Budget Travel: London and French Riviera by the Numbers

We’ve been home from our latest adventure–12 days in London, French Riviera and Paris–for almost a week. I have so many posts and pictures and travel tips in my head, I hardly know where to begin. So we’ll start with the important stuff, like how this trip cost us less than $2,000 with a surprise twist at the end on how it will likely end up costing us almost nothing.

Buckingham-palace-tulips

Buckingham Palace, London

Flights: We flew American Airlines on miles. Our miles are from a combination of having the Citi Aadvantage card, utilizing the Aadvantage shopping portal, an occasional email complaining to customer service that my reading light didn’t work on a 9-hour flight, (netting 5,000 miles) and some actual miles from business travel.

We booked off-season and before the latest devaluation, so each round ticket was 40,000 miles with $86.40 in taxes and fuel surcharges. My Citi card also offers a 10% rebate on miles redeemed so 4,000 miles went back into my account for a net of 36,000 miles for my round trip ticket.

Hotels: We used points for all of our hotels but did pay to upgrade one of our stays. For London, we spent 3 nights at the Intercontinental London Park Lane. This is a 5-star hotel and I kept thinking I wasn’t classy enough to be allowed to sleep there. To book with points, Kevin and I both got the IHG Rewards Mastercard through Chase. The current sign-up bonus is 70,000 points but this expires June 29, 2016. At the time of booking, rooms were 50,000 points per night. We had some additional points from previous stays and the Priceless Surprises promotion to round out the required points.

In Nice, we stayed 5 nights at Le Meridien Nice. The total points needed were 64,000 (16,000 per night with the 5th night free). I applied for the American Express SPG card with a bonus of 25,000 points. I then referred Kevin for another 5,000 points and we collected another 25,000 points with his sign up bonus. Setting our car insurance and other monthly bills to auto-bill to the American Express topped off our points needed. We did pay to upgrade to a sea view room but could have kept our cost at $0, if needed.

Nice-hotel-view

View from Le Meriden Nice

Our last night (we thought) was spent in Paris at the Holiday Inn Charles de Gaulle for a convenient overnight stay close to the airport for our morning flight. We used another 20,000 points, also from the IHG Priceless Surprises promotion.

Other Expenses: The rest of our expenses were out of pocket cash. I’ve given a quick summary below of estimated costs in each category.

Easy Jet flight from London to Nice: $200

Misc Travel Expenses (taxi, subway, regional trains): $200

London Pass for 2: Approximately $250 (depending on exchange rate)

Train from Nice to Paris: $150 (Could be cheaper if booked further in advance)

Food: I’m not going to list our food expense because this is one area where it is up to your personal preferences and budget. We chose to go cheap for most breakfasts and lunches and splurge on dinners. Because we didn’t pay for flights and hotels, I was okay with more expensive dinners to enhance our trip. We dined at several amazing places that were definitely at the higher end cost wise, that normally wouldn’t be on our radar.

Eiffel-tower-paris

And the surprise twist: We were supposed to fly out of Paris on Saturday and our flight was cancelled. And I can’t really say I was upset about it other than wasting 10 hours in CDG. This worked to our advantage in several ways. We enjoyed another night in Paris with no hotel or food cost and because of the EU rules concerning delayed and cancelled flights, we’ll be able to file claims for 600 Euros each which almost covers our cash expenses. American also credited both of our accounts with 20,000 ‘apology miles’ which is almost enough for another round trip international flight.

12 days in Europe for almost no money out of pocket? I’m good with that!

 

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