One of the most expensive parts of traveling is the cost of transportation. If we were to pick one place to spend a year or two, we would save a lot of money; buy 3 round trip tickets and we’re done. But since we have decided to go all the way around the world in multiple jumps, we need to buy multiple tickets using a plethora (I have always wanted to use that word) of transportation options. In trying to keep to a very frugal budget, we need to use the cheapest, but safest, modes of transportation to get us from point A to point B. Although I have dabbled in the art of hitchhiking to save money on travel when I was younger, there is no way I would be willing to use that option with our daughter with us unless we were desperate. We are definitely too lazy to bicycle or walk across Europe like so many other adventurous people have done, so that leaves trains, planes, automobiles, and boats.
Renting a Car
One of the great things about renting a car to get around is being able to drive where you want and when you want. If you see something cool, you stop and check it out. Want to take the scenic route, not a problem. Driving yourself is the ultimate freedom in transportation, but it can also be a hassle. Sometimes driving in a foreign country can be a seriously dangerous experience. We have driven in parts of Latin America that have scared the crap out of us. We have heard that the drivers in Spain and Greece are some of the worst in the world and deadly car accidents are a common occurrence. Driving is always an option, but there can be more risk involved than taking other options.
Price: 24-hour car rental from Paris to Bordeaux France one way = $110 + fuel and insurance
Personally, I hate riding the bus. But for local transportation they can’t be beat for the tourist on a budget, but it really sucks having to wait around for them to come. But, they are far cheaper than taking taxis or renting a car. For longer distances you would think they would be a bargain, but in Europe the train is still a better deal and renting a car is not too far behind.
Price: Eurolines bus from Paris to Bordeaux France = $90 for 2 adults and one child
Europe has an amazing rail system. From high speed to the slower trains, they pretty much will get you anywhere. I have always heard that a Eurorail Pass is the way to go for traveling in Europe, but after looking into the prices, I have found that unless you want to be in a different city place every day that you are in Europe, buying train tickets as needed is the better way to go.
Price: High speed TGV train from Paris to Bordeaux France = $84 for 2 adults and a child.
If you want to get somewhere quickly nothing beats an airplane. But for short hops I personally would prefer taking ground transportation for the scenery. It is hard to see the sights from 30,000 feet in the air. But, it is still an option and good prices can be found. Unfortunately, when I looked it was the most expensive option.
Price: Paris to Bordeaux France = $330 for 2 adults and a child
Boats are probably not very practical for getting around France unless you have a barge, but ferries are a very inexpensive option for hopping across large bodies of water in other parts of Europe. In fact, if you do opt for a Eurorail Pass many of the ferries are included. But something I had never even considered for a budget minded tourist is booking a cruise. I was talking to a co-worker who travels to Europe often and he said Family Cruises can be a real bargain. He and his family just spent 2 weeks cruising Europe for $600 USD a person. That would only be $1800 for the 3 of us and would include all of our meals, lodging, and transportation for 2 weeks. Plus, we would get to see some places that we would not be able to see using our budget minded slow travel method. We did a Western Caribbean cruise in 2003 and an Alaskan Cruise in 2010 and enjoyed both immensely. So, we are going to be on the lookout for last minute deals and hopefully find something that will fit our budget. I have a feeling cruising in Europe would be a lot of fun.