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by Jon Rawlinson via Wikimedia Commons

As you probably saw on my Facebook status updates, Marco and I have been busy planning our Christmas trip. In a good week or so, we’re off to France, followed by Germany, and then Italy. I am so ready for a break, it’s not even funny!! Money is much less tight than when I was a grad student, but I’m far from not caring how much I spend on my trips. So, instead I spend tons of time online looking for flights, for trains, for cars, for hotels and compare the different options. We have family and friends all over the place, so splurging on that one flight is out of the question, because there’s usually much more than just one flight involved. Of course these are just my experiences and I can’t promise they work for you. Anyways, here are some of the websites I use and things I do to save money and still have a great vacation. I split up the post into two parts. Here’s part I:

  • Flights

I look for flights on all sorts of websites and in all sorts of combinations of airports and dates. You can save a lot of money if your dates are a little flexible, so try +/- three days if you can. Usually our vacations are so tightly planned that we don’t have much wiggle room with the dates. So, instead of trying different dates I look for different airports or combinations of flights. For example, sometimes one-ways are cheaper if you have multiple destinations, sometimes combining a few flights into a multi-stopp flight make it cheaper overall, and sometimes it’s cheaper to book a round-trip with a fake return even if you only need the one way. I use Kayak a lot since they have multi-stop flight options, and a +/- three days option for one-ways and round trips. I also like that they let you narrow down when exactly you want the flight to depart/arrive. I also use Continental a lot since we’re both members of their frequent flyer program. It all adds up and we’ve gotten some free flights over the years 😉 I used to book flights in segments if it was cheaper (e.g., Houston – Paris and then Paris – Rome with another provider on the same day). I try not to do that anymore because if the first flight is delayed and you miss the connected, you have to pay for a whole new flight. We’ve been burned that way. Here are some other websites I use to look for flights: skyscanner, Opodo, and Kelkoo. And sometimes I just google “cheap flights” and try a few suggested websites.

  • Trains

Within Europe, it sometimes is cheaper or quicker or more comfortable to take the train. I really like this website for booking train tickets: TGV-europe.com. You can choose specific times and they show different options and prices in a really easy-to-understand way.

  • Cars

Sometimes we need to rent a car. I like it because you don’t have to bother people with picking you up at the airport and it gives you that extra flexibility regarding where you arrive and when. Sometimes it’s convenient or cheaper to fly into one airport and leave from another. In my experience, one-way rentals are not much more expensive (if at all) within one country, so you might wanna try that. I like the German-version of this website for European car rentals: billiger-mietwagen.de. They offer great insurance packages with the rentals, so you don’t have to worry about anything. Be careful with one-way rentals across borders… those can get expensive quickly! You can also check Kayak for good deals on rentals in English. However, I don’t like their insurances very much.

More on hotels, travel insurance, etc. in the next post. Happy travel planning until then 🙂

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