Thursday, July 16, 2009

France on $70 a Day - The Plan

Although our airline tickets are not included in the $70 a day budget, you might be interested in how we got two round-trip tickets from San Diego to Paris for $1042.

I used frequent flyer miles, including buying some miles from my son's account, to purchase my ticket on March 3. With the processing fees and the purchase of my son's miles, my total was $291.

At the time I made my reservation, David's flight would have cost $1077. We decided to wait and hope for a price decrease. There are many free alert services available, but we used Kayak and asked for daily notification. (Sign up for a free account at to use the Alert feature.)

By the end of March, we were getting nervous. The price from San Diego to Paris had dropped slightly, but it was still closer to $1000 than we liked. We worried that David might eventually score a lower price by waiting, but we didn't know if it would on the same airline or on the same day. We didn't want to wave to each other from passing airlines or arrive in Paris on different days. We'd give it another two weeks, and then he'd have to bite the bullet.

On April 4, just a month after placing the alert, Kayak's daily e-mail told us that the ticket we wanted was $751! Since it was still five months before our planned departure, there were plenty of seats left on our chosen flight, and we had no difficulty making the reservation. Thanks to Kayak and David's patience, we saved $326!


After airline tickets, the largest expenditure for a trip is accommodations. In Paris, you can spend $20 a day for a hostel or $500 for a luxurious hotel room. Obviously, for us, the answer was not even in the middle of the two extremes. We wanted a place that was close to the hostel price—cheap, yet being centrally located was important, and we wanted to feel, if only for ten days, as though we were living like Parisiens. The search began.

David and I, using our separate computers, combed the Internet for apartments. We used many sites too numerous to list, but the source we kept returning to was Slow Travel. Here, travelers like us who eschew tours and like to wander leisurely, post their reviews of hotels and apartments. This is the site we used to find our perfect place in Paris.

We will be staying in the 10th arrondissement, a newly trendy area that Matt Gross, who writes the NY Times Frugal Travel column, says is called bobo for bourgeois bohemian. Our 350 square foot apartment is on the sixth floor—there's an elevator—and contains two separate sleeping areas, a fully equipped though tiny kitchen, living room and small balcony. We will have a washing machine and dryer, a dishwasher, a computer, telephone, television, and access to bicycles in case we want to see Paris on two wheels. The cost is 660 E, or $933 at today's exchange rate of 1.41, for ten nights.

The next portion of our trip will be in the rural Dordogne area of southwestern France. A Rick Steves guidebook helped us find this gite which consists of two sleeping areas, a fully equipped kitchen, living room, and garden. There, too, we will have a washer, dryer, and television. The most wonderful feature about this property is that it's only thirty yards from the beautifully restored medieval city of Sarlat-le-Caneda. The cost is 450 E or $636 for eight nights.

So, we're spending roughly $87 a night, or $44 per person, for an apartment in two areas of France. Even Matt Gross, NY Times's Frugal Traveler, would approve of these prices, I think. And, if these apartments are as wonderful as we think they will be, you can be sure I'll be providing contact information about them in upcoming posts.

Practicalities -

Most ideas will be developed in much greater detail in subsequent articles, but this piece provides an overview of our plan.
This thread on Frommer's site lists numerous sources for locating a Paris short-term rental.

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