A Creative Way To Europe

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The recent journey to the start of our cruise in Rome proposed a challenge in terms of meeting all of our travel objectives.  With knowledge that we had a few days prior to the cruise that could be used to tour London, my goal as the chief travel planner in the family became to find the most economical way of accomplishing this.  In this article I will detail how we set out from Las Vegas and ultimately ended up in Rome a few days later.  If you are thinking it involved a direct flight or a short layover, then you obviously don’t know me!

To give a little background information, for our flight to Europe we were able to use accumulated American Airlines miles.  As anyone who has used an award ticket knows, finding availability can be difficult at times.  This is almost always the case in Las Vegas now due to the combination of a strong tourism rebound combined with a reduced number of flights over the past few years.  Our only option to fly out of Las Vegas was to go via Dallas with a 26 hour layover.  Alternatively we could somehow get to Los Angeles where we could fly directly to London.  We ruled out flying directly to Rome pretty early on as redeeming miles for this option involved $300 in fuel surcharges and didn’t allow us the much anticipated stopover in the British capital.

Shawn Reece before our bus journey to Los Angeles.
Shawn Reece before our bus journey to Los Angeles.

While Dallas is a nice city, we much preferred the option which allowed an extra day in London, so the challenge at this point became to figure out how to travel to Los Angeles as cheaply as possible.  Jasmine had a test for school the morning of our departure, so we opted to book her a flight on Spirit Airlines for $30 including taxes.  Shawn Reece and I had less to do, so we booked tickets on the brand new Megabus service to Los Angeles’ Union Station from a station near our house in Las Vegas.  Combined with the airport transfer this cost us $10 each and we were able to bring Jasmine’s luggage to avoid a charge on Spirit.  This plan worked amazingly well and Jasmine arrived at LAX within twenty minutes of us.  While taking a bus is not for everyone, it was comfortable and really turned out to be a good way to set the mood for the adventures ahead.

Now to skip ahead a few days, the final part of our journey involved getting from London to Rome and ultimately to our cruise ship.  (Look for a post about our thoughts on London in a few days.)  This final leg of our journey turned out to be relatively cheap.  We secured $40 tax-inclusive fares from London’s Stansted Airport to Rome on the budget airline Ryanair.  From there it was a forty minute shuttle to the city and a one hour train ride to the port.  We completely avoided any baggage fees due to the fact that all of our backpacks are carry on size.

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Jasmine and Shawn Reece on our final flight of the journey.

To recap we had a few choices about how to get to Rome.  We could have chosen the long layover in Dallas which meant losing a whole day in London, we could have flown directly to Rome with $300 in fuel surcharges and missed out on London, or we could have decided to work towards a creative solution.  In the end, the creative choice was a winner and for the cost of less than $200 including transport to LAX, transfers to/from London’s airports and the flight to Rome, we were able to maximize our objectives.  The icing on the cake for us was that our goals were accomplished for less money than the cost of flying direct!  Additionally, we booked a 6am flight out of London which allowed us to sleep at the airport in lieu of paying for a hotel which was another cost savings.

Key Tips:

  • Be flexible with the types of transports you are willing to take.  In our example we used planes, trains and coaches operated by seven different companies to get to our final destination.
  • The internet is a great resource to find different options and companies to choose when determining the best routing and costs.
  • Try to think outside of the box to find a solution that meets your travel needs.
  • Avoid taking excess luggage.  When spending any length of time on the road, a lighter backpack or bag will always be preferable to a heavier one.  This lesson took us quite some time to learn.  Additionally, having smaller items eliminates baggage fees on almost all airlines including Europe’s budget carriers.
  • While this situation was unique to us, long term independent family travel almost always involves this type of stringing together of transport options in order to achieve travel objectives.
  • Have fun!  Traveling this way provides a great sense of adventure for children and opens up almost unlimited people watching opportunities!

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Shawn, very well put. I would hire you anytime to not only
    Plan my trip, but to help me pack my suitcases
    As well. I can’t believe how organized your planning is.
    It’s time to write some articles for the travel mags/sites.

    • Ryanair is very similar to Spirit. Seats don’t recline, no assigned seats, etc. For a short flight it is quite fine. I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again. I don’t have a daughter, but my son has done fine on both airlines. He has flown a lot though so he is used to it.

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