By Hannah Pugh

Have you dreamed of going to Paris since you were a kid? Have you assumed that it would cost you thousands to get there, and then even more to spend your time well? This article is written for you. 

Planning Your Trip to Paris

First, secure a travel companion (if you so desire), and book your ticket(s) to Paris 9-12 months in advance through justfly, hipmunk, or google flights. As a result, you will find that the cheapest tickets from a major American city are $600 or less when booked this far in advance. Additionally, Compare flights in a private browser. Plan your roundtrip on off-days rather than weekends. Moreover, plan to go from May-August so that you may experience Paris’s blooming flowers, pleasant summer weather, and outdoor festivals or perhaps even the Tour de France.

Second, travel light and save money by ditching your suitcase for a backpack.

Third, plan where you will stay. I recommend an airbnb or hostel dorm. This is economical and enables you to interact with locals and other travlers.

Fourth, you must go to your local library and grab books on the history, architecture, intellectual heritage and culture of France. For instance, Blue Guide to Paris is a guide to Paris through the lens of art and architecture, and I highly recommend it.

Fifth, you must learn French. A few of my top free recommendations for learning French include Duolingo, Rosetta Stone (through your local library,) or picking up language books from your local library, as well as pursuing a native speaker to correspond with.

6. Lastly, purchase a small map before your trip. You are going to now take a pen and mark the map up with the locations of many of the places which you desire to travel to. 

To sum up, this is how you will spend the nine months before your trip: learning about Paris and how to engage with it well, so that your trip is an extension of your educational experience.

What to Do on Your Trip

When you are in Paris, you should plan to walk most of the week, this enables you to save money on metro tickets, and to experience much more of Paris, allowing for spontaneous adventures to interrupt your plans. If you are unable to walk, please budget for metro tickets accordingly. Start each day in any direction you please, refer to your map for certain destinations, but plan to take detours on the way.

In short, your trip should be focused on gardens, parks, free events, markets, picnics, museums, sunset views, and engaging with French people, and NOT on shopping, expensive dining, and entertainment. Your mission is to learn and to engage with the ideas, people, and places of Paris, and not to become a passive consumer. Moreover, consider extending your trip to do a work abroad program, such as WWOOF or Workaway.

Museums and Gardens

The museums of Paris can be found here. I would highly recommend a museum pass for some portion of your trip. Although, if you would really prefer to spend the money on other experiences in Paris, here is a list of times for free museums visits, many of which involve the first Sunday of the month, so plan your ticket accordingly. My personal favorite museums are The Picasso Museum, the Musée d’Orsay, and Musée de l’Orangerie.

The Luxembourg Gardens

In addition, a wonderful and free thing to do is to visit the countless gardens. My favorite is the Luxembourg Gardens. Bring a book, a journal or a sketch-pad, and enjoy sitting in the luscious grass of the children’s garden, or watching the various games of chess, or matches of tennis. For markets, my personal favorite is the market of flowers which becomes the market of birds each Sunday. Another fun thing to do is visit these movie locations. Mark these on your map to see where Sebastian and Mia of La-La Land sat listening to jazz, in the club in the Latin quarter of Paris. 

Plan for sponataneity

Most importantly, make time to wander! On your walks, look for interesting characters, and you will not be disappointed…

“many people do a lot of things, I do one thing… the best!”

I highly recommend planning your trip around one of the many summer festivals, if not the Tour de France. Also, each morning and evening plan to watch the sunrise and sunset. Printemps’ rooftop has an exquisite, free panoramic view of the city. As you wander each day stop and smell the roses, they bloom just about everywhere. Constantly refer to your Blue Guide to learn the history as you walk. Wander into local bars each evening to watch soccer with the locals. Notice the street fashion and the way couples hold hands. Rent a bike one day and cover the distance of the city. On a rainy day wander through the secret passages of Paris.

croissant + espresso = 2 euros

Meals do not have to be expensive. For breakfast, have a croissant and espresso. Grab a baguette, cheese and fruit from street stands and markets for lunch. Then for dinner, cook in at your hostel or airbnb, and plan to be college-budget simple. Take food out for one of your picnics. Wander through Roman ruins or one of the gardens, and practice your french with passersby. Watch the Eiffel tower light up and sparkle after sunset.

Adding up the costs:

flight $600

+ airbnb or hostel $200

+ 1 map $2

+ bike rental $20

+ pastries, espresso + lunch ($14 a day x 7) = $98

+ dinners $30

+ walking, practicing french, picnic-ing, gardens, scenic reading, street festivals, markets, movie film spots, sunset gazing, people watching

 = $0

= $950

+ museum pass (optional) $50 


Photography by Hannah Pugh