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Help plan our trip to France!

sylvan8798sylvan8798 6637 replies140 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,777 Senior Member
We've tentatively decided to take our family group to France next summer. Currently looking at late July so as best to fit everyone's schedules. Our party will consist of myself, H, DS, DD, and both of their BF's. We are thinking 6-7 days together and then each couple can/will go their own ways as desired at their own expense with provision of a flight home at the end. We would like to keep costs within reason, but we're not into staying in hostels or such.
I have started a file for ideas, and know that many here have experiences, both positive and negative, which I'm sure will prove useful. Thanking any and all for their helps!
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Replies to: Help plan our trip to France!

  • yucca10yucca10 1158 replies35 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,193 Senior Member
    Late July is not the best time. Many French people will leave the cities for a vacation, instead there will be tourist crowds. Even June is better. What are you interested in?
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 6248 replies35 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 6,283 Senior Member
    What part of France?

    Couple of things -

    July and August is when most of Europe goes on vacation. If you are planning on doing smaller towns, be sure things are going to be open. We had friends who lived in the south of France and there was about a month + block from mid July to mid/end of August that many shops and restaurants would close for vacation. If you are staying in Paris, you shouldn't have a problem but book your hotel early.

    A/C is still hit or miss so be sure that your accommodations have it. Also some of the more budget friendly hotels don't have elevators so if anyone in your party can't do stairs, be sure to ask.
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  • ArtsyKidDadArtsyKidDad 32 replies4 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 36 Junior Member
    Is this your first trip to France? To Europe? Do you feel an urge to see super-touristy places, or just want to have a great time? Are you a foodie? How active you are? Mountains, cities, or the sea? Do you love wine and wineries? Do you feel you have to see Paris, which to many people these days is the greatest disappointment because of crowds and street hustlers?
    These are just some questions that would make it easier to help you. We went to France every year for 2-4 weeks for about 6 years and have lots to share, provided we know more about you.
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  • abasketabasket 18874 replies847 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 19,721 Senior Member
    I will second that recommendation to check for AC. We did 10 days in the south of France late June/early July staying with family (no AC) and 2 of those days in Paris (no AC) - it was 110 degrees in Paris and 90's daily on the coast. We basically lived by the pool or sea when we weren't doing touristy stuff. Paris was pretty horrible!

    The one thing I will recommend is the train system for traveling within the country. Very comfortable, AC! and fast and really pretty affordable.
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  • milee30milee30 1984 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,997 Senior Member
    Do you feel you have to see Paris, which to many people these days is the greatest disappointment because of crowds and street hustlers?
    That is true if you go in a month like July, and all the more reason to go off-season. My friend and I spent a week in late March right before Notre Dame burned and it was glorious! No crowds - didn't stand in line. Decent weather. Prices were much lower as well.
    If you have the option of choosing when to go, don't go in summer peak season.
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  • TS0104TS0104 819 replies26 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 845 Member
    Hi @sylvan8798 , I'm in the same boat. I'm actually going this summer (Jul 31-mid August), so I can report back as to that vacation season/closures issue. I'm meeting my DD and her friend and mom after their study abroad. We're' doing Paris, then travel to other European cities.
    In Paris so far we're just hitting the biggies: Lourve, Eiffel, Versailles, all of which we are booking ahead of time to avoid ticket lines. Using trains to get around.
    I'm finding Rick Steves guidebooks very useful! He has DVDs too but I prefer the books, and the forum.
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  • mikemacmikemac 10254 replies150 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 10,404 Senior Member
    edited July 12
    This is almost too big a question to answer. We've made several trips to France over the years, spending perhaps 7+ weeks there total, and feel like we've only scratched the surface of what there is to see.

    Start by asking yourself what interests everyone in the group. The coast? Museums? Places with Roman ruins? Castles? Places artists lived or painted? Hiking? Cities? Places famous for food/seafood? Wine regions? The Alps? Exploring the countryside? Then go to sites that offer tours such as Rick Steves https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/france or https://www.roadscholar.org/search?query=france and look at where they go. Tour companies go on routes they think they can find the most customers for, so their trips may give you ideas of what is popular. Spend some time watching videos. Samantha Brown has many shows, you can also watch a bunch online at the Rick Steves site.
    edited July 12
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  • doschicosdoschicos 20462 replies209 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 20,671 Senior Member
    You mention not wanting hostels but wanting to keep costs within reason. I highly recommend renting apartments/homes over hotels.
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  • milee30milee30 1984 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,997 Senior Member
    On the lines of renting an apartment, it's not exactly bargain budget, but Paris Perfect is a good apartment rental service with a long standing reputation. Our apartment was gorgeous and cost much less than a hotel. Since I started traveling with kids and/or friends, I almost never rent a hotel any more; the privacy, separate living areas, ability to cook a few meals and washer/dryer have been godsends.
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  • washugradwashugrad 1059 replies13 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 1,072 Senior Member
    Do you speak any French? We loved the little town of Sarlat le Caneda in the Dordogne region (near Bordeaux). We took a train from Paris to Bordeaux and then rented a car from there. It's in the area where there are prehistoric cave paintings as well as castles and wineries. You can canoe down the Dordogne river with castles looming over you. I'm not sure I'd recommend this area if no one in your group speaks any French but you can get by if you've just had a year or two (tourist-level).
    This one is longer ago but we also enjoyed the Avignon area. We stayed in a small town (Pernes les Fontaine). I especially remember a visit to a town with an amazing large spring (Font de Vaucluse) and andther day going to a Roman fortress town, still inhabited, Les Baux de Provence.
    Like others have said, it will be quite hot there in late July. I was just looking some of these places up to refresh my memory and I see that the town of Carpentras, right by Pernes les Fontaine, now holds the record of highest recorded temperature ever in France (set just last month).
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32764 replies350 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 33,114 Senior Member
    edited July 12
    Lots if great reviews for Paris Perfect. We used vacationinparis.com, based in the US. One great advantage to an apt is having a kitchen. Plus living among locals. And not needing to leave the room for maid service.

