I’ve been planning trips to Paris for the better part of the last two decades. I’ve gone to Paris my entire life thanks to having lived overseas in the 1990s and then having traveled back regularly to visit a close friend of mine. I then studied abroad in Paris and as an adult I began to make yearly pilgrimages. I became so adept at planning trips to Paris that in 2019 I founded Paris, Perfected – a bespoke, curated Paris trip planning service.
So, needless to say, I have become an expert in helping guide people planning a Paris trip they will never forget thanks to my love story with the city.
My Paris, Perfected planning service offers an affordable option to really help you make the most of your time in the City of Love, but if you’re just beginning the process, this post should help.
Paris has so much to offer and because of this it can be a bit of an overwhelming task to figure out how to spend your time, where to spend your money and how to really make the most of each and every moment you’re in one of the most magical places on earth.
How To Plan A Trip To Paris
Step 1 – Determine when to go
Of course the first step to planning your trip to Paris is determining when you’ll go and for how long. Whether it is your first trip to Paris or a return trip to Paris, deciding how long you’re able to go for is the essential first step.
Is weather important to you? You’ll want to determine what months offer the weather you’ll most enjoy.
The Best Times to Travel to Paris
Step 2 – Determine your budget
Paris can be a very expensive city. It is home to loads of luxury hotels, shops and fine dining experiences. You can easily splurge in Paris. But there are also loads of ways to enjoy it on a budget.
Figure out what your budget is for everything to flights and accommodations and travel insurance to dinning and shopping in advance and you’ll be able to better plan your time.
Step 3 – Book your flights
Flights to Paris can really vary depending on airline, time of year and day you’re flying. I personally am loyal to Delta which has Air France as a partner airline and I always fly those two airlines and use their Flexible Dates booking tool to determine the most affordable days to fly.
I also try to avoid afternoon flights out of CDG if I can as I find the airport busier than in the morning.
If you’re flexible with your dates, you may want to set up flight alerts with a service like Kayak.
The Best Free Places to Visit in Paris
Step 4 – Arrange your accommodations
There are thousands of hotels and apartment rentals in Paris and frankly the sheer number of options makes it overwhelming. They vary drastically in the service provided and of course location. Instead of just picking a neighborhood you’ve heard about – be sure to check a map to see if it is near where you actually plan to spend your time.
So often I have clients booking in neighborhoods before they’ve sorted out what they want to see and they pick a hotel or an apartment based on budget alone instead of really researching their options.
Also consider booking a hotel stay with points. Marriott’s Bonvoy hotels are throughout Paris and would allow you to use some of those points towards your hotel stay to make it a bit more affordable.
Some of the best places to stay in Paris
Want further help navigating what neighborhood to stay in Paris? Whether to book a hotel or an apartment? I can help you further when you’re a Paris, Perfected client.
Step 5 – Curate recommendations
I personally think the research and planning part of a trip is such fun but I know not everyone feels that way! Especially with a place to Paris where it feels like everyone you know and everyone you meet has recommendations.
But not everywhere in Paris is created equal and all the options can be a lot to sort through – especially if you’re not familiar with the food or service or prices of a place. I can help you further when you’re a Paris, Perfected client. I tailor all my museum and dining recommendations to each client based on preferences and budget and everywhere I recommend has been personally vetted and experienced by me.
Step 6 – Decide your must do-s and must sees
Did you know there are over 150 museums in Paris? It can be overwhelming to decide which ones to take advantage of and how long you want to spend at each. I recommend making a list of those you want to see, determining their opening hours and estimating how long you’ll stay at each.
Also determine – will you be taking any day trips from Paris? If so what will they be and what’s the best day to do them? For example, you may want to avoid going to the Palace of Versailles on a weekend when it tends to be more crowded.
When deciding what to do and how to prioritize your time – consider season and also whether it’ll be a busy time in Paris. And I always recommend you leave time to just be. The French way of soaking in life is not to be missed and it is 100% worth slowing down, people watching and taking it all in. Preferably with a glass of wine at a Parisian café.
Personally, one of my very favorite pastimes is awaking with the sun and walking in the Marais, or Saint Germain or along the Seine River and past the Louvre and into the Tuileries before most of the city is awake. It is magic to take in Paris as the city comes to life.
