Good question right? Here are items to consider when planning your budget:
Play with days of the week to take advantage of cheaper flights. Coach flights from the US to Paris can range between $800-$1600 depending upon your city of departure. Beware that when planes are not full, airlines have been consolidating flights and changing direct connections to stop-overs. Use frequent flyer miles to book or upgrade your seats to save costs. Business Class or First Class tickets can run anywhere from $3,000-12,000.
For the budget conscious, consider picking a hotel with breakfast included – you can’t imagine how expensive a cup of coffee and croissant can be a-la-carte. Also, if you load up on breakfast you can save money on lunch which gives you more money to splurge on dinner and wine! Reasonable rates can be found at small boutique hotels in some fabulous locations if you price shop. The gal pals typically split a room with two single beds for $180-$225 per night per person. If we book at the last-minute we can get the same rooms for $150 per night per person. When I travel with friends, family or on business and want a bit of luxury we share rooms at five star hotels where costs can range from $350-$1,000 per person a night. See the pages to the right of this post to see my hotel recommendations in various price ranges.
You can see so much of what is great about Paris for free if you take advantage of free museum days - The Louvre is free the first Sunday of each month and July 14th. Other excursions can be pricey, but well worth it. I loved taking a day trip to the Champagne region and feel it was worth the $150 price tag because we saw so many places in one day. A wine and cheese tasting lunch at O Chateau in Paris costs $100 per person but is well worth it and if you do the wine and cheese option you can easily make it your meal. I feel if you are doing something new in place that cannot be duplicated at home then it’s usually worth the splurge. Try taking a walking tour to see how the real Parisians shop for food or treats with the Baguette to Bistro Tour from Context Travel and you will feel like a local in no time. While pricey for some, I considered a day spent with an authentic chef eating and drinking a bargain at the almost $90 per person price tag.
Breakfast – If you stay at a hotel with free breakfast you are all set there, if not there are many places to pick up a croissant and cup of coffee without breaking the bank (they are typically small hole in the wall places your concierge can point out to you) - just don’t count on them being open very early in the morning! Expect to spend $5-10 on an inexpensive outing and $30-60 for breakfast at luxury hotels.
Lunch – For a lovely quick meal with great people watching there are of course the famous cafés like Café de Flore and Café des Deux Magots which will cost you around $22-$25 per person without wine. For less expensive options, visit the local sandwich shop or Monoprix to get one to go and have a picnic at your favorite park nearby.
Dinner – Bistros and Brasseries will run you anywhere from $25-100 per person. It’s great to go early when most have Prix Fixe specials with three courses and some include wine. The gal pals usually take advantage of this option the first night in town since we are tired early and want to hit the hay early. Le Procope usually has a great option for this! More expensive places that should be on everyone’s bucket list include Laurent and La Tour D’Argent. These two options are not for the faint of heart – the price cost of luxury dining will run you $150-$350 or more per person including a decent bottle of wine. For a prix fixe menu that is the BEST in Paris, try L’Epi Dupin for gourmet cuisine. The three course dinner by established fab chef François Pasteau at L’Epi Dupin will be a highlight of your trip and well worth the 35 Euros per person price.
When you arrive at CDG - head to the train and purchase a Metro card once you hit Paris proper. You can buy a card for the week or a book of 10 called a carnet. Taxis are the least favored option for travel from the airport to downtown Paris at $80+ one way to/from the airport plus tip. To save money when traveling within Paris proper, use the new slick app on your smartphone called Snap Car Paris for rides in the city. There are many advantages to having a car at the ready to pick you up day or night. Snap Car has the added advantage of not charging you until they pick you up, whereas taxis charge you from the time you call them to the time they pick you up.