    Also look at the free guided walking tours led by volunteers. We did a night tour of Ile de la Cité. Lots of choices and look at TripAdvisor for reviews.
    After all the usual highlights, this was one of our best experiences.

    Yes, check the weather. Off season is great.
    edited July 12
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  • taverngirltaverngirl 780 replies19 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 799 Member
    Definitely do an airbnb type lodging. We had an adorable little apartment in the St. Germain area, had everything we needed, great location, and inexpensive. If you'll be in Paris, here are my suggestions:
    --Seine river cruise (Bateaux Mouches best bet)
    --Louvre (we just hit the highlights - it's enormous)
    --Musee d'Orsay (our favorite; spent almost a day here--just lovely)
    --Luxembourg Garden (nice for a picnic or just to stroll around)
    --Saint Chappelle
    --Pantheon (make sure to see the crypts)
    --Eiffel tower (did it to say we did, very crowded and must buy tix well in advance)
    --we took a day trip via train to Normandy, saw the Bayeux Tapestry (excellent) and did a D-Day tour with Overlord Tours (highly recommend)
    There are Trip Advisor forums for every part of the country, and the information and advice from the natives and tourists are invaluable.
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  • mathmommathmom 32036 replies158 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 32,194 Senior Member
    Years ago my parents rented a house in a little town Normandy for about a week. We were able to make day trips to Bayeux, Mont St. Michel and the World War 2 beaches as well as various other places. I think it was July and we had no problem with anything being closed. However we adults had all been to France many times before. We spent a few days in Paris as well, because our kids hadn't seen it. There's something nice about staying in the country, but I can't tell you not to go to Paris, or not to see at least one Loire chateau if you never have.
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  • rockymtnhigh2rockymtnhigh2 211 replies2 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 213 Junior Member
    edited July 12
    Avignon old city area stay in Bed & Breakfast (favorite town), otherwise AirB&B, Musee d'Orsay (favorite museum), the Louvre highlights. Frommers helps with B&B's. All learn a few words at the least. Thank you, hello, good evening, goodbye. The effort is appreciated. Eat at all French bakeries as much as you can. :)
    edited July 12
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  • abasketabasket 18874 replies847 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 19,721 Senior Member
    It depends on your families interests and desires of course, but while our time NOT in Paris was our favorite parts of our France vacation. We wanted to experience the land, food and seaside more than we wanted to spend time in museums - but that's us.
    If you go south I would spend a day in Marseille - it has both an urban and seaside feel. You can find some historical places to visit there too.
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  • yauponreduxyauponredux 712 replies25 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 737 Member
    Splurges we found well worth it on our 2015 trip were a food tour (Paris by Mouth) of St. Germain and guided walking tours (through Paris Muse) of the Marais and the Louvre. We took the train to Chartres for a day trip to the cathedral and to Bayeux for a two-night trip which included the tapestry and the DDay beaches. We booked a Dday tour with Dale Booth, who was excellent - this was DH’s favorite experience of the trip.

    We economized on meals, which wasn’t as hard as I thought as even the inexpensive restaurants we ate at were fine to very good. We had a couple nice lunches, but dinner was pizza/falafel/Thai/crepes etc. And yes, we adopted the “goûter” practice most afternoons and enjoyed picking up a treat at a patisserie or boulangerie to enjoy in our room with a cup of tea or glass of wine while we rested our tired feet. We had read that the city of Paris was cracking down on short-term rentals and were nervous about finding ourselves on the street, so we stayed at a hotel, La Clef d’Or (fabulous breakfast included when we joined the affinity program, not sure if that is still the case), and our room had a small frig, microwave, & Nespresso machine.
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  • abasketabasket 18874 replies847 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 19,721 Senior Member
    Yes to some of the inexpensive restaurants for some excellent food. This was the best falafel I've ever had in my life - the Marais neighborhood of Paris:
    https://www.yelp.com/biz/pitzman-paris
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 32764 replies350 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 33,114 Senior Member
    Alas, having the famous and amazing hot chocolate may be out, in August.
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  • eb23282eb23282 445 replies14 discussionsRegistered User Posts: 459 Member
    I did 12 days in France 3 years ago in late June. We did Airbnb all over the country. My favorite highlights...
    1. Verdon Gorge
    2. St. Tropez
    3. Monaco - though not France
    4. Normandy
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