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Seize the day trip this summer: best airports Bruges, Paris, Provence?

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Apr 18th, 2013, 01:40 PM
  #1
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Seize the day trip this summer: best airports Bruges, Paris, Provence?

Hello all,

This is sort of a follow-up to the "Are we crazy to try to plan a trip to Europe this summer" post. Everyone was so generous in your support of going for it, and I think I have DH convinced. We'll be traveling for about 3 weeks in July through the beginning of August with our two sons, ages 17 and 15. We did a 4 week trip through Italy last summer, so they are somewhat experienced travelers. Now I need to ask advice on some of the details...

We would like to see Bruges and stay for about two days. We also want to spend 4-5 days in Paris. I'd also love to see at least a couple of the chateaux in the Loire if we could fit it in. We also want to return to Provence. We were there in 2011, and stayed near St Saturnin les Apts. this time, we'd like to see more of the towns around St Remy (Arles for sure and any others you'd recommend).

So, what would be the most efficient/ least expensive way to fly into/ out of Europe? From initial research, flying into Brussels ( where we'd also like to stay at least 1 night) looks about $100 cheaper per ticket, but getting home to New York State is not easy from Marseille.

There are non-stop flights from Nice to JFK and other spots near us, but Nice is not that close to St Remy. Does anyone know of a way to plan our time where we could end up near a larger airport with non-stop flights to the states?

PS: I'm totally intimidated by leaving from CDG: it's so large and confusing. I could do it, but would prefer to avoid it.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 01:53 PM
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How about direct from Geneva on United/Lufthansa? Return the car in Dijon. Some trains from there to the Geneva Airport take less than 3 hours (1 change).
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Apr 18th, 2013, 02:03 PM
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I say go for Brussels. Travel by train between Brussels and Paris on the Thalys is quick and easy, and the airport is small and manageable and well-connected. The Thalys leaves from Bruxelles-Midi (Brussels South) station, and there are any number of local trains to there from the airport. You would also take the train to Bruges from Midi. Having said that, if you decide to stay in Brussels for a night, if you are planning to walk around a bit don't stay near Midi, it's sort of a scungy area. Stay in the area near Central instead. Trains from the airport stop at Bruxelles-Nord, Bruxelles-Central and Midi in that order, and I think you can just get a single ticket from the airport and get off at any one of those stations.

Lavandula
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Apr 18th, 2013, 02:21 PM
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This is a kind of question that is best compared by actually looking at different scenarios to see how everything fits. Most efficient and the least expensive are unlikely to be found together. If it is efficient, it has a higher marketable value and no rational airline will leave money on the table for you. Also "least expensive way to fly" does not always give you "leave expensive trip." I have seen may itineraries brought into this forum with "leave expensive way to fly" only to be hit harder by high ground cost to connect to the real destination as well as lost days. Yes less cost, but also less days in Europe as well, and many people don't realize that they had been short changed.
You have several airports to play with: BRU, CDG, MRS, NCE, and also AMS and ORY. Unless your trip direction is fixed, if returning from MRS is not desirable, how about arriving in MRS or NCE and begin trip from Provence first? If AMS arrival is much earlier than the BRU arrival and if the price into AMS is comparable even considering the train cost difference to Bruges. While the combination of airport to enter and exit can be large, there are likely to be only about 3 or 4 combinations that make sense. Integrate those pairs with the ground logistics to see if one stands out above others.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 02:25 PM
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I'm certain that, on Delta, you could fly into Brussels and out of Nice. Nice is an easier drive from St Remy than Geneva and maybe you'll want to spend a couple days in Nice before you leave. Looks like with 2 days Bruges, 5 days Paris, you still have 2 weeks. If you spent a week in St Remy you could spend 3 days Loire and 4 in Nice.
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Apr 18th, 2013, 03:42 PM
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Keep in mind that if you are traveling on TGV trains in France you'll need to buy those tickets 3 months in advance to get the cheapest prices. You can check train schedules and prices on www.voyages-sncf.com or www.tgv-europe.com. If using the TGV site you may have to change your ticket collection country to Great Britain or Antarctic to avoid being redirected to the RailEurope website, which usually has higher prices and doesn't show all the trains.

A great site for checking train schedules all over Europe is www.bahn.de but you can't get prices or buy tickets.

There are two new ticket websites you can also check which some people say are easier to use than the SNCF and TGV sites, but one is in French only. Here they are:

http://loco2.com/

http://www.capitainetrain.com/
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Apr 18th, 2013, 03:49 PM
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Ummmm, train?
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Apr 18th, 2013, 05:01 PM
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Thank you all so much for the invaluable advice! The specifics for getting around Brussels and where to stay, suggestions for itinerary, and airport choices--all so helpful. I agree with everyone, and unfortunately, I'm sure greg is correct that it's probably not reasonable to expect both most efficient and least expensive together!

Jean, I'm assuming you were suggesting round trip to Geneva? That was actually another spot on my bucket list; I'm just afraid that we'd be spreading ourselves too thin if we try to include that...

Greg, I'd actually wondered about doing the trip in reverse; I'll look into that, too.

FrenchMystique, thanks for the reminder to buy train tickets sooner rather than later. Thanks too for the links.

Judy, that itinerary looks like a dream. Do you think 2 days is plenty for Bruges, and would you even spent one night in Brussels?

Thanks again to all-you've inspired me!
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Apr 18th, 2013, 05:30 PM
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cyber, I was thinking an open jaw ticket. Into Brussels, out of Geneva, all on United (or their code-shares Brussels Air and Lufthansa out of NYC and Swiss out of Geneva).
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Apr 18th, 2013, 06:00 PM
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Jean,
Do you have any idea how much the trains would cost from Dijon to Geneva? We've taken the trains within France and Italy before, but never between two countries. Does it matter, if it's all EU?
Thanks!
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Apr 18th, 2013, 06:07 PM
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Jean,
I just checked and that itinerary saves us about $900! The only question is how much are the trains, so I'd need to check that out.

The next best option looks like flying into Brussels, out of Nice on Delta. We've taken that Delta flight before, and it's a good one. We wouldn't mind spending a couple of nights in Nice at all!

Thanks again for all the great suggestions!
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Apr 19th, 2013, 06:03 AM
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cybertraveler - I gave you info earlier about train info so use the websites I suggested and you'll get all the schedule and fare info you need. If you use the TGV site to buy tickets look at this website for tips on that:

http://www.nickbooth.id.au/Tips/FrenchTrain.htm
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Apr 19th, 2013, 11:07 AM
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The Swiss train website will give you fare information.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html
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Apr 19th, 2013, 12:50 PM
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Thanks for the links. The Swiss train website shows $264 for the four of us one way from Dijon Ville to Geneve Via Bourg-en-Bresse. Those are second class tickets. We usually travel first class on Italian and French trains; would you recommend second class on the Swiss trains?

Also, not too sure if I chose the correct stations. Could you please advise me which are the better stations to use?

Thank you!
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Apr 19th, 2013, 05:13 PM
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I always travel second class so can't comment on that. In regards to train stations, even if you chose a different station the system should default back to the station that connects your departure and destination. To test this, try entering a different station and see if you get defaulted back to another station. If not, then go with the station that has the best price and or shortest time.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 05:26 PM
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Thanks FrenchMystique. I've been checking out the links, and they are very helpful.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 05:36 PM
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You're welcome cybertraveler. Hope it works out for you.
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Apr 19th, 2013, 05:46 PM
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2nd class is fine. For a relatively short journey, and having to pay for 4 tickets, I wouldn't even consider 1st class.
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