Author Topic: I want to treat myself to a trip. Paris? Other options? And be frugal?  (Read 8166 times)

ETBen

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I want to treat myself to a trip after this crazy and fortuitous year. Just me solo.

Paris seems like one of the prime options. I'm open to most anything outside the US, Americas, and Carribean. Those I can do more easily and have this year. I like to simply take it all in when I travel. Roam, eat, read, etc.

Frugal travel options:
- I don't know anyone abroad I can stay with.
- my points are largely with southwest so I'll be paying for airfare
- I have no other travel rewards as of now
- looking at September or October or November.
- I'm fine with Airbnb. I'll gladly go small but don't want to slum it so to speak.
- small boats make me sick.

Melisande

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You could also look into "gites ruraux" as posssible low-cost accommodations. We had some amazing experiences with these back in the 90s. A little like AirBNB avant la lettre, but you can also find accommodations with both breakfast and dinner included (at least you could in the 90s and I'm pretty sure it's still that way). Really cheap, really yummy and a great way to meet the locals.


ETA: I saw the word "southwest" and for some reason I thought Southwest France instead of the airline. Sorry. If you haven't been to Paris, definitely go, but if you gave time to get out to the country side, check out the "gites ruraux"
« Last Edit: June 04, 2016, 07:46:42 PM by Melisande »

Choices

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Our favorite trip ever was to Thailand-- loved Bangkok and Chang Mai, took a cooking class, rode the elephants, went Zorbing on the beach. Plus, once you're there everything's very affordable. We have a two-week itinerary you're welcome to if that's what you decide.

Just thinking about that trip puts me in a happy place.

rockstache

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Our favorite trip ever was to Thailand-- loved Bangkok and Chang Mai, took a cooking class, rode the elephants, went Zorbing on the beach. Plus, once you're there everything's very affordable. We have a two-week itinerary you're welcome to if that's what you decide.

Just thinking about that trip puts me in a happy place.

I have no immediate plans for Thailand but it's one of my eventual trip plans. I would love to see your itinerary!

belgiandude

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Flights: use sites such as kayak, matrix.itasoftware.com, and google.com/flights to find cheap flights. Icelandair (with stop in reykjavik) is usually cheap from the east coast.  Jetairfly.com flies from Miami to Brussels (and back) for 450 euro in november. From there you can take a train (100-200 euro) or a bus (5-20 euro with eurolines).

Night: In Paris itself, try couchsurfing. If that does not work, air bnb is most likely your best bet.

Activities:Museums sometimes have free days.

Transport: The metro is the best (and cheapest) way to get around (besides walking! everything is close together).

Food: buy a baguette and some cheese in a carrefour and eat it on a bench. Take breakfast in one of the bakeries. A croissant and coffee is cheap. Avoid restaurants in touristy places as the plague. You will pay out of your nose for those.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2016, 08:51:44 PM by belgiandude »

yourusernamehere

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Paris is wonderful. Great advice so far- I will also add to check online for any upcoming festivals in Paris (or whatever destination you decide on.) we honeymooned in Paris and there was a festival that resulted in closed museums and some extra crowds. You might find one you want to attend, or something you want to avoid.

bobechs

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Go to the other Paris:

http://www.paristexas.gov/

sparkytheop

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We did five weeks in Europe last summer (my son and I).

We used booking.com to reserve rooms-- I looked for good ratings and inexpensive prices, near metro/underground stops. 

If you do Paris, you can buy metro/bus tickets in groups of 10 for the best price.  Take the metro/bus to one location, walk all over for the day, take it home.  There are little markets everywhere, several of our meals were just trying new things out of a little store. 

Southern France was amazing, and felt like home, but we had distant family there who let us stay with them, then drove us around to see some sights.

