An American Family in Europe (Part 1) A Tiff Guest Post

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that it will cost your average American family of two adults and two children $4000 to go to Disney World for a week.

Okay, it may not be an absolute truth, but a general rule-of-thumb most people can count on is if they take their kids to Disney, with airfare, hotels, tickets, food, and souvenirs, you can typically count on $1000 per person per week.

So, my goal, lofty as it was, was to take our family of four to Europe for two-and-a-half weeks for $6000.  17 nights instead of 7 and hey, we’re going to Europe (and Asia and Africa, but I’ll get to that).

For this trip we did a combination of cruising and land-tours; seven nights in two cities and ten nights on a cruise ship.  I tend to prefer land tours for Europe, but with young kids cruising can help make a long trip easier for everyone by having some days off built in.

This started with me looking at our weekly E-mails of cruise deals.  Our traditional rule of thumb for cruises has been no more than $100 per person per day.  With kids we try to find deals around $50 per person per day since many cruise lines charge full price for kids.  This has limited the cruises we go on since many of the ones we find at that price don’t work for us (bad time, no way to get to the port, etc.)  In this E-mail I saw Norwegian Cruise Lines was running a kids cruise free special (one child per paying adult) and they were allowing people to combine this with other deals.  We saw an itinerary in the fall for 10 days round-trip out of Civitavecchia (near Rome) that went to Greece, Turkey, and Egypt for $800 per person (for an ocean view room).  That came to $1600 for four, for ten days (nights) = $40 per person per day.  The kids-sail-free was a limited-time offer, so we booked the cruise first and planned to figure out flights later.

This cruise had four at-sea days which would be a good break for our kids who probably couldn’t handle touring/traveling 17 days in-a-row.  Most cruise lines have a “kids clubs” where you can sign your kids in and they have planned activities for them and the adults can go enjoy other activities on the ship (casino, shows, hanging out by the pool, etc.)  The minimum age for kids is usually between two and three-years-old (it varies by cruise line).  Some require the kids to be potty trained, others don’t, but they give the parents a cell phone that works on the ship where they will call you to change your child if they need it.

With the cruise all set up next we had to figure out flights and travel days.  My initial plan was to use our frequent flier miles.  We had enough to get three tickets worth up to $800.  I figured we’d pay full price for one ticket, get the others either free or for only $100 or so (lots of airlines had fall sales for Europe at the time), and pay anywhere from $800 – $1200 for four round-trip tickets to Rome.  Pretty good deal since usually even at the best rates you can expect to pay $3200 for that.  One slight hitch in the plans, my husband already had other plans for our miles.  Doh!

After much discussion (and hesitation on my part) we went to plan “B”, non-reving to Rome.  While American Airlines doesn’t have non-stop flights from DFW to Rome, they do have one flight a day from O’Hare and JFK to Rome.  That added another dimension to the plan, in order to make sure we made it out in time for our cruise I wanted to start flying out a few days early, stay in Rome, then go to Civitavecchia to catch our cruise ship.  Now my next step was to try and find a good (but not expensive) hotel in Rome for four nights…

<to be continued>


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Tiff's first big vacation was a Caribbean cruise when she was six. She first started getting interested in deals when her husband showed her the tricks to getting bought off your flights back in the late 90s. She started flying nonrev when they got married; the first unusual nonrev she did was in '05 when her family flew through San Juan to get to Dallas from Philly. They have two boys, ages 11 and 7, who she usually drags along on their travels and hopes they will grow up to love traveling as much as she does.


  1. Pingback: An American Family in Europe (Part 2) or The First of Many Mistakes (Tiff Guest Post)

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