I am wanting to take two RS tours next summer, the Paris in 7 days and the Loire to the South of France in 13 days. However, this entire trip will cost about $8,000. I have always wanted to spend several weeks in France, but I am feeling guilty about spending so much money on a trip. Should I save my money and buy a house in the near future or should I go on my dream trip? I know the trip to France would be very educational and I would see a lot of great things. Is $8,000 too much to spend on vacation? I am very conservative with my money and I don't want to feel like I am blowing it. Then sometimes I think, what is the point of working if you don't ever enjoy your money?
I'm leaning toward go for it. If you buy a house, there mught then be so many other things you'll need to spend money on, you may have to wait years and years before your dream trip. Save up for the trip and go make memories!
(However, if you have to put everything onto a credit card and then pay it off over time, with interest charges, then I might change my thinking...maybe.) :)
Are you at the point in your life when you are building a financial foundation for your long-term future? Many people on RS tours have taken care of many major financial obligations - buying a house, raising children, etc. On the other hand, you could cut back on your trip expectations and just take the Paris tour. You could set a goal for yourself that this would not be your only trip to Europe. I'm sure there are many RS travelers who make significant ongoing sacrifices to be able to afford a tour.
If you just take one tour at this time, you might discover that you learn enough about European travel to be able to go it on your own later instead of taking a second tour. Many people like to take tours as their means of travel, but some people find that they don't need or prefer that kind of set-up. It would be a shame to commit to two tours and find out during the first one that group tours aren't really for you.
Since you have plenty of time, do the research and plan your own trip. Rick Steves' guidebooks (and other resources too) lay out great itineraries--even for first-time-to-Europe travelers. You'd get a lot of help on this site as well!
I'd stay on track for buying your house but sprinkle in carefully planned, budget-friendly trips along the way!
$8000 would go a long way towards your home purchase!
I would compromise...if you're uncomfortable with travel in Europe, take the Loire/South of France tour. But you can certainly do 7 days in Paris much less expensively on your own. If you want to, just get the RS Paris guidebook and follow that itinerary.
You might consider a "compromise solution". For example, with a good guidebook you could tour Paris on your own, and then take the Loire to the south of France tour. That should save some money and provide a start to your home savings account.
Of the two tours, IMO it would make more sense to take the Loire and the south tour, as you'll be covering considerably more sites with an experienced guide, and they take care of all the transportation and hotels.
My advice, and its worth what you are paying for it, is to plan your own trip without going on a tour. You will save money that way to put in your real estate fund thus killing two birds with one stone. Start by getting a Rough Guide France and a Rail Europe Map, sitting down, planning what you want to see, and go from point A to point Z. People can do this, we have a number of times although not in France.
I am also conservative with money but love to travel. You should definitely take your dream trip before you buy your house or it may be many years before you have the money again!
If I were you, I would travel on my own, shorten the trip(maybe just Paris and Loire or some other area that's a top priority, only 12 days), so that you can take your trip and still save for a house.If you travel on your own, you can stay in hostels. Paris hotels are expensive-you should limit time there to your top priorities. We stayed in Chartres to see the cathedral and drive to one chateau in Loire-one of the best choices we ever made. Driving from Paris to Loire is not difficult-make sure you have cash for tolls on roads and get in lane with green(there may be a check mark)-others are for French with their country's credit cards.
If this is your initial savings towards a home, I'd say to postpone the trip. Start to build savings, which will benefit you in the long-term. But, if you have been saving money, and this is just the last $8000, then you could consider it and delay the home purchase for another year.
Since you're feeling guilty enough about this expense to post this topic, consider what level of spending you would feel comfortable. Could you do the RS South of France, and just arrive a couple of days early in Paris? If you only went to RS Paris during this trip, would you like to add a couple of days to the end of the trip to do some daytrips beyond Paris and feel better about the expense?
If it were me I would go on the trip, even if had to get a bank loan to do it. My mother always dreamed of going to Italy and my dad would put her off saying they didn't have enough money, to wait until he retired, etc. By the time that happened she was very ill. He went ahead and got their passports but she died a few weeks later. That trip meant enough to her that she advised me to go where I wanted and do whatever I had to do to make it happen (within reason) so I didn't end up too old/too ill to be able to travel. If you don't mind traveling on your own then do it that way. If the RS tour is in your heart then do that - just go!
I agree with the people who suggest you travel on your own – it is significantly cheaper than an RS tour.
Investigate budget lodging options, since that will be your biggest expense after airfare. Air B&B and similar services have great prices on single rooms in a house or apartment, even in expensive cities, and there's always hostels if you want to save even more. Start booking lodging 6 to 12 months before your travel time, since good budget places often book quickly.
Similarly, if you can nail down your travel schedule, you can buy advance-purchase, no-refund train tickets with a large discount.
You won't have a guide with you all the time, but you can join group walking tours in each location if you want. They range from free or very inexpensive to €100 or more per person
The guidebooks (RS, Rough Guide, and others) have lots of money-saving suggestions.
Agree with Terri and Ken about doing Paris on your own. With the RS Guide Book it's easy peasy!! You might want to take Loire / South of France tour first to get comfortable and then do Paris afterward.
