After waking up at four a.m. this morning, wandering around in a jet-lag stupor while checking the clock every few minutes to see if it was lunchtime yet, I decided the only thing I was capable of doing was writing a blog. It’s a slow process, because my computer mouse disconnects every few minutes, but this is an event that mirrors what’s going on in my brain.
I haven’t blogged in a few weeks because my husband and I were traveling in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and I didn’t have time to write. I was too busy walking and I had to check my “fitbit activity tracker” (see blog on topic) every few minutes to see how many miles we had covered on foot. We set a record one day of 13 miles. Unfortunately, these were not miles accumulated in the course of seeing new and wonderful sights so much as in the course of trying to track down a lost cell phone. But that story can wait for another day.
While we were away I jotted down a list of possible short blog topics related to travel and this trip in particular. This morning I read over my list and decided that plunging in would be more fun than unpacking.
I’ve already failed in the goal of producing a “short” blog, so for today, I’ve chosen a topic — the price of travel — that is easily summed up in one sentence: it costs a bundle to travel in Europe. When we first went there, right after college, we used the guidebook, “Europe on 5 Dollars a Day” by Arthur Frommer. “Europe on 500 Dollars a Day” would better describe the change in prices since that earlier era.
One reason we were able to travel more cheaply back then was that we didn’t mind sharing a bathroom with dozens of other people or sleeping with fleas. (I only encountered the latter once, in Athens, but still remember spending a lot of time on that leg of the trip scratching, well, my legs.) We stayed at youth hostels – for $1 a night — rather than hotels. All you had to do was carry a sheet with you and the hostel would loan you a bunk bed with a blanket, a bathroom down the hall, and maybe offer coffee and toast in the morning.
Now we stay in hotels and use their sheets. Even opting for tiny rooms — which seems to be standard European lodging — costs a lot. Fortunately, massive breakfast buffets allowed us to spend an extraordinary amount on breakfast, while saving money by skipping lunch. The price of dinner, however, more than made up for missing a sandwich at noon. At one restaurant in Brussels, our dinner bill was 98.5 euros for one green salad split in half, the best baguette we’ve ever eaten, one bucket of mussels, one order of bouillabaisse, and a bottle of wine. The next evening we vowed to scrimp and save. We achieved our goal. Dinner that night — with only half a bottle of wine — came to 94.5 euros.
I’ve checked off food and lodging, but wait, there’s more. Add in trains, subways, buses and the occasional taxi, museum fees and tips, and round up to the nearest thousand.
These days Mr. Frommer calls his advice books the “Easy Guide” series. Makes sense, knowing how easy it is to pack a few credit cards.