Traveling to Paris on the Cheap

So I have a little confession to make: we just got back from our trip to Paris — a kind of spur-of-the-moment splurge that came about because I saw a deal I just did not want to pass up.

It was a lot of fun, and oh the croissants!

Our deal

We ended up paying a total of $1,250.51 for airfare, six nights of hotel, and travel insurance for two. Airfare to Paris from Phoenix is normally in the $600-$800 range per person, so the first key to traveling on the cheap is being willing to search out (and wait for great deals) — and then being able to jump on them quickly when the stars align. (Which they finally did, after years waiting for that particular airfare alert to pop up.)

The next part is much more within your control: what you do once you get there.

How we saved (and how you can too)

Now, we didn’t do the entire trip inexpensively, because I arranged a tour that was pricey but worth it, and I went on a little mini-shopping spree at H&M shortly before we left the city, but in general we did pretty good.

We kept things down by taking a few minutes to look at the menus posted outside restaurants before going in. We skipped the ones that were €59 (about $85) for a main dish, and went with the ones in the €7-€12 ($10-$15) range. We asked for tap water (which is pretty much all we drink anyway) instead of buying bottled water. And we could have spent even less on eating during our trip if we’d bought cold foods to keep in our hotel room fridge.

We also evaluated the transportation options and how we intended to use them before buying. Paris has a travel card pass that could have worked out if we’d planned on using the associated discounts, but it ended up being less expensive for us to just buy books of 10 tickets at a time. We ended up using 4 books total, at €12 per book, so that was a better deal for us. (Plus one way tickets from the airport to our hotel, and one way tickets back from Versailles when we discovered that the regular tickets didn’t work for a return trip.)

Other Paris savings (or, hindsight is 20/20)

Long after we got back, I discovered the Paris Pass too, which would have given us free public transit plus skip-the-line admission to a bunch of things. Oh well! Next time :)

We could also have saved on lodging expenses by doing things like staying in a hostel (which we may do on a future trip we have planned), renting an apartment, or trading houses with someone. Of course there’s always CouchSurfing too.

The main key in keeping down travel expenses is to decide what’s important to you and what isn’t — which is of course the key in keeping down expenses in general as well. Do you have a trip to France planned? Eat a baguette for me if you go!