Def look at planning yourself...I'd love to do a RS tour, but I know I could do something similar for half the price. My husband and I have taken 4 trips to Europe since 2008 (with another coming this Oct to Paris and South of France) - ranging from 16-23 nights. I think the most we have spent was probably $7500 total (that would be Canadian dollars)...for two of us...including airfare (generally saving money with our air miles for flights). We aren't extravagant on our holidays, but we don't stay in cheap hostels/hotels either. You def will get bitten by the travel bug - we thought if we went over every five years we would be doing good - that lasted until we got home from our first trip and I was determined to make it happen every two years as that is all I wanted to do.
I wish we could have started travelling overseas earlier, and we are lucky that we were able to pay off our mortgage a few years ago thanks to a generous gift from my in-laws, so now we can really focus on our travels (we also never had children, so we are able to use money for us...and we live within our means - credit cards are paid off every month in full). With houses come great expense as well. A part of the reason we couldn't travel earlier was because of the expenses from building our home and paying for the mortgage...but then again...you never know when your time on this earth will be up.
I'd vote for doing a trip, but trying to do it on your own...you can always sightsee in the cities and sign up for day tours and whatnot if you are unsure about how to get around. The internet is a vast resource of how-to's...
I am a very practical person. Started working right out of college, didn't really travel when I was young. My home is fully paid for at 50. To do over again, I think I would have traveled when I was young, in addition for putting a certain amount away for my home. I have both women & men friends that traveled Europe/Australia on their own. All said it was the best way to go. If you do feel uncomfortable, do the South of France Tour, do Paris on your own. We have not taken a tour yet. The larger cities are easier to navigate on your own. Many people are very helpful, all you have to do is ask.
All that being said, save for your house. A beautiful home to come back to, filled with treasures you have bought along the way is a wonderful place to be.
There's really no single answer for this as there's so much we don't know about your situation: your age; what you have set aside for emergencies; how long you've been with your current job and how stable it is; how good and sick of living in apartments you are?
My husband and I are also conservative with our money, and went a long time before we felt like we were in a position for the first trip abroad. Our families both lived some distance away, and much of the (too little for too long) vacation time our jobs allowed us was spent going to see them. We also shuffled our monthly income into buckets: one for the monthly bills; one to pay ourselves first (savings/investments not to be used for fun); and one which was expendable. We never took out a loan for anything but our cars and our house(s).
It isn't everyone's way but it worked for us - even if we had to wait awhile for the BIG fun. So I guess you have to ask yourself what is most important to you? We reached the point where we were REALLY sick of apartments so the house took precedence, and we took small trips domestically until we could afford the ticket across the pond.
You may have different priorities. Maybe you can cheerfully live a few more years in a rental? Fine: take the trip. Maybe split the difference? Save half of the amount and go to Paris on your own. It's a very easy city to do solo (we've never taken an RS tour), and you can do it more economically with research and a guidebook. Yes, it's an expensive city but economizing is possible by going on the off season, and choosing accommodations which are clean and comfortable but don't have a lot of other bells and whistles. Buy the Paris Pass and learn to make the best use of it. Walk. Eat out of the markets or more inexpensive cafes. You'll come back more self-confident about managing yourself a long way from home, and have a ball planning the next adventure!
If you do want to take a tour, perhaps look at some European or British companies that offer small group experiences at a cheaper price. Exodus, Explore, some of the Bike & Barge companies and walking companies offer guided options cheaper than RS-assuming you're active and have an interest in those activities. Or do Paris on your own but sign up for a day tour to Reims or taking a cooking class one of the days, etc. I'm saying this because I don't know your situation. Not everyone has someone with whom they can travel. While they CAN do it on their own, they may not want to just because being by yourself for 12 days and eating on your own day after day may not be much fun.
If you do go the RS route, I agree with others that Paris might be easier to do on your own while bus travel with Rick will help in reaching those nook and cranny towns in the south of France you may not be able to easily reach by train.
How old are you? Do you have 8 months emergency fund? Fully funding your retirement? Credit card debt? How are you going to pay for this trip? Sorry to sound like a wet blanket but these are important questions. What will give you more pleasure - a home of your own or a trip? If after considering all of the above and you decide to take this trip, you can do it on your own for less $$ than a tour.
If traveling is important, you should consider doing just one trip and do it on your own. It would be much cheaper. We spent about $4,000 on our last trip in Dec. 2013 to Austria and Germany, for two people for 8 nights, including airfare, everything.
Without sounding too....well.....logical:
It is impossible for any of us to really answer your questions without knowing more about your circumstance....seriously.
One should always have a strategic, long-range plan (much like a business has one), with key goals to be accomplished and time frames for each. Rarely in life does one have all the resources they need to do everything they want to do immediately. There are trade offs......and you are asking all of us as strangers to help you decide if the trade off is right for you.
Others have also asked some of this:
1) How old are you?
2) Is this your only $8000 or do you have much more set aside for the house fund?
3) How large of a down-payment are you trying to save?
4) How long do you think you will live in your current city? Or the house you might buy?
5) How long have you been saving for the house? A year? Ten years?
