Traveling Solo to Europe

Apr 16th, 2009, 06:45 AM
  #1  
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Traveling Solo to Europe

Hi,

I am planning a trip to Italy and France for this summer. I will be traveling for about 7-8 weeks (about 3 weeks with family/friends). I am looking to leave near the end of May (18-12) and returning mid July (13-15). I have gone through a lot the past few years with friends' deaths and other personal things so I am wanting to get away and relax, enjoy and have fun. I also would like to have an enjoyable plane trip since my last plane experience wasn't so relaxing or quiet. I was looking into business and first class flights and came across a few $2000 flights but quoted in U.S. dollars (I'm in Ontario, Canada) so after the exchange it would have been greater. I have been using discount air fare engines such as Expedia, Travelocity and CheapOair but haven't been able to find something that I can afford. Many research articles on the Internet "claim" that you can get discount prices for business and first class but I think there is some sort of catch.

I have VISA GOLD and about 27,000 points but it won't afford me a trip to Europe. I was also thinking of converting my HBC and Petro-Points over to VISA but I would have to go through so many conversions and lose a lot of points. So, after doing a lot more research, someone suggested flying premium economy. From what I have learned so far, it's only offered through certain airlines such as Virgin and British Airways. Can you search for premium economy through discount search engines such as Expedia.ca or Travelocity.ca?

I read a posting on this forum with regards to a person traveling to Venice and a member suggested flying into London or Paris and then catching a flight to Venice. I was going to fly into Venice or Rome - depending on family's schedule, from Toronto International and fly out of Paris, France (returning home). I'm guessing that I would be able to get a better flight with respects to costs? Do you have any other suggestions? I have an ITIC card (teacher discount card) but don't know if this will help. I just found out about this discount card and applied.

Thank you for all of your help and suggestions.
Isabella36 is offline  
Apr 16th, 2009, 07:36 AM
  #2  
 
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Several airlines have sales for bus class this summer. CO, for ex, has fares in BusinessFirst from EWR to CDG or FCO for $999 OW (good price IMO and these may be what you've found). CO's BF product is very nice and we've flown it several times. DL has a similar product called BusinessElite. If you're not familiar with them, both these products (as the name implies) is meant to be in between/combination of Bus and First You probably could get a connection to EWR from Toronto for very little more (assuming that leg is eco).

At these prices, I'm not sure it's worth it trying to use miles or points (which aren't discounted) but that's just my opinion.

Most search engines I know of don't search for prem eco. You'd have to go to the airline site. We haven't used a PE product, but friends who have rate Virgin Atlantic's much better than BA (more room, better service and food, etc). If the sales on bus class aren't within your budget, PE would definitely deserve serious consideration. The vast majority of friends who have used it think it worthwhile.

If you want to fly open-jaw into CDG and out of FCO, for ex, it most always does not cost any extra. We often do that and think it's a great way to spend more time enjoying vacation rather than backtracking to the orginal city. Just use the "multi-city" function when you're searching for flights and compare with same city arrival/departure.

Hope this helps.
dfr4848 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2009, 02:46 PM
  #3  
 
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Try http://matrix.itasoftware.com, though I second the suggestion to look at Continental - they are running some great sale fares and their BusinessFirst product is quite good.
Seamus is offline  
Apr 17th, 2009, 03:04 PM
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Isabella, I hope if you have to fly coach you will still go, won't you? Seven or eight weeks in Europe this summer sounds like a wonderful trip and exactly what you deserve. So you might have to bracket it at either end with a flight in coach. It's Europe.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Apr 17th, 2009, 05:08 PM
  #5  
 
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If you're not familiar with them, both these products (as the name implies) is meant to be in between/combination of Bus and First

That is the marketing spin, at least. Neither airline offers what I would call a top-tier Business Class product, much less something between business and first. And, FWIW, I am top-tier elite on Delta and have been elite on Continental.

But the rest of the posts are about right. US $2000 is a good deal. I wouldn't count on anything less than that, but you never know - my in-laws snagged US$ 1600 business class tickets a couple of years ago.

