Visiting the Cote d'Azur during the Cannes Film Festival on a Budget

The Cannes Film Festival is the most glamorous of the film festival season, and held certainly in the most chic place - the French Riviera. I was scouring the web for a credit card I had seen that gives 75k miles when instead, I saw this post for $1200 round trip business class flights in May to Nice, France. Perfect timing! I had been planning on going anyways - and paid close to $1k for my non-direct flight there two years ago. (Don’t need biz class? Flights with layovers are available as low as $550 on Kayak now - but book wayyy in advance).

The fares were on a 4-years-new airline called La Compagnie, a boutique airline that has only lay-flat business class seats. After my recent trip to Hong Kong in AA biz class, I was hooked. In addition to all lay-flat seats, the Boeing 757’s boast Caudalie amenity kits, personal iPads, a seasonally-curated menu by a Michelin-starred chef, French wines and champagne and artisanal croissants by the famed French bakery, Maison Kayser.

Previously, La Compagnie only flew from NYC Newark to Paris Orly, but the seasonal Nice flights beginning in May would be their next city. Perfect timing for the festival, (smooth move, LC!) and of course, high season. The route runs until October.

Thanks to its chic beaches, laidback attitude, and best gorgonzola gnocchi I’ve EVER had, the Cote D’Azur is easily one of my favorite places on the planet, and I had been planning on going back again during the film festival this spring. As a manicurist who specializes in celebrity and VIP house calls during awards season and fashion week, this would be the perfect blend of doing what I love in a place that I love.

The Riviera from the Uber Helicopter to the Nice airport (a taxi alone would have been $100!)

The Riviera from the Uber Helicopter to the Nice airport (a taxi alone would have been $100!)

The Fastest I have Ever Booked a Flight

The flight booking process is simple - there are four tiers of rates, Promo, Bestbuy, Semiflex, and Fullflex. This is where the only catch comes in - in Promo (which I booked), it carries a $500 per flight change fee - and not refundable. It was a commitment.

After a quick search on Airbnb to be sure affordable studios were plentiful (surprisingly - they were!), I booked my flight, nonstop, Newark (EWR) to Nice (NCE) for $1199. For comparison, a seat in coach on American the same days is $3200 (they’ll drop, but still!) - biz being $4500.

But I didn’t tell you the best part about flying with La Compagnie. Two - yes two bags are included, up to 32kg (70lbs!) each. With all the polish (100 bottles) and products (gel, my gel lamp, acrylic, etc) I’ll be bringing, it was a no-brainer as European airlines are notorious for their add-on fees for luggage.

Finding Cannes Accommodations for (Well!) Under $125/night

An example of AirBnb availability for entire apartments the week of May 14-19, 2019

An example of AirBnb availability for entire apartments the week of May 14-19, 2019

It’s no secret that I love Airbnb. Over the past 5 years I have stayed in over two dozen airbnb’s on four continents with no issues (even solo in several). I’ve never even signed up for hotel points because I use Airbnb so much actually!

Like I mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure there are plenty of affordable options in Cannes during the film festival (the tiny area’s population triples during the 11 day festival, ensuring skyrocketing rates). Without an affordable place to stay for 9 days, all that money saved on the flight would be pointless!

Immediately after booking my flight, I managed to snag a stunning, newly renovated one bedroom apartment just 5 minutes from La Croisette (where all the action happens) for about $50 US per night!

Safe AirBnb’ing: Some Tips

So how do you know if an AirBnb is safe?

  1. Read the reviews. Are the reviews legit? Read any negative comments first. Are they serious issues (“The area is dangerous at night”) or subjective (“The water didn’t get hot enough”)?

  2. Research the general area to be sure there are several business around that resonate with you (a Starbucks signals the area has enough of a population with expendable income, for example). I also look for a grocery store nearby because nighttime cravings are real.

  3. Look for something that is refundable within 24-48 hours. Why? You only get the exact address after booking is complete for safety and privacy, so utilize the refund period to check out the area on Google earth to be sure its up to par with your needs.