This is a follow-up. You can see my first post on planning our European trip in September here. I covered the airfare search a little bit more on that post than on here.
The advantages of having ample time to plan a trip to Europe or anywhere is being able to conduct research or simply wait around for the best deals because one doesn’t have to scramble to cement his/her accommodations. Anyway, I have finished with booking our airfare. I’m rather pleased with how it all turned out, quite honestly. Have a look yourself. The below rates are per person and translated into American dollars (USD) and I have incorporated all international transaction fees.
Note that I said, “international transaction fees.” Capital One cards do not charge fees for making purchases in foreign currency. Bank of America/MBNA credit cards (which have now merged) do, and it’s 3% of the entire transaction. As far as exchange rates, Visa, for instance, have their own rates that they use to convert and they are the same across the board no matter what kind of Visa you own. I now know to always use my Capital One cards to purchase in foreign currency. No hassle, indeed. My recommendation would be to always check the policy in purchasing in foreign currency with the credit card company in question before you do so. Despite the charges, paying fees on an international transaction will often prove more of a bargain than isolating your quotes to what Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia can offer. Also to note: Europe never accepts Discover.
$362 USD (in US$) – Los Angeles to London Heathrow on Air New Zealand
$68 USD (from Â£) – London Stansted to Naples, Italy on easyJet
$95 USD (from â‚¬) – Naples, Italy to Munich, Germany on TUIfly
$365 USD (from â‚¬) – Munich, Germany to Los Angeles: on LTU
$890 USD - Total per person on airfare to, all around and back from Europe
I’m glad that our airfare rates are locked in, especially amidst news that the British Pound is now at its 15-year high.
Our hotels, however, are a different matter. Good thing we won’t need a hotel in London since so far, we’ve planned to stay with friends (thank you, lisa!). Well, until we realized that the Euro is also having its run against the dollar. It’s somewhat unsettling, but I’m hoping it’s hitting its resistance levels and will be better by the time we depart in September. *crosses fingers* Stronger dollar, please!!
While it’s no surprise that with airfare you pay in advance, I rose a bit of a stink about paying for hotel stays in advance. This is in light of the fact that it is now April, and we aren’t departing for Europe until September. Talk about loss of time-value; that is, 5 months’ worth. But that is exactly what Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia require you do in order to “make your hotel reservation”–pay up-front. Nagging thoughts about wanting to lock in my rates against a weakening dollar (The Yahoo! Finance headline of the day will do that to you) are trumped by the prospect of paying half the APR on that balance on my credit card.Â It made me wonder if there have to be smarter options.
Booking.com is that answer to your European vacations. In my experience, they offer even more competitive rates to the big three mentioned above, AND they only require a credit card number in order to hold your reservation with a pre-authorization only. Each hotel differs in their individual cancellation policies, but oftentime you can cancel as late as 2 weeks before your stay up to 72 hours or even 24 hours prior to your stay with no penalty. Payment is due at the time of your visit. And to think that you gain the hope that the dollar will be stronger than it is, now…
And so, here are the hotel rates for double occupancy I’ve “locked in”–that is, as far as Euros (â‚¬).
â‚¬240 – Naples, 3 nights in the Piazza Garibaldi
â‚¬280 – Amalfi Coast, 2 nights before/after friend’s wedding incl. patio on the sea
â‚¬85 – Naples, 1 night before taking off for Germany also in Piazza Garibaldi
â‚¬514 – Munich, 5 nights during Oktoberfest and very close to the S-bahn
â‚¬560 – (today: $760 USD) Total per person for hotel, that is â‚¬1120/2
If September Euro-to-U.S. Dollar exchange rates are the same in September as they are, today, our hotel and airfare total costs will be about $1650 USD per person for a total 15 nights (4 of them with friends). All hotel rooms were booked with booking.com with no money down. And that’s how good of an experience I’ve had with that site. Even more, I am most stoked with the fact that our hotel stays average–including during Oktoberfest–about $70 USD per person per night even converted into today’s weak dollar.
The only fixed expense left: booking a rental Fiat for a couple days to drive from Naples along the Amalfi Coast. (When it’s between a Fiat and a Ford in Italy, you have to understand that you just have to go for the Italian car. Manual transmission of course.)
Most useful websites:
Aggregator for intra-European flights; directs you to airline to make your purchase
Also for cheap intra-European flights, but they weren’t applicable for my destination cities this particular trip
Used for overseas flight deals
For those no-money down European hotel reservations; also quoted rates represent taxes and fees included