Vacation packages

A Go-Today.com package offering roundtrip airfare from NYC and 6 nights' lodging in a Paris hotel for $749 (Photo courtesy of Go-Today.com)
A Go-Today.com package offering roundtrip airfare from NYC and 6 nights' lodging in a Paris hotel for \$749

Not a tour, but a bundle of airfare, lodging, maybe a car all at wholesale rates

Packaged vacations are a simple concept for powerful savings: you buy your airfare and lodging (sometimes with rental car or train tickets as well) together at a price much lower than you could get any of those big-ticket travel items separately.

A vacation package is not an escorted tour, where they shuttle you around Europe in a hermetically sealed bus bubble of Americanism.

With a packaged vacation, your trip is entirely your own—you just don't have to book everything (airfare, hotels, maybe rental car or sightseeing) independently. You get some combination of those big-ticket items all at once and for less (ideally) than you'd pay if you tried to book them separately.

Packages tend to last for a "week" (which might be anything from four to seven nights), and include round-trip airfare, your lodgings, daily breakfast, and sometimes transfers from the airport to the hotel and back. (Some versions also include a rental car or train tickets or rail pass.)

How packages save you money

You end up paying less because the packager (usually a tour company, travel agent, or search engine) has agreements to buy up blocks of travel products at wholesale rates and passes some of these savings along to you. (They keep some, of course; that's their profit.)

I once bought a basic Go-Today.com package to Paris with my wife and parents and we each spent only $385 for roundtrip transatlantic airfare and a week's lodging in a pair of double rooms in a Montmartre hotel. It worked great.

A downside to vacation packages

The biggest drawback to a vacation package is that most of the hotels they offer for you to choose from tend to be the huge, cookie-cutter international chains or bland "tourist class" properties, in many cases at the edge of the city center, generally near the train station (ugh!).

Sure, the price is great for that sort of four-star hotel, booking these big ticket items all at once can be convenient, and it saves money over buying the airfare and that hotel separately. However, with a bit of research—and the tools on this site—you can find an even lower airfare and book yourself into an even cheaper, more characterful little B&B in the heart of the historic district.

(I should point out that Go-Today.com has actually started finding a few charming hotels and B&Bs in historic or interesting parts of town on a few of its packages. This is an encouraging development.)

The best vacation packagers

Besides the companies listed below (which really do tend to be the cheapest by a long shot), another great place to look for package tours is from the "Vacations" or "Holidays" subsidiaries of the major airlines themselves, though you should know that some of the European carriers sell packages that are far from bargains.

Vacation packages

Useful French phrases

Useful French for lodging

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Où est? ou EH
...a hotel un hôtel ehn OH-tel
...a B&B une chambre d'hôte ooun SHAHM-bruh DOH-t
...a rental room une chambre de location ooun SHAHM-bruh de lo-kah-SION
...an apartment for rent un appartement ehn ah-part-teh-MOHN
...a farm stay un agrotourisme
or
un gîte

ehn ah-grow-tour-EES-muh
or
ehn ZHEET

...a hostel une auberge de jeunesse ooun oh-BEAR-dzh de szou-NESS
     
How much is...? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
a single room une chambre pour une personne
or
une chambre simple
ooun SHAUM-bra pour oou-n pair-SOHN
or
ooun SHAUM-bra SAHM-pluh
double room for single use [will often be offered if singles are unavailable] une chambre double ooun SHAUM-bra DOO-bluh
a double room with two beds une chambre twin
or
une chambre double avec un duex lits    
ooun SHAUM-bra TWEEN
or
ooun SHAUM-bra DOO-bluh ah-VEHK ehn grahn lee
a double room with one big bed une chambre double ooun SHAUM-bra DOO-bluh
triple room une chambre triple ooun SHAUM-bra TREE-pluh
with private bathroom avec salle de bain ah-VEHK sal de bah
without private bathroom sans salle de bain SAHN sal de bah
for one night pour un soir pour ehn swa
for two nights pour deux soirs pour douh swa
for three nights pour trois soirs pour twa swa
Is breakfast included? C'est compris le petit déjeuner? say coam-PREE luh p'TEE day-zhuh-NAY
Is there WiFi? Y'a t'il du WiFi? yah-teel doo WHY-fy?
May I see the room? Puis-je voir la chambre? PWEE-zhuh vwah lah SHAWM-bra
That's too much C'est trop  say troh
Is there a cheaper one? Avez-vous une chambre bon marché? ah-veh VOO ooun SHAWM-bra bone mar-SHAY


 

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.