We went to meet my Father-in-law during our Easter Break, since he had to go to England for work. The trip was wonderful, and I learned even more about the art of traveling with children (it’s an art, trust me). My oldest daughter is obsessed with Paris and since my FIL had taken my husband to Paris when he was 9, and my oldest is 9, FIL asked if we could find a way to get the whole family (6 of us total) from London to Paris for less than eight hundred dollars.
London to Paris for Cheap!
I scoured the internet for the cheapest travel options. There are severals ways to travel, through the English Channel in a giant metro car for cars and buses, by ferry, by train, or by plane. If you find a good flight, they can be as cheap as $120 per person. But flights through budget airlines don’t go every day, and that might not work out if you have a limited amount of travel time like we did. I found a flight for 6 for around 800 dollars, but the days were impossible with our schedule. The next thing I looked up was the train. In general, trains in England are expensive. I learned that when I traveled from Manchester to Liverpool, but outside the country, man… so much money. The train tickets I found on the dates we wanted to travel were around 600 per person. Yikes! I saw an add in London for 20 pound train tickets to Paris, but psh… when I looked them up again online, there were none to be found. I’m sure a few exist, because if not that would be false advertising, but I couldn’t find them. The next avenue I checked was taking a train to a ferry and then another train from the ferry to Paris. This was cheaper than flying or the normal train, but it was still above my budget. Finally, I found a company called Ouibus. I found tickets for all of us for around three hundred dollars. But then I saw they had an overnight bus which was more expensive, but would save us two nights of accomodation expenses. The total for six overnight bus tickets from London to Paris was under 450 dollars. Sweet, right? Little did I know that two late night adventures were in store.
The First Leg… London to Paris
The way there, we got onto the bus at 9. The bus station in London is easy to find, and the seating is adequate. We boarded the bus after they checked our tickets and passports and got ready for sleep. The seats reclined, a lot! The seats were comfy and the bus in general was nice and clean. The only problem was that we left on Friday night, and apparently the top floor of the double-decker bus turns into a party bus on Friday nights. In fact, at one point the couple across from us was watching pornography on a laptop. Thank God the kids were asleep. The paper they give you for the night bus asks you to shut off your devices and stay quiet once 10 pm comes. On the way there no one followed this rule. Maybe bring an eye shade and ear plugs?
The Bus Driver and The Guy He Wanted to Strangle
When we stopped at the border control between England and France, they let me stay on the bus with the sleeping kids while Travis went through passport control and customs (with six backpacks). That was super nice of them. When we went the other way we had to wake the kids up and drag them through the line. Thankfully they insisted we went to the front. That was nice. All the people with kids got to go first. Back to the first leg… so once we got through passport control we were waiting in line for the giant train to take the bus through the English Channel. But there was a mall near the passport control, and one passenger from the bus took an hour and a half walk around the closed mall. Because we had to wait for him, we missed our spot on the giant train which left. Then we had to wait for two more trains because both were full of buses and cars that didn’t miss their reservation. The bus driver told everyone (In French, a neighbor translated for us) that, “Now we have to wait for two hours because of this guy. I would prefer to strangle him, but the least he can do is buy everyone coffee.” He didn’t… and we sat in the hot bus for two hours as we waited for the train. Ok, so the idea that your bus is in a giant train (which reminded me of a giant metro car) is cool. I found the whole process fascinating, but eventually sleep took over and I didn’t wake until we were out of the train thingy. My FIL got out and walked around outside the bus. He said there were even bathrooms in the train. Nice! We got to our Airbnb two hours late, but our host was understanding.
From Paris to London
As soon as it turned 10 pm, a business man next to us asked every person on their phone or listening their music to stop. Score! We were able to rest in peaceful silence. Then we found out the tunnel was closed because of a bomb threat. Instead, the bus drove to a ferry, and we got out of the bus and found a place to camp out on the ferry. By the time we got off of the bus, most sleeping spots were occupied… one lady was sitting on a couch with a bench and five chairs around her. We asked if we could join her and she said, “Well my husband is coming, I need room for him.” I’m a polite person. At least I try to be, but I was tired, and I was dragging three half-asleep children through a giant ferry. I also hate confrontation and I would have just avoided her after that. I think my husband was surprised when I replied, “Well can’t your husband sit next to you on the couch. Even if you both want to lie down, there are five chairs here, can’t we use the chairs?” She rolled her eyes at me and nodded. I guess eye rolling is universal. The kids ate a few pieces of toast and sausage my FIL had gotten them and promptly fell asleep. British people know how to do breakfast. The food was amazing. My hubby got me a fried egg and a piece of wheat toast and I ate, then fell asleep with my middle cutie asleep on my lap. An announcement came over the ferry PA for people to head to their vehicles, and people rushed below to the buses, trucks, and cars. We hopped back on our bus and everyone went to sleep for a few more hours.
If you want to go from Paris to London, or the other way, and you have lots of wiggle room in your schedule, the Ouibus is awesome. You can’t beat the price. Just remember to bring ear plugs and eye shades. Oh, and neck pillows.