The case for do-it-yourself travel

By Robert Carrelli
This item appears on page 27 of the December 2017 issue.

In May and June of this year, my wife and I spent four nights in London, took the Eurostar (business class) to Paris, spent four nights there and then took off in our rental car (with GPS) for 14 nights in eastern France, Switzerland, the French Alps, Lake Annecy, Beaune, Dijon, etc.

We shared the driving, stayed at 3- and 4-star hotels, ate at nice restaurants, saw London shows and a Paris opera and visited large and small towns and quaint French villages. We did all of our own research before we left, and we had a glorious time… all by ourselves! I’m 86 years old, so this trip was no small feat for me.

My wife and I have been to more than 100 countries and many times to France, so we’re seasoned travelers.

Our cost for the 22 days — including round-trip airfare from California plus hotels, food, rental car, gas, entertainment and laundry — was $8,700 total, which, to us, is a much better value than many shorter, escorted tours we’ve seen offered for around the same price but without airfare.

I don’t mean to disparage group tours. They’re perfect for many people and almost essential in certain parts of the world, but many of us enjoy doing our own research and booking our own hotels, flights and cars, not to mention enjoying the complete freedom of the open road.

The few times my wife and I have traveled with a group, the focus was often on our fellow travelers rather than on where we were and what we were seeing.

We love to travel, and, like most people, we love to save money. If someone has sufficient funds, it probably doesn’t matter, but the savings from a DIY trip can sometimes be 40%-50% of the cost of an organized tour… and that does matter for these two retired teachers.

If I can do it at 86, anybody can.


Thousand Oaks, CA