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In this episode of the podcast Annie and her guest Kristina Long review the secrets of planning a trip to Paris. It was Kristina's first time in Europe and they visited Paris as a family of 5 ranging from teenager to grandmother, with different needs and interests.
So, how do you plan your trip to France strategically without going crazy about every detail? How do you keep everybody happy? What should you concentrate on? What happens when flights are cancelled? Click on the play button, Kristina has step-by-step instructions for you!
Strategies for Planning a Trip to Paris
If you're a bit of a planner, visiting Europe for the first time can feel overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be this way if you get organized in a logical way.
- Decide where you're going and for how long. Determining factors can be cost, flight, how much time you have, etc. These basic things will constrain you, so that's where you need to start.
- Research the cities by reading books and listening to podcasts, look on-line and gather information. Depending on your propensities, this could take over your life. The beautiful thing about the podcast is that you can listen while driving to soccer game or doing other things. Whereas reading a book or reading Trip Advisor is spent time doing nothing else.
- Decide how you are going to organize the information. You could use your phone with or without a specialized App, use your computer, Kristina likes to use paper, so she got a big spiral notebook.
- Organize the information you gather about each topic. At the top of the notebook she wrote things like Paris or Paris Attractions, or Paris Hotels, Paris Transportation. And whenever she found out any information about any of these things she wrote them under the right heading. This took about 2 to 3 weeks, but she kept doing it right up until the trip.
- Talk to the people you are traveling with so they know what the possibilities are and get feedback about what they are going to be interested in. You need to pick activities that will fit various ages and interests. Kristina traveled with her active mom and her two teenagers.
- Write down everything you find out on the computer. Kristina loves spreadsheets, so that's what she used. This was a clear way to consolidate the notes in her binder and move beyond the unorganized chicken scratches on the paper. She listed the 10-15 things the family had decided on and used the columns for different categories. Some of the categories included opening hours, closing days, the best time to visit something, how long an attraction should take, book tickets in advance, take the tickets with you, etc.
- In the excitement of being in Paris it might be easy to forget things and start worrying about details instead of being in the moment.
- From the spreadsheet and all the information she used a big map of the city to decide on an itinerary and what to do on what days. You look at things that are close together, go at the right time of the day, make sure you allow enough time, etc. This is like putting the puzzle together. This is also the time to purchase any tickets you may need and get them for the right time of day.
- Once you have your itinerary, realize that it needs to stay flexible and things will have to change. On the Join Us in France Closed Group on Facebook you can post your itinerary and have people who have been there make suggestions. Also ask for feedback from friends and family who have visited Paris and may have some tips.
- There are people who think that to enjoy Paris, all you have to do is wander. They have this romantic notion that everything is so great in Paris you'll meet unicorns and the magic taxi from Midnight in Paris. Unfortunately, it isn't so. And if you only have 3 or 4 days in Paris you definitely don't have time to wander all that much! Now, if you have a month, then of course, discovering a few different streets every day is wonderful.
- And if your plans must change because a flight is late or cancelled and you have less time than you had anticipated, having a spreadsheet will help you re-organize correctly. You'll have all the information on your fingertips!
- Make sure everyone in your family is aware that things can change at the drop of a hat because even with all your planning this is a foreign country and you don't speak the language and things happen!
- If you're a believer prayer helps and asking God to give you patience and help you go through the no so fun times of any trip.
General Advice for Visiting France
- Remember this is France and not America. This sounds really obvious, but some people upset that little things don't work the same way as what they are used to, but that's the way it goes.
- Speak the language if you can, at least say bonjour and merci and au revoir.
- Be respectful of differences. Don't complain over things that can't be helped and try to roll with it as much as possible.
- Be polite. Don't take anyone for granted.
- It really helps if everyone in the family is grateful for all the planning that went into this and realize that whoever did the planning isn't an expert and did the best they could.