Traveling to Europe is not necessarily as expensive as most people think it is. When you plan carefully, it can be quite affordable. Our trip to London and Paris wasn't exactly cheap, but with a lot of research, I was able to save big all around. I'll be talking about them all in parts in the next few weeks. Right now, I'd like to talk about how I saved on my awesome accommodations in each place.
I planned to stay in a timeshare in at least one of our destinations, but when that fell through, I started looking at lodgings with kitchenettes. My plan was to stay in the same place we stayed at in London on our honeymoon. Though it wasn't fancy, it had everything we needed and was conveniently located. They had been slowly renovating their building and rooms, so I was willing to pay a little extra for that. Unfortunately, the hotel had a fire earlier this year and they were not taking any bookings at all.
Knowing that I wanted to stay in an apartment-like lodging, I decided to look at apartment rentals. I searched FlipKey and a few others before I remembered the great reviews I'd read from people who had used Airbnb. Not only did they have tons of listings, but I could search by amenities, price and neighborhood. After contacting many owners for my travel dates, I finally found the perfect place. A flat with a loft bedroom in a building complex with security and a store that was near a tube station. It was a little further east than I hoped to stay, but it turned out to be exactly what we needed. The place was bright and open, the kitchen was more than we needed and it had a washer/dryer. We honestly couldn't ask for anything else. Check it out:
Rate: $101/night (compare to $120/night 7 years ago, possibly $150/night now)
Savings: $19-49/night x 6 nights
While not exactly cheap, it was budget-friendly by London standards and also was even cheaper than the rates we paid at the place we stayed 7 years ago. What?? Unheard of, right? I was sold on this idea of renting from apartment owners, so I started searching for flats in Paris.
While I was looking for our perfect place in the City of Lights, I also wanted to see if I could find a hotel in the Disneyland area that had a shuttle to the parks, wouldn't cost me a fortune and wouldn't have me wasting hours on the train each day getting there and back. I had hoped to stay at a Disneyland property, but it appears the French economy has bounced back and the rates for three nights was totally out of our budget now. I hunted on ever site I could find and when I found a great rate, I cross-checked it across the board.
I ended up finding the best deal through Expedia, where I also get points for making a reservation that I can use later. The hotel I found was the Hotel Elysee, which was right across the street from the train station, had free shuttles to the park all day and a buffet breakfast included each morning. When I say buffet, I mean full buffet! If you left there hungry, you just weren't trying.
Rate: $95/night (compared to $85/night in Paris + ($15pp) transport each day + breakfast - approx. $30)
Savings: $50/night for two people
Since staying near Disneyland made more sense, we split out accommodations in Paris to 3 nights each. After several rounds of searches on FlipKey and Airbnb, I finally found a lovely flat in the 13th Arr. It was a studio, in a secure building with a small kitchen and a washing machine (I am serious about my laundry when I travel) and near the Metro station. The neighborhood was very quiet and the building was close to at least a dozen restaurants and patisseries, drug stores and major shopping. The flat was cozy and perfect for our needs and I wish we could have stayed much longer. The bed was even more comfortable than some hotel beds I've slept in. It was a definite gem. Look at how cute it was!
Rate: $69/night (compared to $95/night in hotel with free breakfast)
If you add up all the money I saved just on accommodations, it comes out to a significant amount: $342-522. That money alone paid for our 3-day tickets to Disneyland ($350). Score! If we claim the high side, we could have covered much of our food there as well. I'm feeling pretty good about choices. In fact, I was so thrilled with the flats we rented, I wish I could start planning another trip back.
What's your favorite way to save money on accommodations?