I’m here to show you that you can achieve your travel dreams without going broke, and what kind of travel blogger would I be if I didn’t get you to Europe?
Of course, I’ve posted about Europe on a number of occasions, but previously I’d only been for study abroad or family trips. At the end of last year, I went to France (Paris and Angers) and London with a group of girlfriends.
Despite Paris and London being two notoriously expensive cities, I managed to make this trip happen for less than $2000!
As I stated in my last #luxeforless budget breakdown, I don’t like to include things like food and souvenirs in these posts, because they’re hard to add up, I’d be spending at least some money on food anyway, and it’s totally up to each person what they consider a “nice” dinner or a worthwhile souvenir.
So, spend what you like while you’re there, but here’s how I got to and stayed in France and London for 10 days, for less than $2000.
1: I Went with Friends.
One of the things that saved me the most money on this trip was dividing costs by four (or two, in some cases).
Obviously, when I travel with my husband, we’re paying for travel costs out of our joint account, so we give thought to the total cost of the flights, the total for each night in the hotel, etc.
But when you travel with friends, you get to divide hotel costs in two if you’re sharing a room! For the HomeAway apartment all four of us shared, we divided the cost by four.
This may be a super simple tip, but it saved me money—half the cost of staying in that hotel alone—and that’s what this post is all about.
When you’re considering cheap options for vacation, look into traveling with a friend.
2: I Researched Flights (for way too long).
Research can bite you in the butt or pay off big time, depending on how you look at it. Given the time I spent researching flights, I’m not really sure which it was in my case!
We started looking at going to France and London because flights from MSP to CDG were listed on Scott’s Cheap Flights. When I saw flights for less than $500 roundtrip, I started messaging my friends.
While Scott is a great resource, the flights generally listed on the deal sites are annoying—long layovers and weird connections are a part of what make those deals possible, and I get that. The option we ended up looking at, and almost buying, included an 11 hour layover in Toronto (meaning we pretty much could’ve skipped the first flight and driven to Toronto from MSP because we’d be in the airport so long…).
11 hour layovers might be fine for some people, but the idea of taking a vacation day just to spend it sitting in an airport was a little horrifying to me (ahem, vacation days are sacred).
That’s when I started looking at different flight options and dates. We picked a general timeline, but everyone agreed to be a bit flexible depending on what I found and gave me license to spend a certain amount.
When I resumed the hunt, I ended up stumbling upon a “surprise deal” from Priceline, after clicking over from Skyscanner. It listed a really good price and we were guaranteed to have a maximum of one layover of less than four hours, but it wouldn’t tell me all the details until I purchased.
The thing is, I had spent so long researching all of the flight options for the days we were looking at, that I knew that the only option that fit this criteria was a direct flight on Delta. When I’d looked earlier, that flight had been over $1000 per person, but thanks to this surprise deal, it was only about $500 per person.
I bought the flights, and it turned out I was right! (Insert huge wave of relief + dance party.)
After paying for travel insurance on the flights (because we booked so far in advance) flights came out to $595 each. Plus, we got to fly direct and on a legitimate airline, not a weird budget option that doesn’t give you water.
So totally #luxeforless, right?
3: We Got Out of Big Cities
By far the cheapest leg of our trip was Angers. Located in the Loire Valley and only about an hour and a half train ride from Paris, we had a friend teaching English in Angers who was the original motivation for our trip.
While Paris is phenomenal and London is magical, there’s something to be said for getting outside of the big cities. Smaller cities give you a chance to understand how people really live, explore less-touristy shops and sites, and practice your language skills—plus, you’ll save a lot of money.
Plus, while we’re not necessarily covering food costs in this post, we saved a lot of money there, too.
Of course, always run the actual numbers—we did, of course, spend money on the trains to get to and from Angers, which offset some of our savings (though not a great deal).
4: I Found Great Hotel Deals
If there’s one area where I don’t like to compromise, it’s hotels (okay, and flights, and meals…okay, I just don’t like to compromise!).
Staying in a nice hotel is part of the fun of travel for me. I love waking up to put on a fluffy robe, drinking a cappuccino with a view, and enjoying a nice breakfast.
If you’re the type of person who barely spends a minute in your hotel room, that’s fine, but I like to enjoy my morning and ensure restorative rest when I’m away from home.
For this trip, we absolutely lucked out when it came to our hotel in Paris. It was in a great location, had a rooftop bar, and had breakfast included. For Paris prices (and especially when divided by 2, since we shared rooms), the price was pretty reasonable!
We stayed at the Terrass Hotel and I would highly recommend it if you’re headed to Paris.
As long as you don’t mind being outside the city center (I prefer it), it’s a great spot. It’s very close to the Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur. There were lots of restaurants, cafes and shops around, too.
As far as our nights in Angers, I booked a HomeAway apartment, which worked out really nicely because we had a living room to hang around in, and all 5 of us could lounge about in the evenings. It wasn’t as luxurious as Paris, but it worked fine, and more importantly, it was super cheap!
In London, we stayed at Novotel London Blackfriars, which was in a great location right by the river. We were able to walk most places from there, and it was right next to a tube stop so we could literally get anywhere in the city.
Our only complaint was that there was a huge line for breakfast. When I’m traveling, I don’t want to spend the time to wait in line just for breakfast. I have places to see!
Finally, we returned to Paris for one night before flying out of CDG the next morning. I gave my friends the option of a cheap hotel near the airport, or a splurge hotel with a great view—and they all picked the view!
We spent one night at the Hotel Splendid Etoile. (I will warn you that, while the view was beautiful, the service was awful—they tried to refuse to give us a room with a view even though we specifically paid more for those rooms! I’d watch out.)
When you’re looking for hotels, I think the most important thing is to know what’s important to you.
Do you need a good breakfast before you head out for the day? Do you want to be walking distance from major landmarks? Does a fluffy white bathrobe make you incredibly happy (high five!)? Do you just need somewhere to rest your head for 8 hours?
No matter what your criteria are, you can absolutely find options that are more budget friendly if you keep your eyes open and remain flexible—the Ritz is probably not going to offer a great deal.
The key to balancing a nice place with a good price is often doing your research. Get a feel for the average cost of hotels in a given city or area so that you know what’s truly a deal, and look up information about the neighborhood you’re looking at.
And, if a night at a certain hotel is super important to you, you can always stay for one night like we did!
Full Budget Breakdown
Here it is, our full budget breakdown for 11 days in France and London:
Roundtrip Flights from MSP-CDG: $559 per person + $36 insurance
Paris Hotel: $305 (3 nights)
Angers Apartment: $101 (3 nights)
London Hotel: $154 (2 nights)
Paris Hotel: $138 (1 night)
Train To and From Angers: $61
Train To and From London: $125
Total: $1479 for lodging & transport for 10 days in Europe!
Tell me in the comments: are you a #luxeforless traveler? How do you save money while taking lovely trips?