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First-time International Travelers to Paris

First-time International Travelers to Paris

Old Jun 7th, 2015, 03:18 PM
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I usually fly Icelandair to Europe because they are cheaper than most other airlines. Air miles for me are a bonus. I'd prefer money in my pocket to air miles. Icelandair does have a mileage plan and you can earn miles on only Icelandair with them. They do not have code share agreements.

Check them out and see if they are a good deal for you. You have to change in Reyjavik--a teeny airport--which is no big deal for me.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 04:05 PM
  #42  
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We would be flying out of ORD. My mom used to work for United back in the day, so she's most familiar with them, but we'd be open to all airlines! I've only ever flown Southwest, so I don't know any other airlines.

Flying Icelandair is definitely a good idea!! I'll check them out, thanks!

I told my parents to get a flyer program if my brother or I go away to college, because then it would probably be more active, but for now definitely not.

I know, from what I've seen, Turkish Airlines is one of the cheaper airlines. I've also noticed that the cheaper tickets seem to be one-stop. My mom I know would prefer a direct flight, but she would be willing to suffer through a layover for a cheaper ticket lol.
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Old Jun 7th, 2015, 07:59 PM
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Turkish Air is a nice airline. That's one of the airlines that has lower fares. However to go to Paris you first fly to Istanbul and then go on to Paris. That will add a huge amount of time to your travel time. Its up to you whether its worth the extra travel time to save money. Some of the other 1 stop flights on other airlines may have a shorter flight time. You can check the total flight time on Kayak and get an idea of the difference for the varied non stop flights.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 03:00 AM
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You have a very short time to be thinking about saving money (maybe) by flying an airline without a pretty direct flight. Sometimes time IS money.
Icelandair is a pretty fun airline--and the stop in Reyjavik can be a fun shopping trip. But it is still adding hours to your jet lag.
The cost of the flight is going to be a major part.
It is "possible" that you should look at airlines' package deals--flight and hotel. You have the "right" number for 2 hotel rooms and the time in one place. Usually this is not a good deal because you are paying double for the hotel room (per person), but if flights are expensive, it can work out acceptably.
For comparison, find the hotel you think you would use. Find your flight. Compare the package with the flight plus hotel cost.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 05:07 AM
  #45  
 
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"sometimes time IS money"

Gretchen, I once believed that; now I believe time is ALWAYS money, mainly because we're old!

Good for you for putting in a price check on Kayak, ditto. <b>You are not traveling in peak season; you have time to wait for some bargains</b>.

If you were going August 1, it would be different.

<b>The apartment booking, if that is what you are choosing to do, needs to be done asap</b>. A hotel booking, though, could wait.

So I'm going to address things you can start taking care of right now.

<b><u>Should You Be Using a Travel Agent?</b></u>

Really, I don't think so. The friends of mine who used travel agents in Paris to book flights/hotel ended up staying either "too high on the hog" or in areas that just were not convenient to seeing the city.

But it does not hurt to check online packages, at least for price comparisons.

<b><u>Regarding Connections</b></u>:

I totally agree with Andrew that your focus MUST be whatever airline has the most practical (AND FEWEST!) connections to Europe and at the best prices, within reason.

There is a reality check involved: No matter where you fly, delays and equipment failures are part of life. The more stops, the more things can go wrong.

And things DO go wrong, no matter where your connection is. Turkey has had earthquakes. Icelandair was victimized by natural circumstances for months not long ago because of volcano activity there.

And not only book flight with the fewest and most practical connections but also make sure you make allowances for possible delays in the timing between flights.

Friends of ours drive four hours to a US-Europe gateway airport instead of bothering with a connecting flight there. Since most East Coast flights are evening ones anyway, their solution makes perfect sense.

We always have to have ONE connection now to get to Paris and other European destinations because our US city has no direct flights to Europe and driving to a gateway airport is impractical for us.

Although we've also used Detroit, JFK, Newark, Atlanta, and Charlotte as our US gateways over there, most times we have to fly out of Philadelphia, and our flights to and from that airport have often been delayed or cancelled.

My workaround is to ALWAYS have one flight between our actual flight to PHL and our departure to Paris. So yeah, while we end up spending a couple extra hours at PHL, we have have given ourselves wiggle room when things go wrong.

So if your flight into a gateway city if delayed, that means the international flight out will be delayed, too, right? Wrong. Once-a-day international flights get priority in getting in and out of airports because if that plane doesn't leave, the next day's flight doesn't come back!

Again, that's why we build in our "wiggle" room.

<b><u>Regarding Frequent Flyer Miles and Programs</b></u>:
What the heck, sign up for ALL of the frequent flyer programs now. I'm serious. It costs you nothing, and when it comes time to book, your booking will be easier.

