Paris Planning Tips

Paris Planning Tips

Paris should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. It is such a beautiful city, full of history and culture, and of course, style. Here’s a list of the most useful things we  learned and used on our trip to Paris.

Eiffel Tower

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links for which we may earn a commission. Some aren’t because we want to share cute and useful things with you from the places we actually shop even if we don’t have an affiliate relationship.

Travel Wi-Fi

Wifi ParisThis was absolutely the most useful thing I had in Paris. It is a portable device that gives you wi-fi access for all of your devices where ever you are. It works by connecting into a cellular network.

This worked perfectly for us in Paris.  Because all of our travel group could use it, the travel wi-fi was much cheaper than adding an international plan to all of our phones, and worked  much better than when I have purchased international cellular plans in the past. (Note: This may not work as well in more rural areas where there is less cell coverage.)

I rented our device  from Travel Wi-fi and was able to pick up the unit at the the airport, so we were immediately able to use it. We had a great connection and reliable wi-fi throughout our trip.

The only issue we had was my mistake in returning it. You are provided with a pre-paid envelope to return by mail, and you can drop it at a post box in the airport. However, I glossed over the part of the instructions that said that all mail drops at the airport are before you go through security.  Once you’re through security, any mail goes where you go!  I had to spend about the same as the rental cost to have it shipped back from the U.S., but the Travel-Wifi people were very accommodating and didn’t charge me for the extra time I had the device.

We will absolutely do this again on our upcoming London-Paris trip.

Keep Your Metro Ticket

Paris Metro

Thankfully I read this tip somewhere when preparing for our trip to Paris. Some of the subway stations require you to re-enter your ticket at the exit gates when you are leaving the station.  You can’t get through the gates if you don’t have a ticket to scan.

Also, keep your current ticket stubs separate from any old stubs.  You don’t want to scan every ticket in your pocket to get out of the subway station. (Yes, I know this from experience.)

And don’t be afraid to use the metro system.  We just used Google Maps for transit directions, and  had no trouble navigating even though we don’t speak French. Bonus: the stations we visited were much cleaner and less sketchy than many we’ve visited in the U.S.

Pre-book Your Tickets To the Eiffel Tower

If you don’t pre-book your ticket to the top-level of the Eiffel Tower, you might not get to go to the top.  During peak times, tickets to the top level of the Eiffel Tower often sell out, or require standing in very long lines.

You definitely want to go all the way to the summit.  It is more than twice the height of the second floor at 276 meters (the second floor is 115 meters). But if you want to ensure that you get to go all the way to the top, you need to pre-book your tickets online.

Secure Your Valuables in Paris

We never felt unsafe in Paris, but it is a large city and pick-pocketing around tourist areas and on the metro is not uncommon, so we we took care protect our money and belongings.

Something we always do when traveling is divide up our cash, so that one person isn’t carrying all of it. (This did lead to me inadvertently bringing home a 50 Euro note because my daughter forgot she had it stashed away, so you might want to keep an accounting if you do this!)  I also put cash in multiple different pockets and places.

Something I bought especially for Paris that worked perfectly was an infinity scarf with a hidden zipper pocket. The pocket was big enough to hold my cell phone, a couple of cards, and some cash, but didn’t feel bulky or bothersome.  My scarf is now my must-take travel accessory anytime we are somewhere with large crowds or where pick-pocketing  is likely to be an issue.

 

My girls thought the scarf looked a little too “mom,” so we also picked up a running belt to hide our valuables. The running belt is much sleeker (and less dorky) than a fanny pack or traditional money belt, but it’s also super stretchy and will hold a cell phone, cards and cash.

I preferred the security of the scarf and having my valuables right at chest level so any interference would be very obvious, but the running choice is a solid choice for men or anyone who just isn’t in to the scarf look.

Of course, the scarf and running belt only work for small items.  I bought a the large Longchamp “Le Pliage” tote for everything else. I really, really wanted this tote for my carry-on, but I held off and actually purchased it in Paris.  Longchamp bags are one of the few things that are actually less expensive in Paris, and I save about 40% buying it there. You also have more color choices in France.

This bag is great because it has a zipper and a button closure, and the straps are just long enough to fit over your shoulder and tuck comfortably under your arm.  And this thing is like Mary Poppins’ bag. We were doing a lot of Christmas shopping, and it  will hold a ton of stuff, but because it is nylon, the bag itself is lightweight.

This is now my go-to “personal item” bag when I travel, and I often use it for work, too. I can load it up with my laptop, a sweater, an umbrella, all my personal stuff, a couple of files, and still have room left over. Best of all, these bags are all over Paris, so you will not scream “tourist” by carrying it around.

Get Adapters for Your Electronics in Paris

 

You’re won’t be able to plug in your cell phone if you don’t purchase the right adapter. Also note that, unless you have a universal adapter, your U.K. adapter won’t work in France. I ordered a couple of different brands in case one didn’t work, but we didn’t have any problems.

Check Your Passport and Documentation

Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months after your scheduled departure date and you’ll need at least one blank page in your passport book. (I wish my passport were full enough for this to be an issue!)

paris

You’ll also need passports for any children traveling with you. And if you are traveling solo with your own children, or traveling with someone else’s children, make sure you have appropriate documentation.

Because it was just me traveling with my 15-year-old daughters, I had a notarized letter from my husband stating that he was aware that we were leaving the country. Nobody asked to see any documentation as we were leaving the country, but as we were coming back into the U.S., the U.S. Custom’s Agent grilled me.  I had switched bags and inadvertently packed the letter in my checked luggage for the return flight.  It seemed obvious to me that I wasn’t trying to kidnap my own children when I was bringing them back into our home country with a flight directly to our home state, but apparently not to U.S. Customs.  So, lesson learned, make sure you keep your authorization letters handy for return flights, too.

Learn a Few Key Phrases

I don’t speak French, and even though my daughters were in their second year of French class, they weren’t particularly helpful.  But I spent the weeks before my trip using the Duolingo app on my phone to try to learn a few words and phrases.

paris

Even a few words of French will get you a warmer reception at most places, although we did not find the people we encountered to live up to the French reputation of being rude to tourists.

Of course please and thank you are essential.

But we also learned that, when dining out, if you would like tap water (rather than bottled water), you may request un carafe d’eau, or a carafe of water.

Also, your check will not be brought to you until you request it. To receive your check you request “l’addition s’il vous plaît” (“check, please”).

We had little trouble communicating in Paris with just a few basic phrases, and we found everybody we encountered to be accommodating of our limited French as long as we were polite and friendly.

Have Comfortable Walking Shoes

These Cole Haan’s are my favorite travel shoe.  They’re super comfy and weight almost nothing. They come in both men’s and women’s styles, and in several different colors.

I like these because they are comfortable for all-day wear without being frumpy. The are the perfect blend of style and comfort for wandering through Paris.

I also packed a pair of flat boots. These waterproof Chelsea boots look like a good option (I don’t have them yet, so I can’t comment on comfort.) My boots aren’t quite as comfortable as my Cole Haans for a full day of walking, but they hold up well for less walking-intense days.

Paris is an amazing city, and with a little preparation and planning, you will have a great trip!

planning for paris

I am a 40-something lawyer and mom of 3 teenage girls. I love exploring new places, and when I can't be on the road, I'm planning my next trip. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to travel in a pack of five. Our trips range from budget-friendly road trips with the family, to more luxurious trips for work, either solo or with my husband, Kenny.

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