May 9, 2012

My Biggest Mistake in Paris

If I could do it all over again, this is the first thing I’d do differently: I’d buy the Paris Museum Pass. But when I was planning our trip, I thought “We’re only going to be there four days, I don’t want to spend all my time in museums, I only plan to visit the Louvre.”

While the Paris Pass covers almost all of the most popular sights, a notable exception is the Eiffel Tower. So that also cemented my opinion that it just wasn’t going to be worth the money for our trip.
But what I didn’t realize is that how having the pass would have completely changed our behavior, and in fact would have encouraged us to visit more museums, without a huge time commitment or negative impact on our other sightseeing.

For example:

On our first day in Paris, we of course headed directly to the Eiffel Tower. But along the way, we passed by Hotel Invalides, which happened to have some cool cannons in the courtyard. After looking around a bit, I thought, this might be someplace the kids would like, but of course we weren’t going to pay the admission fee and sink a couple hours there when we were all itching to get to the Eiffel Tower.

On the way back to our hotel, we walked down the other side of Invalides, and realized that this is where Napoleon was buried. Without a ticket, I was able to stand by the open doorway and crane my neck to see part of the ornate decor. But again, it was way too much money to spend on admission, just to spend a few minutes inside. So we moved on. Hey, look, Musee Rodin is near here, too! Those are cool sculptures, the kids would like to see them. It began to dawn on me, I sure wish I had that museum pass.

A few days later, while on a sightseeing cruise on the Seine, the guide pointed out the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned, and he mentioned they had a replica guillotine. Now THAT I knew would fascinate the kids. But again, how much was it going to cost to get in??

If I had the Museum Pass, I would have visited at least 3 more museums (in addition to the Louvre for which we bought tickets), and maybe even more. The pass gives travelers not only the most access for the best value, but it gives you flexibility. And that’s important with kids. You don’t have to commit to a museum for a half day in order to feel you got your money’s worth. And also, you can split your visit up over multiple days. Maybe you arrive at the Louvre in the afternoon when you can’t get anywhere near the Mona Lisa, so you check out some less crowded areas instead. Then you can go back early the next morning, quickly view the more famous works, and leave before the crowds arrive.

The Paris Pass is available for 2, 4, or 6 consecutive days, so you do have to condense your museums visits, but that’s not terribly inconvenient. Also note that kids are free at most attractions, so you only need to buy passes for adults.

If I haven’t convinced you to buy a pass yet, at least take this piece of advice: Buy your tickets in advance for whatever museum it is you do plan to visit, especially when visiting during peak vacation times. Many people standing in line in the hot sun at the Louvre looked at us enviously as we walked directly into the museum’s shaded security line with our advance purchase tickets in hand.


Dana said...

Thanks for the tip(s)! We are headed to Paris for the first time next month... and we'll buy the museum pass!

Suzy said...

Great tip! After a few lessons learned myself, I always try to research if my destination has some sort of pass and what attractions go with it. I made this mistake in Ireland and it cost me a great deal more.

Anonymous said...

That’s a great post. Thank you so much.