I've been to Paris once before, but only for a day, and my sister has never been, so we're both extremely excited. We're also going to visit Toulouse, a city in the south-west of France, in order to see some place besides the capital; and hopefully visit with an acquaintance we met in Prague.
One thing that my sister and I have avoided so far is actually planning the trip. We just booked a hostel in Paris last night and have yet to do the same for Toulouse. Maybe we're busy, maybe we're procrastinators; either way, trips take planning, and whether you do it weeks in advance or just a few days, here are a few things to look out for.
- Passports, make sure you know where yours is. Also, always check if you need a visa, because although American citizens don't need them in most places (especially for short trips like this), I know for example that Russia always requires a visa for travel.
- Be aware of how you pack, because you probably need less than you think you do. I always pack twice: once to see what I think I need, and then a second time to figure out what I actually need (which tends to be about half).
- Be prepared, I speak two semesters worth of French, and once I get going I get pretty comfortable (but with lots of mistakes). If you have some proficiency in your destination's language, brush up and bring some language books or phrasebooks. Also, find out where your airport is with respect to the city you're staying in, because Paris-Charles de Gaulle is about a half hour from the city (that's some steep cab fare). So it's best to know if there's an alternative, like a train (like there is from CDG).
- Know what you want to see. It's easy to get somewhere and be so overwhelmed that all you want to do is sit in a cafe and drink coffee, watching the city go by. As great as that is, it's better after a full day of sight-seeing, so be prepared with a list of things you want to see, and how much they'll cost. That being said, it's also good to be flexible; traveling stinks when someone on the trip can't stand to deviate from the itinerary. In short, be prepared, but own your trip!
- Budget your money, because you'll want to know approximately how much you need in cash, how much you should plan to spend on a card, etc. For example, at least one of the hostels we're staying in requires payment in cash upon departure (I've actually stayed at quite a few like this). Also, I recommend spending the least amount of money on lodging so that you can spend more on things like food, sightseeing, and other things your destination has to offer.
Again, I'm pretty excited! Watch out for a follow-up post, and then I'll be posting about my internship after that!
Merci de lire!