But when it comes to booking your flight, do so by price, not by program. And this is when being a frequent flyer can also pay off: by signing up, you will get emails about international specials.

<b><u>Credit Cards with Frequent Flyer Miles?</b></u>

How you are going to pay for your flights, hotel, and services is something you can start on now, too!

You guys are going to need two things for spending money in Paris:

--An ATM card that has the PLUS or Cirrus network on it for cash.
<i>NOTE: YOU do NOT have to have a Visa or MC logo on it, just PLUS and Cirrus et al. Although I use a special Schwab debit MasterCard right now for cash withdrawals, my plain old check cards have ALWAYS worked in Paris</i>
--A credit card with no foreign transaction fees for most payments

As a matter of fact, if you have two different checking accounts with ATM cards and two different credit cards with no foreign transaction fees, you will be in good shape.

If you have such a card, great. If you don't, which credit card should you get? Look for what takes care of you NOW at the lowest cost.

Sure, those of us here who fly frequently have often found it in our best interest to use one or more airline-associated cards because doing so can raise our "elite status" in the airline(s) and guarantee specialized services and seating.

Your need, however, is to find a card that you don't have to fork over $$$ to use.

I do recommend Capital One credit cards, although since Capital One is redoing its website, it's hard to compare all its products at the moment. For years, my Cap One and Chase Sapphire were among the few cards that did not charge foreign transaction fees, and the type I used with each gave me extra points for travel bookings.

Now none of my credit cards charge the foreign transaction fees.

There are several new products out there. The Cap One Quicksilver one has a sign-up bonus right now with UBER that looks interesting
https://www.capitalone.com/credit-ca...039.1433764551
I guess I'm bringing that up because my two young adult daughters, one of whom is just recently out of college, ONLY use UBER.

I'll address Versailles again in my next reply.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 05:18 AM
  #46  
 
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<b>Off-Season Versailles Consideration</b>

We USED the fact that the grounds of Versailles were ugly/closed when we first went to Paris. On our first "jet lag" day in early December, we arrived at our hotel before 7:30 a.m. Yeah, our rooms were NOT going to be available until 1 pm or later.

We headed out to catch the RER to Versailles, and we had breakfast right off the train. We purchased our Carte Musee at the Versailles desk, picked up our audiotour, and we had a lovely time before most of the international tour groups started obscuring one's views.

After touring the inside, we hopped back on the train and we were immediately able to check in.

So if you are determined to see Normandy (which we said takes considerable time), this may be an efficient way to meet your needs.

The ability to drop off luggage, though, is key.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 08:51 AM
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<<The ability to drop off luggage, though, is key.>>

Most hotels will store your luggage for you before check-in or after check-out. For apartments, you arrange to meet a representative with the keys at check-in time, usually mid-afternoon. Meanwhile you're stuck with your bags.

I don't favor apartments for first-time travelers, especially for those feeling unsure. It's better to stay in a hotel, where you can ask questions, get directions, get restaurant reccos, and so on. And make that a centrally-located hotel, convenient to sights.

Plus the Paris authorities are in the midst of turfing out the many illegally rented apartments. You don't want to find your apartment reservation is canceled at the last minute because it's an illegal unit.
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Old Jun 8th, 2015, 09:09 AM
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My 2cents -- couldn't imagine going out to Versailles on one's first day after an overnight flight. My experience is that on day 1 of a trip with a 6 hour time difference, I dont appreciate or absorb what I see as well.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 03:59 AM
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Oh, I certainly agree, yestravel. In fact, that's why I have always disagreed with the "stay-up-all-day-so-you-immediately-get-on-local-time" advice for myself. I always feel as though time is in slo-mo to get into our room.

But the point is: if you only have so many days in Paris (the Normandy part threw me), WHATEVER you are seeing the first day ends up a tad blurry.

Versailles is so impressive that it more or less GRABS one's attention. And remember, they can't tour the grounds. So if they were staying in a hotel, seeing Versailles straight off would let them get back just in time to check in and get a good 2-hr nap so they can start "seeing" again.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 04:19 AM
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I am always one who says there often isn't enough time to go to Versailles on "short" stays, BUT this advice from AZ really speaks to me!! I like it a lot, IF Versailles is an absolute must!! ;o)
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 07:02 AM
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It is always up to the traveler to decide what HE wants to see and then do it. They are free to ignore all advice to the contrary.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 07:21 AM
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I beg to differ with Versailles being "so impressive," and I agree with lauren_s_kahn. It is a matter of personal opinion. We (myself and our children old enough to appreciate the setting), slogged our way through one gilded room after another and then into the gardens. When DH SMS-ed that his work meetings in Paris had ended for the day (the reason for our travels), we could not move fast enough back to Paris to have our version of fun, versus what the guide books said we should be enjoying.

