Getting there and staying…

Well, staying temporarily.

Quite a Day. Louvre, Paris, France. February 2015.
Quite a Day. Louvre, Paris, France. February 2015.

If you’ve tuned in the last couple of weeks, you know that my focus for now is getting ready for my first leg of the book nerd tour during my reading week. So, the planning saga continues.

This week, I’m talking about major travel bookings—basically, travel and lodging.

You can look back at some of my first posts to get some break downs and comparisons of transportation and accommodation types and some tricks to save some money, so I’ll let you look back at those for more general ideas.

One of the things I learned this week is that France is expensive. This isn’t my first trip so I knew Paris, like many metropolitan cities, costs, however, last time I visited I was with family so didn’t see the bills to really understand how much.

In this expensive light, the best advice is to give yourself time to shop around and check all your options before putting any money or reservations down (not everything can be changed once you accept the terms!).

TRANSPORTATION:

When it comes getting to and around France you have some options but, in this case, time should be taken into account as much as funds.

If you are strapped for cash, coaches can get you from London to Paris at a cheaper rate than train lines, but they also take around 8 or 9 hours to get there. This can be a plus if you book an overnight bus and can sleep on long moving trips like these, but, if time is limited, you don’t want to waste a whole day on the bus. (Cost and time is also huge for traveling between cities—look at length of your trip as well as cost because cheaper trains may give you a nice experience but they can stretch the 2 hour train ride to 5 or more!)

Avoid some costs by research, booking early and seeing if you can find any discounts or coupons (no matter how you choose to travel!).

One item I forgot to look at (but really wish I had) is thinking about long term/whole trip travel. While it is generally thought (and in your average case true) that booking a return trip saves you time, money, and hassle, sometimes booking a few different one-way trips is a better way to go.

For me, for example, I’m going from London to Paris to Lyon. Thinking ahead, I could have booked one way from London to Paris another one way from Paris to Lyon, and then one way Lyon to London, instead of return trips between London and Paris and between Paris and Lyon. On the way back, I now have to pay for two trips between big cities (which adds up) but I also have divided my time in Paris to a few days at the beginning and a day at the end of my trip rather than three consecutive days.

This method does not guarantee savings but it is definitely something to consider when you are planning—one way tickets can really be your best friend! And, as always, read any and all fine print before you head out and buy anything (including how and where you get your tickets!).

HOUSING:

If you’ve read my accommodation breakdown mentioned above, you’ll know that I’ve grown to love hostels. For me, they are a great chance to meet people and make memories and stories that hold a unique quality you won’t find staying in private quarters, like hotels—though you do have to be wary of what you give up in terms of privacy and luxury.

This trip, I’ll be hosteling again but, for the first time, I am doing this alone—and I won’t lie, it’s a little daunting. For single travelers—especially young ladies—hostels are great and fun (and something that I think should be experienced) but you have to plan smart.

Look at the areas you are considering staying at and their security ratings. Weigh the benefits of private rooms, all girl dorms, or mixed dorms, but also the size (a mostly empty room may seem nice when you get a cheap price but sometimes you have to consider safety in numbers and look at fuller, larger count room). What I’ve experienced and heard, the communities at hostels are pretty safe (depending on WHERE in the world you go) and people look out for each other, but it’s always better to play it safe!

One thing about hostels is you ABSOLUTELY have to read all the fine print. Look at what is included (and not included, Wi-Fi, food, kitchen access, ect.), times for checking in and out (seriously consider 24 hour check in if you’re looking at cheap travel—off hours are cheap but don’t necessarily fit check in deadlines!), curfews and staff availability, late and cancellation policies, lean towards those that have luggage storage (and ask if you can use this after check out as well if you’re in the city longer than your checkout time), and obviously location.

I always map out where I’m coming in to the city, where I’m leaving it, and where I want to visit while I’m there before I look at hostels. You may find a really cheap place, but if you have to walk for hours (I’ve had this happen!) to get where you want every day or spend more money on transportation than you would have just booking a closer accommodation, are you really benefiting?

A Disaster in Planning: The hours of misguided hiking with all our baggage (in more ways than one!). Stratford Upon Avon, Summer 2013.
A Disaster in Planning: The hours of misguided hiking with all our baggage (in more ways than one!). Stratford Upon Avon, Summer 2013.

There is one thing that I’ve noticed in my French bookings I hadn’t seen before: most hostels I looked at didn’t allow access to your rooms during most of the day for cleaning (no siestas here!). This is important to consider because as a hosteller/ backpacker, sometimes you will want a quick lie in for an hour in the afternoon because you are moving around so much or just issues of jetlag. While this is your prerogative and we all want to see as much as we can when we visit new places, these limitations are something to really take into account.

The last thing I can think of is if you start and end in the same city, you don’t have to stay at the same place. Sometimes it’s nice because you’ll have some knowledge of the people and area but there is no obligation! If you hate where you are staying the first time around, look at the cancellation policy and find a new place to stay on the way back. However, don’t cancel until you have the other place locked in (you don’t want to end up with nowhere to stay!)

Anyway, that’s all for now folks. Thanks for sticking around!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

ps. Any stories or bits of advice are always fun, lovely and appreciated so comment below!

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Getting there and staying…

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