If everything goes according to plans, next summer my children and I will be saying bonjour to a wonderfully frugal family vacation in France.
I have been a Francophile ever since I was a little girl reading about a certain red-headed mischievous girl in Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline children’s series. Fortunate enough to have visited France three times already, I have dreamed about revisiting this magical country for the past several years, with my own Madeline in tow. I want to show my daughter and her younger brother the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, walk along the Seine River, explore Notre Dame Cathedral and discover the wonders that can be found amongst the cobblestone streets of the city’s 20 arrondissements.
Overseas travel though is expensive, and if one can find the funds to get there, then finding hotel accommodations is another great expense. I plan on purchasing at least two of my airline tickets using my American Airlines frequent flyer miles, assuming the airline will still honor them due to its recent bankruptcy filing. The other ticket I will buy well in advance, and just suck up the high cost.
Hotel prices will be another hurdle to jump over, but I have a plan. My well-educated and well-traveled professor of an uncle will be taking a yearlong sabbatical from Harvard University and has plans to rent either an apartment in Paris or a home in the southern part of France. He has already extended an open-ended invitation for my family and me to stay for a week or two, and I fully plan on taking him up on the generous offer. Wherever he decides to live is where my family and I will stay for the majority of our trip, in order to save the most money. Either way, my kids and I will take a 6-hour train ride to spend a few days in either the capital city or the scenic South of France. In the South of France, I plan to look up bed and breakfasts or find alternate living arrangements via the website Vacation Rental By Owner in order to save money over the typically overpriced hotels.
Meals are another way my family can curb costs. Instead of eating every meal at a restaurant, we will explore the many farmers’ markets that are common in French cities and the countryside. While the fancy white tablecloth service found in cafes and nicer restaurants is nice, nothing beats the farm-fresh taste of a fresh baguette or ham sandwich. And I think that’s something my kids and I can wholeheartedly agree upon, n’est-ce-pas?