Monday, August 26, 2019

Baby AF Goes to Europe

Baby AF Goes to Europe
After a two year haitus while Mrs. Done by Forty was pregnant and, then, while she was somehow finishing her PhD dissertation and dealing with all the stresses of Baby AF's first year of life, we are finally taking another international trip next month. And this time, Baby AF is along for the ride.

With apologies to our fellow travelers who will have to deal with some crying and constant complaints to crawl/walk down the aisles of the plane, we're sucking it up and making it happen.

So I figured I'd dust off one of my favorite posts to write: a summary of the trip we're taking, and how we're trying to keep the costs down using some points.

We'll be staying in five cities in three countries over twenty three days: going from Paris, to Nice, to Lyon, to Geneva, and ending the trip in Munich for Oktoberfest, if only to get Baby AF into lederhosen. Depending on how well Baby AF naps in a carrier or in the stroller, we'd like to take some day trips as well.

Unlike our normal trips where I maniacally plan out activities for each day (thanks to the Visit a City app), we're going to try to be more flexible this time around. We'll see how that goes.

As for the flight, we opted to not bring a car seat and instead go with the CARES harness that loops around the back of the seat, and operates a bit like a forward facing car seat. We're not entirely sure how much we'll use it, but it's small enough to stuff in a backpack if we don't want to use it for a bit: one of us can hold Baby AF while the other stretches out on the extra seat.

And one thing is for certain, we didn't want to lug a car seat around to five different cities.

Baby AF Goes to Europe

Once we land, we'll be relying on public transportation instead of Ubers and cabs. We're planning on bringing the stroller, one big hiking backpack for all our stuff (packing light), and a pack and play for Baby AF to sleep in. We did a dry pack on Sunday and here's our set up for how we'll get from the metro station to the AirBNBs:

Baby AF Goes to Europe
Yes, this voids the warranty.
We've got the pack and play in the bottom of the stroller, and the pack strapped up top. An odd set up for sure, but my thought is that I'd rather trudge the final mile or two with Baby AF in a carrier on my back than that heavy ass backpack.

Thankfully we'll only have this weird set up on days that we're traveling to a new city.

So that covers all the logistics of how we'll hopefully transport our stuff and our progeny from place to place. Let's sum up the costs of all the various parts of the trip.

The airfare: 180,000 American Airline miles & $317 in taxes.

We're flying in to Paris, taking trains between each city, and then finally flying out of Munich. I think the travel hackers call this an open jaw flight. We have two flights going in each direction, thankfully with short layovers: there are just so few options going direct to Europe from Phoenix, so this is typically as good as it gets for us.

The costs are a bit higher than normal because we bought a seat for Baby AF, and because Germany has a costly departure tax that is based on the length of the flight leaving Germany, which accounts for the majority of the dollars we paid.

AirBNBs for 3 nights in Paris, four nights in Nice and five nights in Geneva: 12 nights, $1,219 gross, but only $109 net cost after applying $1,110 in cash back bonuses from two Savor cards.

On all our prior trips, we'd just pay for AirBNBs out of pocket and figure we were still coming out ahead because we were also getting some free hotel nights and free airfare. So if we, gasp, had to use some dollars, what's the big deal? But with our balooning 2018 budget, I figured we'd use our travel hacking skills to try to needle this down a bit, too.

Hotels in Lyon & Munich: ten nights, 240,000 Marriott points & $42 in taxes/fees.

This ended up being a whole mess of Mariott/Bonvoy points (with inflated room costs in Munich due to Oktoberfest) but I suppose that's what we got the points for in the first place. And, at least by our standards, the two hotels are fancy. Like, Westin fancy. (We may be the people who lie on the Westin bed and then talk about buying the Westin bed.)

Trains between cities: $535

This is the one area where we didn't use points to our advantage at all. I'd mistakenly thought the trains would be cheaper when researching on seat61.com (a fantastic resource for train travel but quite optimistic on prices). There are only four train segments but they really added up quickly. Anyway, if we had it to do over again I'd try to use something like Capital One Venture miles to reimburse this cost. We're talking about taking Baby AF on another trip abroad next year, so maybe we'll do it better the next time around.

Net dollars for the trip: $1,003

This obviously doesn't include things like meals, public transit, and activities. But I've never been one to get too into the weeds on that stuff because we'd be spending a lot of that money at home, anyway. I figure we were going to eat and have transit costs and do stuff back home, too, even if a good bit more cheaply than we'll be able to do on vacation. Maybe if I'm feeling bored after the trip I can come back and edit the post with the final costs of the trip.

But maybe not.

As far as the blog while we're away, the three of you readers need not worry: I bought a little bluetooth keyboard that works with my phone, so you can continue to get your fix of liberal guilt posts every Monday.

As always, thanks for reading.


*Photo is from zoetnet at Flickr Creative Commons.
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19 comments:

  1. Enjoy your trip! We waited until we didn't need a stroller anymore before taking a trip. It sounds like a pain to take oversea. A trip is so much easier now that our son is a bit older.
    I think you'll still have a great trip. Can't wait to read more.

