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Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to Europe(16 posts)

Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to EuropeAllUpHill
Jan 5, 2004 6:00 PM
I'm thinking about a quick-n-dirty cycling trip this summer. I know a lot of you good citizens have traveled overseas for similar trips, while I've never been off North America. Maybe you could help me get an idea of the total damage I should expect.

Here are the hypothetical criteria:
*10 days on the ground + time for flight to/from U.S.
*No organized touring packages.
*Nothing extravagant required in the way of lodging and food. Just the economical basics. But no camping.
* No traditional american tourist items on the agenda -- no visits to museums, Eiffel towers, cathedrals, ski resorts, or vinyards.
*Ground to cover, if time allows, might include the Massif Central, the Alps of France and Italian/Swiss border, all the way over to the Dolomites.
*Ground transportation probably by rented car, not by cycle-touring -- less rustic and macho, but suspect I could cover more ground. Or maybe some combination of the two.
*The trip should not overlap Le Tour -- I'm not interested in all the fiasco, hooplah, and bru-ha-ha (sp?). Just some good riding in the Holy Land of cycling.

Flight, rtp: ~$1300
Flying w/ bike: $70 x 2 ?
Must buy bike case: ~$350
Car rental + car fuel: ?
Lodging: ?
Food: ?
Other necessary stuff: ???

Don't spend too much time on it. Just looking for a ball-park figure.
re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to Europemapei boy
Jan 5, 2004 6:40 PM
Whenever my wife and I do Europe on the cheap, it always ends up about Three Grand for about two weeks. Of course, we never rough it. We try to stay in two to three star hotels. It's nice to have a toilet in your room, and not down the hall. Try the Let's Go Guides for hotel tips. For France, try Michelin's Budget Hotel guide (the exact name of which I forgot, but which did us fine last May.) Rooms at the two star level usually cost about 60 bucks a night. Last May, the Diesel Citroen we rented in France cost us about $50 a day. A fill-up was about $35. An excellent car, by the way. Don't forget about tolls.

If you order frugally, food at that delightful sidewalk cafe runs about 10 to 15 bucks a meal. At that price, the quality can sometimes be so good, you'll weep that you can't get stuff like that back home.

Shine on the museums if you must, but by all means go to the cathedrals. They're free (though of course you SHOULD put a tiny donation into the donation box). You see great art and great architecture, all at your own pace. You can sit down and rest your feet.

Anyway, just do it. You'll love it.
re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to EuropePeterRider
Jan 5, 2004 7:52 PM
* 1300 - is it so expensive now ?? buy in advance... if it was me, I would be happy around 700-800, and not satisfied over 1000. But now, the $ is weak...
* I guess cost of bike trip depends on the company. If the employee at the desk likes you, you don't have to pay the $70.
* bike case. Is your bike worth so much that you need one ? otherwise, get a bike box and pack it correctly. If it's good enough for your bike to be shipped from the manufacturer to the shop, it's good enough for overseas travel. Airport employees are not worse than UPS employees...
* car rental - no idea. Fuel: 1euro / liter last week.
* lodging: if it was me, would be sleeping pad/sleeping bag, cost 0. But you say no camping... in a small mountain town, I've seen a hotel room for as low as 15 euros including breakfast a couple weeks ago.

* other necessary stuff:
- maps ! The IGN ( or something like that) makes some "cartes de promenade" very good. I think 1/100000. I used them, you combine them with a global map of France and you're all set. Didn't even have to use the gps.
- a handlebar bag. That's really a great thing. You put in it: maps and a bit of food.
- suncream, bath suit to jump in rivers, waterbottle with integrated filter (Katadyn makes one), camera, lights, reflective clothes (french people drive fast. Fast like, real fast).

Where's this picture taken ? I would say southern alps, in Provence relatively close to Italy.

re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to EuropeAllUpHill
Jan 5, 2004 8:58 PM
Pierre and Mapei boy, merci de vos infos !

The photo is from the Vercors, around Grenoble. More photos here:

I had only looked for airfare prices on, and $1300 was typical for flight dates June though August (including non-direct flights, from a variety of airports in the states near me). I believe I found one flight out of dozens approaching $1100. But, it's probably safe to say I don't know where to find good air prices.

