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Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

Colorado
Level Contributor
72 posts
40 reviews
Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

I’ll be posting a trip report after my upcoming vacation to Paris, but since so much planning goes into a trip like this, I thought it might be fun/helpful to post a Pre-Trip Report. I’ll post information, tips, and advice I’ve discovered in the planning stages, how I decided on what to do (and what not to do) and everything I’ll be doing prior to arriving in Paris. I’ll also post links to the accommodations we considered and ones we ultimately chose, how we planned out our days in Paris, and any other info I think may be useful.

About Us:

We’re a family of four from Colorado, U.S. - 2 Adults, 1 Hamilton obsessed teen girl, 1 elementary school boy. This will be our first international trip as a family, the first international trip at all for my son.

About The Trip:

We’ll be in France in late September 2017. Spending 3 Days in Paris, 1 Day in Giverny & Vernon (staying in a countryside Château!), and 4 Days in Disneyland Paris.

About This Report:

I’ll be posting the topics below separately in the comments so you can focus on exactly the information that is relevant to you.

*Flights

*Paris Accommodations

*Paris Transportation

*Paris Itinerary

*Giverny Accommodations

*Giverny Transportation

*Giverny Itinerary

*Disneyland Accommodations

*Disneyland Meal Plan Info

*Tips, Tricks, and Other Resources

I hope you come along for the planning journey and find this report valuable!

It may be important to note that I started planning this trip in October 2016. We started reviewing our options in October and ultimately decided on a September date to coincide with events at Disneyland and allow for time to save some vacation funds. That date is purely arbitrary. While advance planning is necessary, there is no reason anyone really NEEDS to plan that far in advance.

Edited: 13 July 2017, 06:45
Pittsburgh...
Level Contributor
1,402 posts
16 reviews
1. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

Emily, I think this is an awesome thing for you to do. I can tell your like me and enjoy writing this all out as sort of a journal. I love doing trip reports as well.

A few things I'd love you to go into detail on about Giverny. Any tips and tricks to the transportation getting there would be helpful. Also, I'd love to know how long you spent at the Monet House. If you come across a nice restaurant for lunch in Giverny, that'd also be wonderful to hear about.

Have a great time!

Colorado
Level Contributor
72 posts
40 reviews
2. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

Flights

Once we decided on September I then started comparing flight prices. As I started looking at flights so early it was hard to get an accurate picture of costs. So to budget for plane tickets I priced flights at different times of the year to each of the Paris airports (De Gaulle and Orly). If you’re lucky enough to live in a city that offers direct flights to Paris then your tickets could even be less expensive. For us, living in the middle of the country means we have to connect through another city so I had to be realistic on costs.

As a side note, I’ve read that Orly is an easier airport to get around in due to it being smaller in size. So if that’s important to you, definitely check flights arriving there. My main concern was cost and I found better deals flying into De Gaulle.

I signed up for price alerts with Expedia and Priceline and also compared costs to the Airlines’ direct websites (I looked at American Airlines, United, and Air France). I ended up buying tickets in February on American Airlines for the lowest price I could find - $500 per person. I just checked flights again today and the same flight is now up to $750 per person. It pays to plan and watch prices like a hawk!

Unique Flight Option:

I looked at doing a stopover in Iceland as two airlines makes it easy for you to book flights with an overnight stay between them as a way of boosting tourism in the country. I think that would have made our trip even more amazing, but I couldn’t make the prices and timing work for our budget.

You can find out more at the links below:

https://www.icelandair.us/iceweb/app

https://wowair.us/flights/wow-stopover/

Colorado
Level Contributor
72 posts
40 reviews
3. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

ducky - Most definitely! I have BIG plans for Giverny - stay tuned!!

Colorado
Level Contributor
72 posts
40 reviews
4. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

Paris Accommodations

This is going to be a HUGE post. Bear with me!

When I first started looking at hotels, I was completely overwhelmed. Expedia lists 3,373 hotels in the Paris area.

Trip Advisor helps narrow that list down a bit by listing just 1,802 properties. But wow…where do you start? When reading travel books and internet advice you don’t get a lot of help because you’ll also find the statement, “There is no bad place in Paris to stay.” And “The Metro will get you anywhere you need so location isn’t an issue.” Good info, but not helpful in narrowing down the field.