Barring that, Premium Economy is a good option, provided you can get a good deal. The pricing often seems more out of whack than business class. Virgin Atlantic is probably the best, but onward connections will be less seamless than with BA or SAS. Air France is launching premium economy, but not until after this summer. From what I can tell, I wouldn't waste my money on Icelandair's premium economy product.

The only sites that I am aware of that allow you to search for premium economy products are travelocity.co.uk and zuji.com (also owned by Travelocity - try the Hong Kong site for the best pricing). You can use a foreign credit card with zuji.com, but I have never tried with travelocity.co.uk.
travelgourmet is online now  
Apr 20th, 2009, 07:27 PM
  #6  
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Hello,

I just got back from work about 30 minutes ago (when I first started typing this which was around 9:45pm)and I am soooo tired (and hungry - it's almost 11:30pm!) b/c I was up until 2:30a.m. on my laptop (doing research and reading other people's reviews). It's ridiculous. I set a time limit but I don't listen to myself. lol. I keep saying, "5 more minutes....okay, 10 minutes....I promise." lol. Well, I'm going to bed once I finish writing this message. I work during the day and then work at my part-time job tomorrow night again so I need some zzzz's.

Thank you all so much for your feedback and comments. I almost forgot that I have a profile on Fodors. I have several accounts with different traveling sites and it's easy to forget. I came across a review last night and saved the link. I ended up on the Fodor's main page and decided to register only to find out that I already have an account! lol. So here I am. I will start from the first posting and work my way down.

Several airlines have sales for bus class this summer. CO, for ex, has fares in Business First from EWR to CDG or FCO for $999 OW (good price IMO and these may be what you've found).
No, actually I haven’t. I have found prices b/w $2234 and up. I haven’t found anything less than $2000 for business class flights. Based on what a member told me (in a posting), flights and miles/point system from Canada vary from ones in the U.S. He also said that our flights are more expensive. I have seen some really good deals for U.S. flights to European cities or even within the U.S. It costs more for a person to fly from Toronto to British Columbia or somewhere else in Canada than it would to fly to Mexico or Cuba!

CO's BF product is very nice and we've flown it several times. DL has a similar product called Business Elite. If you're not familiar with them, both these products (as the name implies) is meant to be in between/combination of Bus and First You probably could get a connection to EWR from Toronto for very little more (assuming that leg is eco).
I have searched for flights from Toronto to J.F.K. that then fly into Europe but the cost is more than if I were to take a multi-flight from Toronto to Rome and return from Paris to Toronto.

Is CO Continental? What is EWR? Sorry, I’m still a newbie so it’s taking me a while to learn all the abbreviations. Is DL Delta?
I have searched for premium economy seats on BA and Virgin but they don’t fly out of Toronto. I also checked out Singapore (b/c I have read great reviews about them) but they don’t fly out of Toronto either. Or is it that they don’t fly from Toronto to Europe? I can’t remember now. I have been on so many travel sites and I can’t wait to be finished this part of my travel plans.

….. but friends who have rate Virgin Atlantic's much better than BA (more room, better service and food, etc). If the sales on bus class aren't within your budget, PE would definitely deserve serious consideration. The vast majority of friends who have used it think it worthwhile. I think so too. I haven’t had a chance to look at flights today and it probably would be a good time since its Monday and airline prices tend to drop b/w now and Wed. (or so I read). I have been looking at Air Transat, Air Canada and some other people have mentioned looking at star alliance carriers such as Lufthansa and Air France. Also, since I’m from Canada (1 hour east of Toronto), it was recommended to stick with Expedia.ca & Travelocity.ca b/c I will get Cdn. prices vs. U.S. and U.K. prices.

If you happen to come across some decent prices for PE, than send them to me.

If you want to fly open-jaw into CDG and out of FCO, for ex, it most always does not cost any extra. We often do that and think it's a great way to spend more time enjoying vacation rather than backtracking to the orginal city. Just use the "multi-city" function when you're searching for flights and compare with same city arrival/departure.

This is what I’m planning on doing however, I have a dilemma with what city to fly into first. I changed my list of places to visit. Here is my new list:

Italy
Toronto to…
Rome (airport) – Formia (6-8 days)
Florence – Tuscany – Umbria – Siena – Assisi – Lucca – Orvieto (6-7 days)
Scigliano (12-14 days)
Sorrento (base) – Amalfi Coast – Positano – Island of Capri – Ravello (6-7 days)
Cinque Terre (3 days)
Italian Riveria – I read about some of the areas around here. Can someone suggest any places that you have been to or might think I would enjoy?