Poland is very cheap (we had a large apartment, with washing machine, kitchen, etc, right on the corner of the town square for $70/night).  You can find highly rated rooms for $25/night.  Exchange rate was $1 USA = 4 zloty (or, one of our quarters was one of their dollars).  We had some really nice meals for $10 (40 zloty).  A beer was $1.  It was beautiful and I can't wait to go back.

Prague, Czech Republic, was also very inexpensive.

NykkiC

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Since it sounds like you're not sure if you want to go to Paris, it might be worth thinking about what you most want to see/do, and whether you want to do something generic like 'see museums' or location dependant like 'see the Louvre'. Its worth bearing in mind that Paris, much like London, is one of those 'typical' destinations that a lot of people want to go to and the demand means that accomodation doesn't come as cheap as you could get it in other places, Central Europe being a personal favourite of mine.

That said, I've found cheap and good quality places in otherwise expensive cities before (shout out to Castanea Hostel in Stockholm's Old Town and a now sadly defunct hostel in the center of Copenhagen). AirBNB is usually better than a hotel with regards to price but I usually stick with hostels because they're even cheaper and the well rated ones will usually have people at the desk capable of giving you really good tips from people who are either locals or who have been there long enought to get a job. YMMV though, because I've found there's an art to picking hostels, and I've had a few shockers in my time to educate me.

With regards to flying, the websties that have already been mentioned are good and I've also used Skyscanner in the past. Its worth keeping in mind that the following factors can signifcantly improve the price:
a) overnight flights that arrive very early or very late (and sometimes its hard to tell which)
b) long layovers (I once saved $800 on a return flight by having one of the legs have a 17 hour wait at the airport, which is a lot more than my time is usually worth and was in Singapore Airport so it was pretty comfortable)
c) flying with airlines with less international reputations
d) flying into secondary airports for non-hub cities
e) flying into hubs (in the past, I've found it to be cheaper to fly from Australia to London and then take trains or do very short flights to get to other European cities than to fly direct)
If you're prepared to do one or more of those, the inconvenience can be worth it.

When it comes to getting around and seeing the sights, google is your friend and it pays to be flexible. Nine times out of ten I'll take the local public transport to get around, though not at the expense of safety (such as late at night, particularly if I've just arrived). I usually look at highly rated attractions in a given city and have a list of essentials that I have to see and then things that I'd like to see, then I adapt to the situation when I get there. I also usually google 'cheap entry + attraction' for that one time in ten that it helps.

The last tip I have is one people don't really talk about: goodwill. Something as simple as learning a couple of phrases in the local language even if most people speak English (though, for the love of all that's holy, do not read out of a guide book or phrase book; that looks more like convenience than courtesy). Even if you're not a people person, smile and be courteous, just don't ambush locals who are just going about their business (yes, I've seen tourists do this, and not to ask for help or directions but just to chat). Also, if you make it clear through your body language that you are genuinely enjoying someone else's country and its amazing how people will go out of their way to help you, particularly people in hospitality/tournism who see far to many people behaving badly or who just don't appreciate it that much.

Sorry for the long post. Hopefully at least some of it was useful :)

limeandpepper

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Our favorite trip ever was to Thailand-- loved Bangkok and Chang Mai, took a cooking class, rode the elephants, went Zorbing on the beach. Plus, once you're there everything's very affordable. We have a two-week itinerary you're welcome to if that's what you decide.

Just thinking about that trip puts me in a happy place.

I have no immediate plans for Thailand but it's one of my eventual trip plans. I would love to see your itinerary!

Agree Thailand is a great travel destination, and would suit the OP as a frugal and fun option. :) A couple years ago I was in North Thailand (Chiang Mai and surrounding areas) for a month. I've only recently posted about it in my blog - link in signature - if anyone wants to read about it and look at pictures.

