When was the last time you planned a vacation to Paris or just a vacation abroad?
I don’t mean the long-weekend that left you more exhausted than before you left. I’m talking about a real vacation where you come back relaxed, refreshed, and ready to tackle work and life with renewed optimism and vigor. I’m talking about the kind of trip where you learn about a new culture, see memorable sites, and take a step back from the daily grind.
If you’re ready to plan that kind of vacation whether it’s to Paris or not, the nine rules outlined below will help.
By full week we mean 7-9 days – departing on a Thursday or Friday and returning the following Saturday or Sunday. Use your PTO, turn on your out of office, and tell your coworkers you plan to disconnect. Make this a priority and you can thank me later. As for the logistics of a week vacation, if taking Friday off is an option then consider a Thursday overnight or Friday morning departure. If flying more than eight hours overnight flights make the most sense, just prepare accordingly. If traveling less than eight hours you might consider the cheaper fares on Saturday morning.
The old real estate adage applies to travel because picking the right location is critical to planning a vacation whether it’s Paris or elsewhere. Our Paris Itineraries will help you make the most out of the city of lights, but Paris isn’t the only location, do you have any friends living abroad? If so, visit them! Benefits include having a local tour guide and possibly even a free place to stay. Don’t have friends traveling abroad? The world is your oyster, see rule #3 below.
When are you taking a vacation? Avoiding hurricane, monsoon, and rainy seasons should be a priority. See flight & hotel prices too good to be true? It’s probably off-season, which isn’t a bad thing, but know in advance what you’re getting into. If you plan to take a vacation at a specific time, take the top three places on your list and figure out the best time to visit. If you’re set on visiting a specific place, figure out the best time of year to do so. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, edges of peak season are recommended.
Taking an overnight flight? Don’t plan your first tour the moment you land. Give yourself time to get checked-in, unpack, walk around and get a good meal. Don’t plan an early morning tour your first day if you know you’ll be feeling the jetlag. Worst case you wake up ready to go and don’t have a tour planned, you can walk around the neighborhood.
While it may seem like a good idea while planning your trip, the last thing you want is to spend more time traveling between places than actually visiting them. If you only have seven nights (with travel days on either end) you should only plan to visit two cities; spend 4-5 nights in the first and 2-3 in the second. Depending on the country and type of travel you can consider 3-2-2, but just remember you’ll be unpacking/repacking up to six times! If your trip requires multiple packing/unpacking, consider picking up Eagle Creek Pack-It bags to keep you organized. Also, if you’re traveling between cities, designate the entire day so you don’t feel stressed and you’ve got the flexibility to take a detour (sometimes exploring places you didn’t plan on seeing are the most memorable).
The ability to have a “home base” really depends on where you’re going and how long you’re staying. Similar to rule #5, the idea of havinf a vacation and planning one is to relax and not to pack up and move every couple days. If you’re going to a big city, research the neighborhoods before finding accommodations. Stay downtown (or in old town) to get the most authentic experience. Ideally, you can walk (or bike) to the more popular areas or to some public transit so you have easy access. If you like cities but want to explore the country, find great accommodations and then make your way to the country for a night. In some cases, even if you have to pay double for a night outside the city, having the home base will be worth it.
Take tours and do activities early in your trip but also give yourself free time towards the end to circle back on things you enjoyed or to explore new things you learned about on the trip. If you’re spending five days in a city, make the first three active (after allowing time to adjust) and keep day’s four and five light. Not sure where to begin or don’t have the time? Ask friends or research travel companies with local knowledge. For instance, if you’re going to Paris, AmericanConcierge.com will help you create a unique and balanced itinerary that includes a variety of private tours.
While you’ll want to see the highlights of any city I’m a huge fan of finding unique experiences. For instance, booking a meal with Traveling Spoon is the perfect way to learn about culture, experience local fare, and get suggestions on what to do. Get off the beaten path as best you can, private tours are great for this.
Taking an overnight flight home is NOT recommended, especially if you plan on going straight to work. If you’re traveling west the ideal flights depart midday and land that same before midnight because they allow time for a morning activity (pack the night before) or a stress-free morning of packing and getting to the airport. If you must take an overnight flight home, plan to leave Saturday so you have Sunday to recover and rest up for work the next day.
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The Château de Fontainebleau, just 35 miles southeast of central Paris, can proudly claim to have been a sovereign residence for eight centuries. Capétiens, Valois, Bourbons, Bonaparte and Orléans, all members of French ruling dynasties, have lived within these walls. The chateau dates back to 1137—and centuries of royals have expanded this former royal hunting lodge to a more than 1,500-room estate. Most of what you’ll see dates back to the 16th century, a combination of Italian Renaissance art and French design, these rooms are some of the most intricate and breathtaking in France. If times allows, you can enjoy lunch in this charming area.
Tour Length: 5 – 6 hours