Philosopically and financially, I like the idea of cycle-camping. My balls just aren't that big when push comes to shove. I don't need luxury, but after a long summer day of traveling and riding, you really can't put a price on a shower, a good bed and a roof.
re: Airfare tipteoteoteo
Jan 6, 2004 5:20 AM
The airfare will hover around the 1100-1300 amount until you leave so don't be afraid to wait a little while you search. Last year I flew American direct from DFW to Paris for $535 round-trip and the fare popped in sometime in March--I remember it was before the war started. I got the fare on travelocity I think. Last year was the first time I started searching so far in advance. Also go to Orbitz and set-up the fare searcher program that will mail you if low fares become available.

Anyway, the most I have paid is 900 and paid around 750 twice so be dilligent and you can bring the airfare amount down. FWIW the airlines I have used were British Airways, Air France, American, and Continental.
I bet if you travel on July 4th or July14th it will be cheaperPeterRider
Jan 6, 2004 10:48 AM
I came back on Dec31 and paid 440 euros round-trip, if I had come back on Jan2-3 it would have been more like 800 euros.

I usually look on travelocity, expedia, I priceline a couple of prices, also, the french

Found a good source of maps, if anyone's interestedAllUpHill
Jan 6, 2004 7:50 PM
Topo and relief maps, road atlases, special purpose maps, on and on.
re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to Europelyleseven
Jan 5, 2004 8:45 PM
Get a hard plastic box to ship your bike. Cardboard, no matter how well packed is more susceptible to damage and you may not be able to fix problem overseas. The disadvantage is that the hard case has to be stowed someplace and picked up later and a bike box may be obtained overseas to ship it back. If you have a car, no problem to leave it in car. Also, it will likely cost more than $70 to ship your bike even as luggage. With hard case, you qualify as luggage and with some airlines no extra charge. However, this has recently changed and airlines may charge you for bike regardless of how it is packaged. Check with them in advance as it could add as much as $100 each way. In June I flew my bike to Ireland in hard case (much more compact than cardboard box arrangement) and there was no extra charge. Remember, dollar is weak now and the euro is going for about $1.30 last time I checked. Good luck.
re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to EuropeTrent in WA
Jan 5, 2004 11:07 PM
A few things to consider:

1. Unless they've changed policies since we flew to Holland last summer, bikes fly free on international flights, and certainly on KLM/Northwest. KLM bike boxes are sturdy, cheap, and can carry a bike with minimal disassembly. Lufthansa's are much the same.
2. Depending on where you're going, you might be able to take your bike on trains for getting from region to region.
3. While you can blow a lot of money on nice hotels in Europe, hostels, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts are much thicker on the ground there than in North America, and are much cheaper to boot. We stayed in a reasonably nice hostel in Brughes during the high season for 16 euro a person / night. Even in the Alps, you could probably ride from hostel to hostel and cover a lot of ground without having to resort to a car.
4. And if you do have to resort to a car, most European train services are much better equipped for carrying bikes than ours are.

Your best bet, if you're keen on France and Italy, would be to look through some guidebooks to get a sense of what sorts of accomodations are available in the areas you want to tour. I'd recommend both the general country and the cycing-oriented guidebooks published by Lonely Planet. You might want to pay attention to timing: most of France takes its vacation in August and Le Tour is in July, so June might be your best bet for dodging crowds and finding ready lodging. But I suspect you'll be fine regardless.

Sounds like fun!Tiger Lilly
Jan 6, 2004 7:38 AM
One of my local shops rents out a Trico case, which I've used many times. Check your local shops to see if any of them rent. If you don't travel often, it's way cheaper. My shop charges $5/day. Also, Trico and Performance travel cases can usually be had for about $250-$275 with shipping. I just saw a couple new Tricos go on Ebay for about $225+ shipping just last week.

re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to Europems
Jan 6, 2004 7:39 AM
Lonely Planet's Cycling France is a good resource:

Airfares to Europe appear to be cheaper this year than last year or the year before. I would search regularly and then when you see a drop pounce on it. Play around with different airport combinations. For example, last year, flights from the DC area were cheaper from BWI (which required a transfer in Philadelphia on USAirways) than from Dulles. Flights to Paris usually are cheaper than to other places in or near France. On the other hand, places like Toulouse (for the Pyrenees) or Lyon or Geneva (for the Alps) may be closer to where you want to ride.