As an aside, for anyone thinking about going to Thailand or riding elephants anywhere really, please read more about it before making your decision. A few links to kick things off:

https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/why-not-ride-elephants/
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/http_cdnintrepidtravelcom/sites/default/files/51033_Elephant_Welfare.pdf
http://www.responsiblevacation.com/vacations/elephant-conservation/travel-guide

When I visited Nepal some years ago I was interested in an elephant safari until we went to a safari agent and even he recommended against it, even though the agency arranges the service for customers who want it. I had no idea about the concerns surrounding this issue before that. I then read more about it online and decided not to do it after all. So I just want to put this out there as not everyone knows about this. There are certainly rescue elephant sanctuaries that are the real deal, though! I hope to visit one of these someday.

ETBen

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Thanks all, this is helpful. And feel free to keep ideas coming. 

Re: Thailand. One of my parents is a Vietnamese refugee (I was born here right after the war). I have always felt like Thailand and Vietnam will be a big trip for me but not just yet.

Nederstash

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I definitely second the Poland option! Warsaw is fun, but Krakow is the place to be. Amazing ancient (11th/12th century) structures, a booming college city with squares and churches and parks. You can visit Auschwitz, that's a really impressive day tour.
 
Poland is very cheap. 80 cent vodka shots, anyone?

Nederstash

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Another good one: Morocco, especially Marrakech, Casablanca and Fez. From Marrakech, take a trip into the Sahara desert, on camel back of course, and sleep beneath the stars. Or a hike in the Atlas mountains. Don't forget to haggle about everything!

boarder42

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Travel hack. Get more credit cards I'm sure it's been said but a citizen aa card with 50k points will get you there.

SailorGirl

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Check airfares constantly or set up alerts.

Iceland air can have some great deals if you can use SWA miles to get to the east coast for free.

Good deals are easier to find if you don't have a fixed date.

Look at hostels.  Many have single rooms available and can be cheaper than hotels.  Also check small, private rooms.  https://www.ricksteves.com/ usually has good suggestions.

Make a list of sights with free days.  They are usually packed so get there right when it opens.  Hunt down some other free activities for the days that you are museum'd out.  Sometimes just sitting in a park is a perfect mid-vacation break.

Don't eat at restaurants.  Buy food from the markets (a fun experience) and have a picnic.  If you have to eat out, go for lunch - it's usually cheaper.

I've spent up to six weeks travelling and rarely went much over $3k including airfare.  It's all about planning ahead.

slowsynapse

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I think Paris is one of the great cities to visit, particularly if you like the museums.

We purchased a Paris pass because it got you into all of the museums and we wanted to do as many as possible.  It also had subway passes, which leads me to some potential money saving.  We found the subway in Paris quite easy to use as there are stops near almost all major attractions.  You could save money staying a little further out and using their subway to get into the attraction zones.

NumberJohnny5

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Find a deals site that posts awesome travel deals. I need to find the US equivalent, but OzBargain was good for Australians. Check it briefly once or twice a day. Once a week or so do a more thorough check.

How long do you have? If you have a month or more, you could look into the possibility of a 2+ week cruise that crosses the ocean. Cruise ships will be heading from Europe back to the east coast of the US (probably Florida) and they'll be heading from the west coast of the US to Asia and Australia. Single person fare may be high, but might not cost as much as two people (even if it is, you only pay port charges and gratuity for one person). Do make sure you check out the one-way flight costs before you make the final payment. You might save money doing this, but you might not. Expect larger crowds doing the touristy stuff in port.

We just did a 3+ week cruise from Sydney to Seattle. I didn't catch the cheapest price, but at one point it was about $1k per person (~$700 USD), plus gratuities. Not cost effective, but it was a LOT nicer than being on a 14 hour flight. Fiji and Hawaii were nice too.

Anyway, if you have a wide range of dates you can travel, and aren't too fussed about exactly where you go or what kind of vacation you have, you can definitely find something that's a great value.