France
Paris (5 days)
Lyon (I read that it’s really nice there)
Provence ?
Nice (base) – Antibes (base) – Villefranche–sur–Mer (these were recommended by Rick Steve’s). They sounded nice.
Nice to Toronto

What do you think? I took out Rome and Venice. I’m not really interested in going to Rome this time around. I’m looking for places to unwind, be at peace, relax, meet locals, do a cooking class in Tuscany, visiting flea markets in Italy and France. I don’t want to feel like I’m a tourist even though I am. I just want to fit in and absorb the culture and life of Italy. Do you know what I mean?

I found this comment from one of the members from this site. After reading her posting in response to a traveler, it made me re-evaluate the list of places I wanted to visit. This was one of her responses: “So think about how you would like to divide up your time. You shouldn't rush through the cities, but you shouldn't feel obliged to spend schedule days sightseeing in museums and churches if you'd rather be enjoying strolls or shopping. Italy is a place to be enjoyed, not tested about.”
A lot of people were questioning why I didn’t want to visit Rome, Naples, Milan or Florence. I felt like I ‘should’ and felt guilty that I wasn’t. However, after reading that particular post, I felt better.

Many people suggested Sicily. It wasn’t on my list but I may decide to go anyways since I will be visiting my grandmother in Calabria. I may break up my visit with my grandmother by visiting her for 6 days, go to Sicily for 4 days (is this enough?) and then return to my grandmother’s for another 6-8 days.

I set it up so that I would be flying into Rome and departing from France but I don’t know which airport I would be flying out of. I need to be sure of everything before I book. I know that there is an airport in Nice and I think there is another one in a city called Marseilles? I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m wrong. Anyways, I’m not sure what to do. A part of me would like to end my trip in Italy but someone suggested that it would be best to fly into Rome and out of France b/c Italy gets really hot in July.

Another member suggested flying into France first b/c I can buy international train tickets for Italy which will save me money. She said that I would get a better deal in France for my train travels in Italy. She said that I would be saving about $50-70.

I was thinking of leaving around May 20/21 but I don’t know if I would be rushing myself to get ready. If I can get my flight booked soon (within the next few days) then I can book my accommodations and start packing a few things every day/night. This way, I won’t feel overwhelmed the few days before I leave. I keep changing the length of time of my trip – from 5 weeks, to 6, to 7 then 8. I’m at 60 days now. lol. Some days I feel like I just want to travel for a while and other days I feel like, “How am I going to afford it?” I told myself that I could find some affordable places such as B&B’s. I thought of covenants or other religious places that offer accommodations but I read that they can be expensive.

....though I second the suggestion to look at Continental - they are running some great sale fares and their Business First product is quite good.
I will check this out for sure. I read some good reviews about Continental. Thanks.
Isabella, I hope if you have to fly coach you will still go, won't you? Yes, I will. It’s not a big deal if I don’t get business class. I don’t want to stress out about it. I have spent TOO much time on the computer looking up prices for business class and I feel like I’m just wasting time. If I come across a good deal, then I will take it but I’m not going to spend the next week going nuts over business class seats. It would be great to fly in extra comfort especially to Italy but I don’t want to spend a lot of money on my flight. Someone mentioned to not get so caught up in it and lose sight of my trip. I figure if I don’t get business class tickets that I am willing to pay for (if I find them expensive), then I will use it towards accommodations or doing activities.

Seven or eight weeks in Europe this summer sounds like a wonderful trip and exactly what you deserve. So you might have to bracket it at either end with a flight in coach. It's Europe.
I’m looking forward to it. I never thought that I would be booking a trip to Europe this summer. I thought that I would be working at my part-time job as a cashier (as I do every summer). I felt like my life was just a repeat of every other year for the past 4-5 years. However, this year I told myself that I was going to make changes – that I needed to make changes b/c I don’t want my life to keep falling into the same pattern. I hope that everything goes well for me on my trip and that I will experience a lot of joy, happiness, fulfillment and inner peace. I want to have a fun time and feel good about myself and with who I am.


