In November, I traveled to France with Costsaver Tours and as the name suggests, these tours are touted as “value tours without compromise”. These tours are designed for people who do not like the restrictions of a planned tour yet aren’t necessarily confident enough to travel on their own. Costsaver provides all of the transportation, accommodations and porterage...and just enough “included” excursions to make sure you don’t miss out on the main highlights.
I was excited to join this tour because several of the destinations were places that I had visited before on excursions provided on a river-cruise; I was curious to see the differences between the quality and content of the two company’s excursions. I was also curious to see the difference in tourist numbers as the last time I visited these places was in “peak season” (August) and this would the travel industry terms as “shoulder season”.
Our tour would begin in Paris; however it was just long enough to get a good night’s sleep before we began the tour the next morning.
The first full day of the tour we headed west towards Deauville with a stop in the medieval town of Rouen, best known for its Cathedral and its association with Joan of Arc. We made one more stop in the picturesque port town of Honfleur before arriving in Deauville where we would spend the night.
We left Deauville and made our way to St. Malo by way of the D-Day Landing Beaches and Mont St. Michel. We visited the American cemetery at Omaha beach. I had been to the cemetery before, but this visit was much more enjoyable due to the fact there were literally no people there. We were given ample amount of time to stroll through this beautiful cemetery, and the second visit was every bit as special as the first one had been.
After leaving St. Malo we began making our way towards the Loire Valley stopping in Angers on our way to Tours where we would spend two nights.
Sightseeing through the beautiful Loire Valley and visits to the city of Tours, the Chenonceau Chateau, the city of Amboise, Chateau d’Amboise and Chateau Chambord rounded out days 4 and 5 and we were on our way back to Paris for 2 full days of sightseeing in the gorgeous City of Lights!
Paris, Paris and more Paris. Night cruising on the Seine River (optional excursion), attending the Moulin Rouge (optional excursion with the best seats in the house!) and just running amuck in this beautiful city was the perfect way to round out the trip.
Location, location, location: One of the ways tour companies cut costs is by accommodating its travelers just outside of the city center away from the main attractions and Costsaver is no exception. That being said, all of the hotels we stayed in were located within a short taxi ride or within walking distance from main attractions or public transportation.
For anyone who has traveled to Europe, you are aware that European hotels don’t offer up much for “room”. If this is a problem for you, you’ll like the fact that Costsaver uses hotels that provide a bit more room to stretch out in than the standard European hotel. The rooms still aren’t “huge” by any means, but they are roomier than what you’ve likely stayed in before. Costsaver accomplishes this by using more modern, “chain” hotels as opposed to a boutique hotel that might have more character.
We began our tour in Paris and stayed one night at the Courtyard by Marriott Paris in the La Defense area. This was a great hotel, and although it was located a bit out of the way the public transportation system was literally a hundred steps away. For people who are comfortable with public transport, getting to the heart of the city from here is a piece of cake. It also had a decent gym and a restaurant that served excellent food. The breakfast here was a hearty buffet, as well...this hotel received an A from me!
Our 4th and 5th nights we stayed in the city of Tours, actually a fairly good distance out of Tours at another Ibis Styles hotel . This hotel was located quite a ways away from everything, and this was everyone’s least favorite hotel for more than one reason. That being said, it was a warm, clean bed and a hot shower so it was in line with the pricing of the tour. The restaurant left a lot to be desired and breakfast was the same as what we had in the Ibis Styles in Deauville. I really struggled here with food; apparently, there was a “mall” within walking distance so I wasn’t going to starve to death if I wanted to take a walk. This hotel actually had a lot of extras, which looking back now, I’m guessing it is because it is so far away from everything and they need something to keep their guests entertained while they are there. Generally, this tour spends two nights in Rennes, and I’m not sure why our itinerary was different, but this wasn’t a great replacement choice. This hotel stop garnered a C+ from me, not because of the actual “hotel” which was fine, but because of the restaurant and the fact that we were there for two days.
As far as inclusions with the tour go, there were very few of them; however, the idea behind these tours is to allow you to customize the tour the way you like while providing you with transportation and access to the highlights. The quality of the tours was comparable to most other tours, I’ve been on. Our guides were knowledgeable and friendly and for the most part, we had plenty of time at each stop. There were a couple of places I may have liked to have a bit more time, but in all fairness, that seems to happen with every single tour that I take.
Costsaver gives you plenty of “optional experiences” to choose from at an additional cost. The experiences were competitively priced and not much different from tours offered by other tour companies. The Moulin Rouge Cabaret and Dinner was fabulous, dinner was great and Costsaver tours snagged us “front-row” seats, which was very cool. The Seine River Cruise and Paris Illuminations tour was just exactly what it sounds like. It is a nice way to see Paris at night, and something everyone should probably do, at least once. They also offered optional tours to Montmartre Village, The Latin Quarter and Luxembourg Gardens and various others in all of the places we visited.
I was quite happy with my Costsaver tour, and I highly recommend it for those people who do not feel comfortable traveling on their own. I am very comfortable traveling on my own, and the reason I liked it as much as I did was because I had ample free time to “do my thing”, which is wander about aimlessly. I know there are those out there who say they do not like “motor-coach” tours, and I sometimes wonder if those people have ever actually been on one. I find nothing more relaxing when I travel than being chauffeured around from place to place and not having to think about all of the small details...how to get to where I’m going, booking my own hotel, schlepping my own luggage etc. etc. The base cost of this tour (low season) is $1150.00 per person and during the peak season, you are still only looking at $1295.00 per person. You will have extra costs for almost all of your own dinners and lunches, as well as, any optional excursions you choose. Just like with everything else, “you get what you pay for”, and this is no exception. I do think Costsaver does a good job at giving you a good quality tour based on their low price point; they provide you with a “skeleton” of a tour and you can tailor it to fit you. I would not hesitate to travel with them again.