ETBen

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Thanks!  I'm so excited to start researching!!

meghan88

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Since it sounds like you're not sure if you want to go to Paris, it might be worth thinking about what you most want to see/do, and whether you want to do something generic like 'see museums' or location dependant like 'see the Louvre'.
...
The last tip I have is one people don't really talk about: goodwill. Something as simple as learning a couple of phrases in the local language even if most people speak English (though, for the love of all that's holy, do not read out of a guide book or phrase book; that looks more like convenience than courtesy). Even if you're not a people person, smile and be courteous, just don't ambush locals who are just going about their business (yes, I've seen tourists do this, and not to ask for help or directions but just to chat). Also, if you make it clear through your body language that you are genuinely enjoying someone else's country and its amazing how people will go out of their way to help you, particularly people in hospitality/tournism who see far to many people behaving badly or who just don't appreciate it that much.

Sorry for the long post. Hopefully at least some of it was useful :)
+1.  Especially about speaking the language and showing appreciation.  If you can, and if you have enough time to make it worthwhile, you might want to try the southwest of France, somewhere along the Canal du Midi.  The weather is better than Paris if you're going in the fall.  And the food is cheaper and better.  You might also consider Italy.  The further south you go in Italy, the friendlier it gets.  Actually, the same holds true for France IMHO.

There are lots of gites and self-catering places.  Don't stop at Airbnb.  There's also Abritel, HomeAway and other sites that are less known on this side of the pond.

jrhampt

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I went to Paris this spring.  As others have said, the metro is cheap and easy - buy tickets in packets of 10 and you can even get to Versailles on the metro, as well as to the airport (if you pack light).  I found a hotel for 3 people on orbitz for ~$60/night in Montmartre, which was one of the less expensive neighborhoods to stay in.  I used a coupon code for multiple nights' stay and got %15 off.  For a single person, you might be able to do even better, depending on the time of year that you go.  We also took advantage of the free museum admission on the first Sunday of the month (Musee d'Orsay was wonderful, and I enjoyed it much more than the Louvre).  I did find that there were lots of expensive and mediocre restaurants in Paris, so if you can find a place with a refrigerator, it's better to do some shopping at a local grocery and eat some meals that way.

I enjoyed Paris and was glad I went; it had been on my list of places that I wanted to see for ages - so definitely go if that's the case for you.  However, I found Italy a more enjoyable experience overall, including the food. 

boarder42

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take the travelmiles101 course its taught by mustachians it will show you how to get your trip for pennies on the dollar.  i cant believe the amount of people here recommending anything other than this.

SimplyMarvie

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About Paris: Please keep an eye on the news before you commit to that trip. The Louvre is being evacuated as we speak ahead of historic floods on the Seine, as well as a number of other museums. The waters haven't hit their crest yet, and no one knows how long the clean-up is going to take once they do. If you're in Paris for other stuff, that might not be an issue, but if you're planning your trip around museums, make sure they'll be open when you go!

I went to Paris this winter for under $350 for four days (airfare included, but I was coming from Europe, so that hardly counts...) and had a BLAST. I was there to see Cathedrals, Museums, and the place where they burnt Jaques De Molay at the stake, and achieved all of those things. I looked at AirBNB and actually didn't find anything compelling. I ended up at a small hotel in the 8th Arrondisment (Hotel Coyopel) -- unfussy, unfancy, but cheap and warm and close to the Metro and a Carrefour Express and a bunch of kebeb places. I'd buy breakfast provisions from the grocery store the night before, eat in the room, and then head out... I got cheap lunch (quiche, soup, etc.) while I was out, and then bought something easy and portable for dinner. I used the Metro and walked (and took a train out to Chartres), and had a completely lovely time.

We did a similar trip to Rome with the kids for a week, with the same ideology and had an absolute BLAST. (We did rent an apartment this time, but we walked everywhere, saw lots of free sites, and lived and died by Carrefour express -- which I find hilarious, because I don't shop there at 'home' because the prices are high.)

If you're looking for super cheap and awesome, I'd totally recommend Eastern Europe. Poland, Romania, Croatia, Solvakia is a huge favorite of all my friends. :)

jeromedawg

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I would seriously consider opening up a Chase Sapphire Preferred rewards card and possibly others (IHG Rewards card) to rack up points and miles.