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    1. We were thinking of not even bringing the stroller because he also likes just being in the carrier. But that has its own drawbacks, too: he's pretty heavy so lugging him around all day could be tricky. I figure this way we'll have the choice of what to bring each day (or both).

      We could have just waited, but to be honest travel is such a big priority for us and we've already waited two years...we just didn't want to keep putting it off, just because of the kiddo. And we might have another in the next couple years: we figured we should at least see what traveling is like with a little before deciding it wasn't for us, you know?

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  2. Sounds like you did a great job frugal-izing this trip! The train costs in Italy surprised me, too. At the end, I didn't like having to adhere to the schedule, so I decided it would be better to change the car rental to a one-way.

    Also, I'm jealous you were able to use Capital One cards. I'm currently semi-blacklisted due to opening too many cards. The Venture is super useful!

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    1. Hi, Luxe! We just signed up for the Capital One Venture card but it will ironically be used for a trip to Italy NEXT year, or at least that's the plan. Maybe we'll earmark it for trains. ;)

      I like the idea of a rental car, too, but the parking. Did you find parking to be pricey in Italy or was there a good bit of free parking?

      Would love any tips you can offer there. Thanks, friend!

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    2. I did a ton of car research before the Italy trip, and I was a little nervous, because I couldn't quite 'visualize' how driving was going to go or where we would park in these medieval town. But it was totally fine!

      My tip is to make sure you understand ZTL rules, know what the speeding cameras look like, plug in 'parking' onto Google maps and look for the P signs on the map, and get out of the way when a speedy Italian is on your tail :). Parking was generally free or super cheap. Hardly an expense at all, but we didn't dare drive in the actual cities (Milan or Florence).

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  3. Well done on the cost! And +1 for the CARES harness. Totally worth the cost.

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    1. Thanks, Angela. We weren't totally sure it would be as good on the flight as a car seat but I think once we land, we'll be glad to have one less thing to lug around.

      Fingers crossed that he'll sleep in that thing with the seat reclined. :)

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  4. I am highly impressed with your worked out logistics and what feels to me (an old fuddy duddy!) like an ambitious itinerary. I hope y'all have the best time ever.

    The packing plan looks good - you may prefer to stick with the baby carrier but no one wants to have to carry the baby in front and a huge backpack on your back! At least we don't :)

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    1. Hey there, Revanche.

      You're right: it's totally an ambitious itinerary. It's always been our take that you really can take in a city in 4 or 5 days, so we end up seeing a lot of places on our 2-3 week trips.

      Baby AF is going to test the wisdom of that approach this time around. If all that intercity travel is a pain, then when we go again next year we'll stay in fewer cities, and more days in each.

      And I totally agree with your take. I easily could see us not using the stroller some days. But if my hernia acts up or one of us ends up with a sore back, we'll be VERY happy to have the stroller as an option for Baby AF, or even just to carry our stuff on days we're traveling.

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  5. Wowza, that's a lot of planning. I'm having trouble hammering out the logistics of the five days before FinCon! So I tip my hat to you, sir, for going to five cities, even if you're not meticulously planning your activities.

    I'll be excited to read about your adventures!

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    1. Thanks, Abby! Every time we travel, the blog ends up morphing into a bit of a travel blog for a few weeks. Though I'm considering just writing my normal "there's something wrong with the system" posts, and sprinkling in a bunch of photos for funsies.

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  6. PS, so far 5 people have commented. So clearly there are more than three of us ;)

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    1. Ha! True. But the joke works better if there are only three of you. ;)

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  7. "As far as the blog while we're away, the three of you readers need not worry".

    Checking in just to say I still read, but don't comment much. Crazy busy year. Have fun!

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    1. Tin! It's good to hear from you. Sorry things are crazy busy but I hope things are good otherwise. Hang in there!

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  8. Sounds like you have worked it all out. I hope it goes as smoothly as you have planned. The thought of traveling to Europe exhausts me. I have a friend in Hungary who has been trying to get me back there since I was there in college. I'm always saying "maybe next year". I'm running out of excuses.

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    1. Hey there, Daizy!

      I'm pretty sure it won't go smoothly and that there are probably many things we didn't or couldn't have planned for. But travel is important to us: it's one of the things we love most, so we at least want to give it a shot with Baby AF and see how it goes. If it ends up being a disaster, at least we can take a break knowing that we tried, you know?

      Hungary is lovely, too. Budapest is one of our favorite places.

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  9. Sounds fabulous! My friends took my godson to Italy recently (he was about 10 months when they went) and had a fabulous time even with the necessary adjustments of travelling with a child. They just fed him gelato to keep him happy.

    Lyon was one of my favourite places in France. The food is just amazing! They have a farmers' market along the river where you can buy bread/cheese/meat...definitely check it out if it's on while you're there. I have pictures of myself standing on a bridge eating a sausage that had been cooked in herbs from the market. Yummmmm!

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    1. Thanks so much for the tip, friend! We'll be there for five days so fingers crossed that covers the day of the farmers' market.

      And we may take a day trip into Italy from Nice so maybe Italian gelato is in our future. ;)

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