Barring that, Premium Economy is a good option, provided you can get a good deal. The pricing often seems more out of whack than business class. Virgin Atlantic is probably the best, but onward connections will be less seamless than with BA or SAS. Air France is launching premium economy, but not until after this summer.
I looked into Virgin Atlantic but it doesn’t fly out of Toronto. I found BA prices very costly when I went directly to their site. I’m paying Cdn. dollars and the prices are quoted in U.S. dollars.

What is SAS? I thought Air France has premium economy? Aren’t the Voyageur seats similar?

The only sites that I am aware of that allow you to search for premium economy products are travelocity.co.uk and zuji.com (also owned by Travelocity - try the Hong Kong site for the best pricing). You can use a foreign credit card with zuji.com, but I have never tried with travelocity.co.uk.
I’m going to stick to Cdn. sites as much as I can b/c they offer Cdn. prices and it’s easier to understand. I checked out other airlines like Cathay and other ones (forget the names – I think their part of star alliance) but a lot of them don’t fly out of and/or into Toronto. Oh! I remember one of them. L’Avion. It sounded good and it had good deals but it was from the U.S. to Europe.

Thank you for all of your suggestions and help. I would like some direction with the order of my trip (fly into Rome or France) and confirm my list of places to visit. Let me know if there are any areas that you would recommend for me to visit and/or B&B’s or affordable hotels. Although, I would prefer B&B’s b/c I’m traveling solo and I would like to chat with other people.

Thank you everyone.

Cheers. 

P.S. What do you think of the length of time that I have planned to stay in most of the cities?
Isabella36 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2009, 09:15 PM
  #7  
 
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I think you are going to find yourself quite bored in some of your Italy choices. I also wouldn't worry about buying train tickets for Italy since much of your routes are the slow, cheap r trains there really is no point trying to purchase in advance.

I would visit Nice/Provence/Lyon after Italy and end in Paris otherwise you will be backtracking.

You mention chatting with others at B&B's. What languages do you speak?
kybourbon is online now  
Apr 22nd, 2009, 08:43 AM
  #8  
 
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One option you might consider is flying Air Transat in its Club class, if you can find a better deal than what's currently on offer. I priced out Toronto-Rome, Paris-Toronto for late May-mid July and came up with about $1595 Cdn. That's not a great deal, considering that you could book British Airways Premium Economy (for the Toronto-London portion, London-FCO is in economy) for $1550. While Air Transat flies direct, BA's Premium Economy offers more room and it's a full service airline; also, you can probably add a London stopover for next to nothing.
frogoutofwater is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 09:51 PM
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Lot of questions from above. Here are some quick answers:

- Yes - CO is Continental. DL is Delta. EWR is Newark airport.
- No Air France does not yet have premium economy. They are installing it, but it won't be available for the summer.
- SAS = Scandinavian Airlines System. You would probably need to connect through Chicago or Washington and again through Copenhagen
- You mention looking at other Star Alliance carriers - Air France is not in Star Alliance
- For Premium Economy, Virgin Atlantic is better, but not by that much. The space is relatively similar and I think BA has better food, but you get more benefits on Virgin, including dedicated check-in and the like.
- Singapore's only route to Europe is New York JFK to Frankfurt. Cathay Pacific only flies across the Pacific
- L'Avion doesn't exist any more. It was taken over by BA and renamed OpenSkies. It offers business class and premium economy. The premium economy on OpenSkies is more roomy than on regular BA flights (or just about anyone else, for that matter). Nor sure if they fly from Canada. They will show up on normal BA searches to or from Paris or Amsterdam.
- I wouldn't only look at the Canadian sites. If the deal is better on a foreign site, then it is worth booking. You probably won't find a much better deal on a US or UK site, but I have seen very good deals on zuji.
travelgourmet is online now  
Apr 23rd, 2009, 11:31 PM
  #10  
 
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Slight correction. SQ also flies IAH-DME. (SQ = Singapore Airlines; IAH = Houston Intercontinental; DME = Moscow Domodedovo).
rkkwan is offline  
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