Also, you didn't say how long are you planning to go for. A couple weeks? Longer?

One tip if you do go with the IHG rewards card is that IHG has "point breaks" and sometimes hotels offering slightly discounted rates - these break down to as little as 5k pts per night to 15k pts per night. In most cases, it's 20k+ per night for domestic hotels and 40k+ per night internationally. If you happen to find an international hotel where you can get a 25k or less per night rate that's pretty good considering the current sign-on bonus is 70k points (with $2k spend though, which should be easy if you have a mortgage and can pay with a credit card for example). The card also includes a free rewards night. So you can stretch and maximize the points if you look around. Currently, and unfortunately, it doesn't look like there are many options for point breaks in Europe :( - the other option is to partial pay with points and pay an lower rate per night (e.g. 30k + $70 a night)... that might be worth it depending on if you can't find a comparable or better hostel or airbnb for the same or less. Annual fee on this card is $49 a year but I find that to be worth while considering they give you a free reward night good at *any* IHG hotel.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 04:16:10 PM by jplee3 »

Cassie

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Norwegian Air can have some great deals. We had been to Poland twice and it is beautiful especially Krakow and very cheap. I have been to Italy 2x's and nice but more expensive.  Thailand is beautiful but so hot/humid with polluted air and water when we ere there which was a while back. We even went in NOv so it would be cooler-high 90's-ugh! I want to go to Prague because everyone says it is beautiful. The Poles love Americans.

Reddleman

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Paris is actually not nearly as expensive as it's reputation.  Suuure you can spend a lot of money, but most of what is best about it is pretty reasonable. 

Montmartre is one of my favorite parts of the city.  It has that "old" Paris feel, and happens to be one of the cheaper places to find a short-term rental and lodging. 

Food can be at least as cheap as in most places in the states.  Basics from bakeries, fruitsellers, etc. are very reasonable, often tend to be in season, and are much better than the average quality you can get at U.S. markets (unless you happen to live in CA, then it's a toss-up).  For the most part the culture really values food- making it a wonderful place to eat your way through.  On our honeymoon we ended up leaving after a few weeks in France and stopped at one of the better known cheese shops in Paris.  We spent an hour with the manager to help us decide on some to bring home!  We love cheese, he loves to talk about it- and it's not like we had much money to spend. . .
Museums- see them all at your leisure.  A museum pass is a great idea- it also allows you to avoid some of the purchasing lines:
http://en.parismuseumpass.com/rub-t-price-36.htm
Metro pass- including the trip from/to the airport is also very reasonable:
http://parisbytrain.com/paris-train-metro-week-pass-navigo-decouverte/

Although some may suggest cheaper options (Krakow is now on my list!) Paris really is a must-see. 





JLR

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We spent some time in Paris last year. We saved heaps by flying to Europe in October rather than September.

If you find yourself out and about without your lunch (or dinner) pre-made, the supermarkets all have multiple fridges full of sandwiches. The prices were good, the sandwiches were good, and the range was great!

We went to Sainte-Chapelle on the first Sunday of the month as it was free entry. It was beautiful.

Used the metro lots. Got a book of 10 tickets at a time, from memory, but we were a group of 5 so consider how many you will use. We also did lots of walking. Just so nice to look around.

boarder42

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Speaking of Paris..
http://slickdeals.net/f/8815707-flight-442-492-paris-france-from-washington-dc-nyc-newark-chicago-r-t-all-in-on-united

pair this with a SW flight to the departure city and a barclay arrival plus mastercard and you have your self a free flight to paris.   now just add some hotel churning to get you some rooms for free.

acroy

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Go to the other Paris:

http://www.paristexas.gov/

No don't; it sucks! 

