Getting To Paris

Airlines

Wondering which airline offers the best experience for flying to Paris?

• Air France has the best airline food in economy seats, the best value upgrades, and streamlined arrivals and departures at CDG (Charles deGaulle) airport in Paris. They also fly direct from JFK to Orly airport, which is smaller than CDG, and closer to Paris—so it’s fast and easy getting in and out of the city. And, they fly into Montreal. Their mobile app makes checking in a breeze, and alerts you to schedule changes.

• If you live near Canada, look into flying direct to Paris from Montreal. Air Transat often has good prices, and their record is flawless — but if you’re looking for an upscale sensibility, this airline is not for you!

• Fly direct if you can; if you can’t, allow plenty of time to make your connecting flight. A missed connection can mean one less day in Paris.

• Upgrading? If you can’t afford business class both ways, opt for it on the way to Paris. This way, you’ll get a good night’s sleep, and when you arrive you can hit the ground running.

• Clients rave about Open Skies, an offshoot of British Airways. They carry mostly business class, and fly into Orly Airport, making it an all around easy and pleasant way to get there.

• A new carrier, La Compagnie, has all-business class flights between Newark and Charles de Gaulle. They have 74 seats, and rates that are generally lower than regular carriers’ business class.

• Complicated travel? Book with a travel agent. At Continental Capers and Wheelock Travel, agents’ knowledge, experience and caring go a long way toward making your trip more enjoyable. They can book train tickets, too.

 

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Trains

Whether you’re traveling to Paris from within Europe, or extending your Paris trip, consider taking a train. It’s faster than driving, and less complicated than flying. I use the time in transit to read, nap, and observe the countryside.

• To book trains yourself, if you don’t speak French, use Rail Europe. Reserving, paying for, and getting your tickets is easy. Another advantage: prices are in USD, and they’re only minimally more expensive than booking directly with through the rail company. You’ll need the birthdate of each passenger.

If you speak French, you can buy tickets on the TGV (French high speed trains) at the SNCF site. It’s possible to check schedules and reserve tickets in English, but you can only print your tickets if you’re navigating in French. Caution: You have the option to pick up your tickets at a kiosque at any gare. But you need a credit card with the European chip and pin system to do this! An American card will not work!!! You may also be able to retrieve your tickets at a ticket window (you must present the credit card you used to book the tickets), though this usually involves waiting in line. You’ll need the birthdate of each passenger.

Train schedules are posted 3-4 months out. Prices are lowest at this time, and rise as you get closer to your travel date.

French trains arrive on time, and they wait for no one. Arrive at the station with plenty of time to find your track. If you’re taking the Chunnel Train between Paris and London, leave additional time for passport checks. If you’re changing trains, make sure you have at least 15 minutes to make your connection.

Dining cars aren’t what they used to be, and I often travel midday — so I buy lunch before I board the train. Larger train stations have bakeries that sell sandwiches, salads, pastry, and coffee. But I’m happiest with a salmon sandwich and chausson aux pommes from my neighborhood boulangerie.

Now that you’ve got your tickets taken care of, you might find my pre-travel to-do list handy.

Click here for Paris packing tips. For handy Paris apps, click here.

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