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Old 01-30-2016, 06:05 PM
Location: Hampstead NC
5,611 posts, read 5,140,854 times
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My daughter (age 19) is studying in France next summer and I'd like to take my younger daughter (age 16) and tag along. Spend a few days with oldest before dropping her off, then do some more touring before heading back to the airport. I have over a year to save for this trip, but how do I budget for the trip while planning? I've never been on a vacation that wasn't a beach rental for a week, or a few nights in a hotel at one location. Planning to cover a lot of ground in a foreign country is proving to be overwhelming!

Obviously Airfare will be the biggest chunk of it. I don't have to budget for oldest's airfare or tuition/room/board since that comes out of her 'college' pot. It seems to me that if the airfare is the biggest part, you'll get the most for your money by staying as long as possible. I'm thinking 2 weeks vacation time is the max I would have to use. I'm a casual traveler so hostels or camping and a backpack sound good to me. I won't be sitting in any fancy restaurants. Youngest enjoys beaches and photography. We'd probably hit some thrift stores along the way. Since there are three of us would it make the most sense to rent a car rather than pay for train tickets or other public transport?

I don't mind spending more money than I have on the trip. I'm prepared to take on a modest amount of debt for this once in a lifetime event. But not more than I could pay off in 6 months or so. (I generally do not carry a credit card balance)

So how do you do this when you are committing in advance to a plan and don't know how much it's going to cost? Budget for x amount and when you run out, the trip is over? Decide the trip will be x days long and squeeze as much into that number of days? Plan every expense in advance? Allow yourself a per diem? Ignore the cost and rack up the credit card bills?

I'd love to know how others approach this.
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Old 01-30-2016, 07:03 PM
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Actually, the airfare might be the least of it. At least that's been my experience. Anyway, you can look online and get a sense of the hotel costs, transportation costs, and food. Come up with a daily estimate and multiply by the number of days you'll be there. Then add a substantial cushion in case you spend too much.
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Old 01-30-2016, 07:04 PM
Location: Niceville, FL
7,698 posts, read 16,151,788 times
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A rental car in Europe is best used when you know you're going to be in rural areas where public transportation can be hit or miss. It's a nightmare in big cities where roads were designed for maybe 20% of the traffic volume, there can be a host of restrictions on where and when you can drive without a resident's auto permit, and parking is either expensive (think $50+ at some hotels) or non-existant. And trains are pretty cool over there- if you have a chance to take a TGV high speed rail train, take it and watch the world zoom past you at 200 mph. Tickets are generally pretty fairly priced if you book a second class ticket (still bigger and with more leg room than a standard economy plane seat) early- they have to compete with the discount airlines over there.

Rick Steves has some travel guides and tv shows (available from multiple streaming services) that seem like they've sync with your travel style and would be useful for you.

In addition to hostels, I'd look into the Ibis (France-based) and Motel One (German chain currently expanding) chains that generally offer newer clean private rooms with wifi and room level climate control, usually including air conditioning, for a pretty reasonable price. There are good reasons why there seem to be as many Ibises in Paris as there are pigeons.

If you don't need a heavy breakfast to get going in the morning, most places in Paris, or France in general where a tourist would end up, it's easy to find a corner bakery and just do chocolate croissants and coffee from your hotel room for breakfast for a fraction of what the hotel dining room would cost. Maybe pick up some bananas from a nearby Carrefour Express or greengrocer if you need a bit of fruit. There is fast food, both native and the usual international conglomerates. Paul's actually has pretty good pastries and sandwich fare, and I know others say that Quick makes a good fast food hamburger. And I'm not ashamed to admit I've ended up in a McDonald's on Les Champs Elysees, though that was largely because we needed a bathroom break and a one euro Coca Cola Lite gets everyone in the group access to the toilets. There's also the sit down pizza and two coffees or soft drinks option that should run you around 20-25 euros or so in a lot of places.

