Tuesday, May 28, 2013

European Adventure: Planning & Logistics

Well, the trip has been taken. It was INCREDIBLE! From May 17-May 24, 2013, we celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in London and Paris. This will be a detailed blog of planning, what we did, and what loved, etc and so on. I'm going to break it up by the day so you'll actually read all of it.

Come along for the ride!

John and I spent a long time discussing where to go in Europe for our anniversary. A Mediterranean cruise was mentioned as was just Paris but in the end, we settled on flying into London, taking the Eurostar to Paris and then flying home from there. For those not in the know, this is called flying 'open jaw', into one airport and out of another. And, it can actually save you money. It was cheaper for us to fly open jaw and pay for the train between than to go only to Paris. We ended up flying out of Cleveland because that included free dog boarding (with my in-laws) but it was also cheaper than our local airports. If you're willing to drive a bit to a different departure spot, that can help too. So, when planning, look at LOTS of scenarios and options. Be flexible!

My preferred airline is United so that's what we booked. I was dangerously close to a free ticket following this trip so I looked at other airlines but was leaning this way. I tracked the prices of the tickets for months. Itineraries for flights are typically available about 13 months ahead. The prices were holding steady but I was still hoping for a good deal. On Thanksgiving, John suggested checking the prices by chance. They were down! Prices do fluctuate throughout the week and during different times of day so don't always look at them on a Saturday morning. For us, the seats were around $1,000 each. Hello, air miles!

Tickets bought 6 months out!

Next up, Eurostar.

Tickets/itineraries for the Eurostar are only available 120 days in advance so we had a little time to decide how many days we would spend in each city and make our list of must-see's. OK, I made the list of must-see's and said to John, "Look! This is what we're seeing." The Eurostar prices go up the closer to departure and for popular times, they will sell out. Two one-way tickets set us back about $120 total.

After that, lodging.

This was a tough one as I wanted to be central to the sites or at least close to a good tube/metro station but also walkable to restaurants and cafes and not break the bank. Just know that hotels in Europe are pricey, mmkay? I did my best, and succeeded at keeping them around $200/night but it wasn't easy. I booked the London hotel directly through their site because they were having a sale. I booked the Paris hotel through Hotels.com because I got a good rate. The prices did go up closer to the dates of travel and I probably should have booked them further in advance. I was coached on a location for London by a friend who lives there and in Paris by a friend who'd been there recently. That helped a lot but I still researched the heck out of the lodging. More on the hotels later on but they were:

Mercure London Bloomsbury

Le Grand Hotel de Normandie

Booking online also gives you the ability to pay in full in advance. This was a large chunk of the budget that was nice to take care of months ahead.

I would have been able to book tickets to certain attractions ahead of time and while I did have a pretty stringent itinerary, I didn't want to lock myself into a day and time if we needed to be flexible. In London, you can book/pay for your Tower of London tickets online and in Paris, the one that would save you the most time is booking the Eiffel Tower tickets. By the time I looked at the Eiffel Tower calendar, the only available tickets were at 11:00 pm at night and I wanted to see it during the day. Buying ahead doesn't save you money but it does allow you to skip the ticket line (NOT the elevator line) but we decided to take our chances. As it stands, the weather during what would have been our time slot was awful and would have been pretty miserable.


Even though Europe uses the Chip & PIN system for credit cards, American cards will still work over there. However, you may have some issues with ATM's and getting cash. We didn't want to show up empty handed so I changed US dollars into both pounds and euros to take over with us. It took 24 hours from ordering the foreign money and my picking it up and was easy enough. I was really glad we did that. It was a bit difficult to estimate how much we'd need in each place but we just did our best and knew we'd end up charging most things anyway.

OK.......here we go!

1 comment:

  1. Love your planning. You have already given me ideas on things I hadn't taken into account for our trip.


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