France Journal

How I Got From Texas to Toulouse

Way back in April of last year my friend suggested I visit them in Toulouse, since their year in the states had come to an end. I obviously accepted this amazing offer, but the challenge to come was how do I get all the way from Texas to Toulouse without spending much money.

Toulouse is not an easy city to get to if you’re coming from Texas. Despite it being one of the largest cities in France, there are no direct flights from anywhere in the United States. All of them connect through Paris. Since flights from Dallas to Europe are already expensive enough without a connection, I was looking at $1200USD to $1500USD in airline tickets. No matter what, I was going to avoid paying that much. Even if I had to go through extreme lengths.

The Plan

I intended to go from Texas to Toulouse in about three days total and spend just a few hundred dollars, because I did not have much AT ALL to spend on this trip–I was quite broke at the time. I got a little crazy, though, and the itinerary looked a little something like this:

  1. Dallas Love Field to Baltimore
  2. Baltimore to Boston Logan
  3. Boston Logan to Keflavik
  4. Keflavik to Charles de Gaulle
  5. Charles de Gaulle to Paris
  6. Paris to Toulouse-Matabiau (Train station)
  7. Toulouse-Matabiau to Vieille-Toulouse

It may seem crazy, however I spent an entire $232 on the whole one-way trip, so keep reading to see if it was worth it.

Day 1

Dallas Love Field Airport–Basically just Southwest Airlines here.

The first day of the trip involved getting from Dallas to Baltimore where I would stay with my family outside of Baltimore. I planned to gather my belongings to pack and also to buy some packaged food to take with me. Being gluten-free means planning ahead of time what you’re going to eat. This part of the trip I traveled without a charge on Southwest, as I have amassed a large share of airline miles flying with them for years.

My flight was in the afternoon, so I had plenty of time to arrive, shop, and eat a good meal here. I ended up spending most of the night packing, though, and the rest of the night being wide anxious for my first trip outside of the country. I went to bed around 1:00 and had to wake up around 4:00, my first essentially sleepless night of my trip.

Day 2

The next day, after waking up at 4:00 and getting back to Baltimore, I caught a flight to Boston. Yet again, this flight was on Southwest and I used my Rapid Rewards miles to avoid paying directly for the flight. It was only 2,000 miles, so it was a super deal! The flight left around 8:00 with me ending up in Boston an hour and a half later. I had planned this as such so I would not have to worry about missing my flight to Keflavik at 14:00. As it turns out, I had plenty of time…

Boston-Logan’s international terminal is newly renovated with a bit of a retro throwback to the golden age of flying. It would not have been a terrible place to chill for the day, but Icelandair only lets people check in at the check-in counter about three hours before the flight. This left me to wander around the airport aimlessly for about two hours. They could have thought to put some more chairs in the airport, but I guess comfort outside of the actual terminal was an oversight.

Eventually I got checked in and fiddled on my laptop for a few hours before my flight. There was nothing unique about any of this experience leading up to the flight or on the flight honestly. Icelandair is a traditional airline in almost every sense except that their airplanes are outfitted with “duty-free” shops and they charge for food. But they give you free glacial water, so that was the trade-off.

Boston’s International Terminal is fresh with a midcentury style

My trip on Icelandair had a connection in Keflavik, which is why I keep mentioning Iceland on the way to France. Essentially, the plane would go from Boston to Keflavik, a five hour journey and arrive in Keflavik around midnight. At the same time, flights from Europe and the rest of the United States arrive around then. By 2:00 in the morning, all of these flights basically “switch”. The passengers from the United States switch to the planes going to Europe and the passengers from Europe switch to the planes going to the United States.

It may sound relatively complicated, but it was only $180USD one-way from Boston to Paris, so I was up for anything. By time the plane arrived in Keflavik around 00:25, though, I had not slept a wink.

Day 3

Icelandair reaches dozens of destinations in Europe and the Americas

I know it’s weird to start the next day at 00:25, but I’m going to do it anyways. The next flight that would connect me to Paris was going to leave Keflavik around 1:20 local time, so I had about 45 minutes after getting off the plane. It may not seem like a lot of time, but the Keflavik “switch” is very efficient as all the passengers are funneled through passport control and basically led to the flights to Europe. So dozens of groggy passengers followed behind me as we marched almost zombie-like through passport control to the next plane.

Passport control went basically like this for all of the Americans wondering if it’s as intense as the US system:

“Where are you going?”

“Uh… Let me think… I haven’t slept in two days… Toulouse?”

“Why? You’re a minor.”

