Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo travels to Paris often, usually with his kids, and he never spends more than he has to. We asked him for tips on saving money in the City of Light.
Paris on a Budget
When I see lists of the travel destinations that people most want to visit, Paris is virtually always in the top five. That makes sense: it’s an amazing city, with Instagrammable sites like the Eiffel Tower and the cobblestoned streets of Montmartre, spectacular museums, and excellent food. And of course there’s the history and culture. But I also frequently hear that people haven’t booked trips because Paris is too expensive. That makes me cringe! Paris can be expensive, but it can just as easily be a budget destination. So in the interest of getting you to finally stop delaying your Parisian vacation planning, here are my top tips on ways to save money on a Parisian vacation. Seriously, click through and book a trip NOW!
1) Travel When Others Aren’t
Paris is by far the most crowded, and the most expensive, between June and August. While warm weather is nice, and Paris has outdoor events during the summer, if you’re on a budget you should look at planning a trip literally any other time of year. The low season is November through February, with far fewer visitors and much lower prices, but it’s also cold. For the best combination of decent weather and lower prices, look at fall (September/October) and spring (March, April and May). If you’re good with either season, do an airfare search and choose based on price.
2) Stay Outside of the City Center
Paris has an excellent metro system, so it’s not necessary to stay in any one particular area. Do a hotel search and don’t be afraid to stay well away from the Champs-Élysées, the Louvre and the lower-numbered arrondissements (areas of the city, numbered from 1 to 20).
If you’re outside of the city center, take the Métro to a point of interest, but then walk from there. The Eiffel Tower and most museums have entrance fees, but the majority of the best sites in Paris are completely free. Stroll along the Seine. Visit Notre Dame. Explore Père-Lachaise cemetery and the Luxembourg Gardens (our favorite). Climb up to Montmartre. Walk along the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre, or vice versa. Despite the Métro, Paris is meant to be seen on foot. And don’t forget to explore the area around your hotel — you’re sure to come across interesting sites and cafes.
4) The Museums Can Be Free
I said above that museums in Paris have entrance fees. And that’s true — but it’s complicated. If you’re under 26 and a European citizen, you can get in free to most Parisian museums anytime by showing a European ID or a passport. Some museums are free to everyone, year-round, like the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Maison de Victor Hugo. Some are free the first Sunday of the month, year-round, including the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Musée national de l’Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay — three of our favorites. The excellent Musée Rodin is free the first Sunday of each month from October through March, and others like Versailles are free the first Sunday from November through March — another reason to head to Paris in the off-season.
If you’re not in Paris the first Sunday of the month, or you want a little more flexibility, look into the official Paris Museum Pass. Depending on how many museums and monuments you want to visit, the pass can be an excellent deal. And a bonus: it allows you to skip the line at most museums.
5) Have Picnics
Paris is our favorite city in the world to have picnics. First, there’s nothing like setting out a blanket in Champ de Mars park at the base of the Eiffel Tower and watching the sun go down as the kids play and people come by selling good, inexpensive wines. Second, Paris has the best street food and take out food anywhere. Simply go into any boulangerie and get a baguette, then head to a market to pick up meat, cheese and fruit, and maybe a chocolate mousse for dessert. Of course if you want to have a 10-course Michelin-starred meal there are plenty of options in the city, but on a budget, and with kids, we’ll opt for the picnic every time. And if it’s winter or the weather’s less-than-perfect, stop at a cafe for a croque monsieur, or stop by a crêpe stand and pick up a crêpe to go. While the French generally do not eat while walking, crêpes are an exception.
Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity.
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