We just spent a 4 days in Paris (not long enough) and did it for about *450 Euro! We had a few days off work and school and thought that it would be a nice time of year to go to the Gardens of Versailles, Jardin des Plantes and the Eiffel Tower- believing that we would beat the crowds. And just in case you did not know- Paris is ALWAYS crowded. The Eiffel tower ALWAYS has really long lines!
There is nothing that I can tell you about visiting Paris, or visiting Paris with kids that has not already been written in a million places on the internet. But, I wanted to share some budget tips for how we managed a 4 day holiday to Paris for a family of 4 on less than 650 bucks! Even a cheap hotel in Paris will likely run you 200 bucks per night (probably more). We were not intentionally trying to stay with in a certain budget so If you wanted to spend less, I am sure it is possible. I will share what we did, and how we did not feel deprived or like we skimped.
- We did not eat in the best bistros – which I was a little sad about- but, to be honest, most of them do not start dinner service until 7:30 and this old lady hates to eat that late. Plus with two tired kiddos in tow, it just wouldn’t be a fun experience.
- We also didn’t go inside many of the museums($) because this time of year we wanted to visit the (free) gardens and enjoy the beautiful weather.
- We drove to Paris rather than flying or taking the train- this saves a lot of money and if you live across the atlantic your going to have a tough time with that one. Here is the breakdown on what we spent and where we spent it.
Total transportation to/from cost: about $204
First advantage was that we can drive. It was about 7 hours (4 hours too long) but we plowed through and saved $$$ on the train or flight. France will squeeze you for some expensive tolls but hey- somebody has to pay for the highways and it might as well be the people who use them. In the states we spend a lot of time complaining about gas prices, mostly because we have never made a decent public transportation system a priority, (yes I am on my soapbox) but the price of gas in Europe would have my dad throwing up. That’s why we bought a diesel car, and consequently we made it to Paris and back to Switzerland on two tanks of gas (still pricey but…).
Total accomidation cost: $0
So ya’ll have heard me sing this song before but accommodations are one of the most expensive cost of travel. We did another great home exchange and we were so lucky to be able to stay in Paris for free, but also to have the insiders tips on the neiborhood, on transportation, restaurants and kid friendly activities. If you live in New York City and want to swap for ANYWHERE you will not have a problem. If you live in Florida, you can almost always swap for Europe and will not have a problem. If you live in California you have a great chance of organizing a swap for Europe. If you have a home near the beach or a city of interest, you should be able to find a good exchange, especially if you are willing to “sell” you hometown and help your partner organize flights, and places of interest. Unfortunately many Europeans only know about Florida, California, and New York City, we probably have Holly Wood to thank for that.
We stayed in the 13th arrondissement which was not in-and-of-itself architecturally beautiful or rich with landmarks, but we could easily hop on the bus or metro and get anywhere. And we were still close to many of the places we wanted to go in the 14th, and the 5th, and 3rd arrondissement. In general Paris transportation system is excellent and it was easy to get around no matter where we were.
Total food cost: $ 251
SO the food is a good reason to go to Paris. Honestly 4 days is just not enough time to even begin a sample of what Paris has to offer. We certainly did not eat enough! We ate out at a good Viet-Thia restaurant that was close to the flat where we stayed for our first meal and we followed Anthony Bordains recommendation for Mexican at California Cantina ~ some good fish tacos and carnitas! And y’all maybe asking why you’d go to Paris and eat mexican but we just can’t get good Mexican in Switzerland so we jumped on the chance to eat it in Paris. And that’s the thing about Paris, and other big cities, you can get great ethnic food from all over the world. We managed to visit 2 of Paris’s top rated Gelaterias, and they did not disappoint! We bought groceries and made visits to the boulangerie across the street for fresh croissants in the morning. While browsing the market for fun we would pick up lunch and ate really well, and inexpensively compared to sitting down at a restaurant. Of course I know that there are some to-dye-for french restaurants that I am sure would have been a luxury worth enjoying, but for this trip were were just trying to give the kids a taste of paris- and fancy restaurants were not in order. It didn’t feel like we were trying to budget but, when you are traveling with kids, the idea of sitting in fancy french Bistros with tired whiney children waiting for-ever for escargot, just does not hold the same appeal as it once did when there were just the two of us. Consequently we ate dinner at home at night and fell into bed exhausted. And fortuitously, it saved us some money.
Total admission and entertainment cost: $90
One of the smartest thing we did was a guilded tour of the Gardens of Versailles. The kids were free but adults were $81 which included train fare to the Palace. The tour guild did an awesome job of giving us History and explaining the monuments and fountains and information about the French Aristocracy and their downfall during the Revolution. It was one of our favorite parts of the trip.
A favorite for the kids was boat rental at Luxembourg Gardens. For $4 you can rent a little sailboat that floats from one side of the fountain to the other with the help of long sticks the kids use to give them a push in the opposite direction. The sun was shinning until about 10:30 at night so even though we were at the gardens in the evening 6:00-7:00 ish, there were still people everywhere relaxing in the sun.
Thanks for your Homeexchange.com host we were able to get the “locals” deal on parking at an extra space in a neighboring building for the length of our stay.
Public transportation for the entire trip:$ 36
We used the buses and metro and as I mentioned above we were able to easily navigate the whole city. The metro and bus tickets are reasonably priced, but if we had figured it out sooner we might have saved a little money of 3 day passes. 4 days for $36 in Paris aint bad.
*Technically we left on a Wednesday evening and spent the night in a glorified family hostel for $46 about an hour from Paris. I did not count it in the numbers above because we only did that to get a head start and could have done the trip for the same amount with a well coordinated home exchange. In our case we were lucky to find someone to do a non-simultaneous exchange on such short notice and they were not leaving until Thursday- plus arriving before they left gave us time to meet them and chat and get loads of great tips- instead of just leaving keys behind. The people you meet is my favorite part of Home Exchanging!