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Paris holds the key to your heart ― if only you could afford to go there. Last year, France earned top spots on multiple lists for “Most Expensive Places to Visit.” Though the Euro is not nearly at its healthiest, American travelers still pay a hefty price to see the City of Lights.
Airfare is the single biggest expense any traveler incurs, and flights to Europe are rarely affordable. However, with careful planning and mastery of smart booking techniques, anyone can secure a free plane ticket. First, every traveler knows the boon of travel rewards credit cards. By simply signing up for the most lucrative deals, which are usually offered by specific airlines like the American AAdvantage Card, you can earn hundreds of thousands of free miles. One card alone is usually worth a free domestic flight, which could substantially cut the costs of your trip to Paris.
However, it is essential that you understand the rules of your credit card before you start spending indiscriminately; the best rewards cards are extremely particular regarding which purchases earn you points. Additionally, there is a handful of tricks that make finding less expensive flights easier. For example, departing on a Wednesday and returning on a Tuesday has been shown to provide the cheapest fares to Europe. You should schedule your trip for the very end of summer and the beginning of fall, and you should book six months in advance for added discounts.
Perhaps the most easily forgotten expense during travel is transportation ― which in Paris can be an expensive mistake. Nearly every method of getting around costs crazy amounts of cash. Aside from the initial investment, a rental car incurs fees from toll roads, parking lots, and gas stations (at an absurd $5.54 per gallon). The Metro is perhaps the most cost-efficient, but purchased one-at-a-time, tickets still cost about $2 per ride. The smartest choice is to buy train tickets in bulk, which brings the per-ride price down to about $1.60.
Get a Place to Stay
Though you may dream of renting a luxury suite with panoramic views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, you will never ― and I mean never ― be able to afford that. In fact, staying anywhere near the tourist district is going to cost big bucks, since those rooms are highly sought-after year around. Instead, you should look to less-expensive neighborhoods, like the Latin Quarter (which is popular among students) or Le Marais. Even an avid budget traveler’s go-to lodgings, the steadfast hostel, can be pricey in Paris. Still, though some beds can breach $60 per night, at an average of about $30, the hostel remains the best accommodation option.
It is hard not to lust after French fashion, and the haute couture you’ll spot around Paris will tempt you to empty your wallet at the most expensive boutiques. However, the secret to French style is not cost, it’s creativity and control. As long as you choose clothes that suit your body, you don’t have to drop dimes on designer duds. By shopping pop-up markets instead of high-fashion districts, you can find exceptional items worth wearing, and you don’t have to take out personal loans to cover them.
Food is a major factor of Parisian culture, which fortunately makes it one of the more affordable indulgences of your trip to the City of Lights. Though luxury French cuisine will deplete your savings, you can find classic and tasty French food in economical cafes and bistros. You can also save by ordering a fixed meal ― called a menu, formulae, or plat du jour ― which comes at a discounted price.
Everyone who visits Paris goes to the top of the Eiffel Tower, sees the “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre, and tours the Palais-Royal Gardens. However, few will tell you that each of those adventures costs over $15, which means that just a single day of sight-seeing can easily break the bank. Though there are plenty Parisian delights you cannot miss, you absolutely must plan ahead to prevent bankruptcy during your vacation. Most of the city’s museums are free on the first Sunday of the month, and there are a number of passes available at the Paris tourist office that bundle attraction tickets at a discount.