At this point in my story, you are probably wondering how on earth (broke as we were) we could afford to go to France every summer.
For one thing, going to France is the reason we couldn’t afford anything else. For another thing, going to France to visit family isn’t nearly as expensive as a tourist vacation. But there is more to it than that, there are plenty of things we did that you can do too…
Really, the way we made it to France was that my husband invested every ounce of his remaining energy after work and homework to make the trips to France happen. Air miles helped. We are still loyal to one airline regardless where we go (which isn’t much of anywhere in my case… but my husband does travel to conferences for work). My husband also scoured the internet for credit card promotions offering air miles. We never spent a cent unless it was on a credit card that gave us air miles and he religiously paid off the debt ever month (until we couldn’t afford to keep up anymore).
The biggest help was the years that we managed to get “bumped” off our flights: we were flying on a very popular flight (to Paris) at a popular time (summer vacation) and the airline would often overbook thinking some passengers wouldn’t make the flight… but they often did. The airline had to make room in the plane and to keep everyone happy (because we had all paid for a seat). They offered ticket vouchers to the gracious people willing to wait for the next flight. So, we were very gracious. 😉 –That was super. Sure, we often had to delay our trip and entertain our tiny travel companions at the airport for hours or until the next day. But, it was a small inconvenience for the ticket vouchers that would cover most of the next year’s flight.
When our airline changed their system and the bumping ticket vouchers dried up, that’s when we couldn’t keep up with the credit card payments and began to slip into debt. Debt, slight though it was thanks to my husband’s vigilant thrift.
Eventually, my husband (Francis) even managed to find a summer job in Paris.
So this is how we did it (and, so can you!)…
FRANCIS’ TIPS FOR GETTING CHEAP TICKETS TO PARIS:
- Be loyal to one airline, Sign up for their frequent flier program and collect “Miles” which can be redeemed for flights
- Sign up for affiliated credit cards when they have special promotions offering 40,000- 50,000 mile bonuses for signing up
- Use the credit cards that give “Miles” to pay for everything possible and pay off your credit card in full at the end of every month
- Cancel the credit cards if they start charging you an annual fee or call and threaten to cancel so they wave the annual fee
- Whenever possible fly during the “off” or “shoulder” season for cheaper prices and when you fly during the “peak” season let someone at check-in know that you are willing to be bumped (don’t wait for an announcement to be made at the gate when there could be a rush on the desk). Plan to be bumped when you choose your dates and return home a day before you have to be at work in case you need to spend an extra night at the airport.
FRANCIS’ TIPS FOR SAVING-UP FOR THE TICKETS:
(A.K.A. BONUS NO-FRILLS TIPS FOR THE TRULY MOTIVATED):
- Turn down the heat at night, keep the air conditioning to a minimum and turn off lights and unplug appliances that are not in use
- Cancel your Cable TV subscription and give up any extra channels like HBO; limit yourself to Netflix “basic” plan which is cheaper than Amazon Prime – tell yourself HD is a luxury
- Switch your internet connection to the slowest plan above dial-up –sometimes the system may get overloaded when you are streaming, only one or two people can use the internet in the house at a time and you may have to wait a while for pages to load (but that’s a small price to pay for your trip to France)
- Limit yourselves to one car per family of four –there will have to be compromises like dropping each other off places, and taking turns going to activities at conflicting times
- Search for better rates and switch things like car insurance
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: No cell phones –or at the very most a prepaid flip-phone (if you must have a cell phone, look into the low-cost spin-offs of major companies to get cheaper plans)
FRANCIS’ TIPS FOR “EARNING” MONEY FOR THE TICKETS:
(A.K.A. MORE BONUS NO-FRILLS TIPS FOR THE TRULY, TRULY MOTIVATED)
- Don’t buy things. Seriously, limit purchases to bare necessities (“A penny saved is a penny earned.” –Benjamin Franklin)
- Do it yourself (or have your spouse do it). Instead of hiring a plumber, roofer, gardener, housekeeper or any other specialized tradesman to work on your house… try to do the work yourself using You-Tube videos and advice or help from knowledgeable friends and acquaintances.
- Don’t eat out or limit yourself to occasional meals at reasonably priced establishments (Cook elaborate meals for yourself at home.)
- Have a yard-sale
- Get a short-term extra job
FINAL TIP: 17. While you scrimp and save, always keep in mind Francis’ favorite French proverb “Small streams make great rivers.”
And after all this, it’s… Bon Voyage!