To further add to my frustration in locating a suitable property I found that many, many, many hotels could not accommodate my family of four. Space in Paris is limited. This is evident when looking for hotel rooms as the rooms are small by American standards and even a three person room didn’t come up very often in my search. Rooms come equipped with either double beds or two singles. Three person rooms will have a single fold out couch or another single bed if there’s room.

My first suggestion when looking for a hotel is to give up any notion about finding a room that compares to the US in terms of size. (And also don’t write a subsequent review of the hotel by saying “the rooms were small”. They’ll all be small, that’s just the way it is. The sooner you accept that, the more relaxed you’ll be.)

As of the date I’m writing this, I have reserved (and subsequently canceled) five different hotel rooms in four different neighborhoods because of mistakes I made in the process and my own indecisiveness.

To save you my same headaches, here are some tips I’ve learned for finding the right hotel:

- Ask: What do you want most in hotel amenities? Is it charm or just a bed to sleep in? Do you need breakfast included or available for a charge (the convenient option) or nearby cafes, Pasterries, or grocery markets (the more Parisian approach and sometimes more cost effective)?

- Ask: What is most important for location. Quick access to tourist attractions? Or further out to experience the charm of a local neighborhood? Do you need a hotel directly next to a train station? (Many hotels are within a few blocks of the Metro and RER stations. But if you’re dragging around lots of luggage, you may want to look at hotels that have stations literally at their front door.)

- Use Trip Advisor to narrow your search. Search for hotels in Paris and when the results come up filter by your budget and any amenities you want, then sort by reviews. The top rated hotels will be shown first.

- Read the reviews on Expedia, Trip Advisor, and Booking.com! I thought I had found the perfect hotel for us – views of the Eiffel Tower, low budget, cafes nearby for breakfast. I booked it and later realized while I had looked at the rating online (3.5 out of 5), I didn’t read any reviews. The reviews of recent stays were scary! Bugs in the rooms and in the beds, no extra towels given (and in some cases on 2 towels in a quadruple room), and rude interactions with staff. I immediately canceled that hotel and started my search all over again.

- Consult travel books and the internet to research the neighborhoods. Choosing a location will be a very personal decision as only you know what you’d like. After all my indecisiveness I realized I hasn’t been looking for an experience, I had only been looking for a room and that is exactly why I hadn’t been satisfied. For our vacation, I wanted to experience more than the touristy areas. I wanted to see and feel the real Paris. I also wanted to be in a neighborhood dotted with unique shops and cafes. Researching the neighborhoods I am drawn to the 14th Arrondissment, specifically the Montparnasse neighborhood. Known for its popularity with historic artists, I felt like this was the neighborhood I was longing to experience. This may well be where we end up.

These two articles give great overviews of the neighborhoods:

https:/…neighborhoods

https:/…Neighborhoods.html

- The book I found most valuable was Rick Steves' Paris 2017. I'm late to the party in knowing who he is, but apparently he's an expert traveler writer and his book is full of great information. He gives hotel recommendations by neighborhood. I wish I had found his book earlier in my search - by the time I found it all the great places he recommended were booked up.

- Use Google Maps Street View. This was an invaluable tool for me! The hotel pictures online all look perfect. To get a realistic view of where you’ll be staying, plug the address into Google Maps and look at the street view that comes up. This will help you see if your hotel is in a dark narrow alley, or on a vibrant street lined with cafés and trees. You’ll also be able to see what restaurants and shops are nearby.

- Read the fine print! Some of the hotels I found seemed to have great pricing, until I reviewed all of the pricing details. Some charge extra for people above 2 in the room, some charge a daily housekeeping fee. Make sure you look at all the information before booking to ensure you’re not surprised during your stay.

- Choose your booking site carefully. I’m a big fan of Expedia as they make it very clear on what you’ll pay for a room, when you’ll pay for it, and what’s included in your price. I learned the hard way that Booking.com is a bit shady. They advertise that there are no booking or credit card fees for booking on their site, which is true, BUT the fine print says that the hotel MAY choose to charge you upfront either in full or for a portion of your cost. And they will do this without notice. I booked a room on their site without reading this fine print and then saw a $700 charge on my bank statement!

