My goal was to have a frugal vacation in Paris - which is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Listed below are ways I've cut down on cost, without compromising on fun and adventure. I suggest having a rough budget in mind and try to set aside "vacation money" apart from everyday expenses. My most important tip is to do your research ahead of time. Have fun planning your vacation! Read on for some frugal travel ideas.
We saved quite a lot of money by staying in an apartment vs. a hotel. Our rate was less than $95 per night. Most hotels in Paris charged double that or more! I booked our little apartment almost a year in advance, because it was such a sought after rental. I found a great studio in the 5th arrondissement (the Latin Quarter), through HomeAway.com. This particular apartment had 5 star reviews regarding the location and the owners. Well, needless to say - we were not disappointed. Not only was the apartment cozy, nicely decorated and conveniently located - but the owners were so wonderful during our stay. We joined them for drinks, coffee and to hear gypsy jazz and blues in local bars and clubs. Click here to learn more about our little apartment in Paris.
I consistently checked online booking sites, such as CheapFlights.com for the best airfare cost. I also signed up for email alerts in case the price drops for my selected route. A good option for price alerts is BookingBuddy.com. As I've mentioned before, try to pick travel days on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays - they are usually cheaper than other days. By flying out on a Tuesday, we were able to save almost $200 - which we were able to allocate towards the rest of our vacation.
For the first time (ever!), we took Uber to the airport. I had scored a special deal from Capital One - a $30 credit for any Uber ride. So I only paid a little over $2.00 for the ride from our house to LAX. In comparison, the price for a taxi ride is $75.
From the Paris airport (and back), we took the RER train - which was only 10 euros per person. We mostly took the Metro to get around Paris. However, the best way to see and experience the city is by foot. We did a lot, and I do mean a LOT of walking - comfortable shoes are a definite must. We not only saved a lot of money by walking, especially to arrondissements closer to our apartment - but we got to see places that were not listed in the guide books! We also saved money (and time) by purchasing metro tickets (set of 10) ahead of time from the metro station kiosk.
There must've been a café, bistro, boulangerie, patisserie, fromagerie, brasserie, etc.. in every corner!! In order to save money, we only ate at a sit-down restaurant once a day - usually for dinner. For breakfast, we stopped at a boulangerie and pick up an eclair or other yummy treat to go. For mid-day noshing, we grabbed a baguette, some brie cheese (cheese is very affordable in Paris) and wine then head to a park or garden for a picnic lunch.
For dinner we ate at restaurants that offered prix fixe menus, most 3-course meal only cost about 17 euros! We enjoyed plenty of goat cheese salads, escargots, beef bourguignon, crème brûlée and chocolate mousse! We were pleasantly surprise that Paris water is very drinkable, so we didn't have to buy bottle drinking bottle. Coffee (café creme) on the other hand was quite expensive, so we only treated ourselves to it a few times.
We were considering buying a Museum Pass, however, I'm glad we didn't since that would've forced us to stick with a strict schedule. We prefer a more free flowing vacation, where we decide when we wake up that morning where and what we should do. We opted to go to the Louvre on a rainy morning, which was a perfect day to be indoors perusing all that the Louvre has to offer. Instead of doing a bus tour, we walked and walked and walked - where we discovered many great spots that were not probably not on the tour guide route. I do recommend getting a detailed map of the city with street names, so that you can find your way around (in case you get lost!)
There were plenty of major sites that are free! We stood in line, which moved fairly quickly - to see the grandeur of Notre Dame-Cathedral as well as Basilica of Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, be prepared to climb lots of stairs! We also enjoyed strolling around Jardin du Luxembourg and the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Gardens) at no cost.
As I mentioned before, most of our entertainment was free - courtesy of our awesome apartment hosts! The free music spots were perfect to immerse ourselves in the local Parisian vibe. We enjoyed free gypsy jazz, blues and eclectic music from local bands throughout our stay. This experience is Priceless!
Since we purposely brought carry-on luggages, this did not leave us a whole lot of room to buy a lot of stuff. Although I packed an extra empty backpack, I did not have to use it. We did only minimal shopping and only bought items that were small enough to fit in our luggages. I did buy some nice things for my friends, they were small and practical. The only things we bought for ourselves were some postcards and misc. made in Paris items. The most important souvenir (in my opinion) were all the wonderful experiences which were captured via photos. I put together a photo book of memorable places and times, so that we will always remember our Paris trip.