Month: December 2017

Norwegian

I found this gem of an airline last year when I was looking for cheap options for international flights between the US and Europe and the UK. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this airline has been a real diamond in the rough.

With this airline, you have some options. For the absolute cheapest option, I have found direct flights from the US West Coast to Europe and the UK for as low as $139 each way. That is an incredible price if you are a light traveler and are ok feeding yourself. Their hand baggage policy is that you can have up to 2 hand bags, but your larger hand bag cannot weigh more than 10 Kilograms–and this is pretty strictly enforced. If it weighs more you will have to check your bag and it will cost you $50. You can, however, save $5 and purchase a checked bag allowance online up to 6 hours before your flight’s departure. If you are willing to spend a bit more, you can pay for Norwegian’s second ticket option, (which I have found seems to very consistently be $90 more than the cheapest option), this will give you one checked bag, at least 2 meals on the flight and you can choose your seat.

Norwegian also has a business class which looks very nice, but I have not flown it. I have, however tried “bidding” for a business class seat. Norwegian offers an interesting option of “bidding”, which is where you can offer to pay a maximum amount to try to get upgraded to business class. I attempted this once, the one time I traveled alone, and had my maximum bid be $175 to get upgraded. I did not get it, so, obviously I was out-bid–lucky person.

We have found the seats to be generally comfortable, the stewards and stewardesses to be kind, there is individualized movie and game entertainment for each seat, and you can order food and snacks from your seat if you do get hungry and didn’t order food with your ticket.

 

Easyjet

I think we have finally figured out the best way to fly as a family with Easyjet–and I will be honest, this airline has become our go-to airline for domestic flights throughout the UK and Europe.

They consistently have some of the best prices and they fly over 830 routs in over 30 countries, which makes them a very accessible budget airline. Their low prices do come with a catch, though. They only allow 1 piece of hand-baggage per customer, each checked bag costs anywhere between £25-35 and if you show up with more than one piece of hand baggage, they charge you £50 to check it. This was a definite obstacle for our family, when anytime we travel we each have 2 pieces of hand baggage because of our nomadic life-style.

Last year, we would pay the extra £25-35 baggage fee to check 3 of our bags. Most airline desks allowed us to combine our baggage weight and check 6 pieces of luggage so then we were only left with one hand bag per person. This fall I found that if you pay for what the airline calls “up-front” or “extra leg room” seat, you are allowed 2 pieces of hand luggage. This costs an extra £10-18 per person, which actually ended up saving us quite a bit of money. So, instead of paying upwards of an extra £75-105 in baggage fees, we cut it down to about £60 extra in baggage fees. It was still expensive, but still a cheaper option than other domestic airlines.

This continued for a few weeks until we found out that Easyjet has an extremely family friendly option. Just purchase your tickets and when it is time to go to the airport, head over to the check-in desk and ask them about their family travel option. You will be allowed to check in up to 6 bags (this is one bag per person up to 6 people) and get priority boarding for only £10-15 total. We have done this with our last 2 Easyjet flights and it is a wonderful option for families traveling on this very family friendly airline.

 

What You Won’t Find

Throughout our short 1 week stints in Airbnb’s throughout Europe, I have found that there are certain things you won’t find (or maybe very rarely find) that you would find in most 3 + star hotels

1. 5 star service: There are a certain minimal expectations that a host should follow–but just because they’re your host, it doesn’t mean they are also your servant. If you want 5 star service, you should probably book a 5 star hotel, not someone’s home.

2. Spotlessly: Again, there are certain cleanliness standards that should be met, but when renting through Airbnb you may find a few crumbs in the couch or dust under the bed and sometimes even mildew in the bathrooms. Although it can be super gross at times and sometimes worse than others, it does happen. I find that hosts who care about their reputation on Airbnb do the best that they can to make sure their place is as clean as they can make it.

3. Mattress pads: I have been surprised at how few places we’ve stayed in have mattress pads for their beds. I would think this should be a requirement, but alas, it is not. If you require a mattress pad, ask the host before booking or consider bringing your own.

4. Breakfast: Although it is a very nice perk to come home to find food in the fridge, most Airbnb’s will not have food in the fridge upon your arrival–that is unless they state specifically that they provide it for you. Also, keep in mind that “breakfast” in the UK has a very different definition than “breakfast” in Italy or Spain. So, don’t expect a full English breakfast when a host in Italy says they provide a full breakfast– as their full breakfast might be a pack of stale toast, butter and jelly.

5. Transportation: Although some hosts do offer transportation to their place, we have found very few do offer this perk–and if they do, it is not included in your stay, so have some cash on you and know what you’re paying for.

6. Neighbors: Yes, you have neighbors at a hotel, but it’s very rare that you see them and if you do, it’s even rarer to make eye contact or speak to them. The difference here, is that an Airbnb is usually in a neighborhood or a local’s apartment complex, so seeing neighbors is an everyday experience–one which can be quite fun!

7. Ample supply of toilet paper: Now, this has been about half and half. Half of our hosts have provided plenty of toilet paper for our stay, where the other half have given us a roll to start our week with. This hasn’t been a big deal to us, as we end up going to the store anyways and it’s no big deal to pick up toilet paper. I have read some reviews where the guests were incensed that the hosts didn’t provide enough TP for their stay–it is nice to have enough, but, seriously, it’s not worth loosing sleep or writing a bad review over.

8. Feeling like a local: It’s one thing to stay in a hotel and take a cab into the middle of a neighborhood, where when you are staying smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood you get to feel like you are a part of the community. You get to shop with the locals, eat with the locals, take public transportation with the locals. Staying at a hotel, you get to be a tourist and see the sites, while when you stay at an Airbnb, you not only get to be a tourist and see the sites, you get to experience the area those sites are in.