“To… Visit a friend?”

“How long will you be there?”

“Like two… Maybe three weeks… But not all in Toulouse…”

“Okay. Here’s your passport.”

Let me just say, I have never seen an airport so busy as Keflavik in the middle of the night. There were people absolutely everywhere. I guess considering this connection option is so popular, it makes sense, but there was not a single seat near my gate. Most people were sitting along the walls trying not to fall asleep as they waited for their flights. I was first in line onto my next flight to Paris, so I thought I would get on the plane and sleep. It turns out that was not in the itinerary.

The plane ended up being a million degrees inside, so I was sitting in the cabin dying basically the entire flight. It didn’t leave any time for sleep–only pathetic attempts at getting a wink.  But three or four hours later–I would say before I knew it, but I was waiting anxiously the whole time to get off–the plane touched down just after sunrise in the land of pastries and cute accents.

CDG Roissypole Area is where you catch the RER B to Paris

When I got to Charles de Gaulle, it was a major shock. No one actually tells you how huge it is. There are only three terminals, but each one seems massive and is actually part of a series of sub-terminals. There is also a TGV (high-speed) rail station, major bus station, and metro station all in the area with another “tram” to take you between all of the above.

When I got off the plane, we were in a red-carpeted “pod” that seemed to be out in the middle of the tarmac. We had to go underground through a very long cave with a moving pathway to come up on the other side and get our bags and leave the airport. Sadly–either by fault of Icelandair in Boston, Keflavik, or Paris–my bag came off the belt with a damaged handle that would never again open properly. But I didn’t care to complain because I was too tired. I set my sights on a more necessary task–getting the metro into Paris.

Charles de Gaulle is about a thirty minute ride on the RER B into the center of Paris, a ride which costs the equivalent of $12USD each way. I did not have a choice of this, though, as the next part of my journey involved catching the intercité train to Toulouse. Of course, I missed my stop in Paris, but I ended up at Luxembourg Gardens and got to walk around without any people. I then continued to walk another 25 kilometers around the city before my train ride at 16:00.

In case you were unaware, the city of Paris is served by not one, not two, but six massive train stations. These each provide different services or routes. There is Gare Montparnasse, Gare du Nord, Gare d’Austerlitz, Gare de Lyon, Gare de Saint-Lazarre, Gare de Bercy, and Gare de l’Est. The train station I was going to was Gare d’Austerlitz, because it provided me the cheapest tickets at about $40USD one-way for a first-class seat. I’ll talk about train classes later, because they’re weird in Europe…

The train ticket was extremely cheap, but the only catch was that the train was scheduled to take about six hours with a few stops between Paris and Toulouse. This is different than the TGV (high-speed) route, which would take around only 4 hours with no or minimal stops. Sadly, TGV was not $40USD, so I seized the opportunity that I did.

On the train, I got a very nice, spacious seat to myself in a relatively empty cabin, and I started to doze off. About three hours into the ride, though, I was awoken to someone making an announcement only in French. I saw more than half the passengers get up and take their things to leave, and I started to panic thinking I was missing my stop. I quick collected my things and started to get off the train when I realized that I was in Limoges, only halfway there.

Apart from that depressing realization, I was not disappointed to be in a very quiet and relaxing train car. The only issue came when the train had to make an emergency stop because of a medical emergency with one of the staff. I had no idea what was going on here either (I didn’t know enough French at the time), but it was about an hour delay. In addition to that, I had not gotten a SIM card in Paris, so I had no way to reach my friend in Toulouse to notify them of the delay. 

Finally, the train got moving again, though, and I ended up in Toulouse around 22:00. I was lucky that my friend was at the train station to meet me and help me get to their home or I probably would not have made it out of the station at that point. I was essentially guided outside and to the Toulousain métro, to the very end of the line where we were picked up by their kind family.

By midnight that night, I was fed and crawling into bed, ready to never wake up again.


At the end of the three days, I had spent $232USD to get all the way to from Texas to Toulouse, and I didn’t spend much more than that amount getting back home a few weeks later. It was only about $500USD round-trip total.

It turns out it was totally possible to travel to Toulouse for super cheap, but I don’t know if I would recommend it if you don’t have great friends. I was beyond exhausted by all of this, but in the end, I managed it. And I was just happy to be in a new country and ready to have some great experiences. If that’s worth it to you overall, like it was to me, then go for it.

Have you ever gone so far out of your way because you didn’t have much money and you wanted to travel? Do you have a multi-day travel experience like mine? Hit me up in the comments :).


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