Tag Archives: London

Doing a budget for our London/Paris trip

As we began planning our trip to London and Paris I created an Excel spreadsheet to use in estimating our expenses.  I created lines for each day of the trip, including what we intended to do that day.  Then I added columns for the entry of various types of expenditures.  Some were prepaid: Travel, Lodging, and a couple of Sightseeing items.  They were charged to the credit card and were paid before we ever left home.  Other columns listed items with amounts I either had researched or were just educated guesses: Food, Travel (local), and Sightseeing (again).  I filled in these amounts the best I could.
All told, then, I had a budget for our trip.
During the trip we used a debit card to get cash and only used the credit card for our final night’s lodging.  We carried cash (plus a little) for each day and paid for everything as we went.  I didn’t bother to hang on to receipts for things paid for by cash.  Of course, we knew how much we had withdrawn with the debit card, so we knew where we were so far as the big picture was concerned.
In other words, I knew I’d taken, say, $500 cash with the debit card, so when I was running out of money I knew we’d spent $500 – I just didn’t bother trying to keep up with how much we’d spent on food or on public transportation or sightseeing.
I’ve just finished revisiting the spreadsheet, now working with actual dollar amounts. 
The bottom line: we spent $55.39 more than I budgeted!
Obviously, my research and educated guesses were pretty good.  One thing, I think, that kept us on track was that we planned to put about as much effort into each day as we could physically do so there wasn’t much chance that we’d suddenly decide to visit an extra attraction.  Our plate was full enough as it was.  Speaking of “plates” – the food budget would have been the easiest one to blow.  Since we were in an apartment most of the time we planned to eat pretty much what we always eat for breakfast.  We then planned on having a light (sandwich type) lunch each day and then eat out that evening unless we just wanted to hang out at the apartment and fix something easy for supper.  We did that a few times, but also enjoyed some good meals in the nearby restaurants.  Let me add that we generally like finding places where the locals eat rather than going to a more up-scale restaurant.  One person could have spent our entire day’s food budget in a lot of very nice establishments.  I’m not against that, but that’s just not our thing.
Anyway, if a person spends some time looking into things and is realistic, there’s a good chance that they can set a trip budget and stick to it.

At least, let’s say, missing it by no more than $55.39.

Planning our London/Paris trip using Google Maps

One of the most helpful things I did was create a Google Map of our trip.  I found all the major places we wanted to visit and added place markers for them.  Under “traffic” I clicked on “transit” and it showed me all the tube lines and stops.  That helped me visualize where one place was in relation to another and also where the tube stops were.

The neatest thing, though, was that I could zoom into street view and “walk” down the streets I was going to visit.  More than once, as we literally walked along a street I had a sense of Déjà vu because I had taken virtual walks via my Google Map.

There was also a practical side to this.  When we were debating doing the London Walks Cotswolds tour I got on Trip Advisor and found out what towns were would likely visit.  I was able to virtually walk around the towns to see if the tour was our cup of tea (it was, very much so).

Up till now, I kept our map as private, but now that the trip is over, I’ve removed a couple of things and have switched it to public.  Here’s the link – see what you think.

You can see lots of photos from our trip in my photo album.

London and Paris on the Tube and Metro

More “after the trip” thoughts…

If you’re going to London or Paris and like to explore on your own, I suggest you make a list of places you want to visit, centering each day around one major event but throwing in some more or less “day’s off” along the way.

Then, as you plan, make serious use of the London Journey Planner and the Paris Recherche avancée. You can specify quickest – bus – train – etc. for the journey. Do a copy/paste into a document, one page for each day.

Then, as you travel around use the information you’ve gathered.

I surprised myself in Paris as we left the Eiffel Tower, wanting to take the bus (to see Paris as we went) to the Louvre. Per my own instructions we walked along an avenue, turned at the right place, and there sat two busses with the correct route number on them. When we approached the front bus, the driver pointed across the street to yet another bus, just loading. My self-made instructions were almost perfect, just not pointing to the correct side of the street.

We did stuff like that as we found our way around London and Paris, not quite moving around as locals, but independently flowing from one place to another in a satisfying way.

On both the Tube and Metro (subway and bus alike) you need to know the train or bus’ ultimate destination plus your stop along the way. Having a pre-printed page of instructions (to and from) makes a huge difference as you stand in an underground station deciding which platform is the right one. Of course, you have big maps in every station and, of course, you have a pocket map – but things feel rather confusing when there are thousands of rushing commuters all around you.

There’s no chance people will think you’re a local, but having the piece of paper in your hand that says, in your own words: “At Green Park station, take the Jubilee Line towards Stratford Underground Station or West Ham – get off at Canary Wharf” gives you more confidence than just knowing you need to “take the tube to Canary Wharf.”

You can see lots of photos from our trip in my photo album.