Thursday, February 13, 2014


Flying to Paris for a pittance is all well and good, but if you have to pay hundreds a day for a hotel, your savings are quickly frittered away.

That's why David and I find luxurious accommodations in every city we visit and always pay  m u c h  less than the cost of a five-star hotel and usually less than a bare-bones, toilet-down-the-hall hostel catering to backpackers.

Here's how we do it.

Instead of a suite in a hotel or even a private room in a hostel that may, if you're lucky, include a bathroom, we find apartments with full kitchens, a living room, and at least one bedroom.  They are always conveniently located so we can see the sites by foot or by public transportation, and most apartments ooze history and character.

This summer in Paris, we'll be at our favorite one-bedroom apartment in an historic building where we can catch the Metro just twenty steps from the front door or walk to the fashionable Marais district.  The cafe on the corner serves the best quiche we've ever eaten, and we're hoping the patisserie owner across the street remembers us.  Since this is our second visit, this time we'll get the better of that washing machine instead of the other way around.
Colmar, France (stock photo)
In Colmar, the Alsace area of France, we have a lovely one-bedroom plus sleeping alcove apartment reserved that's only a short walk from the "Venice in France" canal area.  We're also close to the train that will take us to the lovely cities along the Wine Route as well as to Strasborg, France, and Basel, Switzerland.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Fussen (stock photo)

 One of the places we're most excited about is located in the somewhat touristy city of Fussen, Germany, nestled in the Alps just a couple miles north of Austria.  Our dream of an apartment is furnished with antiques, boasts a kitchen out of House Beautiful, and features a glass conservatory dining room overlooking the garden!

Probably our humblest apartment is in the beautiful medieval city of Rothenburg, Germany.  Still, what our studio, with full kitchen and lounge area, lacks in size it makes up for in location.  It's in an historic building within the old city walls.  That means David and I will tour the town in the daytime, but we'll also see it after the busloads of tourists have gone.  We'll have the place to ourselves in the evening when gas lanterns lend the village a charm that is difficult to appreciate when battling hundreds of tourists thronging the alleyways.

Rothenburg, Germany (stock photo)
Our approach to accommodations means we have room to spread out and give each other privacy when the usually blissful 24-hours-together begins to grate, prepare many of our own meals, and feel like natives--if only for a week.  But the very best part of all is the price.  We may pay a little more for an apartment in one town and a lot less in another town, but the average nightly rate for each of us is $42.  Yes, as difficult as it may be to believe, that's 42 dollars, not euros.

I don't know if further proof is required that the Tightwad approach will save you money, but let me give you some comparisons anyway.

There's no point talking hotel prices because it's almost impossible to find a reputable hotel in any of these cities costing less than $50 per person and usually much, much more.  And, of course, none of the hotels has a full kitchen, a washing machine, or a living room.

Although this misses the mark quite a bit, the closest accommodation I can think of to use in a comparison, with some of the amenities we will have in our apartments, is a hostel.

Hostels were established a hundred years ago to provide a bed for people hiking or biking through the countryside.  Today, hostels still offer a cheap bed, often a bunk bed in a room with a few other strangers, and a sense of community in the shared kitchen or breakfast cafeteria, for a relatively low price.  Food can be prepared in the shared kitchen, there may be a TV in the lounge, and a laundry facility may be available for low cost.  Although it may be possible to have a private room which consists of a bed and a sink, or maybe a bathroom, most of the rooms must be shared with other people you probably don't know.

If you've ever been in a busy hostel, which is thriving because of continuous clientele turnover, I don't need to tell you how bare-bones most of them are.  With so many people passing through their doors, it's imperative to have easy to clean rooms.  These are truly basic, only-the-necessities rooms.   If you haven't seen a hostel in a while, click here for some photos of the Regent in Paris.

Compare those photos with our apartment in Colmar, France.
This is our living room.  A generously sized kitchen and dining room adjoin this room.

Bedroom in Colmar (photos from owner's website)
 And here is a photo of the conservatory dining room we'll enjoy in Fussen, Germany.
Obviously the apartments are castles compared to hostels, but what about price?

That's the truly amazing part.  In Paris the Regent Hostel costs $71.71 (all prices are per person for the same dates as our trip) for a double bed in a private ensuite room.  In Colmar, the Hotel Primo (Some hostels call themselves hotels because they offer several private rooms as well as dorm accommodations.) will rent you a basic twin private ensuite for $42.35.  As long as you don't mind sharing a bathroom, you can get a double bed private room in Fussen at the Old Kings Hostel for $41.65.  And in Rothenburg, if you're not fussy about being five minutes' drive away from the old city, you can get a standard double ensuite for $75.37 at the unusually lovely B&B Aparthotel Benji.  Note, though, that David's and my price of $42 per person for beautiful accommodations with every amenity imaginable cannot be beat.

With an almost-free flight to Europe using frequent flyer miles coupled with inexpensive accommodations, anyone can take a trip to Europe for very little money. It takes a little bit more time to find a lovely apartment than it does to choose a hotel, but the savings more than make up for it.  If you've always wanted to cross the pond but thought you couldn't afford it, I hope you're beginning to see it is a dream easily within your reach.


  1. WOW! Incredible. I've been following your site for some time now and I 'm always amazed at the quality and depth of your information. Your accommodations are stunning; I can feel myself having meals in that lovely conservatory. Can't wait for reports on your upcoming trip. Enjoy!

  2. Very interesting accommodations. Thank you for the post. Do you know if you could book them through booking sites such as I'd like to take my parents on such a tour through Germany but I wouldn't like to risk arriving into a full booked beautiful hotel...