Most hotels and other lodgings require you to give your credit-card details before they will confirm your reservation. If you don't feel comfortable emailing this information, ask if you can fax it (some places even prefer faxes). However you book, get confirmation in writing and have a copy of it handy when you check in.
Be sure you understand the hotel's cancellation policy. Some places allow you to cancel without any kind of penalty—even if you prepaid to secure a discounted rate—if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. Others require you to cancel a week in advance or penalize you the cost of one night. Small inns and B&Bs are most likely to require you to cancel far in advance. Most hotels allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents' room at no extra charge, but others charge for them as extra adults; find out the cutoff age for discounts.
Apartment and House Rentals
Individual tourist offices often publish lists of locations meublés (furnished rentals); these are often inspected by the tourist office and rated by comfort standards. Usually they're booked directly through the individual owner, which generally requires some knowledge of French. If you know the region you want to visit, contact the branch of the tourist office for that region directly and order a photo catalog that lists every property. If you specify which dates you plan to visit, the office may be able to narrow down the choice to rentals available for those days.
Rentals that are not classified or rated by the tourist office should be undertaken with trepidation, as they can fall well below your minimum standard of comfort.
Vacation rentals in France always book from Saturday to Saturday (with some offering weekend rates off-season). Most do not include bed linens and towels, but make them available for an additional fee. Always check on policies on pets and children and specify if you need an enclosed garden for toddlers, a washing machine, a fireplace, and so on. If you plan to have overnight guests during your stay, let the owner know; there may be additional charges. Insurance restrictions prohibit loading in guests beyond the specified capacity. Be sure to plan early: apartment and house rentals are quite popular.
Fédération Nationale des Gîtes de France (01/49–70–75–75. www.gites-de-france.com.)
French Government Tourist Office. francetourism.com.
Hosted Villas (416/920–1873 in U.S.; 800/374–6637 in U.S. (toll-free). www.hostedvillas.com.)
RentaVilla (206/417–3444 in U.S.; 877/250–4366 in U.S. (toll-free). www.rentavilla.com.)
Nice Properties (www.nice-properties.fr.)
Gîtes de France (www.gites-de-france.com.)
Gites de France en Vaucluse (04/90-85-45-00. www.gites-de-france-vaucluse.com.)
Chambres Hôtes France (www.chambres-hotes-france.org.)
Hôtes Qualité Paris (en.parisinfo.com/paris-hotels/bed-breakfast-chambres-d-hotes.)
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place.
Home Exchange.com. The charge is $95.40 for a one-year membership, or $35.85 for three months. 800/877–8723 in U.S. (toll-free). www.homeexchange.com.
HomeLink International. The cost is $119 for a one-year membership. 800/638–3841. www.homelink.org.
Intervac U.S. The charge is $99 for annual membership. 800/756–4663 in U.S. (toll-free). www.intervacus.com.
The quality of accommodations, particularly in older properties and even in luxury hotels, can vary greatly from room to room; if you don't like the room you're given, ask to see another.
Meal plans, which are usually an option offered in addition to the basic room plan, are generally only available with a minimum two- or three-night stay and are, of course, more expensive than the basic room rate. Inquire about meal plans when making reservations; details and prices are often stated on hotel websites.
It's always a good idea to make hotel reservations in Paris and other major tourist destinations as far in advance as possible, especially in late spring, summer, or fall. Most hotels allow you to book on their websites. If you wish to communicate further, email is the easiest way to contact the hotel (the staff is probably more likely to read English than to understand it spoken over the phone long-distance), though calling also works. Whether by fax, phone, or email, you may want to notify a hotel of a possible late check-in to prevent your room from being given away and of any other special requests, such as location or the size of the room you want. Request that the hotel fax you back so you have written confirmation of your reservation and that your requests are being met.
If you arrive without a reservation, the tourist offices in major train stations and most towns can probably help you find a room.
Many hotels in France are small, and many are family-run establishments. Some are affiliated with hotel groups, such as Logis de France, which can be relied on for comfort, character, and regional cuisine (look for its distinctive yellow-and-green sign). A Logis de France paperback guide is widely available in bookshops. Two prestigious international groups with numerous converted châteaux and manor houses among its members are Relais & Châteaux and Small Luxury Hotels of the World; booklets listing members are available from these organizations. France also has some hotel chains. Examples in the upper price bracket are Frantel, Novotel, and Sofitel as well as InterContinental, Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Westin, and Sheraton. The Best Western, Campanile, Climat de France, Ibis, and Timhotel chains are more moderate. Typically, chains offer a consistently acceptable standard of modern features (modern bathrooms, TVs, etc.) but tend to lack atmosphere, with some exceptions (Best Western, for instance, tries to maintain the local character of the hotels it manages).
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