save your plastic wrap – If you save all your plastic wrap it can double as many useful tools later! For instance try using it as toilette paper, water holder, a band-aid, nope just kidding! This is totally a joke! There you have it for now!