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Europe Update: 5 months to go

by Karen on December 3, 2009

tower bridgeNow that we’ve booked our trip, there’s not a lot for us to do this month. Our flight is booked, and we’ve chosen our hotels. Our travel dates are set, and we’ve paid for the trip.

It’s been almost a month since we booked the trip, and I only have one regret so far: I didn’t use Ebates.com* when I booked the trip. I could have earned 2% back on the trip, which would have earned me about $70. It’s not a huge amount of money when you look at it next to $3500, but every little bit counts. That $70 could have bought us a pretty extravagant dinner in London. So I’m kind of kicking myself now. But I want to pass the lesson on to you: if you’re booking through Expedia, it’s absolutely worth it to go through Ebates! Don’t make the same mistake I did!

This month is all about research. We’ve made a tentative list of all the things we want to do and see while we’re abroad, and we’re making final decisions about what we’ll have time to do.

I’m also looking at discount cards for London and Paris. Both cities have discount “passes” that allow you to pay a single fee for free admission to a number of attractions. The passes are really only worth it if you plan to see a lot of the attractions available, so we’re trying to decide if it’s worth the money.

We made a list of the things we want to do without looking at the attractions available through the passes. Then we compared our list with what the pass offers.

The nice thing about the London Pass is that you can order it ahead of time and have it shipped to you. If you choose the option with transportation included, you can get right on the Underground from Heathrow and travel to the city with your pass. This would be incredibly convenient. Considering what we want to do in London and the cost of transportation, we’ve decided that the London Pass might be a good option. We’ll probably end up saving only a small amount of money, but the convenience will make it worth while. I added up all of our costs, and we’ll save a few dollars a day. But we’ll be able to skip lines, and we won’t have to worry about picking up Underground passes. I also think we’ll do more of the things we want to do if we pay ahead and we’re not counting dollars while we’re there.

The Paris Pass also includes transportation, but the attractions offered don’t line up quite as well with what we want to see. We’re still considering the option, but we might end up skipping the Paris pass and paying cash for what we want to do there.

To pay for the trip, I opted for the Capital One card. We’re charging all of our expenses on the card and paying them off right away. The card is interest free for the first year, we won’t pay any overseas transaction fees, and we’re earning 1% cash back on all of the money we spend. When we’re overseas, I plan to use the card to pay for food and other purchases that allow Visa. We’ll carry a small amount of cash, but I don’t want to get hit with high fees for ATM withdrawals and currency conversion. I also don’t want to end up with a bunch of pounds and euros at the end of the trip, so I want to keep our cash to a minimum.

That’s it for this month! Planning has actually been much easier than I anticipated so far. And next month we’ll be applying for passports, which we’re really excited about!

As always, I welcome any advice from seasoned travelers!

*referral link

Photo by anirudhkoul

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