Trip length: 3.5 days
Total cost: $520 per person
Vacation days used: 1.5
God, I love mistake fares. A few months back, one of my favorite deal bloggers, The Flight Deal, shared a mistake fare on Air Canada to Europe. Since I get deals sent to my phone via text, I was quickly able to jump on the fare and book two tickets to Paris out of Toronto for $230 each over the MLK weekend. Before you ask – yes, Paris for a weekend is totally doable. We had enough time to take in some of the must-see touristy spots, like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, while still having several hours of endless wandering.
With the mistake fares booked, I set my sights on hotels. I initially booked a cozy, boutique hotel not far from the Eiffel Tower at a refundable rate so that I could keep an eye out for deals. About a month prior to our trip, the horrific terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, which (understandably) put a temporary dent in the tourism industry. Hotel prices dropped. Since I knew we planned to take the Roissybus into town from the airport and it drops off near the Opera, I checked prices of hotels around the area. Having stayed in the Paris Marriott Opera Ambassador on a previous trip to Paris (and liking it), I didn’t hesitate to book it again when I saw prices had plummeted to just $155/night (from a previous $250/night just a month earlier). I booked the hotel through TopCashBack to save a further 8% on the stay, bringing the total cost down to about $140 per night.
Tips to make it work:
- Follow my tips in these posts to stay on top of mistake fares like the one that prompted this trip: How to have flight deals sent to your phone and Using twitter to find travel deals
- Pre-paying for hotel rooms usually saves you a few dollars but it locks you in to that hotel and rate. You’re better off booking a decent refundable rate and keeping an eye out for deals.
- Boutique hotels tend to be a better value in Paris than the chains. Unless you’re using points or really need to earn some, start the hotel search outside of the chain brand names.
- If you are going to book a chain hotel, use TopCashBack or other cash back portals to earn a few extra dollars in savings on your stay while still earning points with the chain.
- The Paris metro is incredibly convenient and the cheapest way to get around the city. Just be on the lookout for pickpockets.
- Daytime performances by musical ensembles are an affordable way to check out the stunning Palais Garnier (setting for The Phantom of the Opera) and hear the acoustics. While evening shows can be black-tie affairs, the daytime shows are much more casual and reasonably priced.
- Paris is a foodie’s mecca, but don’t feel you need to go all out for every meal. My all-time favorite Parisian meal is a baguette with cheese and a glass of wine. This will typically set you back less than 10 Euro, even in the most touristy of areas.
In case you’re making excuses about the cost, just stop. It’s Paris! And $500 for a trip to Paris from the US is pretty darn great.