Mon dieu! A trip to Paris is still considered too expensive by many potential visitors, especially those traveling with kids. Inexpensive European travel in Paris, France is really possible if you take the advice of locals who know to navigate the system and succeed.
Take heart, for here, like the Pont Neuf and the other beautiful Seine River crossings, there are many ways to walk the line between authentic Paris and the Paris that might not break your piggy bank. Grab a handful of petit monnaie and follow me!
6 Budget Watcher Tips for a Paris Vacation
Merci to the French Government Tourist Office for sharing insider tips for making a visit to Paris more affordable and authentic. And, after trying them, I know they really work.
1. When planning your trip, a package tour including flight and hotel (and even some activity) may be cheapest. Work with a travel agent or check out websites such as Expedia and Travelocity, to see their packages. Search the online agencies’ UK sites as well: Expedia.co.uk and Travelocity.co.uk where Paris weekend specials available to British residents may be a better deal than what you an find on the US based site. And be sure to look for winter supersaver rates.
2. Visit Logis de France for a listing of mid-priced Paris hotels, if you’re not on a package tour. Their ‘hotels de charme’ are particularly good for families, as many have larger rooms, plus there are great values if you’re willing to stay a bit outside the city. Or, look into Home Exchange if you want to consider a home swap or short-term apartment rental.
3. Visit Paris Pass website to read about the Paris Museum Pass which is bundled in with many top attractions. For €186 for a four-day pass and €220 for a six-day pass, you will gain unlimited access to 60 museums and monuments, without having to wait on long admissions lines. Yes, picture walking right in to the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay. You can purchase passes at the participating museums, major Metro stations and the Paris Tourist Bureau.
4. Visit RATP, the Paris Rapid Transit system, and click on “Visiting Paris” to get information about a Paris Visite pass for public transportation. It provides unlimited usage on the metro, RER, Transilien suburban train networks, tramway, bus (except the Jetbus, Allobus, Roissy CDG, tourist bus routes and Air France buses), Orlyval, Montmartre funicular and suburban service, including to such locations as Disneyland Paris. In addition, you can find discounted prices and special rates at certain venues including 25% off the entrance fees for the Arc de Triomphe, Tour Montparnasse panoramic observatory, Grévin Museum and a discounted price for the 2-day pass to Château de Versailles. Paris Visitie is valid for one to five days, available for purchase wherever you can buy regular tickets, at kiosks, airports and at the Paris Tourist office. Half price for children.
5. Visit Come to Paris for information about guided tours and “Hop on Hop Off” bus tours, if you are interested in a fun and efficient way to cover a lot of territory. Our family loves the hop-on and hop-off buses because they give us a way to rest up between major landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame and Place de l’Opera, then get off at any stop. Of course, you can get back on a different bus later. The reasonable €38 fee is good for two consecutive days. Other tours and itineraries are available as well.
6. When you get hungry (and who doesn’t get hungry in Paris?), check out restaurants serving a prix fixe or price-fixed meal. These menus include two or three courses plus cheese and/or dessert and sometimes include wine, for a moderate fee. Try to eat your main meal mid-day, when prices are lower, and have a light bite in the evening. Also, if you want to splurge on a Michelin-starred dinner with the kids, book an early table (before 7:30pm and mention the family) as most Parisians dine much later. As in most highly touristy cities, steer clear of the very popular tourist areas when selecting a restaurant. If the kids aren’t too tired, remember that cafés will charge less if you’re standing at the counter rather than sitting at a table.
3 Budget Tips for Touring France and Beyond
If you’ve come this far with the family, and you’ve stretched your budget by following some of my suggestions, you can amortize the international airfare by staying a bit longer. Why not consider a hop across the English Channel to visit London, or a more thorough exploration of the beautiful country of France? The website GoEuro allows you to search transportation options from point to point in Europe, so you can figure out if a plane, train, bus or rideshare is the best way to get around.
7. Want to add on a trip to nearby London while you’re so close? Visit Rail Europe to learn about train travel via the Chunnel; the Eurostar site is for the high-speed train that takes about 2 1/2 hours to reach London. Be sure to inquire about family rates as, during certain times of the year, kids ride free or half-price. Alternatively, you can travel to London by ferry between Dover and Calais, plus the local costs of traveling between the ferry terminals and the cities. Visit P&O Ferries or Brittany Ferries (they link Ireland and the UK with France and Spain) for more information and schedules.
8. Many towns in France outside of Paris are even more of a bargain. Orv Strandoo, author of “The Essential Driving Guide for France,” reminds visitors that certain key sites, such as the beaches of Normandy and the chateaux of the Loire Valley, are best visited by car. He notes, “The road signs are excellent, and the service areas along the autoroute are the best in Europe” — both of great importance to families.
9. For activity ideas, seasonal sales and further information on attractions in Paris and around the country, visit the comprehensive French tourism office website.
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