Paris is one of the most visited destinations in the world, as it is romantically charming in any season. But between choosing your flight to hitting all the major sights, it can be pretty overwhelming to plan the perfect trip. So where should you begin?
Visit a travel agency
This is perhaps the most old school but the most effective method. Don’t feel pressured to purchase a vacation package right away. Instead, talk to the travel agents to get some information about current travel conditions, peak seasons and travel destinations. You’ll get a better idea about the pitfalls to avoid in travelling to Paris, and you might even be inspired to plan a short cottage getaway to the Loire valley to experience life outside the city.
There are also many online travel resources such as Redtag where there are pre-set vacation packages that you can book. On our trip to Paris last year, my husband and I booked everything on Travelocity, from the flight to the hotel. I was pleasantly surprised by the quaint little hotel at the heart of the Latin Quartier which had friendly staff and a generous breakfast.
Purchase a travel book
I suggest you visit your local bookstore to pick up a travel guide. Make sure it’s the latest travel book though, because they have new editions every year. Lonely Planet, Fodors and TimeOut have very informative and readable travel guides that break down Paris into different districts. Read through it to get some historical insight into the city and some ideas of places that would interest you.
Plan your schedule
After you have a rough idea, it’s time to plan your schedule. Believe it or not, there are many free resources online to help you plan every detail of your trip, from a Croque Monsieur brunch to watching sunset on the Seine. On my last trip, I was able to map out a day-by-day schedule on Plnnr.
A great feature on these schedule makers is that you can play around with the order of your planned destinations to create the most logistically efficient one. It also maps out the routes and travel times between destinations so you can see how to get from A to B. Make sure to check the opening times and hours of major sights like the Louvre, which are closed on alternate days like Mondays or Tuesdays.
Download a travel app
There are local travel apps available to download on your iPhone, where you can get information the local attractions and ratings of restaurants in the area. This is particularly useful in the countryside, where information about local attractions such as castles and vineyards aren’t readily available in your travel guide.
Read travel blogs
There are a lot of great travel blogs that you can read get helpful insight about local happenings in the city and restaurant recommendations.
Don’t Yelp, ask a Local
When you get to Paris, ask your hotel concierge or a local for the best attractions and dining options. Oftentimes I find that the recommended restaurants from Yelp and travel guides are a tourist trap. For instance, we went to one French restaurant around the Pantheon that had 5 ratings on Yelp, but it was basically Americanized French food like sweet rosemary duck that you can get in New York. As a rule of thumb, you can tell if the place is a tourist trap when all the waiters speak English.
For fine French dining, trust the locals. Last time when I traveled to Paris, we ventured unplanned into a hotel restaurant with a very simple exterior, which unexpectedly carried authentic French cuisine such as fresh rabbit meat. We later found out that that it had 3 Michelin stars.
Even if you have a plan, allow yourself to be spontaneous. If there’s a café that catches your eye, don’t hesitate to enjoy a cup. Who knows, you might meet someone special there.