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Lyn writes about how to fly on Southwest using points. And has a free guide that walks you through how to earn the coveted Southwest Companion Pass that lets 1 person fly nearly free with you for nearly 2 years.
Her family took their first trip to Europe earlier this year. And I’ve asked her to share her tips on how to save on a visit to the great city of Paris.
Lyn: This summer, our family of 4 enjoyed our first European vacation. We spent 3 weeks traveling through Dublin, Paris, Bologna, and Tuscany. And while we saw many fabulous places, none enchanted me more than Paris. I can’t imagine a greater city in the world than this! As soon as I make my first million, I’m buying an apartment in the Left Bank! 😉
Venturing across the pond to Paris can cost you a pretty penny if you don’t have a plan. Before we headed to the City of Light, we researched the best ways to save, from getting there, to subways and buses, to attractions. Here’s my savings guide to beautiful Paris.
Note: This post contains affiliate links for which Go to Travel Gal may earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking. Some activities and accommodations included in this post were provided complimentary in exchange for a free and honest review.
Save on Flying to Paris
Flying to Europe can be pricey. But there are ways to get there on a dime or by using miles and points.
Fall tends to bring some of the best deals for flights from the US to major European cities. In addition to the major airlines, discount airlines like WOW Air regularly offer rock-bottom prices, sometimes dropping as low as $200 round-trip, though you will have to shell out some cash for checked bags, seat assignments, and even some carry-ons.
To fly the 4 of us, we earned points by signing-up for Chase Sapphire Reserve, when it offered a 100,000 point sign-up bonus (offer no longer available). Then transferred those points to Aer Lingus, Ireland’s national airline, and booked off-peak award seats for just 26,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip per person, plus fuel surcharges.
During their off-peak season, which includes September 11 to December 15, early January to early April, and late April to mid-June, you can fly round-trip from US cities like Chicago, New York City, and Washington, DC, to Dublin or Shannon for 26,000 British Airways Avios points per person.
We flew to Dublin and then used Starwood points transferred to British Airways (and then to Aer Lingus) to fly from Dublin to Paris. You can also fly an airline like Ryanair from Dublin, which has affordable airfares for traveling throughout Europe.
What to See and Do in Paris
There are so many wonderful things to do in Paris. But without a strategy in place, you could run out of Euros fast. One of the simplest ways we saved was through the Museum Pass.
This pass is valid for 2, 4, or 6 days. And gives you access to key museums in the city like the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay with its immense collection of Impressionist paintings, and the Pompidou Centre of modern art. The pass also allows you to bypass long entrance lines.
Additionally, you can take advantage of free admission at many city museums on the first Sunday of the month – though be prepared to wait in long lines.
Big Bus Tour Paris also offers a foot-friendly and affordable way to see many sites in a short period of time. The bus travels on 2 routes throughout the city that take you past all the major sights like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and Sacre Coeur Basilica. The bus has numerous stops where you can hop off to explore further and catch the next Big Bus when you’re ready to continue.
Save on Eiffel Tower Tickets
Everyone wants to see the Eiffel Tower. And if you want to save a few bucks on admission, consider walking to the second level, which is served by a different elevator and keeps you from having to pay a separate fee.
It is a long hike up one of the tower’s legs, however, so make sure you are up for the task. Although it’s a great way to burn off one of the city’s famous eclairs! 😉
Getting Around Paris
Both the bus and metro system in Paris are easy to use and reasonably priced. Consider purchasing a multi-day pass called a Carte Paris Visite that gives you unlimited rides over a period of 1, 2, 3, or 5 days. The pass also saves you the time and effort – and possible confusion – of purchasing a ticket for each ride, and also provides discounts on some Paris attractions like a Seine boat tour and the Pantheon.
Of course, if you really want to save, walk. Paris is an extremely walkable city and mostly flat, except for the hill upon which Montmartre (an old artist colony definitely worth a visit) and the Sacre Coeur Basilica sit.
By staying centrally located on the Right Bank at charming Hotel Indigo Paris Opera, we were able to easily walk to many attractions like the Tuileries Gardens, Paris Opera House (do NOT miss this gorgeous building – buy tickets online in advance), the Louvre, the Seine and its lovely bridges, and even to Notre Dame.
Where to Stay in the City
Paris has many wonderful hotels! For half of our week-long trip, we stayed at the Hotel Indigo Paris Opera, a lovely modern hotel set in its own arcade and centrally located in the Right Bank, which is the more upscale side of the city.
It has amenities like towel heaters, a refrigerator, and windows looking over the city.
You can book the Hotel Indigo Paris Opera with IHG Rewards points for 45,000 points per night. Some other affordable IHG Rewards options include:
- Holiday Inn Paris Opera – 35,000 IHG points per night
- Holiday Inn Paris Monmartre – 30,000 IHG points per night
- Holiday Inn Saint Germain des Prix – 40,000 IHG points per night
- Holiday Inn Notre Dame – 40,000 IHG points per night
In addition to checking hotel prices, consider staying in a vacation rental with a company like HomeAway. We rented a Left Bank apartment in the charming Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood in the Left Bank (the more artsy side of the city) and spent several days feeling like locals.
Priced at just under $300 per night, it was comparable to a hotel. But had a separate bedroom for the adults while the kids slept on a pull-out couch in the living area, as well as a kitchen, and washer/dryer.
If planning a family trip to Paris where you’ll need to wash clothes, find a vacation rental with a washer/dryer, or a couple days into your visit, find a local “pressing” company, who will wash, dry, and fold your clothes and return them to you in a few days.
If Paris is calling your name, don’t cross off the idea because it seems beyond your means just yet! Because believe me, that’s what I always thought.
With a free flight, affordable vacation rental, booking a hotel using points, and free or discounted attractions (like you get with the Museum Pass), you can say oui! and be on your way to France tout de suite! 🙂