Ooh La La! A Ten Day Vacation in Paris!

I’m just back from a dream of a vacation: 10 days in Paris! I took my daughter there to celebrate her high school graduation. We stayed in the heart of the city, walked for miles, saw world-class art, took a macaron making class in the Marias flat of a French chef, took a boat ride on the Seine, marveled at the city from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, stuffed our faces with more pastries and crepes than I thought possible… it was magnifique!

Yeah, sounds great. Good for you. You must be rich.

Nope! Far from it. I’ve traveled all over the world and managed to do it on a budget, without sacrificing safety, comfort, or caliber of experiences. If you are willing to put in the time, research, and patience, you can have incredible experiences that don’t break the bank. Yes, you can have champagne taste on a beer budget.

How did I do it? A few tips:

I covered airfare for both of us using credit card points. I put in a LOT of time and research to make this work. I accumulated and saved my credit card points for YEARS. While I had enough credit card points to cover around $900 worth of airfare, I was able to use them to purchase tickets that cost $3,400 by transferring the points to airline miles and then searching for flights that cost fewer miles (thanks to dynamic award pricing). Did we have to fly in economy class? Yes. Was it squishy and uncomfortable? Yes. But for less than a day’s worth of time on our 10 day trip, I was willing to suck it up.

We stayed in a youth hostel. Slow your roll: it’s probably not what you are picturing. We had a private room with a private bathroom. Our hostel also had a restaurant, a rooftop bar, funky design, and a fun vibe. It was clean as a whistle, and it was close to public transportation. And while we’re on that subject…

We used public transportation and walked EVERYWHERE. Paris is a great city for both. We walked about a jillion steps per day (much to my teen’s chagrin), and we took the Metro all over the city. We also took public transportation to get to and from the airport and to go on an excursion to Versailles. Once again, research was our friend. I figured out in advance that purchasing an unlimited 7 day pass for all local public transportation would be the best bargain for us. When we landed in Paris, we had to wait in line at a train system office at the airport to purchase these passes, and it was kind of a pain when we just wanted to get to our hostel, but mustering our patience to get this train pass was totally worth it.

We made thoughtful choices about our activities. For example, I’ve always wanted to take a Bateau Mouche cruise on the Seine, the river that runs through Paris. Those boats can be pretty expensive. They often include 2 hour guided tours of the surroundings, and some include meals. I realized that my daughter and I didn’t really want the tour or the meal. We wanted to look at the scenery, and we wanted the flexibility to hop on and off as we pleased. We were able to take the Batobus for a fraction of the cost, we could get on or off the boat at any of 9 “stations” along the Seine, and we got a discount with our 7 day public transportation pass! Win-win!

Can Your Nonprofit Organization Pull Off Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget?

Oui! There are areas where you should not scrimp with expenses, including STAFF SALARIES (please!) as well as insurance, anything related to safety and security, and anything related to client services. However, there are other areas where you can do the research and activate your ingenuity to create great experiences that don’t break the bank.

  • No budget for a donor appreciation luncheon or dinner? What about a summertime ice cream social? Or even a popsicle party! People don’t remember the chicken dinner they had at a fancy donor event; they remember if it was a good time!
  • Still want to do a paper/snail mail donor mailing, but don’t have the budget for a designer, printing, mailing, etc.? What if you sent a postcard instead? What if you did the design yourself, using Canva or another free, user-friendly design tool?
  • We all know that social media loves video — video gets much more engagement and shares than plain text or text and images. But what if you can’t afford a professional videographer? Well, do you have an iPhone? Your social media audiences don’t necessarily need (or like) to see a slick, professionally-produced video. Keep it simple! You can shoot a fun greeting on your phone and post that. Or, if you can use resources like Lumen5 to create more professional looking videos yourself, for free!
  • Instead of planning a formal event for existing or prospective donors, can you give them an opportunity to volunteer with your organization?

Just like my trip to Paris, strategies like this can take more time. They require research. They require patience. But they can deliver enormous bang for the buck, and in many ways they are more memorable and authentic than strategies that cost more money. Cue the champagne flutes!

Don’t miss out on new ideas and great tips on fundraising, leadership, writing, philanthropy, and lots of related topics. Join the PITCH list to get Lauren’s monthly newsletter delivered straight to your inbox, and get a free gift when you sign up!