I’m on vacation in Maui right now. I’m still checking the blog occasionally, and I’ll try to share my travel experiences via Twitter, but if I’m sure Megan would kill me if I were to stay completely plugged in and keep writing new posts. So I’ve pre-written my first trip report on our weekend vacation in Paris last April! Remember that part of this blog’s purpose is travel hacking so you can learn how I evaluate my options to get the best value for my time and money.
Sometimes I’ll seem to go off topic. This is also the first trip report I’ve ever written. I’ll refine my style over time, but please keep my goal in mind when you post your comments or criticisms (both of which are still welcome, no matter how new I am to this format). I didn’t really take any pictures of the airplanes, airports, or hotels because this was a year ago and I never planend to write a trip report. But now here I am, writing a blog, and fortunately I remember nearly everything, with or without the photos. I’ll do the best I can.
- The Plan
- Outbound SEA-IAD-CDG
- Day 1: Touring the Seine and Left Bank
- Day 2: Two Museums, Three Cafes, and Lots and Lots of Pastry!
- Day 3: Visiting the Louvre and Eiffel Tower
- Return CDG-IAD-SEA
We had each been to Paris before, but we also both love the culture and especially the food, so there wasn’t too much debate when a cheap fare appeared for a flight with United. No domestic or international upgrades were to be had since I was still a lowly Premier member, but at least at that time we were still able to confirm complimentary access to Economy Plus at booking.
Do not underestimate the value of a comfortable seat, even a comfortable economy seat, when you are making a quick weekend trip like this. This was back when IAD-CDG was operated by a United Boeing 777 in the old 2-5-2 layout, and we were able to snag one of the front pairs in both directions (even though it’s a bulkhead, it has significantly more legroom). If you fly that route today, it’s being operated by a Continental Boeing 757, a single aisle plane with a 3-3 configuration, and nearly all of United’s 777s have since been converted to a 3-3-3 configuration. So definitely stay abreast of the aircraft and seating configurations on your particular flight, and use SeatGuru to get reviews of how each airline configures its version of a particular model.
Back on topic, our two other main concerns were that Megan has limited vacation days (I’m a student, so no one cares…) and that a hotel would be one of the few large expenses we would have some control over. We agreed we would fly out Friday morning and arrive in Paris Saturday morning. We would have Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to explore, flying back Tuesday. This limited our hotel bill to three nights and her paid time off to three days. Using ITA to check our options, I saw that our weekend fare was available through about mid-April, after which the price went up by over $100. I kept the departure and return dates somewhat flexible, but traveling Friday through Tuesday was no better or worse than other days.
We thought about renting an apartment, but not many people will do that for fewer than 5-7 nights, and at that time I had no hotel points and no desire to acquire any. My hotel tool of choice was Hotwire because Paris is a particularly finicky city with high prices and unreliable quality. Priceline carried too much risk that I might get a real stinker, and Hotwire has much more hacking potential. First I (correctly) identified one of the hotels as the Crowne Plaza Republique using TripAdvisor to compare amenities. Then I matched up the best airfare with the best rate on Hotwire and booked the hotel and air reservations right away.
You could also, if you choose, book or hold the flight first and then work on the hotel issue since all airlines offer an option to hold a flight for purchase or cancel within a 24-hour window. In the end we paid approximately $800 per person including hotel, room, and taxes for a three-night, three-day weekend in Paris. We set aside another $400 per person for food and excursions, reaching $1,200 total. It was pricey, yes, but not bad for heading to Paris from the West Coast. 😀