The thought of taking a vacation out of the country can be quite intimidating when you are on a budget. London was a city that I always wanted to visit, but a trip this big seemed almost impossible for me. I knew this wouldn’t be cheap, and all of the financial obligations of paying bills and student loans didn’t make my odds more realistic. Although all of this made me hesitant, I was turning 30 and had to figure out a way to finally treat myself. So I decided to find a way to afford a 2-week stay in London and Paris and guess what? I pulled it off.
Formulate a Plan
Up until a few years ago, I always paid for my travels with a credit card. I figured it would be easiest to throw a trip on a credit card and worry about paying it back later. The problem is, my vacations didn’t end when I boarded my return flight. I was bringing my fun trips home with me, and adding to my debt, making them a lot less enjoyable. I am not knocking credit cards at all. I know that many cards are beneficial for frequent travelers. Traveling credit cards provide many great discounts, points, and perks for people that are always on the go. However, I do not believe that they are for everyone. Personally, I like to be done with my trip by the time I come home, and racing against the clock to pay the trip off before accruing additional interest, turned out to be stressful.
With the option of charging my whole trip out of the way, I decided to do a little research on the best way I can pace myself financially while still being able to plan the vacation that I truly wanted. Finally, I found my answer: Delta Vacations.
Delta Vacations is a great way to organize all of the details of your trip while being able to come up with your own payment plan to meet your financial needs. The popular airline will allow you to book your flight, hotel, and any additional accommodations (hotel shuttle, activities, and transportation to different cities). You can pay for the total amount at your own pace, the only prerequisite is a down payment when booking and full payment of the trip at least 30 days before your departure. My friends and I planned to take our trip in March 2019, so we decided to begin planning 6 months in advance. We knew that this would be one of our more expensive vacations and wanted to be sure that we all had enough time to pay this off at our own pace without any stress.
I started by calling Delta and getting all of the information needed to pass along to my travel group. Like I said earlier, they do require a down payment at the time of booking and at least one card on file for making payments (we had two debit cards on file to help us track individual payments a little easier). Delta would help us book the flight, hotel, and transportation from/to the airport. Payments could be made as often as we liked, as long as we kept track of how much was owed on the trip, who in the travel group paid what, and full payment was made at least 30 days before departure.
The payment process was straightforward. Anytime you needed to make a payment, you call the separate Delta Vacations line with your booking number on hand and pay over the phone. I know these days, many of us probably prefer paying online or through an app, but it was nice to speak to a representative each time just in case I had any questions, or if there were any trip updates. Since we had more than one card on file, we just needed to specify which card the payment would be made on and confirm the security code on the back.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that your trip needs to be paid off at least 30 days before you leave. If not, Delta will automatically charge the card(s) on file for the balance. If you have more than one card on file, you can tell them how much they can charge on each card. We told them to split it 50/50, but luckily we were able to avoid this as we made sure to have the trip paid in full before the deadline.
Another Pro Tip: If you are a SkyMiles member, make sure you provide them your SkyMiles number to be applied to the trip. Don’t miss out on stacking those points!
It’s All About The Details
So…now I had to wrangle in 6 adults for 2 weeks in London and Paris. How would we get there? Where are we staying? None of us have ever been to these cities before, so how do I know which area is best to stay in? Between my extensive research online and making friends with each Delta representative that I spoke to over the phone (all of them took full advantage of their travel perks and knew a lot about both cities), we figured it out.
We took a red-eye from our homes in Atlanta, which placed us in London the next morning. Our return flight was actually JetBlue (powered by Delta), which left London early morning and put us back in Atlanta that evening, with both flights lasting about 8 hours each.
I thoroughly enjoyed the meals on the planes, but I am also not a picky eater (I love all types of food, and if you find that I don’t eat something, it is more than likely because I am allergic). Other friends of mine were not fans, so perhaps grab a snack at the airport if you aren’t sure it’ll satisfy your palate.