Paris (France) in Oct/Nov is pretty awesome. Trees are changing color, way fewer tourists, etc. DW and I spent 2 weeks there, just soaking it in. Walk all over the place, see the sights. Will never forget walking along the Seine river on a Saturday evening: impromptu street performers, musicians, dancing.

Beriberi

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Secretflying.com is a great website for travel deals - they post flash sales, error fares, and all around good deals.  You can book directly with the airline.  I have a friend taking her family of four to Australia this summer, from Atlanta - for less than $2000. You have to be patient (or live near a hub airport) there are only a half dozen or so things posted per day.


ETBen

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Can I get some more advice on rewards programs/cards?  I'm looking at 5 days in November.  I see non-stop out of Dulles pricing about 500 each way.  (I live near DC). 

I have a Chase SW and Sapphire, both I got with the fee waived the first year.  I paid childcare bills and got all the 50k promotional points and other seasonal promotions.  These are all with southwest rapid rewards right now, though.  I'll be using those to take the kids on a trip. 

What's my best option to get a good offer to use towards these flights or the hotel stay?  My only upcoming big expense  to use on a promotional offer is 2k on childcare.  If I had to, I could pay a few months of HOA in advance, too.  Probably another $1000. 

kpd905

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Get the Barclays Arrival+ card and put your flight and hotels on the card to hit the spend.  You'll be able to subtract $400 from the cost using the points.

Bucksandreds

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We did five weeks in Europe last summer (my son and I).

We used booking.com to reserve rooms-- I looked for good ratings and inexpensive prices, near metro/underground stops. 

If you do Paris, you can buy metro/bus tickets in groups of 10 for the best price.  Take the metro/bus to one location, walk all over for the day, take it home.  There are little markets everywhere, several of our meals were just trying new things out of a little store. 

Southern France was amazing, and felt like home, but we had distant family there who let us stay with them, then drove us around to see some sights.

Poland is very cheap (we had a large apartment, with washing machine, kitchen, etc, right on the corner of the town square for $70/night).  You can find highly rated rooms for $25/night.  Exchange rate was $1 USA = 4 zloty (or, one of our quarters was one of their dollars).  We had some really nice meals for $10 (40 zloty).  A beer was $1.  It was beautiful and I can't wait to go back.

Prague, Czech Republic, was also very inexpensive.

This is in no way meant to be rude just explanatory. Exchange rate means nothing in terms of buying power. $1 also equals 106 Japaneses yen. $1 will buy you more in the U.S. than 106 yen will in Japan. The fact that $1 gets you 4 Polish 'zlotys' has nothing to do with how cheap things are there.

ETBen

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Get the Barclays Arrival+ card and put your flight and hotels on the card to hit the spend.  You'll be able to subtract $400 from the cost using the points.

Thanks, I'll go check it out!

claire.harris

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If you get more time in France, echo the calls for visiting the south west of the country. Bordeaux is an amazing place, the whole city is a world heritage site, and if you like wine, it's simply incomparable!

RetiredAt63

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Go to the other Paris:

http://www.paristexas.gov/
Shouldn't that be Paris, Ontario (Canada)?

NumberJohnny5

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Go to the other Paris:

http://www.paristexas.gov/
Shouldn't that be Paris, Ontario (Canada)?

Paris, TN. Home of the World's Biggest Fish Fry. Even the local Chinese Buffet serves catfish that week (please don't eat catfish at a chinese buffet). It's held the last week of April, so I'm afraid you'll have a bit of a wait.

http://paristnchamber.com/fish-fry-information/

sparkytheop

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We did five weeks in Europe last summer (my son and I).

We used booking.com to reserve rooms-- I looked for good ratings and inexpensive prices, near metro/underground stops. 

If you do Paris, you can buy metro/bus tickets in groups of 10 for the best price.  Take the metro/bus to one location, walk all over for the day, take it home.  There are little markets everywhere, several of our meals were just trying new things out of a little store. 

Southern France was amazing, and felt like home, but we had distant family there who let us stay with them, then drove us around to see some sights.

