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London & Paris: On Our Own or Package First Time?

London & Paris: On Our Own or Package First Time?

Old Jul 20th, 1997, 10:44 AM
  #1  
Steve
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London & Paris: On Our Own or Package First Time?


My wife has been to London before, but on a student trip, and thinks she can do it on her own, but has no confidence about Paris. Should we take a totally touristy package deal the first time? or can it be done less expensively on our own? I don't like the idea of tour buses and cattle herds, and especially the time-structured visits to sights. Any advise?
 
Old Jul 20th, 1997, 11:45 AM
  #2  
Tricia
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Steve, I found a company on the internet that does a really neat thing- they have an iteniary you can purchase for, I think, $70, maybe less, for the country of your choice, or they can customize a trip for you (think that plan was about $100). They mail you the iteniary, with restaurants, hotels and sights to see, along with customizing your choice of travel, be it car rental, trains etc. They know the cheapest airlines, and airports to fly into and can save you a bundle. It is called MY TRAVEL ADVISOR, DEPT W, 591 E. BIRCH ST. OAK HARBOR WA 98277 E-MAIL IS [email protected]. They have one package in England called, AWAY FROM THE MADDENING CROWDS, which is a small towns of the country and another called FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND. Don't know if they do France. You'd have to ask them. It gives you the security of knowing what you are doing and where you are going without the bump and grind of the tour buses.
 
Old Jul 20th, 1997, 02:28 PM
  #3  
Donna
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My husband and I went to Paris for the first time last year and took Trafalgar's "Free & Easy Paris Week" tour. It included seven nights accomodations, continental breakfast every morning, a half day bus tour with a stop inside Notre Dame and a trip that same afternoon to Versailles which included lots of time to explore the gardens and an inside guided tour. Also included as a ticket for a boat ride on the Seine. And, they picked us and our luggage up at the airport, delivered us to the hotel and returned us to the airport for our departure. The rest of the time you are on your own (but you can call Trafalgar 24 hours a day, we never did, if you need assistance). You book your airfare separately. We thought the value for the dollar was excellent. For first-timers, this was wonderful. Trafalgar also offers a ""Free & Easy London Week" (some folks on our tour had booked Paris and London) and a "Free & Easy London & Paris". Nearly all travel agents have the Trafalgar's Europe and Britain catalog. Globus offers similar tours. We're going to Paris again next May on our own, but are very glad we took our first trip with Trafalgar.
 
Old Jul 20th, 1997, 02:30 PM
  #4  
Donna
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P. S. From what I have read on various travel boards, there is a definite advantage to going to Versailles (for example) with a tour - no waiting in long lines - the tour organizers have scheduled appointments.
 
Old Jul 21st, 1997, 03:00 AM
  #5  
Steve
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Donna, where are the other 'travel boards' you've found? This is the only one I've seen and I'd like to find others as this is such an enjoyable thing -- to talk travel with others! Thanks.
 
Old Jul 22nd, 1997, 06:36 AM
  #6  
Christina
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I think your question really has two separate issues--
whether you could do it cheaper on your own, and
whether it would be more convenient to have a
package. Sure, you could always do it cheaper than
a package, but they often get pretty good deals on
hotels. I agree with another poster who suggested
the type of package where you're left on your own
to see the sights but they make all transport and
hotel reservations, and then you have someone to
ask questions of if needed. My main problem with a
lot of these packages is that the hotels they use
are often not very centrally located, so I would
beware of that.
I know of one other travel board -- it is run by
Conde Nast Traveler magazine. It used to be easy
to find, but now they have been bought by
Epicurious magazine and it's not so obvious -- go
to www.epicurious.com and then click on the button
to "Go to Epicurious Travel" -- you should then be
able to find CN Traveler magazine stuff, as well as
the buttons for their "forums". Aside from that,
there are several "Usenet" message boards on travel,
if you know what those are, but it's too complicated
to go into here if you're not familiar with them.
 
Old Jul 23rd, 1997, 04:30 AM
  #7  
Neal Sanders
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Put me down squarely on the side of the independent traveler (although Donna's "Free and Easy" tour above sounds like a reasonable compromise). My wife and I have seen large swatches of the world over the years and have never once been part of a tour group, nor regretted not being part of one. The overwhelming case for independent travel boils down to this: flexibility. Traveling on your own allows you the privelege of staying somewhere until you're sated, or walking in and walking out because it's not what you expected. I can think of nothing more depressing than being in another country and visiting a cheese factory I don't want to see, or leaving a museum where I want to linger just because the schedule says I have to. Moreover, London and Paris are two of the world's most beautiful cities, as well as the most tourist-friendly. Paris, in fact, may be one of the only cities on earth (along with Florence) where it is actually a pleasure to be lost! Anyway, here's my suggestion: buy a couple of good guide books to Paris and London. Mark the sights you want to see and make an educated guess at how long you think you'd spend at each one. Now, see if any tour package comes close to matching your "want to see" itinerary. If one does, then book it and see how it goes. But if your tour includes stops at lace outlets, think about how you'd rather have used that time. Enjoy the trip.
 
Old Jul 24th, 1997, 02:22 PM
  #8  
Steve
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Thanks for the great advice, everyone. I'm learning a lot. Keep it coming.
 
