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What's first in planning a trip to Europe: flight, car rental, hotel?

     When you plan a long term trip to Europe, coordinating your flights, transportation and accommodation will likely be the three biggest trip expenses, so it pays to do your homework. We’ve found that a good way to look at trip planning is to break down the “importance factors” surrounding the trip. Commonly those are PRICE, CONVENIENCE and EXPERIENCE.


When you set out to make your bookings, naturally you want to do it in an order that provides you with the best price and value for the trip as a whole. The factors surrounding the best price on a long term car rental in Europe or flights from the US to Europe usually correlate closely with the ever changing currency exchange rates, specifically the US Dollar vs. the Euro. When the US Dollar is strong (as it is now) the rates paid to car rental companies or in our case to the manufacturer Peugeot are lower as we purchase in Euro and sell in US Dollar. Regarding flights, barring a glitch in the booking systems (see the UA debacle on flights EWR to Heathrow) it is unlikely you will get a miraculous, never before seen price. When you see a price you are happy with, lock it in as history shows pricing goes up the longer you wait.


Have you ever had the delightful experience of altering a flight itinerary a bit due to a change of plans? Neither have we, at least not in delight. So what are the options? Knowing that flight bookings have rigid changing policies, look to travel elements you can control. For example Auto France allows you to put a “tentative reservation” in for a vehicle of your choice based on loose dates and delivery location.  Many of our seasoned clients reserve vehicles 4-6 months in advance of their tentative travel dates. The best way to do this is to provide us with the earliest possible arrival date as we can always push the delivery date further away rather than make a vehicle appear earlier. Additionally, we can make changes up until a month prior to delivery without any fee meaning if you book your vehicle with us and later find a great flight for an off peak travel day, we will simply move the delivery date of your vehicle to match your flight schedule, voila.


What sort of experience will you have if you wait so long to book your car rental and or flights that you end up having to make three connections and you settle on a car that is way too big for your needs? Vehicle inventory for the Peugeot Open Europe program is based on the production schedule of the manufacturer and the anticipated sales they may have for the year ahead.  What does this mean for you? Once the set amount of compact and mid-size cars are accounted for during production planning, those vehicles are considered sold out and the only option for a long term car rental with us will be for a premium, higher priced vehicle. When it comes to flight experience, we don’t like to wait too long to book for reasons mentioned previously, but mostly because the availability of direct flights at decent prices starts to fade as the peak travel season approaches. Another commonly overlooked part of the experience is seat availability. If you wait too long, you can get stuck in an uncomfortable spot. Using a site like SeatGuru you can find the best seat for your buck referencing the exact plane you will be flying in.

The last bit of info is regarding accommodation. In the grand scheme of things we believe this can be the last step in the planning process, but that’s not to say it is a last minute sort of thing by any means.  Our clients typically set up a “home base” for which they can center the rest of the trip on, visiting several countries over the course of a few months and being able to travel lightly with only the essentials while leaving the heavy stuff at home. Booking hotels and B&B’s can be done a couple of months out, and honestly sometimes it 's nice to wait just  a little bit longer as things change throughout the planning stage and you don’t want to commit to an exact date on a room when part of the fun is to be spontaneous in your travel adventures.

So in a nutshell:

1.     Book the car rental: (Even if It’s not with Auto France!) Just make sure the alteration policy is as lenient as ours otherwise it negates our order of operations.

2.     Book the flights: Do this shortly after the car is booked if you come across a reasonable price or set price alerts with a set deadline if pricing is outrageous.

3.     Book the sleeping accommodation’s: If this is a relatively long trip, make sure you have a home base set up first which will make for a good hub to call home while you are abroad. Other hotel and B&B’ reservations can wait a bit longer unless you know exactly where you want to be.

by: Matthew Volpe

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