When it comes to planning a vacation, guidebooks and TripAdvisor reviews are chock-full of helpful tips. For me, one of the challenges is that I can overlook some of the finer points of the travel advice because I’ve been swept away by a tsunami of information.
Having just spent several days in Paris, I’ve come up with five mistakes you’ll want to avoid if you plan to visit the City of Lights.
- Being unprepared for long lines.
I arrived in Paris the day after Christmas. Temperatures hovered around freezing. It rained some nights. And there were even protesters. But nothing deterred the tourists. And that meant standing outdoors in long lines for hours to get into some popular attractions.
Whether you plan to visit Paris in the winter or the summer, be sure you’ve got everything you need to make the wait a bit more comfortable. Dress for the weather. Bring snacks. Wear comfortable shoes. And think carefully about when you may be able to use the restroom.
- Relying on a museum pass to skip long lines.
There were two reasons we purchased a four-day museum pass. First, based on the museums and sights we wanted to visit, it was cheaper to pay for a pass than to buy individual tickets at each location. Second, having an admission ticket ahead of time meant one less line for us to stand in.
Unfortunately, one less line doesn’t mean waltzing right through the front door of the museum. Even if you skip the ticket purchase line, the security line can stretch for blocks.
During our trip, the longest waits were for the Orsay Museum and the Palace at Versailles. It was a minimum of two hours at each place.
However, visitors to The Louvre will be happy to learn that we entered the famed museum in less than 20 minutes. Moreover, we were quickly waived into the Arc de Triomphe, bypassing an admission line.
The museum pass is still worth it when it comes to saving time and money. But don’t equate saving time with no waiting time at all.
- Showing up near the end of a lunch shift.
When traveling, I tend to eat my largest meal at lunch. It is typically more affordable than a fancy dinner. Plus, I have time to walk off the heaviest meal of the day.
In Paris, many restaurants observed hours familiar to Americans: Lunch from noon to 2:30 was common. However, if the restaurant is small, popular, or both, arrive closer to noon. On a few occasions, I saw would-be diners arriving around 1:30 p.m. only to be turned away because there was no more space.
- Ignoring bike lanes embedded in the sidewalk.
A Parisian sidewalk may also include a bike lane. If you’re not used to seeing embedded bike lanes, you’ll want to be extra vigilant. Otherwise, you pose a danger to bicyclists and those on scooters.
Plus, you could get run over. Enough said.
- Ditching your metro ticket before leaving the subway.
Of course, you need a ticket to get on the metro. However, you may also need to show your ticket to a law enforcement official when exiting. Although this only happened once during my eight days in Paris, I was glad I kept my ticket when I was faced with an official holding a scanner.
Create a system to make it easy to find your metro ticket. And once you leave the metro, rip your ticket in half or throw it in the trash so you don’t get it confused on subsequent trips.
These are my top five easily-overlooked recommendations. What would you add?
In other news, I’m pleased to announce that the latest version of my book, Erasing the Past, is now available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and many other outlets. The paperback version will be available soon.