When planning a trip to Paris, especially for the first time, it's fairly easy to get pulled in by what seem like tempting packages or special offers. After all, one online deal comprising flight, hotel, and even metro passes or an evening dinner cruise on the Seine may appear to take all the guesswork out of the equation and make your stay worry-free. But when looking at the fine print or getting to the less-than-perfectly-clean hotel room, that shiny package just might end up revealing itself as dross.
Before you start entering your credit card details, it's important to do some careful groundwork. Click through for our advice on the five essential things you should spend some time doing and thinking through before you book you trip. We all but guarantee it will make your stay more relaxed and enjoyable.
1. Decide when to go (and don't assume that it should be Spring)
Although it's commonplace to assume that spring and summer are ideal seasons for a visit, for many travellers factors like huge crowds, inflated hotel and travel prices, and overbooked restaurants make fall or winter more comfortable and affordable options for a Parisian sojourn.
Make sure to consult our guide helping you to determine when's the best time to visit before making any decisions. In it, we offer some solid pros and cons for visiting in each season, hopefully helping you to narrow your choices and choose the time that fits your needs and personal preferences. And if you loathe extreme hot or cold, you can consult our guide to Paris weather averages by month to get an idea of what the mercury might be up do during your stay.
2. Sift through packages and deals, and read fellow travelers' reviews.
Ready for the next step in planning your Parisian getaway the smart way? This one is probably the hardest, for the reasons we brought up earlier. It seems everyone's trying to hoodwink travelers into thinking their package is the "real deal", in all senses of the phrase. We highly recommend using aggregator sites like Kayak and consulting trusted consumer reviews of set packages you might be considering-- Trip Advisor is a good one.
In any case, we strongly advise that you read plenty of reviews from fellow travelers before settling on any package, and take some time to read the fine print of any deal that interests you. Otherwise, you might find that your "dream" trip turns out to be a mediocre, or even highly disappointing, affair.
Ready? Book Your Trip: Travel Packages to Paris - Flights, Trains, and Finding Deals
3. Figure out where to stay (and it doesn't have to be a hotel!)
Countless readers write to me ask our opinion on the "best hotels in Paris". But apart from the five-star palace hotels, the picture is pretty ambiguous for the majority of us, who can't afford the triple-and quadruple-digit-per-night room rates at these hubs for the 1%.
Deciding where to stay is, moreover, a highly personal decision and one-size-fits-all solutions just don't exist. We once again encourage you to spend some time considering your options. would a hotel work best, or could you consider renting a short-term apartment from one of the many companies catering to visitors (at this time, and for several complex reasons, we're not recommending Air BnB for tourists lodging in Paris).
As with tip #2, read travellers' reviews of any hotel or rental company you're considering booking with, and make sure that if you have to put down any deposits before getting the keys, you're dealing with a legitimate business. If you need to consult come good lists on good lodging options according to your particular needs-- from cheap student lodging to popular mid-range hotels, read on.
4. Get your money, visas, and passports in order.
In some respects. international travel is far less complex and expensive than it once was, but even in this globalized world, it's still incredibly important to get your ducks in a row when it comes to paperwork and figuring out how to handle your money while abroad.
Will you use yur bank or credit card/s? Travellers checks? How much does your bank charge for taking out cash from ATMS/cash points? Read on for some in-depth tips in these dull but important areas, and avoid unnecessary stress and time-consuming decision-making while you're on your trip.
5. Learn about the city and the local culture.
The final step in planning any trip to the city of light ? Spend time learning about the city and local Parisian culture. Doing so will greatly enhance your experience, and ensure you understand and get along with locals better.
We're big advocates of semi-spontaneous, "experiential" travel. After all, there's something thrilling about visiting a new place, stumbling by chance on off-the-beaten-track corners and local secrets, getting an impressionistic overview of a place-- then spending the evening at the hotel reading all about the destination's history and customs.
But there's also something to be said for reading up on your destination at least a bit before boarding your flight (or while on it). By learning something about the place you're headed, you'll get so much more out of the experience, and also avoid wasting time on local tourist traps and overrated attractions. .
Browse through some of the features below to get a sense of how the city works; its history and culture, and to figure out how you'd best like to spend your time.
Looking for More Practical Advice? Read On:
- Paris in Facts and Figures: City Profile
- A (Very) Short History of Paris
- What to See in Paris, Neighborhood by Neighborhood
- Eight Semi-Secret and Un-touristy Areas to Explore in Paris
- Oh la la! Top Stereotypes and Myths About Paris and Parisians
- How to Avoid "Rude" Service in Paris: Some Cultural Observations
- French Vocabulary Worksheets: Words and Phrases to Learn Before You Go