The hubs and I booked our European getaway! This afternoon was devoted to cutting our costs since what we originally budgeted was being spent too quickly. This took a lot of research that is definitely not over, but we were able to cut our airfare costs by $1,000. We also saved on train fare between cities.
First, the airfare. We were not married to a specific itinerary so we combed the internet for various combinations of flights. Now, one thing I should probably admit is that I am a TERRIBLE flyer, so I have to have non-stop flights. It’s just something I will not compromise on. We were looking to fly into one city and out of another, which is what was making it so expensive. However, because we got married in another country last year and we have a miles credit card, we found we could actually use miles for one roundtrip, nonstop ticket from Chicago to London on United. We had to purchase our two tickets separately, one with miles and one on a card, but we then called United to link the tickets together. That way we won’t get separated if they decide to start moving seats around, though we did pay a little extra to upgrade to Economy Plus. I mean, it is an 8-9 hour flight.
This presented the problem of, how are we going to travel to a few cities when we have to start and end in the same place? So, I spent quite some time on Rail Europe, looking at maps and trying different train paths/combinations. We settled on a combination of four cities. Then it took comparing the price differences from city to city, day to day, and train company to train company. (I have a serious amount of train times/prices/routes written in a little notebook right now). Eurostar allows you to set up multiple cities in a path and compare Eurostar prices to Thalys prices (the two main train companies in the area we were looking).
Between Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels, the cheapest city to get to from London via train is Brussels. From there, we found the easiest/cheapest route–accounting for a certain number of nights in each city and how much we want to spend on hotels–is Brussels to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Paris, and Paris back to London. This includes two cities I’ve been to (London and Paris) and two I haven’t (Brussels and Amsterdam). And the hubs, while very well traveled in other continents, has not been to any. We’ll spend one night in London after our arrival and then off to Brussels. Three nights there, two in Amsterdam, two in Paris and two more in London before heading back to the U.S.
A few things about this:
1. Train tickets are more affordable if you buy them in advance in a locked schedule (meaning no changing your mind last minute). While this does put some pressure on travelers to “get there on time,” the savings are quite significant. Many flexible tickets are at least $30 more per person, and when you are taking four trains, that adds up.
2. Train tickets are often cheaper from Eurostar or Thalys themselves so after I compared everything on Rail Europe, I actually purchased on their websites. Eurostar is very user friendly while Thalys is a bit more antiquated and only takes PayPal from the U.S.
3. This may seem like a lot in ten days, but–and if you’ve traveled to Europe you know–the cities are so close together and the train stations are in the actual cities, often very close to the center of town. The longest train we have is three and a half hours, and that’s from Amsterdam to Paris. The other three are all two hours or less. Good for napping and making a plan of attack for the next city!
4. Yes, I am worried about getting tired and not being able to walk as much as I would like. The hubs and I are both fully aware that we may have some early nights, late mornings, and days spent sitting in cafes. I will have to lug around medicine and limit my alcohol consumption. BUT I do not want to let all that stop me from going on what promises to be an amazing trip.
5. I love a good itinerary.
Probably my favorite part about how the trip works out is that on our actual one-year wedding anniversary, we will wake up in Paris and go to sleep in London. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is.
Now, we have to pick hotels and prioritize everything we want to do!