European Vacation: Where to Stay?

I’ve written about everything else having to do this trip. As a brief update to the rental car situation, after speaking to some friends about rental cars in Austria and Slovakia, we finally found one that just charges 30 Euros to go over to Slovakia, as opposed to 30+ Euros per day. So we’ll be avoiding doing the whole Vienna to Bratislava bus trip, opting instead to just get the car right in Vienna. (We even got a nicer, bigger car, on the theory that we want to be sure everything we have (children, luggage, stroller, car seats) actually fit into said automobile. Nothing worse than showing up and finding your stuff won’t fit into what you rented. That almost happened to us when we went to Germany at Christmas. Now we’ve got an additional family member . . .) Total cost for the car for two weeks? $475. Could have been better, but since I was expecting around $600, it could have been worse too.

On that note, I figured I might as well give you all an update and talk about how to select a hotel over in Europe or abroad. At least, this is how I do it. When I get hotels on my own or on trips where we have a rental car, the process is a lot different. I focus on some different things: price, and parking. For Paris, we wouldn’t be getting a car, which saves us money, but also complicates matters some.

The trick is, you have to envision exactly what you’re going to be encountering when you get over to your destination. In this case, we’ll be getting off in Paris with at least three pieces of rolling luggage, five backpacks, a stroller, and a carseat. With all of that stuff, we’re going to need to somehow get from the airport to a hotel without losing our minds.

So step one is to figure out what mode of transportation will work best. Hard to just hail a taxi, since we’ll have so much stuff. Also, some taxis have issues with babies and car seats. I don’t like leaving things to chance, so taxis were pretty much out right away. There are shuttle services, but they cost 20 euros/person, one way. Paying over $90 just to get to the hotel wasn’t too appealing, so it looked like we’d be going the public transportation route. Easy when you’re on your own. Harder when you’re loaded with luggage and little kids.

With this in mind, my main goal became to find a hotel on a direct route from the airport. Transferring between subway stations with all that stuff would be much less than fun. So I researched Paris public transportation to find out what the easiest way into the city is. Turns out it’s the train, which stops right at the airport and takes you right downtown. (And you can buy three day train/bus/subway passes, which will come in handy when we’re actually touring the city.)

With that in place, I needed to find out where the train would stop, and then look for hotels within easy walking distance of those stops.

See what I mean when I say it’s harder than just typing in a check in/check out date and your destination city? Sorting by price is also less than helpful. I’m all about location. Thankfully, most engines will let you view your results on a map. That’s the option I used for this. Doing that, I discovered a hotel right across the street from one of the main railway stations. It wasn’t a great hotel, and it wasn’t fantastically reviewed, but it was okay, and it was $200/night. (More than I’d like to pay, honestly, but doable). (I was using hotels.com for this search.)

Now that I had a feel for hotel prices and amenities, I checked another source I’m fond of: vrbo.com. Vacation Rentals By Owner. It’s how we got a place to stay in Quebec and Utah last year. You end up staying in someone’s actual house or apartment, which means a different experience than a hotel. Better in some ways, worse in others. I would never go to a place that hasn’t gotten a lot of good reviews, but if I could find one . . .

Which I did. A great one bedroom suite just across the street from Notre Dame, only 1 minute from the train station right smack dab in the middle of the city. It’s got a fridge, microwave, and beds for everyone. Not spacious, but neither was the hotel. And it only cost $206/night. Sold! (You can also use airbnb for this type of search, but I’ve found they sometimes end up being more expensive than vrbo, which is my first choice.) This way, we’ll be staying right in the heart of the city, which will make seeing the sights with a two year old ever so much easier. (When you’re in the outskirts and you need to go back to the hotel, you lose a lot of time heading back. Being in the thick of things is a ton better. And this was hardly any more money. Very pleased.)

Anyway. Almost everything is set for the trip now. We have the tickets taken care of, hotels arranged, car reserved. All that’s left is the fun stuff: deciding what to do while we’re there.

As always, if anyone has any questions about the planning process, you have but to ask. Thanks for reading!

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