Many people have a desire to travel to Europe, and France is usually at the top of most people’s lists, with good reason. If you are finally making your dream to visit this wonderful country a reality, you want to make sure you do your homework so you can plan the best trip possible. Here are some important considerations to help you do just that.
Do Not Just Visit Paris
When you think of France, you automatically think of its enchanting capital, Paris- great food, culture and beauty all around. But, many people make the mistake of just visiting this one city when there is so much more to see, often at a cheaper price. There are lots of other cities as well as beaches, world-renowned French ski resorts and the countryside. Consider starting and ending your trip in the capital and filling the time in-between with the myriad other offerings of this beautiful country.
Look Into Less Expensive Cities
If you like the urban experience, but want to find a way to spend less money, you do not just have to spend all your time in Paris. There are lots of other areas to hit. Nice is not exactly inexpensive, but going in the off-season will save you some money and it is much cheaper than surrounding areas such as St. Tropez and Cannes. You might also look into Chartres, Bordeaux and Montpellier.
Consider the Off-Season for a More Affordable Trip
France is a very expensive country to visit and if saving money is an important part of making your dream trip a reality, consider visiting in the off-season where you can see significant savings in hotels, airfare and tours. November to March will not only be cheaper, there will be fewer people. In many parts of the country, the weather is still pleasant, even in the heart of winter—in Provence, for example, December temperatures can be as high as 57 degrees, hardly bone-chilling. Going in the dead of summer may also limit the experience; August is a popular travel time for the French and you may find many shops and restaurants are closed.
Consider Hotels in Outskirts Rather than a Major City
If you are staying in Paris or another major city, you might consider staying in a surrounding suburb well-served by public transportation, such as the Metro or RER in Paris. You will get more bang for your buck and you will still be able to enjoy all the same attractions. Of course, you will be spending a bit more time to travel, but if it makes your France trip possible, some time on the subway is probably worth it.
Eat Breakfast like the French
There can often be a significant difference between the price of just a hotel room and a room plus breakfast every morning—maybe as high as 20 euros, which may just get you the basics. Instead, try dining like a local and hitting one of the many cafes for a simple breakfast of coffee and a croissant or pastry—it will only cost you a few euro and you will be having one of the authentic French experiences.
Indulge in Fancy French Food Just Once a Day
France is famous for its food and will be one of the highlights of your trip; but, if you are on a budget, sampling the best of the best multiple times a day will eat into your budget like nothing else. You might consider lunch time for that great French meal—typically you can get similar foods that are served at dinner but for a fraction of the price. Then, eat something small for dinner.
Order the Prix Fixe Menu and the House Wine
Many French restaurants will offer a prix fixe menu that includes a mix of appetizers , main dishes and desserts all for a fixed price. Not only is this cheaper than ordering items separately, it will expose you to all different types of dishes. If expensive French wines are not in your budget, order a glass of the house wine, which may be better than some of the bottled wines of other countries.
While you may not associate France with camping, it is actually a great way to save money on accommodation without compromising comfort. Rating systems for accommodation in France are government-regulated and a 4-star camping ground is often nicer than a two-star hotel. So, if the weather is warm and you are on a budget, do not rule out this option.
Consider Whether You Should Get a Rail Pass
Whether or not you will benefit from a rail pass will depend on your itinerary so plot it carefully to see if this is the better route to go. If you will be making a few long-distance trips, it can save you significant amounts of money—for example, you may pay 250 euro for a one way trip from Paris to Nice; for a similar price you can get a rail pass that allows you to take multiple trips within a set amount of time. If you are taking short trips or going to lots of smaller villages, this may not be the best option.
Consider Houses or Apartments over Hotels
While you may think that renting an apartment or house would have to be more expensive than a hotel in an expensive country like France, think again. If you look over a site such as AirBNB, you will find that it is often a similar price or significantly less expensive. You can experience France like a local, have more space than a hotel—which may be especially great for kids, and save money by cooking your own meals.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys covering all things travel; if you are interested in visiting a French ski resort, check out www.goski.co.uk/resorts/france/index.htm for more information.