Car rental: The big variables are size and whether you want an automatic transmission. Look carefully at size of the cars offered -- you need something that will have enough space for your bike case. An automatic transmission car usually will cost substantially more than a standard transmission. Also fuel is expensive -- the price per liter in France is about the same as the price per gallon in the US. I would budget $400 to $600 for a car and fuel. It you are doing any driving on the autoroutes (equivalent of US interstate highways) be prepared for substantial tolls (like $10, $20 for a drive of a few hundred miles).

You say that you want to avoid France during Le Tour. I would reconsider that decision. In June some of the roads in the Alps and Pyrenees still may be closed or full of debris from the winter. In August everyone in France is on vacation and, thus, you have to compete for hotels, restaurants, etc., with everyone from Paris who is traveling in the same places you want to see in France. So long as you don't plan to be in an arrival or departure town on the day of a stage, I do not think that Le Tour would affect your July visit. And, you would have the added benefit of watching Le Tour on French television in a bar or cafe the way many people in France watch it.

Finally, France is a very tourist friendly country. Notwithstanding whatever disputes that there may be between the United States Government and the Republic of France, the French are very helpful to tourists and a bicycle is a special passport to the heart of many people in France. Bon voyage.
Little things that add upKeeping up with Junior
Jan 6, 2004 8:05 AM
My comments are based on one trip to Europe in '97.

You'll need a passport $100. Start now so you don't have to pay rush fees.

Bottled water. While we take it for granted that you can just turn on a tap and fill your bottles you may find yourself spending some $$ just to keep yourself hydrated.

Do they do organized charity (T-Shirt) rides in Europe? A few dollars/euros spent for registration would make for a fun experience. Meeting real people outside the tourist settings is great and I can't think of a better way to meet people (cyclist) than on an organized one day ride.

Bike case storage while cycling. Maybe work a deal with a hotel near the airport. The airports used to have long term storage, but this may be a thing of the past with security issues.

I thought bikes flew free on international flights as a piece of luggage. Once again, this may have changed.
re: Help me estimate the cost of a quickie trip to EuropeFender
Jan 6, 2004 8:14 AM
If you fly into London you can get a pretty good deal on airfare. Then just take a train into Paris or some other region. If you decide to take a train or two, don't buy the tickets in the US, buy them in Europe and travel on Intercity trains. I was in Europe a few weeks ago and I saved tons of money by doing that. As for airlines, try Virgen Atlantic. I got roundtrip tix from SFO to London for $450, non stop. this was in the low season, so your's will more than likely be more. Also, try staying in hostels. I paid about $22 Euros per night for a private room (with a friend). In Paris we where able to score a 2 start hotel for 19euros a night with breakfast.

Have fun, and don't forget to post a ride report.
Flying into Londonms
Jan 6, 2004 9:00 AM
There are some cheap fares to London -- In November, I got one for $630 for a trip this coming July. The hassle is getting from London to France -- going from Heathrow to another airport (see below) or to the train probably will cost you a day in travel time and $$ (or should I say Pounds Sterling). Also, if you go through the UK you will need to carry a third currency (Pounds) in addition to Dollars and Euros.

If you do fly into London, you can fly cheaply to France on EasyJet or RyanAir -- a lot more cheaply than to take the train. The only problem with these airlines is that you have to fly out of Gatwick or Stansted. Also, your bike will fly for free on a transatlantic flight (at least mine did in 2002 on British Airways and in 2003 on USAirways). But, you will have to pay a fee for your intraeuropean flights.
Thanks, everyone. Very helpful. nm.AllUpHill
Jan 6, 2004 3:47 PM
travel books--Rick Steves Europe through the BackdoorCoot72
Jan 6, 2004 8:35 PM
You can save money by reading some good travel books for people who want to learn the culture. I personally like Rick Steves. He finds good deals and tells you how to avoid all the usual tourist traps and find the real Europe. Any bookstore has them. Get "Europe Through the Back Door" and the country specific books by Rick Steves. I hope you get to go to Europe. Post some pics when you return!