Dear Deal Detective:
I would like to find a hotel in Paris with a kitchenette. Do you know of any good ones? I'll be there from July 1 through July 9. Thanks very much!
Dear C. C.,
Yours was one of several questions I received about Paris this week. Most of the others focused on summer airfare deals, and there were a few about cheap things to do in the city. I'll answer them all as specifically as I can for a broad audience.On my most recent visit to Paris, I found the cheapest and best way to experience the culture of the city was by renting my very own apartment for a week. Through the Beau-Paris website, I found an apartment in Montmartre just a stone's throw away from Sacre Coeur. It came with its own kitchenette—stocked with all the necessary accoutrements, including a complimentary bottle of welcome wine—and a wonderful little patio that overlooked the city. All this for only 400 euros a week (approximately $635 dollars; see XE.com for current exchange rates). Since the apartment slept three people comfortably, the cost per person was just over $200. Who says there's no such thing as a summer bargain in Europe?
The official Paris Tourism website is another excellent place to look for apartment rentals. There's an entire section devoted to furnished apartments where you can stay for as little as one night to as long as a month.
Another question posed to me was, "When is the best time to fly to Paris this summer? I'm flying out of New York." It's a tough one to answer, because let's face it: Air travel is expensive these days, period. Throw in a popular time to travel and an always-popular destination, and you've got what could be the perfect storm of high fares. This is where flexibility becomes extremely important.
I priced out round-trip flights from New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) for May through September. Here are the lowest fares and the associated departure dates for each month, assuming a trip of five to seven days in length. All fares shown are the total cost per person and include all taxes and fees.
- $619 on May 5, 6, 7, or 8
- $932 on June 2, 3, or 4
- $1,170 on July 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, or 24
- $1,170 on August 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, or 20
- $798 on September 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, or 25
If these flights look expensive, you probably don't want to see some of the higher fares I found. The lesson here is simple: Travel during the shoulder season, which in this case is early May or any time in September.
If you have your heart set on June, July, or August, however, plan to depart and return on weekdays. Relatively speaking, those days are much cheaper than weekends. Also bear in mind that July and August are traditionally months when many Parisians go on holiday. Some stores and restaurants will be closed, especially the smaller family-run establishments. In recent years, however, the city has made a concerted effort to keep things interesting throughout the summer. You can typically expect to find festivals, outdoor film series, and of course the Paris Plage, a fabulous man-made beach along the banks of the Seine. Bastille Day is another highlight. In short, Paris is still quite lively—just, perhaps, crowded with a few more visitors than locals.
In my judgment, the best flexible-search tool for international travel is offered by Hotwire. Click on the site's "Flights" tab and then enter your date range using the "flexible date search" option, which will find the lowest fares available during any 30-day window. (Incidentally, I'd love to hear from readers who have had good success using another flex-search tool, as I'm always looking for alternatives.)
Now here's a little trick I use for my own trips. After I've priced out the cheapest days to fly, as illustrated above, I'll search for airfare-and-hotel packages using the cheapest departure dates as my guide. In this case, I tested a July 1 departure. The lowest-priced airfare alone would cost me $1,170, but a package deal from Expedia would net me a round-trip flight on American Airlines and six nights at a basic two-star hotel near the Louvre for a total per-person cost, including taxes and fees, of $1,418.95. A very similar package from perennially affordable retailer go-today.com came in at $1,359 per person—cheap enough that I'd probably spring for the extra $39 each way to get a minivan transfer to and from the airport. Be honest: Did you really think I could find airfare and accommodations in Paris this summer for under $1,500? In your face, high prices!
As for what to do once you've arrived, listen to this week's podcast by Associate Editor (and former Paris resident) Christine Sarkis, who tells you better than I could how to get into museums for free, relax and soak up the sunshine without paying a dime, and browse for unique gifts and souvenirs at the same places the locals shop.
That's all the space I have for this week's featured question. I'd love to hear your suggestions for summer in Paris, too. Submit your best tips using the form at the bottom of this page and we'll publish the most helpful ones here.
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Below are a few questions from the past week that I wasn't able to research for this week's column. Can you help?
Bernie writes, "My wife and I have a flexible schedule and would like to get to Paris (eventually in any itinerary). My question to you is: Are there better airports or cities to fly into to get lower fares and car rentals? I know this was a trend in the past to actually fly into Luxemburg or Amsterdam and get a good car rental and then travel throughout neighboring countries. At present I see that Zurich has low fares and Germany can have the same. Therefore I would appreciate any city(s) that would be better searched in the fall months and get lower airfares and auto rentals versus the more expensive and ultimate destination of Paris."
Linda says, "My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on October 1. We don't have a very big budget for travel, but I'd love to find a way to go to Europe during the week of October 1. We have someone in Macedonia that we would love to see. She was an exchange student we hosted. Are there any nice destinations in that area of the world that can be visited without breaking the bank? I know that the plane change to get to Macedonia is in Switzerland. We have never been to Europe, so anywhere would be an adventure for us! Any suggestions?"
L.T. wonders, "Can you mention how to get the best train deals in Europe? I hear they are a great way to see many different places on a budget. Thank you from our family. Keep up the great job you are doing."
L.S. was one of many asking about Italy: "My family (my husband, my 22-year-old daughter, my 12-year-old daughter, and I) are planning to go to Italy (Venice, Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Milan) from December 22 to January 1. Please recommend where we should go for sightseeing, shopping, dining, etc."
Finally, Drema writes, "I am a single mother of a six-year-old. Although I love my child dearly, sometimes I like to travel by myself. Unfortunately, I have learned that it is very expensive to travel alone, whether it be to another country or on a cruise. I realize that if I take my child it's pretty much the same as taking two people, but sometimes I like to check things out to see if he would like it before making him endure something neither of us would enjoy. Can you help me find some good deals that don't cost extra to travel solo?"
If you can help any of these five readers, or add to my Paris suggestions above, I'd love to hear from you!
Have a question for the Deal Detective? Please send your request using the "Submit your own comment" field below. Be aware that due to the volume of requests I receive, I cannot personally respond to every email. The more compelling your question, the better the chance you'll be selected for an upcoming case.
All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.
(Editor's Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com and Hotwire.com.)