spreadsheets and suitcases

organization + travel = family fun

I feel like a real EuroSTAR

on August 1, 2018

I took the Eurostar train from London to Paris once before, and I remember it was pretty cool.  I was all, European Rail Travel! Crumpets to Croissants! The Chunnel! For this trip, once our departure to Europe changed from the NYC area to North Carolina, and the opportunity to fly into London was in play, I realized that my next Eurostar opportunity had arrived!  I immediately started researching, and saw the magic words any uber-planner loves…“prices are cheaper the earlier you book”

The Eurostar site says:

Eurostar tickets to ParisLilleBrussels and Amsterdam can usually be booked up to 180 days before your return travel date

While the very useful Seat61.com says (bolding mine on the prices in Great British Pounds, or GBP):

Eurostar has dynamic pricing like airlines.  Prices increase as departure date approaches and the cheaper seats sell out, so book early.  For example, standard class starts at £44 booked several months ahead but rises up to £191 if you buy on the day.  Popular dates, days & trains will have higher fares (or fewer cheap tickets available) than less popular dates, days or trains.

When I was first researching, it was approx Sept/Oct 2017.  Obviously our winter holidays travel dates were not available as they were over 365 days out, but one should always have an idea, so I checked the 2017 holiday timetable for London to Paris fares.  I saw fares for the day/time I wanted, at an average of £118 per adult, or approx $155.  For the 4 of us, who count as 2 adults, 1 youth (ages 12-25) and 1 child (up to age 11), I gave myself a generous estimate of $630.  That’s higher than the fares I saw listed, because who could know what would happen with exchange rates, and I was pretty sure that our date would fall under the instances when higher fares would prevail.

I set up my handy 180 day reminder using the timeanddate.com Date Calculator.  Here’s an example …

180 days

I then set an additional “plan for Eurostar tix purchase” in my planner for a few days before that my 180-day-reminder.  Why?  To search for any frequent flyer or credit card bonuses that might apply, to check for discount codes, and to make sure the card I’m going to use has no foreign transaction fees.  Just some pre-housekeeping.  I then got busy with Confession: I just bought 4 tickets…with cashParis to Seville UNbooked! And Newark-Honolulu finally booked! and An Adventure in American AAdvantage and Avios. And wound up with this:

Spain and France in 2018 or So Help Me
Estimated Actual
Main Transit Costs
Flights to/from US Mainland $ 2,500.00  $2835.00
Flights to Europe $ 30.00  $22.40
Eurostar to France $ 630.00
Flights to Spain $ 500.00  $461.61
Flights within Spain $ 420.00  $361.30
Flights to US Mainland $ 200.00  $255.24

I eagerly awaited my booking day, and it came and I was unable to book anything beyond December 8th. Like, nothing was available to anywhere, from anywhere on the Eurostar, not just on my route.  I checked every day for over a week, and got the same message each time, “Sorry, there are no trains available on that date.  Please check back later.”

boo-boo-boooooo

Statler and Waldorf echoed my sentiments exactly.

I couldn’t find any reason for the delay, but I just figured since they might have extra/fewer departures over the holidays the schedule was just not finalized yet.  And then, one day, after I had already done my daily check of the site, I decided to check again before turning my laptop off for the night.  Result!  All of December was available.  I excitedly clicked my date and my jaw dropped.  The train I wanted, at the time I wanted, was indeed bookable…at the £44 price.

eurostar low fare

This is an example using a different date, because when I went back the next day to make a screenshot of our fare, it had already gone up to £56 each!

My next steps are a jumble in my mind.  I think I ran around the house a few times yelling incoherently, then grabbed my wallet.  I swear I held my breath throughout the whole booking process waiting for the site to be like, “LOL, you THOUGHT you could book these holiday-adjacent tickets at the lowest price available, they’re actually 5x the price, nani-nani-poo-poo.”  But no, IT WORKED!  I was able to choose the seats I wanted, too (around a table).  Grand total after the conversion to dollars: $218.16

banana                                       banana

Over $400 under budget, thankyouverymuch.  It more than makes up for the overage on the Newark-Honolulu tickets, too.  The full completion of this chart is so close…

Spain and France in 2018 or So Help Me
Estimated Actual
Main Transit Costs
Flights to/from US Mainland $ 2,500.00  $2835.00
Flights to Europe $ 30.00  $22.40
Eurostar to France $ 630.00  $218.16
Flights to Spain $ 500.00  $461.61
Flights within Spain $ 420.00  $361.30
Flights to US Mainland $ 200.00  $255.24

Ugh…..still waiting on a fare drop for that Paris-Seville ticket. It’s the last piece of the puzzle, travel-wise. Then I can move on to buying our Eiffel Tower tix, Disneyland Paris tix, Sagrada Familia tix, etc, when buying online saves money and time, but doesn’t need to be done as far in advance as airline tickets.

If I want to stay on budget, I have about $588 to play with (the total Estimated, $4280, minus the total Actual, $3692).  But travel is a game I want to win, and I’m still hoping to pay $500 or less.  I may have to book my husband with miles/points to make it happen, and book the rest of us with cash if the miles/points won’t stretch beyond him.  That would still count.

Oh, and with all the business of the end of the summer (the kids go back to school next week!), and school supply shopping, which I LOVE, I totally blanked on my blog-aversary.  4 years as of July 23rd.  I will soon make a separate, belated post looking back on the past year 🙂

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