Poland is very cheap (we had a large apartment, with washing machine, kitchen, etc, right on the corner of the town square for $70/night).  You can find highly rated rooms for $25/night.  Exchange rate was $1 USA = 4 zloty (or, one of our quarters was one of their dollars).  We had some really nice meals for $10 (40 zloty).  A beer was $1.  It was beautiful and I can't wait to go back.

Prague, Czech Republic, was also very inexpensive.

This is in no way meant to be rude just explanatory. Exchange rate means nothing in terms of buying power. $1 also equals 106 Japaneses yen. $1 will buy you more in the U.S. than 106 yen will in Japan. The fact that $1 gets you 4 Polish 'zlotys' has nothing to do with how cheap things are there.

Wasn't really saying that's why it was cheap, but exchange rate is good to know if you're looking at things in local prices (I do that a lot since I have my card charged in the local currency, even when doing anything online--better exchange rate on my card than having someone else do it).


frugaldrummer

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Also, look around on different sites for hotels.  A few years ago, my mom and sister and I traveled to Paris.  We spent a week in a timeshare that my sister had, then due to an unexpected travel plan change, had to go looking for a hotel room in Paris - during the Rugby World Cup! 

All the hotels we stopped in just laughed at us. They were all completely booked because of the games.  Finally we went to an internet cafe and searched.  We finally found a hotel in our price range, with a view of the Eiffel tower from our room!  I was surprised that this hotel seemed cheap compared to the hotels that we had found when initially researching our trip from the U.S.

Turned out, the hotel was full of European tourists, many on big bus tours. We didn't encounter any Americans while we were there. The hotel was perfectly fine, just maybe slightly shabby compared to Americans' high expectations, but our room was large and the location and view were perfect.

I'm not sure how best to search for such a place - just letting you know that there may be hidden gems that aren't turning up on typical American searches.

Emg03063

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Couchsurfing.com for lodging.

Jschange

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I'm too chicken to couch surf, but I love hostels. I use hostelworld.com to get a sense, then Google my top picks. I was just looking at hostels for a conference I'm going to in the UK.  Still deciding if I should book a private room or do dorms.

mustachepungoeshere

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I definitely second the Poland option! Warsaw is fun, but Krakow is the place to be. Amazing ancient (11th/12th century) structures, a booming college city with squares and churches and parks. You can visit Auschwitz, that's a really impressive day tour.
 
Poland is very cheap. 80 cent vodka shots, anyone?

There will be a couple of million extra Catholics, including the pope, in Krakow next month.

I used Airbnb in Paris last year. Stayed in a small but beautiful apartment in the 7th arrondissement, a third of the price of the hotel next door, and the transaction could not have been easier. PM for details of our Airbnb host.

yuka

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I've never spent time in France, but if you're looking to consider other options, Spain is excellent, especially in October. Madrid has a very complete metro system (though it's closed from 0130 to 0630 every day.) It's also centered in the country, so you can easily take a bus to just about anywhere in the country. It has some wonderful parks and great weather; I could definitely see just hanging around in some of the parks and reading all day. Granada in the South is another excellent place to spend time.

Spain is another place that can definitely be done for cheap. My only real indictment is that I'm not a huge fan of Spanish food (but some people really are!) If you'd like to know more, I might be able to offer some useful information (though I never spent time Barcelona, sadly enough.)

bacchi

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United/AA credit card for miles.

Arrival+ someone mentioned above for $400 in travel cash back and no foreign transaction fees (and true chip+pin, which is important when using a ticket machine).

Amex Premier Gold for 50k MR points for $500 in Airbnb discounts (possibly not the best use of MR points but might be good in this case).

Oh, maybe the Chase Hyatt for 2 nights at any Hyatt in the world, including the Vendóme in Paris.

Pick and choose. If you have time, go for all 4.

Total cost should be about...$150? for flights and lodging.