The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel's resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She's always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
IngridBaltimore writes, "I'm 30 years old and a recent law school graduate. I'm planning a trip to Paris, France. My place of origin is Washington, DC/Baltimore. When is the best time to go, money-wise? And how soon should I purchase a ticket? Do you recommend that I take a direct flight or should I fly into a cheaper location and then purchase a commuter flight into Paris, i.e. via Virgin or RyanAir? Furthermore, I think I would like to rent an apartment for a week while I'm there, what do you think?"
Congratulations on all of your hard work. You deserve a vacation, and Paris is an ideal place to celebrate such a momentous occasion. Plus, now is the perfect time to start planning.
Knowing when to go to any destination is half the battle. Paris is extremely popular during the summer months, and this trend continues into September and October. Tourism and prices, however, drop in November and stay fairly low through the spring. If you can stand a bit of cold weather, then you will end up saving quite a bit while avoiding the crowds.
Since you seem to have some flexibility with your travel dates, you have the advantage of finding the best price for your budget. Start by searching for airline tickets for several different time periods between November and March. Make note of the flights that seem to offer the best value, and from there you can compare prices.
It's always wise to check nearby airports for cheaper prices on flights. However, this time I was unable to find lower prices flying into alternate airports than flying directly from Baltimore to Paris. I priced flights starting at $673 per person (with taxes and fees) for flights in February. This is actually a little higher than I would expect to pay for those travel dates, so you should continue to check for a price drop until you find something cheaper that fits into your budget.
As for a place to stay, I've always been a fan of renting an apartment versus staying at a hotel. I've even rented an adorable place in Paris myself—right in the Montmartre area—for nine days several years ago, and it is still by far one of the best trips I've ever taken. The perk of having your own place is you get to live like a local—buying groceries, cooking in your kitchen, getting to know a specific neighborhood. Plus, most hotels at the same price per night are typically a bit less "comfortable." I priced an apartment in the Montmartre district through VRBO starting at €260 per week (about $385 U.S.; check XE.com for current exchange rates), or €45 per night (with taxes and fees), for stays in February. The price of an apartment also depends on where you stay in Paris.
The total cost of booking an apartment for a week plus an airline ticket today comes to about $1,058 per person (with taxes and fees). Remember, though, you can find a better priced ticket by being savvy and keeping track of airfare and sales.
If you want to avoid the hassle of finding airfare and lodging yourself, you can book a bundled package, which may save you money in the long run. That is, unless you're traveling alone—then your best bet is to book items individually because the single supplement can add a hefty chunk of change to the final cost. I priced a six-night package to Paris through Europe ASAP starting at $1,179 for one person (without taxes and fees). The deal includes round-trip airfare from Baltimore, accommodations in a hotel, hotel taxes and surcharges, and daily breakfast. The price for two people traveling together from Baltimore is $839 per person.
I wish you the best of luck in finding a price that is right for you, and one that will make all your Paris dreams come true.
As for my other readers: Have you seen a deal to Paris that is just too good to be true? Do you know of another way to save money when traveling to the City of Light? Please share any and all experiences or suggestions below.
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