The economy has begun to bounce back, and that means more people are traveling this year than in 2009. That also means that airfare to Paris is not at rock-bottom lows. Airfare will undoubtedly be one of the biggest expenses on your vacation. With a few penny-pinching tips, however, you can still save money. Remember, any money you save on airfare can be put toward shopping or sipping champagne.
1. Let the deals come to you. Sign up to get free airfare alerts and travel deals from airline websites and other reliable online sources like FareCompare and Travelocity. Sites like Travelzoo will deliver travel-deal newsletters to your inbox. Join as many as you can find. The key here is to act quickly, as these offers are often available for a limited time and sell out fast.
2. Travel off-season. It seems like Paris never has an off-season. There is always something going on and always a reason to visit. Usually winter is the less desirable time to be in Paris because of the weather; but with the holiday markets and January sales, travel can still be at a premium. For the best chance at saving, opt for late November, February or March. If you choose to go when the weather’s warmer, look toward shoulder season, April and May.
3. Be flexible with dates. Generally it is cheaper to travel midweek, so try to depart on Wednesday and stay at least through one weekend. With search engines like Kayak, you can compare ticket prices by doing a flexible date search. This lets you see the difference between traveling on particular days. Adjusting the dates on either end of your trip, or even moving your plans forward or back a week, could help you find a considerable discount.
4. Explore connections and other airports. The shortest and easiest route to Paris may be a direct flight from your local airport to Charles de Gaulle, the city’s major airport; but it may not always be the cheapest. Compare prices at other airports in your area. Perhaps you’ll find a deal on a flight to London, connecting to Paris. Also consider a flight to the city’s lesser-known Orly Airport, which is a short ride to the city center.
5. Book Tuesday just after midnight. If you have only one night to burn the midnight oil and surf the Internet for Paris airfare deals, make it a Tuesday night. Airlines seem to have fare sales that begin at 12:01 on Wednesday morning. The trick is to make sure that it’s after midnight in the airline’s home base, which may be in a time zone different from your own. Industry experts speculate that that’s when unbooked reservations placed on hold over the weekend get released back into the system. It seems to be a logical explanation, but honestly who cares why? Just be happy you’re in the know and can take advantage of the lower fares!
6. Check airline websites. Most people are in the habit of shopping search engines and consolidators for their airfare. Sites like Orbitz and HotWire offer one-stop shopping, but travelers often forget to go right to the source. Once you have found what you think is a low fare on your ticket to Paris, check directly at the airline’s website. Occasionally you will find a cheaper fare by booking the same flight through the airline itself. You can call the airline to have a reservation agent check for better rates, but never book on the phone. Booking with a live person will cost you.
7. Avoid extra airline fees. With airlines nickel-and-diming passengers, often adding more than $50 in fees to your total cost, an otherwise good deal on your flight to Paris can be less so. Do your homework on what the airline charges extra for. If there’s a fee to check a bag, take a carry-on. Avoid the charge for a blanket by bringing your own pashmina instead.
8. Maximize frequent-flier miles. Research which airlines in your area fly to Paris. Determine which of those airlines have a mileage-sharing partnership (Delta and AirFrance are one example), and sign up for their frequent-flier program and credit card if available. Most programs offer perks and deals that don’t necessarily require air travel to rack up miles. Often you can collect them while purchasing household items, gas, flowers, groceries and car rentals. If you are patient, your reward can be a free ticket to Paris! But careful budgeting is required for success. Make sure you pay off credit-card charges every month and don’t charge beyond your means. You don’t want that free ticket at the expense of destroying your credit or paying more in interest fees than the cost of five round-trip tickets to Paris.