Plan your Paris Bucket List
Step 7 – Book tours and tickets
Some of the best Paris sites and attractions and museums can be best enjoyed through a guided tour. You don’t need to book everything in advance but some sites like the Eiffel Tower and the Musee D’Orsay often have very long lines so having a timed ticket purchased in advance or going on a private tour can help you maximize your time while in Paris.
In some instances, booking a tour or a timed or joint ticket in advance can also help you save money in addition to time! But there are also plenty of websites out there that try to take advantage of tourists and over charge or embellish their offerings so it is important to work with reputable vendors.
I can help you further when you’re a Paris, Perfected client. I have several tried & true vendors I work with that provide excellent guided tours and even exclusive discounts to my clients. I am also able to recommend fun classes, food tours and even wine tastings that you can experience while in Paris.
Step 8 – Book dining reservations
The French love bookings so you’ll want to be prepared with reservations for most of your dinners and some of your lunches, too. You generally don’t need them for breakfast or drinks. Many places only book 2-4 weeks out so if you don’t see availability you may be trying to book too soon.
If staying at a hotel, you can also ask your concierge to help in booking your reservations if you’d prefer.
Step 9 – Build out an itinerary
I love building out an excel grid for each trip I go on that features my rough itinerary for each day of my trip. I include any confirmation numbers and notes I need to remember as well as all bookings for museum entry or dining reservations.
You could also do this within a Word document or other travel planning tool or app. For select Paris, Perfected clients, I provide up to four full days of a recommended itinerary.
Step 10 – Save places to a Paris Google Maps list
Once I have a shell of my itinerary built for any trip I am planning, I continue to save down places to a Google Maps list for that trip. It helps me remember places I want to visit and helps me hone in on the neighborhoods I plan to spend the most time in.
Saving items to a Google Map also helps you see whether certain landmarks you want to see such as the Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame are nearby and in walking distance or whether you should leave more time to get from place to place.
Step 11 – Familiarize yourself with the city, country & cultural traditions
If you want to make the most of your time, figuring out the various customs and traditions in Paris is really helpful. It’ll also ensure you can best enjoy Paris like a local.
One of the biggest thing you’ll also want to figure out is public transportation. Will you plan to take Taxis or Ubers? Walk most of the time? Or take the metro? How will you get to the city center from Charles de Gaulle Airport or ORLY Airport?
I also think it is important to read up on any scams or safety issues you should be aware of. France is also prone to strikes for public transit so be sure to be aware as they may affect your travel.
Step 12 – Learn some key phrases
The French very much appreciate if you attempt to speak French. It’s also the polite thing to do but so many times I witness Americans in France bypassing even polite attempts to speak the language. While many of the French in Paris speak wonderful English – it is customary to greet and thank in French.
Learn some Key French Phrases
Learning key phrases will also make your life easier when it comes to finding bathrooms and getting to/from places throughout the city when you need to ask for some directions.
Step 13 – Figure out what to pack
When it is almost time to leave, check the weather and determine what you need to pack! I have some tried and true things I never leave home without when going to Paris that I provide to my Paris, Perfected clients and I also regularly publish seasonal packing lists that you’ll likely find helpful if you’re a female packing for a trip to Paris and looking for some outfit ideas.
I also have a variety of Paris outfit ideas published to Pinterest.
. . .
A trip to Paris is truly an unforgettable experience but taking the time to plan your travel to Paris will most certainly ensure you can fully enjoy the city of light with a bit less anxiety and stress.
So often I see people going to the same overhyped places that aren’t the true, authentic Paris. And while there are plenty of spots that are touristy for a reason, I also believe there is so much of Paris to be explored and enjoyed outside of the 1st and 6th (Saint Germain) arrondissements.
While social media is an amazing planning tool, I also have seen very mediocre places become popular because of their view or decor. I’m of the mindset no meal should be wasted and while a view is nice to have and I love a good photo opp as much as the next person, it is why I believe in personally trying and vetting everything I recommend to my clients.
Want even more help in planning a trip to Paris? Head to ParisPerfected.com to book an affordable, bespoke Plan tailored to your preferences and budget.
How to spend a long weekend in Paris
Some of the best places to shop in Paris
A first time visitors guide to Paris
Heading to Paris? Book Paris, Perfected with me and get customized recommendations based on your travel preferences to make your next trip to Paris the best one yet.
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[All photos by Meghan Donovan]