Every vacation trip requires transport: getting there and getting around. For our trip to France, getting there involved two modes of transport: air and rail. We elected to get around by car and on foot. Bicycling is also a possibility.
We flew nonstop from LAX to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport on a Norwegian Air 787 Dreamliner, in the Premium class cabin. Norwegian is a so-called low-cost airline offering three classes of service: LowFare, a no-frills very inexpensive basic coach; LowFare+, a regular coach; and Premium class. The premium cabin is comparable to first class on short-haul domestic flights in the US: bigger seat, lots of legroom, free drinks and food, free checked bags, and seats at the front of the plane. We paid about what we expected to pay for premium economy seats on Delta or Air France or one of the other older airlines.
We arrived at CDG at around 3 PM local time and checked in to the Sheraton hotel located right inside terminal 2 and directly above the train station.
The next morning we took the elevator down to the station and caught the 6:56 AM TGV to Avignon.
We purchased our TGV tickets online well ahead of time, and when we did, there was a deal on first class tickets. They were actually cheaper than second class, but non-refundable, so we went for it. Such a civilized way to travel! We had seats facing each other with a table between us, on the single seat side of the 2-1 seat configuration in our car. There was plenty of luggage space in racks at either end of the cars and in overhead storage.
The ride was smooth and fast. The bar car, serving coffee, breakfast breads, sandwiches, snacks, wine, beer, and liquor, was two cars away. The prices were reasonable, at least for the coffee and croissants we purchased. Three and half hours later we arrived in Avignon, on time.
Renting a car in France can be a very expensive proposition. The rental itself isn’t too bad, but the cost of insurance is quite high. During our trip planning, as I looked around to see if discounted monthly rates were on offer, I stumbled across a couple of articles about short term auto leases offered to non-French citizens by the three major French auto manufacturers: Citroën, Peugeot, and Renault. In short, we were able to lease a brand-new Peugeot 308, including zero-deductible, full-coverage comprehensive, collision, theft, and liability insurance and 24 x 7 road service for about $29/day! At the end of our vacation, we simply turn in the car and walk away.
There are, of course, a couple of catches, but not big ones. The leases are heavily front-loaded, so unless you keep the car for at least three weeks or more, the deal isn’t economical. The longer you have the car, the more you save over the cost of a regular rental car. If you are one who usually refuses the insurance, the break-even point will be more like six weeks, Also, there are only a dozen or so cities in France where you can pick up and drop of your car: Paris, Marseille, Lyons, and Nice among others. Here are the links to the three agencies that handle these lease programs for the three manufacturers:
- CITROEN Car Lease Europe Short Term
- Peugeot Open Europe Auto Leasing
- Renault Eurodrive, short term Car Lease Program
Here are a couple of articles about these programs: Reid’s Guides and Rick Steves.
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