8 April 2008

When in Rome, pay sod all

My parents are flying to Rome later this week to see some friends who've just moved out there.

Their flights costs four quid.

That's four quid each, but crikey, that's insane, isn't it?

Meanwhile, my pal Alex is planning another month-long jaunt in an open-top car around the States. He did it last year - you really should spend a couple of hours reading this magnificent blog on the subject - and has decided to do another, albeit on a slightly different route.

He too has acquired dirt cheap flights.

I have never booked a foreign trip of any description in my life. When I was single in the 1990s, I was on such a dreadful salary as an agency journalist that when I did take annual leave I simply packed a couple of bags and headed back to my mum and dads to be lazy. At a push, I managed five days in Devon at my brother's, kipping on his spare room floor, paying only for the train fare.

Since 1998, I have worked entirely freelance, and therefore have never had any paid holiday from work. I could have probably managed a proper break had I been given this privilege, but radio presenters are all freelance and therefore the ones I worked with who took proper holidays did so because a) they had partners or spouses with a decent salary to cover the double financial loss; b) they earned a fortune (which does account for some of them); or c) they were happy to go on the never-never and deal with the debt later (which applies to a good deal more).

So where have I been? France, a lot. My parents have a house there, so the accommodation is free on arrival. We are also good enough customers with North Sea Ferries (which also happens to be on our doorstep - I feel for everyone who has to get off a ferry in Hull at 8.15am and negotiate their way through an appalling rush hour; we go the other way to get home) to get smart deals with them when we travel. Therefore finance is less of an issue between the two of us.

We went to Egypt on our honeymoon, which was great. Even then, a percentage of the cost was funded by our wedding guests, from whom we requested Thomas Cook vouchers.

After that, nowhere else. Not since 1996 anyway. In that year, the skint 23 year old me got a freebie to Turkey with my parents for a week. That also happened to be my first ever flight; kids I was at school with were going to Spain in the summer from Manchester Airport, whereas all our family holidays abroad were by coach.

I still can't believe we endured trips to southern France and bits of Spain on coaches. I couldn't sleep on them conventionally; the only way I could get some shuteye on these 36 hour journeys was to kneel on the floor and rest my head on the seat. I actually slept properly like this, to the relief of my knackered parents. The heat and the boredom really took their toll on those journeys. I also remember being rather disappointed to learn that I'd missed all of Paris by being asleep (though it was 3am when the driver took us through; I'd be surprised if anyone saw Paris except for him).

I also had two trips to Holland as a kid by coach, for football exchange trips. This confused me no end, as we lived in Hull, which had an overnight ferry to Rotterdam, yet it was cheaper for the team to bus it all the way down to Dover, cross the Channel, then go from Calais through all of Belgium and into the Netherlands that way.

I'm almost 35 and I've never a) travelled abroad alone; or b) booked a trip off my own bat. Now that I know you can fly to Europe for less than a couple of pints and to the States for little more than it costs to service a car, maybe I'll change that. Any recommendations?


Planet Mondo said...

How do people manage these crazy deals? Every time I try there seems to be a ton of taxes whacked on at the end.

I've never really been out of Europe - but can recommend Belgium/Brugge it's got the best beer, chocolate, ice cream, cakes and waffles. Amazing architecture, it's packed with places to visit and bike ride the friendliest people and a C and A store too.

http://www.eurorelais.org/ are a top tip for accommodation anywhere in Europe

Matthew Rudd said...

Bless you for that.