It was my life long dream to visit Paris, so I planned, scrimped and saved and in June of 2013, I went. Paris is what everyone say it is plus more. It can be expensive, but if you plan right, it is do-able even on a very tight budget. I want to share to you my tips (though none of them are original) but it was what worked and made it possible for me and my family to travel.
1) Get a good deal on airfare. It was the first and foremost, essential factor for me to secure. If you are in Canada use Airtransat. I paid $770 cdn per person (taxes and fees incl.) for a non-stop return flight, Toronto-Paris.
Pros: Comfortable, clean, direct flight, allows 1 free checked bag and 1 carry-on.
Con: Only fly to and from certain European destinations. Seats are slightly smaller since it is a charter plane.
2) Find an ideal accommodation. I recommend AirBnB. We have used it twice now and had good experiences both times. I paid $615 cdn for 7 nights for 3 people , (that's about $30 per person/per night). What a steal!
Pros: Can be really affordable, clean and safe. (You just have to do your research, read reviews and email the host). See how the locals live
Cons: Can easily be NOT affordable, clean and safe if you don't do enough research!
3) Using public transportation rather than renting a car (which my husband originally insisted on doing) or taking a taxi. Paris has an excellent metro system. I recommend getting Navigo Decouvertes if you will be in Paris for a week from monday- sunday of that week. I paid 40 euros per person for unlimited travel on all zones and all local transportation (including buses and regional trains) for that said 7 day period. It also includes to and from CDG/ Orly airport (RER B), Versailles (RER C), the outlet mall in La Vallee (RER A), and even to Disneyland Paris!
Pros: Cheap, affordable, fast, easy to navigate and efficient way to explore Paris
Cons: Can be crowded during rush hour, can be slightly confusing and disorienting at first to those who are not used to taking public transportation (like my husband),
4) Buying a Paris Museum Pass. IMO, it's great. I paid 39 euros per adult for a 2 day museum/site access. 18 year old and below are free. Also available for longer valid days for a higher price point.
Pros: Worth getting if you really intend to visit most of the museums and sites, which includes the Louvre and Versailles and a lot more.
Cons: you feel obligated to visit as much museums and sites as you can, does not include Eiffel Tower entrance, there is really no priority/ express pass to enter the establishment. (We still have to line up for 10 mins outside the Louvre and an hour and half outside Versailles. It just saves you time from lining up to buy the ticket at the gate).
5) Taking advantage of all the "free and almost free" things to do such as visiting landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre dame Cathedral, Monmarte, and Sacre Coeur (extra tip: Navigo also works on the furniculaire in Sacre Coeur) as well as picnicking at one of the numerous gardens and parks. Paris also offers free museums, we went to one in the Marais area.
Pros: Doesn't cost you anything to experience and savour Paris and her culture.
Cons: I cannot think of anything!
6) Eating in, instead of out. We saved a lot of money by picking up and buying freshly baked bread from a boulangerie, assortment of richly flavoured cheese from a fromagerie, fruits and veggies from a marche and roasted meat from a rotiserrie all on our way home for our dinner that night as well as breakfast and packed lunch for the following day.
Pros: one can eat really well for less, eating and shopping like a local is an experience in itself, we saved enough money to treat ourselves to have a dinner meal at a really nice restaurant.
Cons: Will not work for you If you don't like to prepare your own meal or if you want gourmet food
7) Saving enough money to sustain all your travel needs rather than using or relying on a credit card for your travel expenses. You will be more happy and satisfied at the end of your trip because there will be no bills to worry about.
8) Splurging on "once in a lifetime experiences", so when you get home, you won't regret not doing something just because "it is too expensive". Be modest and wise in your spending but do not be too cheap.
I hope that somewhere, somehow this will help someone to make their dreams a reality.