Old Jul 24th, 1997, 03:57 PM
  #9  
Kristin Lucas
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I'd just like to put in my "two cents worth" on the
side of "doing it on your own". With one big IF --
IF you like to read about travel and plan. I love
the planning and studying part of a trip -- this
probably sounds crazy, but I got about six months'
worth of leisure time enjoyment out of planning a
two and one-half week trip to the Czech Republic and
Slovakia. My husband and I were quite new at it
also, altho I had been on one two-week tour to Prague
the prior year. Yes, the tour was less stressful,
unless you count the stress of standing outside the
Krakow cathedral and being told there isn't any time
to go inside!!! I couldn't believe it. This year
we saw what we wanted to see, not what was on THE
TOUR. But people have to decide for themselves how
much security means to them as opposed to freedom.
Kristin

 
Old Jul 24th, 1997, 10:45 PM
  #10  
Tricia
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Steve, I have found two other travel boards, neither one quite as good as Fodor's but I like the concept in Eurotrip Guide(www.eurotrip.com) as they have 15 boards and have things like Family Boards, Traveling with Small Children, Nightlife, and a looking for traveling buddies etc. The other, I believe is in Rick Steve's Traveling Europe Through the Back Door, at www.ricksteve's.com. Maybe it was just comments from his readers in that website, but worth a read.
 
Old Jul 28th, 1997, 12:40 PM
  #11  
Carolee
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On your own!! My husband and I get to a new city and sign up for a 4 to 8 hour bus tour to get an overall feel for the city. Then we go on out own. Of course, we do prep work before hand. We do some reading up on the city, attractions, hotels, etc., and book a pension or 2 or 3 star hotel near the center of the attractions. For Paris, we used Fodor, Frommer and Rick Steves books. Stayed in a small hotel with an elevator across the river from Notre Dame. Took a great bus tour. Then walked or took the buses to the museums, Eifel Tower, etc. We have always had lots of fun. We somehow order our food, buy gifts, buy fresh fruit and cheese in languages we don't understand. We found that the few times we had helpless looks on our faces, local people would come from nowhere and help us out. We even traveled by train last time. I think doing it on your own brings you closer to the local folks and flavors of a region. And gives you a great feeling of accomplishment.
 
Old Jul 28th, 1997, 02:04 PM
  #12  
Kim
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My vote goes to the independent traveler. For me, one of the best parts of any vacation is the planning and anticipation. To prepare for our first trip to London, I read "Sarum", a wonderful novel by Edward Rutherford about the area around Salisbury and Stonehenge. Then to help plan our days, Fodor's of course, and the most terrific book called "How to Get Lost and Found in London" by ???. We were able to see so very much of England including some places off the beaten path that we would never have stumbled upon without this great book. London was our base and from there we took trips to Bath, the Cotswolds, Salisbury, and York. Personally, our lives are so structured with the duties of family and jobs, that the idea of a structured tour for our vacation does not appeal to us at all. Have a great time whichever route you choose.
 
Old Jul 28th, 1997, 04:35 PM
  #13  
Donna
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Strong agree with reading tour guides, cover to cover! You need to know about money, using public transportation, special passes for transportation and museums (which are bargains and which are not). The more you study and plan before you leave, the more you'll enjoy your time there. Tour guides are well worth the investment. Will save you many times their cost in wasted time, wasted dollars, and frustration! My favorites are Eyewitness and Access. But, there are tons of good ones. I still think the "Free & Easy" Trafalgar trips are excellent for the novice European traveller. Value for the dollar is terrific. And, you'll learn how to be prepared to go on your own. Hotel location is extremely important in any city (especially the neighborhood). So, carefully check out the hotel selections. Better to be in a nice neighborhood than "centrally located". A couple of extra metro stops is well worth being in a nice neighborhood.
 
Old Aug 4th, 1997, 04:41 PM
  #14  
Mary
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If you don't mind me asking, how much was the Trafalgar's trip to France??
 
Old Aug 4th, 1997, 07:01 PM
  #15  
steve staples
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I have been very luck to have been able to travel to Paris and London about a dozen times in the last year and a half. I have never taken a tour and have found both cities very easy to get around in. Like some of the other replies have suggested I say get two guide books, STUDY THE METRO GUIDES AND MAPS, and go where you want. Both are beautiful and fun just to be in. If you have any specific questions I would be glad to answer them. Good luck and have fun.
 
Old Aug 5th, 1997, 03:54 PM
  #16  
Richard Hardy
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We have just returned from our first trip to Paris (have been to London many times) and go along with the "do it yourself" crowd. You'll have much more fun and will see the things that you want to see (very important), not what others think you might see. Do a lot of study and plan where you want to go and do it.

A bit of French is good if you go to Paris, but we found that we got along quite well most of the time and many of the restaurants even have menus in English. But study! We met one couple who didn't and couldn't eat the first night because they didn't know what to eat!
 
Old Aug 18th, 1997, 12:17 PM
  #17  
crystal
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My boyfriend and I just had this discussion. I am from the just go there and see what happens side of the fence and he has only gone on tours that are completely structured. On our trip to London in Sept. we are going on our own. I went to Paris without any hotel reservations three years ago and stayed in some wonderful hotels and saw everything that I wanted to see. Just get two or three guide books w/ good maps and go! Have fun!
 

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