Do what interest YOU. You won't remember the rest.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 08:17 AM
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Hey, Lauren, no one is making ditto do a "forced march". We're trying to help the OP fit in the OP family's top wishes.

Me?

I'd just do art, food, art, food, art, food, art, food 24/7.

The food would all be cheese.

After a double a.m. croissant hit, of course.

Ah-hah--fourfortravel. You made my point re Versailles. This family cannot slog through the gardens at that time of year. Ergo, they have opportunity to make the most of a quickie visit pre tour-group invasion on a jet lag day.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 09:31 AM
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Wow, these responses are all very helpful!!

We are looking for apartments and hotels and deciding which would be the best fit for us.

Versailles is not a must, but it would definitely be a plus. Visiting Versailles on a jet lag day is not a terrible idea, but it probably wouldn't happen. My mom is not the type of person to be able to conquer through jet lag, or so I've heard.

I'm going to continue looking for deals on airfare. The price alert has not found anything cheaper than I've seen, so I'll be waiting for that. In the meantime, I'll just keep my eyes open!

Again, I can't thank all of you enough for the help!!
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 10:43 AM
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We frequently rent from Paris Vacation Apartments. Their rates drop in November and they have many well located 2 bedroom apartments. Many have beds that can separate to twins.

Sounds like you are an excellent planner for your family!
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 11:11 AM
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Seconding Judy on the kudos again.

TAKE YOUR TIME ON THE AIRFARE. You need not rush.

I think shopping for the apartment is your first priority, IF that's what you WANT to do.

As so many of us on here say, THERE ARE advantages to staying in a hotel. First, you do not need to book now. Second, it's great to have a hotel desk back-up system. Third "togetherness" can be problematic for both the old folk and the teens.

And I can tell you that from the time my youngest daughter was a pipsqueak and the oldest daughter was only in middle school, they stayed in a separate hotel room from us. Often on different floors, in fact.

No, we did not worry.

Jetlag--I am a total grouch with jetlag. I really need to crash. I iterate: the problem is that most apartments and hotel rooms are not ready by the time you arrive.

My solution when we got a bit more cash in the pocket?
I booked both the apartment or the hotel for the DAY BEFORE, alerting either about what I was trying to accomplish.

So that should tell you A LOT because it took away from my cheese budget.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 11:32 AM
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First, on the airfare. we are goin gto Paris from IAD in November. I have been checking airfare for several months and it has not budged more tha a few $$'s up and down. Agree that you need to be patient and keep tracking the fares.

I'm with you, AlessandraZoe, on the activities and food choice! And yes, of course, people all choose to do what suits them. The purpose of this board and others, is to give our perspective on what works for us...that's it. That's why when their was the suggestion to see Versailles on the arrival morning I stuck my 2 cents in...to show the OP another viewpoint on it. Nothing to do with judging or insisting on my way.

I guess we've been lucky with apts. We've always been able to at least leave our luggage and generally check in early.
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Old Jun 9th, 2015, 12:57 PM
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I also didn't read everyone's responses fully so pardon any repetitive advice. One thing I noticed were some Versailles naysayers. If you're going to Paris for a week, you should definitely not skip Versailles. You can easily do it in a half a day, especially as the weather won't likely be great to explore the grounds.

I'm with andrew on a lot of his advice, I don't know what you decided about Normandy but 5 days in Paris, with a couple of days in another city (i.e. Amsterdam or London) sounds nice. If you want to stick with France, and maximize your time there, but want to do a day trip, I did a day trip to the Loire Valley (with 3 Chateaux stops), which I loved. I'm sure you've done your research as far as specific sights in Paris?
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Old Jun 10th, 2015, 08:33 PM
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AlessandraZoe, we visited Versailles over a late winter month. It was the slog through the endless gilded rooms that left us unimpressed. Our walk outdoors was for fresh air and to decide what we should do with the remainder of the day when DH rang.
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Old Jun 11th, 2015, 03:01 AM
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I've said this before but will post it again--took our adult kids and spouses to Paris for a week. One couple wanted to go to Versailles--I said "I wouldn't" but it was DDIL who wanted it, and her DH said "we'll go! (emphatically)". Came to be planning for Thursday (2 more days) and I said "Versailles". "Oh, no, we can't" --there's too much to do yet".
I think I recommended engaging Michael Osman for 2 days--if not, I do now. We did and would have loved to have him another one. He is a very personable guy--an artist--he will design a tour to your desires. He is great for the museums.
Adding another city "can" certainly be done--but it is moving everyone--and then getting back to CDG.
It is not impossible to have all the plans for Versailles, Amsterdam, etc. ready to go and then you can decide to go or not. Certainly Versailles is in that category. Alsace (a train ride, checking into hotel, etc.) is not.
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