6) How much more do you need to save to buy?
7) Excitement aside.....two years from now, what will you regret more.....not buying the house sooner or not having gone to Paris/South of France?
8) Do you have student loan debt? What percentage of your income goes toward repayment of student loans?
9) What other investments do you have?
10) How long did it take you to put the $8000 aside? One year? Six years? Longer?
11) What other debt (if any) do you have?
12) Are you single and likely to remain single for a few more years? If you have a significant other, what is that person's opinion
One should have a long-range plan for himself/herself. Granted plans can and do change. But, what is your long-range plan? What do you want to accomplish in the next five years? How do both of the goals fit into that (the house/the trip)?
If you don't buy the house, do you live in a place that rents will likely continue to skyrocket?
If using the $8000 for travel means you might not be able to buy for another 5 years, will mortgage rates be as historically low then?
If you are young and just starting out in your career, I would echo the advice of others to do a much more conservative trip or just ONE of the tours, and keep most of the funds for your home-purchase goal.
A previous poster mentioned that his parents just never got to take the dream trip, because they kept putting it off. Again, not knowing your age, I am guessing you are far from your death bed...at least not due to age or a medical problem common among older people.
To answer your question of: Is $8000 too much to spend on vacation? The answer is: That depends....it depends on the answers to all the questions above. If you are just starting out, then you need to spend and save as though you are just starting out. If you are well established in your career, have been out of school for 5-10 years, have other investments and little/no debt, then maybe it is time to treat yourself to ONE tour or a less expensive do-it-yourself trip. If you are age 60 and you have never been to Europe, afraid you will die without living part of your dream, then maybe you should take one of the tours (provided you have enough money to fund your retirement).
Please tell us more about your circumstances, otherwise all we are doing is guessing.
If you are young, what do your parents think? Or if there is someone else familiar with your situation and whose financial advice you respect, ask them what they think.
But, we are just a bunch of strangers who like to travel, and you are a stranger to us.....none of us has enough information about you to give any level of solid advice.
But, let us know what you decide :)
A young professional I know bought a 3-bedroom condo, rents out two of the bedrooms to colleagues, which gives her enough wiggle room to travel.
BK, only you can truly answer your questions. If you feel you need permission to travel then I give you permission to travel. :-)
I have made traveling a priority in my life so I save up for trips and sacrifice by not buying major purchases. I took the bus, walked or carpooled to work (no car), I went to cheap places to get hair cuts instead of salons, I had an older computer, and I lived in an apartment. I also cut out entrainment but not going to movies or going to Starbucks every day prior to a trip. Every sacrifice was worth it so I could travel. I have great memories of my trips.
That being said what do you want to really do with your money? After all, you will have to live with your decision no matter what you choose to do.
Honestly and trying hard not to sound rude or snarky, why would you ask a bunch of random strangers, who know nothing about you or your circumstances, to advise you on making a major life decision.
On a practical note - are you sure you can do it for $8000? I looked at the summer prices for this year, and adding the 2 tours, I get around $7000, without the single supplement. Add in airfare, a night or two before the first tour and a night between the tours, 3 weeks of lunches every day and dinners more than every other day, incidentals, extra for free-time activities . . . I don't see how you can possibly do it.
Everyone has covered just about all the points here already. The most important one is that only you can set the financial priorities for your life. If you are unsure, talk to a family member, a friend you admire, or even a professional financial advisor.
Check out www.tripadvisor.com, Paris travel forum. Most on that site are independent travelers and can give really great advice on how to do it without taking expensive tours. Plus, many of the posters are Paris residents and can give you insider tips for how to do Paris on the thrifty side or which tours you can take that are worthwhile. We followed Rick's Paris guide book on our first trip and have now made over a dozen trips to Paris and Europe, but always reading one of Rick's guide books beforehand. We always fly into London for a couple days then take the Eurostar over to Paris. We sometimes train to other cities from there. For all of your train travel anxieties, go to www.seat61.com and he will make you feel like a veteran train traveler. You can have a fascinating time on your own, go when and where you want, stay for as long as you want, and I think enjoy Paris and France much more than being led around by a tour guide. Besides, planning is half the fun.
Thanks for all the great replies to my posting. To answer some of the questions that have been asked, I am 26 years old, don't have any debt, have a great career, and am very tight with my money so I have a well developed savings account.
I believe I will just do the Paris tour. There are so many things in Paris that I want to see and the tour covers just about all of them. I went on the London tour in 2014 and loved it, so I know I like traveling in groups. Even though it may be more expensive to do a tour instead of doing it alone, I really like having a tour guide to take us to the different sites and to plan the schedule. I love traveling, but for some reason I hate having to plan all the different activities. I'll save the south of France tour for maybe in 2017.
Thanks again for all the replies :)
This (IMHO) is not the place to ask this question. Ask it on a board for realtors or accountants and you are likely to get very different answers. Also, it is likely no one here knows you or your exact situation. I would talk to my friends, family etc. and then do some soul searching.
As an addendum to previous post, go to Paris a day or two early in case there are flight delays. You might also want to stay an extra two or three days and do some stuff on your own that the tour does cover. Just a thought.