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Emily: In the last series about my trip to France, I talked about how our family of 4 went for our own “tour de France.” With the help of miles earned from credit card rewards, we paid just ~$410 each for our family of 4 to fly round-trip to France in Business Class. And had a luxurious stay in a ~$1,600 per night suite for ~$160 TOTAL.
This series of posts will highlight our time in Nice. And will give you step-by-step instructions so that you can also go to Europe using miles and points! Plus, I’ll share my tips for the cheapest car rentals and the BEST credit cards to use when traveling internationally.
In addition to staying in a beautiful hotel, we enjoyed riding bikes, jet-skiing, and taking a scenic drive into Italy. The best part was forming new, closer relationships with my family…we’d spend hours over meals philosophizing about life, love, and challenges we sometimes face! I’m very grateful that miles & points made this trip possible.
How to Save Thousands Off a Trip to Southern France Trip Report Index:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – The Secrets to Saving Money on Rental Cars in Europe
- Part 3 – Where to Stay | Our Family Felt Like Royalty at This Hotel!
- Part 4 – What to Do | Jet Skis, Road Trip Along the Coast, Visit Italy, Shopping Mall
- Part 5 – Where to Eat
Part 2: Save Money on Your Car Rental
In Nice, we decided to rent a car and drive around the southern part of the country. I booked the car through Costco Travel. The cost was ~$390 for 14 days. The car was a standard size, and it was a manual transmission.
Pro Tip: Use the Chase Sapphire Preferred or the Chase Sapphire Reserve to pay for your rental car when traveling overseas. You will earn 2X or 3X Chase Ultimate Rewards points, respectively. Plus, with both cards, you’ll get primary rental insurance when you use your card to pay for your car rental and decline the rental agency’s collision damage waiver (often called CDW or LDW).
You can find an in-depth look into the best credit cards for car rentals here.
It’s also worth noting that most cars outside the US are manual, so it helps traveling with a driver who knows how to drive stick (thanks, Alfy!). You CAN rent automatic transmission vehicles, but it’s more expensive.
I like Costco Travel because the rates are very affordable, and it comes with a free 2nd driver! The terms say you have to show your Costco card, but I’ve never been asked for my card for a car rental.
It was easy to drive around France. They drive on the right side (with the driver’s side on the left of the car), so it wasn’t anything new. But they did have several roundabouts, so familiarize yourself with those if you don’t know what they are.
One day, we drove all the way through Monaco and into Italy. No one checked our passports. There were some police by the border but they weren’t interested in checking anyone.
Cars are smaller in Europe than in the US, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling in a group. Also, gas is more expensive, so factor that into the cost as well!
It cost ~$1,640 for the 4 of us to fly round-trip in Business Class from New York to Europe. I used a combination of miles & points from different programs to book flights for me and my family. Including AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards points.
I booked our rental car through Costco Travel and used my Chase Sapphire Preferred to earn 2x Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the booking! The great thing about using the Sapphire Preferred (or Sapphire Reserve!) is that it includes primary car rental insurance, that covers damage due to theft or collision to your rental car, when you pay for the rental with your card.
It’s nice to have a sense of security when traveling abroad! It was also easy to drive in France, but it definitely helps if you or another driver knows how to drive a manual transmission.