Written in mid-November
We always go on vacation, have a wonderful time....then come home to the massive credit card bills that we racked up on our trip.
Not this time.
We started a fund through SmartyPig.com a while back, where we put in a certain amount of money each month automatically from our paychecks. It earns about 2.5% interest, and we don't have to think about it and remember to put money in--it does it for us. This works for us. We are notoriously bad savers. We make twice the money we did 6-7 years ago, but other than the bigger mortgage, we don't really have any more 'stuff'. But we still have the same amount of spending money, it seems, and we are always broke. The more we make, the more we piddle away. So we started with Smarty Pig and now have funds for home repairs, savings, a new car (in a couple years), travel, and season tickets. Works for us.
Anyway, we figure we will have $1700 built up in our travel fund by April. We plan to exchange that for Euros and take it with us to Europe. The hotels we are staying at offer discounts if you pay with cash, so we are planning to do that.
Other ways we are working to NOT be in debt when we come home--we have already booked our main flight--it is paid for, months and months ahead of time. We are trying to spread things out so they are not all paid at the same time and lingering on our credit card. I think that is the beauty of planning a vacation so far ahead of time--you can slowly pay for things over time and not get hit all at once.
In January, we will book and pay for our big train tickets from Germany to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to Paris.
That leaves February and March for purchasing prebooked tickets to the Anne Frank House and the Eiffel Tower, among other attractions. There are new systems in place that allow you to book ahead of time, and avoid the notoriously long lines at the attractions themselves. We will pay a small service fee for the convenience, but we (mostly Ethan...), are NOT line waiters, and it is worth it to us. I think we will also prebook for the Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel and maybe the Roma pass, which is a great discount program for Rome--there are over a dozen places that take the Roma pass, and whichever two you do first are totally free, then you get discounts on the rest that you visit. It totally pays for itself if you make sure to go to the spendiest attractions first--mainly the Colosseum.
The downside to pre-booking/pre-paying for attractions is that you must choose exactly WHEN you will do them--the Anne Frank House gives you a one-hour window to arrive, as does the Eiffel Tower. But, in the long run, I think we can handle having to be at ONE place at a specific time. Not planning out our entire days with a set schedule, just making sure we hit THOSE places at a set time. We will see. Maybe this WON'T work and I will be back on here saying NOT to do this. But, I think we will be fine.
After all this pre-paying, and handing over Euros to pay for our hotels, we should have a couple hundred Euros left out of our vacation savings to use for small train trips in Germany, meals, trains/metro in Paris and Rome, other attractions, etc. I am SURE we will end up needing more money than we have, but at least a big portion will already have been accounted for.
We haven't done a whole lot more. Well, *I* haven't. Let it be known that I am the planner, and Ethan is the supportive, encouraging person who just wants to know what time the plane leaves. Not exactly, but something like that...
We are planning to book our Paris Hotel (Hotel Tourisme) next week, as well as the plane tickets from Paris to Rome. We went ahead and decided to take the early morning (7am) flight from Paris, because this gives us almost an entire day in Rome, whereas if we wait for the 1pm flight, we only have from about 3pm to do any looking around. And, lets face it--if we leave at 1pm, that entire morning will be us piddling around, waiting for our flight. Or waiting for it to be time to go to the airport. Or something like that. It is not like we will be doing touristy things. A wasted day.
We (I, remember??) have decided on a hotel for Germany. We are going to stay in Bacharach, along the Rhine river. The hotel is Im Malerwinkel, which means 'painters corner'. This particular area was popular in years past as a place to sit and paint the beautiful scenery. Gorgeous, and only a 5-10 minute walk from the train station.
Now, I am just waiting for this hotel to send me a confirmation email, and we are set. I have seen pictures taken by other travellers in Bacharach in early May (we are there the last week of April), and it is just so fairybook beautiful, I almost can't stand it. I finally sent my camera (my baby) off for cleaning, and expect it back in 6-8 weeks. I need to go buy some ginormous memory cards to bring with me, because I am SURE I will take a billion pictures every day. Even though I CAN download them to my laptop nightly. Nothing worse than a full memory card when you are out and about!!
So, there we are. Will have hotels/flight booked on the 26th of January, and will start booking the trains as each 90 day window comes up (can only book 90 days ahead of time--first one will be January 27, then the 30th, etc).
Almost for the fun part--what activities we will do. So much to choose from...so little time to see/do it all!