As far as cost goes, hotel and airfare are pretty fixed and you'll know how that's going to sort out before you get there. Also easy enough to price out museum admission costs (IMO, the Paris Pass is a pretty good deal with even moderate use because it lets you skip the ticket purchase line that can get massive for places like the Louvre) If you want to do the Eiffel Tower, get tickets online beforehand so you can skip the line. Just know when they go on sale for your anticipated date(s) since they can literally sell out in minutes during popular school holiday times, leaving you in a 2 hour long line for general admission access.

One thing about Paris is that, while there are a lot of bucket list check boxes to be filled out there, it's also a wonderful place to just wander around in as long as you keep an eye on your surroundings and your money and credit cards in a place on yourself more secure from pickpockets. No charge just to go walking down the road the runs through all kinds of neighborhoods along the Seine or to watch sunset from the Sacre Coeur hill in the Montmarte neighborhood. (Though it's nice to toss a few one euro coins into the kitty for the street performers if you stop and watch.) It will probably cost you some to go wandering through Paris' famed flea markets, though you're somewhat limited there by what fits into your suitcase for the trip home.
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Old 01-31-2016, 09:32 AM
Location: Seattle
1,534 posts, read 1,324,123 times
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Some quick comments and maybe I'll come back with more:

1. Take that "once in a lifetime" cr@p and throw it out the window. Substitute the word "first" for "once" and see if that makes any difference in your thinking. It should. Travel is something you either have as a priority or not, but priorities change over the course of a lifetime.

2. "Planning to cover a lot of ground in a foreign country is proving to be overwhelming!" So why are you planning to cover a lot of ground? Are you afraid you won't see everything there is to see? Well, you won't.

Do some thought experiments coupled with focused research. First, where is your daughter studying? People are assuming Paris, but for all we know it might be Lyon or Montpelier or...?

What if you found a village or a small country town within train distance of your daughter's school and used it as a base for a little while for "going deep" rather than "going wide?" Rent a house for far fewer dollars per day, shop in glorious French markets for food you cook yourself, rent a car for a few days and explore the countryside. If it IS Paris, take the train into town in the morning, hit some museums or gardens, public markets or monuments, have a cheap lunch, and back head out in the evening. Look at VRBO or similar sites for hundreds and hundreds of houses or apartments you could rent far more cheaply than hotels, even hostels, since you can cook for yourselves.

Where are you coming from? There may be some good airfare options that depend on where from/to you're flying.

Finally, what do you like to do at home? Movies, walks, music, shopping...? Maybe there's some festival or annual event that would help you focus your research. What does the "other" daughter like?

You have the luxury of a lot of time to think about what you want to experience. The budget flows from that.

Last edited by Gardyloo; 01-31-2016 at 10:56 AM..
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Old 02-01-2016, 02:53 PM
Location: Gatineau, QC, Canada
3,402 posts, read 4,460,917 times
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I don't take 'once-in-a-lifetime' trips because I can't think of anywhere so far away that I would never return to. I've already been to India twice - anything is possible.

Nonetheless, I focus on trying to use a smart budget. Many people hold the opinion that if you don't anticipate travelling often, you mine as well bring a lot of money and make it memorable. To me, spending a lot of money makes me feel bad, so I prefer to be a little conservative. Besides, it's easy and very nice to self-cater, stay in private rooms through Air BnB for very little or homestay, or dorms, etc. Those things are often just as nice, if not nicer than hotels and expensive restaurants.

I just kind of make a rough estimate on per day expenses of everyone on the trip, plus the extra costs (flights, intercity transport) and then add it all up. Usually it's a bit more than I assume, but not by much. Just put it on credit card if it doesn't balance out and be diligent about paying it off once you're home. That's always worked for me and I've never gone into meaningful debt.

On an individual level, I try to never spend more than $30 in a day, and less where ever possible. In France, I may have to boot up to $40 in Paris.

Have fun!

Last edited by Jesse44; 02-01-2016 at 03:02 PM..
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