Some wondered how we could be away so long and that it had to be terribly expensive. Three and a half weeks, much of what was spent in two of the world's more expensive cities, isn't necessarily a bargain.
The cost of this trip for the two of us was right around $6,000. That included air, Eurostar, trains, buses and metro passes; all meals; 21 nights in a hotel (and three fabulous nights staying with blogger Jenny; thank you!); two theatre and three concert tickets; admissions to museums; two river cruises, my Cotswold's bus tour and my personal shopping. It doesn't count Rick's shopping but he didn't buy much. Our hotels were very nice, conveniently located and served breakfast. When we ate out we had nice dinners and usually light lunches, often picking up cheese and a baguette or a sandwich to enjoy in the park. In other words, we weren't whole hog spending but we weren't excessively frugal by any means. (I should also add that if I was traveling by myself, the cost would be higher as we were splitting hotel costs.)
In preparing this post, I looked at a group tour that was to Northern Italy for 13 nights (April 2020). Cost was $6095 with air from Detroit. It did not include travel insurance, tips, or optional tours but it did include daily breakfasts, seven lunches and eight dinners (the rest is on your own). Also included were guides, drivers and luggage porters. In other words, this tour offered 14 fewer days for more money for one person than we did for two. And those tours included a lot of time being on someone else's schedule.
Our flight, on the now-defunct WOW airlines was so inexpensive that we had $1500 between the two of us I put toward getting hotels in better neighborhoods. It was money well spent.
I know that not everyone is comfortable traveling without the benefit of a tour director and having things taken care of for them. Some aren't comfortable with booking online or familiar enough with an area to feel confident in doing so. Others may be worried about language issues. Certainly in England, language is no problem and really it isn't in France, either, although we were lucky to have our friend Jerry with us most of the time. Still, it would have been fine without.
And trust me, in stores, it doesn't really matter the language you speak. Somehow you work it out whether shopping at a market ...
...or a fine department store.
Had I been in a country where the language was more of an issue (possibly Eastern European, Russia or Asian) or if I felt there would be security issues, I might have a different feeling. But we were very pleased to have had the fun of planning and making our own arrangements and saving money. In fact, planning is half the fun!
More to the point, by doing our own itinerary, we were responsible only to ourselves and if we chose to modify it, all it took was a discussion. Remember when I said "My first travel rule is to make a detailed itinerary -- and then blow it out of the water"? When you travel independently, you can do that. And let me tell you, with my foot issues, that became pretty necessary at times. I had to forsake Windsor Castle -- but we had a wonderful river cruise, unexpected, that I would have been sad to miss.
Had we purchased a museum pass or attraction pass in either London or Paris, we may well have saved money on admissions and time in lines (although we really only had one line of any length). But those are usually used within a limited time period and being there for more time gave us the flexibility to group attractions to a neighborhood and not worry about meeting a deadline.
How did we work things out financially? Essentially, we split everything down the middle except shopping. Before we left, I made the hotel and transportation arrangements, keeping track of the total costs. When we arrived, Rick would withdraw ATM cash with a card that had a no-transaction cooperative arrangement with both a French and British bank. I would mark down how much my share of that was. We generally split meals, tickets, everything, keeping a fair accounting. When we returned home, we tallied up who had spent what and evened up. (Obviously, I spent more on our duo-tally than Rick because a girl's gotta shop!) It was a good method that worked for us, saved ATM fees and it was fair.
I should also add that if I was doing this trip on my own, my $3,400 of that total would increase, due to single rooms in hotels (as mentioned above) and, I would suspect, airfare would be much more since a bargain flight like we got might be a thing of the past. Still, it would be well under the $6,000+ of the 13-day Italy group tour. I wouldn't hesitate to travel alone to either of these cities in terms of safety or language issues (and will again).
We were lucky in traveling and the season that we could pack within a carry-on suitcase for the luggage rack. (That's harder if you're going when it's colder because of the clothing bulk). I think probably the only thing I would change packing-wise is adding another short sleeved top, because you can always layer and you never know when the weather will be unseasonably warm. (It was.) Or another button cardigan vs. an open one so I could layer if it was colder than planned. (It definitely wasn't.) Minor things. I was certainly shedding layers!
I would consider bringing pain patches and more advil than you think you'd need if traveling in a country with a language barrier. We were lucky to have Jerry in Paris. In England I could buy breakaway ice packs for my foot. If I'd packed them, TSA probably would have confiscated. Yes, you can buy things there. But sometimes it's not as easy as it might seem.
If you are lucky enough to have blog or real-life friends in any cities you might be visiting, it's well worth asking for some recommendations. I did that and thanks to you saw some things I might not have seen otherwise. And, because I didn't get to all of those, I have more than a few items for the next-time list! Jerry in Paris and Jenny and T in London were gracious in showing us around to things we might not have otherwise found.
|The Musical Museum in London|
|At Gunnersby Park|
That reminds me, if you have some sort of disability -- and by this I mean something where it would be uncomfortable to stand in a line for any length of time -- be sure to get a note from your doctor before you leave. We learned later that this would have got us immediate and often free admission to a number of Paris museums. Fortunately, our friend Jerry knew how to present the case in French and we were able to get through with my bad foot, even though I wasn't on crutches or (then) using a wheelchair. I think a companion is included in the free admission.
And one other thing -- don't hesitate to split up and do something not up your travel partner's alley. Rick had the best time cycling around London with T while Jenny and I went to Kenwood House.
And while he was cycling in Bath, I was exploring the Cotswolds.
Rick said before we left, "This is your trip, the trip of your lifetime. I'm along for it." But I never wanted it to be that way -- I wanted it to be "our" trip -- and I think it was. We both got to do things that didn't grab the other and we got to do most all of it together.
In fact, that time was the longest we had been together, 24/7, in 23 years! And we still are, bad foot and all.
We gave it two thumbs up.
Sharing with: Let's Add Sprinkles / Best of the Weekend