It was my fault for not reading the details, but I ended up canceling as I wasn’t ready to pay for my hotel and didn’t appreciate that the hotel could just charge me whatever they wanted and whenever they wanted without notice or my approval. I have never had this issue with Expedia as their terms are easier to find.

- An alternative lodging option is to find an apartment for rent through a private person. There are some good deals to be had, but read the fees carefully. Most rentals will require both a deposit and a cleaning fee. In some of the options I looked at the deposit as much as 80% of the cost of the stay! I wasn’t willing to pay an 800€ deposit for a 1,000€ rental!

- Budget Tips: It’s always wonderful to stay in a posh hotel room, but if you’re on a budget consider how much time you’ll actually be in your room. Our plans have us out and about most of the day so really all we need is a place to sleep. And I don’t much care what the room looks like when my eyes are closed and sleeping. Also consider looking for a room with a kitchenette. This will allow you to visit a local grocery store and have meals in your room at a much cheaper rate than eating out.

FOR THOSE TRAVELING AS A FAMILY:

- If you’re in need of a quadruple room, then I suggest you start your search by looking at this Trip Advisor post: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g18714…

She’s already done all the research into finding just hotels that will accommodate a family of four and listed them by neighborhood. I wish I had discovered this list earlier in my search!

I'll post more tips if I think of any or happened to read some additional info!

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
3,095 posts
90 reviews
5. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

What a great idea Emily M. to do a Pre Trip Report. Really enjoyed reading it and will follow the rest of your posts.

Just one though, why do you need to book your accommodation through a booking site such as Expedia, or any other one.

We travel overseas and within Australia quite regularly and always, always book directly with the hotel. I often use booking sites for research, but never would use them for booking.

We find booking directly, you can build up a relationship with the hotel/B&B before you even arrive. We almost always get an upgrade and they always comment that it is due to direct booking. Hotels need to pay Expedia and the others for their services, so they save money on you if you book directly with them.

Just a thought for your consideration.

Melbourne, Australia
Level Contributor
1,934 posts
69 reviews
6. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

I can totally relate to your planning OCD :) we're heading to Europe in September from down under & I must say I'm a bit jealous of your flight ghosts!! We booked in October 16 because we used frequent flyer points. But we still had airport taxes of around $420 p/p!

We booked an Airbnb for hubby, myself & out teenage daughter because it's not only cheaper, but we have a gorgeous 1br apartment for the 3 of us. Given we have 7 nights in Paris, the space & kitchen will be most welcome! However at Disney, we booked 2 nights & got an extra 2 nights free.

Looking forward to reading more of your info!

Colorado
Level Contributor
72 posts
40 reviews
7. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

djh1 - I don't need to use a booking site, I choose to. It's convenient as I can book all of my travel needs in one place, at one time, with one payment. And if there are any issues with my reservations, I only have to contact one place and they deal directly with the vendors. Everyone has their own way, I just prefer convenience and efficiency.

Colorado
Level Contributor
72 posts
40 reviews
8. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

nessnem - I can't imagine what flights would normally costs for your trip, that's a long way!! Fees on tickets are outrageous aren't they?!

That will be nice for you guys to have an apartment. We considered it, but since we'll only need a space for 2 1/2 days it made more since just to find a bed someplace for our head. lol

So you'll be in DLP for 4 days also. I can't wait to go! We make our dining reservations in two weeks and we still haven't decided where all we'll eat! Except we know for sure we'll be going to the new Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant. I'm just hoping the menu gets released soon so we can see how it's changed.

I have a big DLP post coming up...just putting the final touches on it!

Malaysiana
Level Contributor
47 posts
4 reviews
9. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

Hi Emily and Nessem. I am also at DLP late sept 2017 for running. Hope will see both of you...

Victoria, Canada
Level Contributor
23,103 posts
110 reviews
10. Re: Pre-Trip Report: Paris / Giverny & Vernon / Disneyland

There's nothing shady about booking.com , I've used it for years and as you admit you simply didn't read the site . Most places do not charge you anything in advance , depends on the hotel and rate you take .

Booking direct is also easier when there is an issue .

Also in over 35 years of travel to Paris I have yet to hear of an actual hotel that charges a daily cleaning fee , that's interesting .

I appreciate how fun it is to do all the planning and research but it seems odd to make so many recommendations when you haven't actually seen of the plans work out for you .