Whether or Not You Can Join Us in Paris for the Holidays, Don’t Miss These Great Tips for Seniors Traveling on a Tight Budget
By Phyllis Stoller, NABBW’s Group Travel Associate
I’ve some exciting news for you: The Women’s Travel Group is offering a fabulous ‘Paris for the Holidays Tour’ December 21-28.
We’d love for you to join us, and we still have a few seats left. BUT, whether you head off to Paris with us, or go later with friends, don’t miss these great money-saving travel pointers.
For European travel stay within the Euro zone. France is a Euro based country and current rates are close to all time lows of 1.10. In addition, the economy is stagnant so many stores and restaurants have specials. The unilateral % sign is what to look for.
Seniors should carry some cash and have access to an ATM card.
- Where to buy your Euros is a different tale. Banks charge a fee, airport change places rob you, and hotels are in the middle but the safest place to pull out cash.
- Your credit card company might say they do not charge a fee, but profit is built in.
- The ATM in Paris is generally the best rate especially if used Monday-Thursday. Have someone stand with you when you access an ATM and be aware of surroundings.
- No one will take travelers’ checks anymore and if you happen to have Francs left over from a prior trip, don’t bother to bring them. They are dinosaurs; best to just give them to your grand children.
The best way to cover small expenses is to book a group tour that includes meals and sightseeing. You will save by their ability to get wholesale rates on expenses; tour operators pay a different rate than individuals do. When you are tired, transportation in the tour bus will save you that taxi or the need to buy an expensive coffee just so you can sit down. Knowing what you are spending up front will also provide you with a more relaxed feeling.
Shopping in Paris can generate refunds of sales tax.
- We recommend you do the majority of your shopping in a large store. Why? If you spend enough in one store, you can get a refund of 10-15%.
- Most stores require that you spend a $150 total – not including any perfume purchases, as well as and some other items.
- Bring a hard copy of your passport photo page, or a good photo in your phone when you ask for the refund forms at the store. Don’t carry around your passport!
- Ask for the 10% tourist card at each large department store’s Welcome Desk or in your hotel. (This might be stapled to a map of Paris).
- When you fill out forms for customs, there are two ways to get your refund – credit card or cash. Choose a credit card refund for the higher amount or a cash refund to avoid the hassle of checking statements.
- Fill out the customs forms in your hotel room before you leave for the airport. (You don’t want to be dealing with this while you’re feeling rushed in the few minutes you’ll have with the forms if you wait for them at the airport.)
Note on the two major Paris department stores: Printemps is less tourist-oriented and less crowded, with a wonderful restaurant on the top floor. Prices are fair and they speak perfect English. Galeries Lafayette is chock a block with Mainland Chinese; shopping for some brands is impossible. The two stores are just a block apart.
Warning: You need to plan ahead to carry on your purchases; some custom officers will want to see the goods. This also means you must allow extra time at the airport for getting your forms stamped by customs. (Why? I’ve seen the customs lines slowed by shoppers armed with 50 separate invoices. The Mainland Chinese, for example, are “mega shoppers.”)
Food in Paris can be reasonable with the 1.10 Euro:
- That exchange rate means a “10 Euro” dish is now $11 vs. $14 a few months ago.
- Make sure breakfast is included in your hotel rate; breakfast can break the bank.
- Seniors might do well also eating in museums; the Louvre for instance has a large food court with many choices.
- Most restaurants offer a 3 course lunch or a meal where you pay by the course: 2 can be entrée and main or main and dessert. Check the menu for service included (inclus) so you don’t tip twice.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for tap water – not bottled – or to linger a long time at the table for a rest. Tap water is usually ‘eau ordinaire’ or just say ‘tap.’
Museums and sights are not cheap in Paris:
- However there are some free entry times.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a senior price; usually only for citizens of the EU, but ask anyway.
- A great source for freebies is Lets’ Go Guidebooks written by Harvard Students. The books often locate deals for cultural events and quality cafeterias. Example: The Modern Art Museum, Pompideau and Orsay are free the first Sunday of each month.
- Here is an excellent list of free museums:
Now for transportation:
- Uber is iffy for political reasons.
- Taxis a bit pricey.
- Metro/Bus excellent. Spend some time learning the two and buy a book of tickets up front, it is cheaper and tickets are good for both bus and Metro. Be aware, however, that there are a lot of stairs in the subway system.
- Watch your wallet as you would in any big city.
- Never go out without a map; Paris is a medieval city with winding streets.
Final transportation notes:
On Women’s Travel Group tours we include transfers from the airport, however if you are not coming with us in December, here are 3 ways to cut that cost:
- Air France bus to several stops in Paris.
- Roissy Bus, a public bus from Charles de Gaulle to The Opera.
- And for an overnight stopover, stay at the airport Ibis and use the Roissy Bus to/from town.
Finally, be sure to check out our flyer for our upcoming Paris for the Holidays. There are several spots left for our trip, and room shares available, which will allow you to save again. If you have trip-related questions, please contact me via email: Phyllis@thewomenstravelgroup.com.
And when you email me about this trip, be sure to mention that you read about it on the NABBW web site. That will save you an extra $50!
Phyllis Stoller, NABBW’s Group Travel Associate is founder of The Women’s Travel Group, a tour operator which specializes in smart vacations for smart women, was recently honored as one of the 14 most influential women in Group Travel by Group Travel Magazine. The Women’s Travel Group works with travel agents and is a strategic partner of SITA World Tours.
For solo women travelers who do not yet know her, Phyllis also founded The Women’s Travel Club. Both it and The Women’s Travel Group cater to women travelers, especially those traveling solo on group tours and cruises.
Find more of Phyllis’ travel tips on her blog at and on Facebook at “toursforwomen,” where you can feel free to ask Phyllis your travel questions. Email Phyllis here: Phyllisnycity@gmail.com And remember to check out the Women’s Travel Group blog for many other travel tips and trips.