Insider Tips on Paying for & Planning a Trip to Provence (Luberon)

I’m going to share some “tricks of the trade”.  When you book that vacation to one of the most beautiful destinations in the world, France –specifically Provence and Paris, there are many things professionals think of that you don’t consider. So, to get the most out of that “trip of a lifetime” to one of those “must see” places, see below for special tips from Bliss Travels. They could save you more than $1,000, not to mention give you peace of mind.

FIVE FINANCIAL THINGS TO CONSIDER

Remember the added costs.Look at what’s included and not included.

Sometimes people decide to book their own trips -sort of a la carte — so that they can do exactly what they want and also “get a better deal”. Sometimes, people use search engines or decide to book through someone –whether it’s a huge clearinghouse or a small boutique company. No matter what you decide don’t forget to include (or ask if THEY include):

1. Train tickets to Provence (from Paris or elsewhere). (The best train deals are found in French on French websites and in France itself. You won’t find them on sites here.)

2. Transfers to get you to the Paris train station and back -whether you want a private car, will take a cab or prefer to navigate the subway.  (Time, stress, and money are all considerations)

3. A last night in a Paris hotel. Special tip: Most trains from Provence into Paris do not arrive in time for you to take your flight home to the US the same day. Many large internet travel sellers don’t tell you this. After you book, you find you’ll need  train tickets, extra hotel nights, transfers….So the “deal” wasn’t all that great once you discovered the “extras”.

4. Ground transportation while in Provence. There are no trains in the Luberon, and almost none in the Cote du Rhone. Anyway, the most beautiful villages, sought after vineyards, and stunning coast line are not (for the most part) on the direct train route. Cars are very expensive. Roads are unmarked (except highways) AND it can cost more than 150 dollars to fill a tank of gas in a large rental car. Major roads have very expensive tolls –really. It’s not uncommon to pay 20 euros/30 dollars for a toll. Figure this as you budget or compare travel packages.

5. While most people do remember they have food costs, they often forget they are dealing with an exchange rate –so multiply your budget by 1.4 (or so) to get the amount of dollars you will really need so that you don’t go over your budget. If you’re buying a package, make sure to find out what meals are included, and what type of meal (is it a sandwich and a bottle of water or is it a 3 course meal with wines and coffee…)? Whether you do it yourself or book an all inclusive trip, it’s a nice balance to have one “big meal” –the traditional 3 courses with wine, and then shop the markets for that “other” meal. Not only does it “balance the budget”, it’s a great way to try the local fare and enjoy the bounty that is Provence!

There are more tips, and I’m happy to answer questions too (wendy@blisstravels.com) , but this should get you thinking realistically about your trip costs and better able to compare “apples to apples” as the saying goes.

FOUR VACATION TIPS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR ENJOYMENT

1. Make sure you situate yourself in a convenient place, one, hopefully, that’s beautiful, centrally located, but also authentic and not a “tourist trap”. Go for the lesser publicized places.

2. Pack light. Rooms are small. Cars are small. Travel is easier –especially train travel –if you can just wheel a little case through the station instead of wrestling with tons of things you don’t need. Hint: pack a folding travel bag like a Longchamps bag in your case. That way, if you do buy things to take home it’s no trouble.

3. Don’t move around too much. If you are taking a typical 8-9 night trip –your first night is on the plane. Your last night is in Paris (or elsewhere) so that you are there in time to get that (typically) morning flight home. That gives you 6-7 nights. Stay in 1-2 places. One for 4-5 nights, the other for 2 nights. It gives you variety without hassle. And, it cuts down on endless day trips -which, if you’re doing it yourself, can be very tiring.

4. Consider booking at least part of your trip (the part not in a large city) with a (boutique –not tour bus size) all inclusive company so you don’t have to navigate roads, take tons of time figuring out what to do and where to go, and so you can just relax and have somebody there to help you make the most of your vacation time! (It also gives you the added budgetary advantage of knowing exactly what your costs are –as long as you’ve done your homework above.)

