I don’t know about you, but when I travel internationally I often get so excited that I overlook some of the most basic details. However, these details are all too important.
So, while not the most glamorous of posts, I’m here to share the details you won’t want to forget.
Check your passport.
This seems like a no brainer. And usually it is. But if you don’t know this tiny little detail about your passport, you may not be able to enter the country you’ve flown far too many hours to get to. Apparently, if your passport expires within six months of your trip, you may not get in. Each country has different rules, but in my opinion this isn’t something you want to risk.
If you’re like me, you may need to make a last-minute trip to one of only 26 regional passport agencies that can expedite your passport renewal in a matter of days (or even hours). However, speaking from experience, save yourself the stress (and extremely expensive plane ticket) and check your passport to see if you should go ahead and just renew yours now.
It doesn’t get more basic than this. Order euro a couple weeks prior to your trip. Most banks don’t just have euro on hand. So, be sure to order euro for your trip at least a week in advance. I highly recommend primarily using euro while traveling instead of using a credit card. It’s easier and you don’t have to worry about paying foreign transaction fees. If you do plan to take a card (which you should at least have one with you for emergencies), think about getting one that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. Those sneaky fees can add up quickly.
Set up an international travel phone plan.
I highly recommend turning on a temporary international travel phone plan. To save money, we only did this for one of our phones and I’m sure glad we did – I don’t know what we would have done without it! Not only did we use it to help us with translations, but we used it heavily for directions.
For those of you who don’t turn the travel plan on, turn off your cellular data and turn on airplane mode. When you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you can turn airplane mode off to send iMessages or check your social media, but keep your cellular data off until you get back to the states. This will help ensure you don’t get texts or calls – which gets spendy!
Buy train tickets sooner rather than later.
If you’re planning to do some day trips while you’re visiting Paris (which I highly recommend), be sure to purchase your train tickets in advance. We didn’t (although we didn’t have much time due to only booking our trip 2 weeks prior to leaving) and paid the price (literally). From past European adventures, I recommend using Rail Europe.
Study the RER/Metro.
Study how to use it prior to your trip. It will save you lots of headaches. And maybe a tear or two.
Avoid rush hour traffic.
I repeat, avoid rush hour traffic. Who knew that rush hour traffic in Paris could cause your expected 30-minute taxi ride from the airport to your flat to be two hours? And who knew rush hour traffic lasted nearly all day in Paris? Well, we didn’t. We learned quickly that rush hour runs from 6:30 – 11:30 a.m. AND again from 4:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Take the RER train, my friends. You’ll avoid sitting in traffic for hours, having a taxi driver that keeps falling asleep, and barfing in a Ziploc bag from being car sick. I wish I was kidding.
Day trips are a must.
Speaking of day trips… Brugge, Belgium is an absolute must! Everything they say about Belgian waffles, Belgian chocolate and Belgian beer is true! After only a 2.5 hour train ride, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a Disney movie – a fairytale one at that. One where living a simple, laid back life is the norm. (They also speak excellent English which is a plus!)
Versailles also makes for a great day trip from Paris. You can tour the Palace of Versailles, wander through the stunning gardens, and also take a peek at Marie Antoinette’s estate. It’s an easy 30-minute RER train ride. Just be sure you get there before 9:00 a.m. or else you’ll wait in line for about 90 minutes. While you’re there, I also highly recommend walking around the city of Versailles. It’s quaint, but has lots of great shops too!
Well friends, that’s it for now. I know these are the less than glamorous details of planning a Parisian adventure, but they’re important and will save you time and money in the long run!