This was a 2-week trip with only a short break in between to travel to Paris. With 6 adults that all have different personalities, I knew that our hotel accommodations needed to allow everyone enough room to breathe and hopefully not kill each other by the end of it all.
Pro Tip: This is not really a tip and more so a reminder. Ensure you travel with people that you truly vibe with. If you have any hesitancy about traveling with anyone, don’t do it. You will be spending a lot of time with them, and taking trips with people can really test your relationships. It can either go really well, and you bond or go terribly, and you come back with fewer friends.
With the help of Delta Vacations, we found the perfect hotel in a great area. We stayed at Citadines South Kensington London, which has apartment-style rooms with a full kitchen, living area, and bedrooms. We decided to book two rooms (3 people to each room), and both had two levels giving everyone enough space to feel at home for the next 2 weeks.
The hotel was in the perfect neighborhood of South Kensington and just walking distance from the Tube Station, Dining, Grocery Stores, and a short walk to Hyde Park, where many of us enjoyed morning runs.
Comment venir à Paris
How do you get to Paris? Well, we honestly didn’t know until we got to London. This was the part of the trip that we did not thoroughly plan in advance. Just so you know, Delta Vacations will include this in your itinerary, if needed, and will book the train ticket to Paris, any activities or tours around the city, and your hotel stay. They will simply add it to your balance, and the rules for paying it off remain the same. Since we were a little unsure about the details of the Paris portion of the trip, we decided to plan this individually.
We ended up deciding to just do one night in Paris. We booked train tickets and hotels separately. We stayed split 3 per room but ended up staying in two different hotels. The reason for this is because two people in our group used discounts from their jobs to get the best deal on hotel stays. My group ended up staying in Hotel Banke Opera for the night. Thanks to my friend’s work perks with Marriott, we were able to get a reasonable price.
In my previous posts, I’ve mentioned two things that are connected to the above. First, use your employee perks and make sure you sign up for any reward programs to save on a room. Second, save more money than you think you need for unexpected costs. Although the cost of traveling to Paris wasn’t necessarily unexpected, we were not 100% sure how much our going there would cost. Since this was last minute, all of us put a little extra spending money aside to make sure we would be able to afford it.
“Show Me the Money!”
In the famous words of Cuba Gooding Jr. from Jerry McGuire (Do you remember that movie?), “Show me the Money!”. How much did we spend here? Again, I want to stress that we all knew this trip would not be cheap and given the length of our stay and everything we covered, we knew it would take some crazy budgeting to swing this.
|Payment to Delta Vacations (Flight, London Hotel, Private Van To/From Aiport)||$1272.41|
|Train Ticket to Paris||$150|
|Paris Hotel Stay||$110|
As I mentioned earlier in this post, we started planning this trip 6 months before our departure. Personally, I worked out a budget to be able to make monthly payments while still being able to keep up with the bills at home. With this, I was able to pay the trip off with about 2 months to spare and took the remainder of that time to save for spending money (food, activities, transportation, souvenirs, and shopping).
This provided a lot of relief while on vacation because I had no worries about owing anything once I returned to Atlanta!
You Have Options
Delta Vacations is not the only way to plan a trip like this. I know several people that have planned trips through companies like Costco and Expedia that offer similar services. Also, keep an eye on Groupon Travel deals. I continuously see bundles at a reasonable price that include flights and hotels. Also, don’t forget about travel agents. It is their job to find the best deal for your needs, and if you know a good one, reach out to them! I say all of this to say that it is possible. I didn’t think I would ever plan a trip like this, and after doing it, I realized that I can go anywhere! This was only the start of several amazing adventures to come.
You Thought I Was Done Here?
I hope you didn’t think that I was going to share all of my planning and not show you the fun part! If you are not already subscribed to this blog, please subscribe below. This way, you won’t miss my upcoming posts where I share all of the adventures we had in London and Paris!
Talk to ya later! XO
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