Paris, France

  • Knowledge is power. So read as much as you can about Paris before you go, ask friends who have been there, and secure as much free information as possible from the Internet and tourist office.
  • Plan well in advance. Airlines and even car-rental firms and hotels need to sell their inventory of seats, cars, and rooms and will reward the advance purchaser with a discount. A 21-day advance-purchase airfare is a lot cheaper than a regular economy ticket.
  • The most expensive part of any trip often is the airfare, so scour newspapers and the Net for the latest information. Airlines want to fill every flight, so they adjust their pricing frequently. Look for airlines that have just begun flying to Paris–they often launch the route with low fares.
  • Fly during the week rather than on weekends; it’s cheaper. Also, you’ll save on airfare and dining if you travel during the off-season, approximately October to March.
  • Pack light. You won’t need a luggage cart, and you’ll be less likely to succumb to the desire for a taxi.
  • Book early. The best budget choices fill up fast.
  • Negotiate the room price, especially in the low season. Ask for a discount if you’re a student or over 60; ask for a discount if you stay a certain number of days.
  • Stay at a hotel that doesn’t insist you take breakfast, which can add $5 a day to your bill. Make sure you aren’t being charged for it.
  • If you’re not opposed to picnicking, patisseries, boulangeries, and street markets are your best bets for quick, cheap dining. Just don’t forget a corkscrew (tire-bouchon). Boulangeries sell sandwiches, cold slices of pizza, and individual quiches for about 3.00€ ($3.28).
  • Make lunch your main meal. Many restaurants offer great deals on a fixed-price lunch. After two or three courses at midday, you’ll be happy to eat light at dinner.
  • Tour the historic monuments and enjoy public art in the streets and parks. History endures at sights like the place des Vosges and the place de la Concorde. Statues can also give you a quick history course in the great figures and personalities that have shaped Paris, or maybe just afford you a chance to appreciate the male and female nude, such as the Maillol sculptures in the Tuileries.
  • Churches are free. Take the opportunity to sit and contemplate, or to attend a service. Many churches have dramatic interiors and famous artwork–paintings by Delacroix at St-Sulpice, sculptures by Coysevox at St-Roch, and etchings by Rouault at St-Séverin, to name only a few.
  • Paris is expensive, but there are many great buys. Just take your time browsing through the little boutique stores and flea markets and you’ll be sure to find that perfect little gift. Things like film and toiletries, including contact lens solution, are much more expensive in Paris than in the United States or the United Kingdom. Bring enough to get you through your trip.
  • Perfume made in France really is different from French perfume made elsewhere. In France, perfume is made with potato alcohol, which increases the scent and lengthens its endurance, making French-made perfume the best there is.
  • Look for stylish, inexpensive clothes at the stores best described as upscale Targets: Monoprix and Prisunic. For discounts on fashion, try the rue St-Placide.