BUT if you do book with someone– make sure you will not be herded around with a big group, that you are not staying so far away from things like a village or town center that you are held captive by the groups’ schedule, and that you find someone who will listen to your specific interests and ideas when planning. Find someone that will allow you to have a flexible schedule, and as much independent time as you want.

And, most of all, Bon Voyage! We wish you a Blissful vacation!

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10 comments on “Insider Tips on Paying for & Planning a Trip to Provence (Luberon)

  1. Great tips – especially about all of the costs not included in your flight!

    • That’s very true. It’s really impossible to calculate that for someone. We don’t know where they are flying from, whether they are extending their trip –and of course, it varies by date –a lot! With our clients, we do keep track of fares and help them book –but as a general matter, it’s hard to predict. What is bad is some of the big wholesalers like Expedia seem to give you a “deal” for hotel and airfare, that on the surface looks cheap. But, then you have all the other things that they don’t include and that many people don’t think of. My clients who have tried to piecemeal it –using me for “insider” tours or events but booking air and hotel with a company like an Expedia end up paying MORE in the long run because they haven’t counted on the extras.

      • Agreed, and as a person who travels solo, I gave up on air/hotel package deals with their single supplements a long time ago.

      • That’s a big problem. Single’s supplements. We are trying to work around that ourselves at Bliss Travels. We are experimenting with things a bit and offering some solo spots at the same price as doubles –just to see how it goes this season. If we see interest in it we may do more of it.

  2. I drived the car in Provence two weeks. 20-30 dollars for highway… hm.. don’t remember. What do You think of the food in Provence in cafe and restaurants?

    • Wow! Rentals are usually more than 50-75 per day. Then there is gas –which costs me, with a smallish car, about 100 euros for the tank. And depending upon where you drive, like the Route du Soleil –my tolls average about 30 euros. I do this 3 months a year–and I’ve never gotten a deal like what you say!! I’m going to have to hire you 🙂
      Restaurants and food in Provence are the best in the world. You have the best produce and wonderful chefs. We do all sorts of private meals, markets trips and also trips to local farms of friends –its a great variety of style and experience.

      • Best?! Seems we have been to another Provence than You 🙂 This is our opinion http://victortravelblog.com/2012/01/24/provence-cuisine/

      • We have not been to a different one – though I’m sure it seems that way to you 🙂 I am an expert in the area. I would have told you that where you went to eat was a tourist trap and it was going to be poor food! Second, I would have told you that onion soup is not from Provence –and also not a summer dish, so that anyone who was serving it was serving it from a can. Neither are frogs legs, in Provence. You want to go to places that are not designed to trap tourists and also to order things that are specialties in that region at that time of year–for example– cow’s milk cheeses like brie and camembert are from north of France –and so is beef. So I would not order those in general. I would order lamb or pork or duck –and I would order goat’s cheeses– those are regional items in Provence. Once you understand what grows where and where to go so that you can have what is truly Provencal, I am certain you will have the best meals of your life. But the key is “local”, “seasonal” and also Non-tourist fare! This is what I do and the cuisine I teach.

  3. So many conditions to have good meal 🙂 You can get very good meal on every corner in Italy or even in Moscow. But in Provence you must ” to seek special places”. Such places you can find in every country. Why we was not seeking such places in Langedok or Picardy? We need not. The cuisine was perfect everywhere.

    • Victor, i’m so sorry you had bad luck in Provence. But, if you order food that is from far away (in any country) and food that is out of season, you will be eating canned or boxed or otherwise processed food–no matter where you are (France, Italy, Texas…). If you order steak in the Caribbean or Rascasse (a Mediterranean fish served in Provence and only found in that sea) in Minsk –you will not get fresh fish or the best beef. If you order a white asperagus salad in Tuscany in February you will get old, jarred or imported vegetables –But, if you order white truffles in February in Italy or France –wow! If you order steak in Texas or Argentina —awesome and if you order seasonal produce or lamb in Provence –superb!
      You had better experiences elsewhere due to luck –good or bad. But, to suggest that no other country has “tourist traps” or that food is always fresh and perfect in Italy or Moscow all the time is less than accurate 🙂

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