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First trip to France - iternary help

*Thank you for reading this post. It is a bit on the longer side as I would like to provide enough information to receive most informed assistance from the forum members.
Hello All,
We - me, my husband and my 6 year old - will be traveling to France first two weeks of August. This was a last minute vacation plan. So far, we know that we fly in and out of Paris. After looking around a bit was thinking of the following travel plans.

Day 1 - Arrive in Paris
Day 2 - Take the train to Avignon, set up and explore
Day 3 - Day 6 - Spend in Avignon (plan on taking day trips to Gordes, Nimes and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorge)
Day 7 - Take the train to Annecy, set up and explore
Day 8 - Day 10 - Spend in Annecy
Day 11 - Take the train to Paris, set up, explore
Day 12 - Day 16 - Spend in Paris (Loire valley trip??)
Day 17 - depart Paris early morning

Questions:
1. Does this plan seem too much or is it ok?
2. Am reading conflicting information about train travel - given the strike. Is it truly a bad idea to plan on the inter-city travel by train?
3. As regards day trips, we were planning on renting a car. Do we need IDP or is US driving license ok? How about car seats?
4. Loire valley - can it be done as a day trip or should we plan an overnight trip?
5. Is there a certain day or time that is better than other to visit Eiffel tower?
6. Would US credit cards work at all places including tolls or do we need to keep cash/coins on hand?
7. We are looking at Air-bnb options for the entire trip - does anybody have a favorite to recommend?

TIA for your feedback.

Posted by
6422 posts

Your plan is ok.
The train stike could be resolved by August.
I would try to do the Loire as a day trip not an over night and make that decision when you get there as you do not know how you are going to feel and so you don't have to change hotels.
US credit cards work in France you just need to put in a travel alert with the credit card company so they do not think it is fraud when you try to use it.
And it is always good to have cash when technology fails. Get small bills 20 10 5 and 2 and 1 euro coins.

Posted by
887 posts

Since this is your first post, you should take a look at previous Forum posts relevant to AirB&B and VRBO rentals. The most important thing about this is the implementation of a 13 digit Registration number for the apartment.

If your desired apartment doesn't have the 13 digit number listed, it is likely not a legal apartment. That doesn't affect you directly, but if the authorities catch wind of that, the owner may be fined substantial sums of money. Because of this, the apartment may disappear without notice, leaving you without a place to hang your hat upon your return to Paris from Annecy. The smart money is to only rent apartments that have a 13 digit registration number.

Here is an example of a property WITH a registration number. It is shown below the words "View More": https://www.vrbo.com/1632626a

Posted by
401 posts

I wouldn't bother with Annecy. It's not that interesting unless you've never been on the edge of mountains before. In addition, I'd spend more time in Paris and forget the Loire.

And don't bother going up into the Eiffel tower. View it from the Trocadero and/or from the top of l'Arc de Triomphe. Much simpler, much less hassle, and better.

But that's just my perspective.

Posted by
17020 posts

Doing a day-trip to the Loire Valley by car would mean driving out of Paris and back in. I don't know how advisable that is.

Annecy is beautiful, but the area of interest to tourists isn't terribly large. The city is also intensely touristy. After a few hours I was looking for ways to get off the streets. (The boat trip on the lake was nice; I found the bus trip along the shore not as scenic.) I'd either plan a shorter stay or have at least two side-trips sketched out.

Although you may be lucky, you could run into really hot weather at all of your destinations in August. Although Annecy is near the mountains, it is most definitely not in them, so there will be no moderating effect from altitude. The city was miserably hot during my June 2017 visit.

Be sure all your lodgings are air-conditioned; I have read on this forum that apartments often do not have a/c.

Posted by
4264 posts

I'll take the ones I can help with:

  1. Seems OK to me, not too ambitious, except maybe the Loire (see below).
  2. The driver should have an IDP, easily obtained from any AAA office at home. It certifies that your US driver's license, which you should also bring along, is a valid one. Car rental places may or may not want to see the IDP, but if you're stopped or in an accident you'll be glad to have one. I don't know the law about car seats but it would be wise to get one, yes?
  3. There's a lot to see in the Loire country and it's some distance from Paris. I wouldn't try to get there on this trip, there's plenty to see and do in Paris for the few days you'll have there. If you want to visit a chateau, Versailles is the blockbuster, or try Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, or Malmaison.
  4. I don't really have an answer for you here, the problem is that there are very long lines for the Eiffel Tower unless you buy a ticket in advance for a specific time window. It may be too late already to get anything like that in August. And you'll be stuck with it whatever the weather is doing. My own suggestion, which others may disagree with, is to just look at the ET from close up and far away, and consider the Tour Montparnasse as an alternative -- with a view that includes the ET.
  5. People are reporting better success at toll booths with US credit cards that have chips. But keeping cash on hand is always a good idea, driving or elsewhere.
  6. The previous poster's advice, about needing a registration number for an Airbnb or similar, applies to Paris but not to your other destinations.
Posted by
451 posts

Here are a few suggestions: In stead of a train, you might look for an inexpensive flight from Paris to Marseilles. Compare the time and costs of train vs. flight. Pick up a rental car there and drive to your first destination in Provence. You'll get a lot of different opinions on this, but I prefer Arles as a home base rather than Avignon because I think there are more things to do there, more restaurants, etc.

Skip Annecy. Skip Loire valley unless you're willing to devote at least one overnight stay. I'm wondering how much the chateaux of the Loire valley will interest your six year old. During your Paris stay, if you want to do day trips, consider Versailles or Giverny.

Posted by
2442 posts

I would prefer a chateau in Loire to Versailles. At this time of year, you can go to a Chateau that is open latein late afternoon open , when the crowds are gone. You will need to do an overnight trip. Your 6 yr old might be intrigued that Chenenceaux is built over the river and there is plenty of space to run around outside and an ice cream stand.

Posted by
38 posts

Avignon is a great place. If at all possible stay within the old city walls. You Can walk to all the sites.

The are plenty of restaurants. We were there last year and loved it. We rented a car for our entire trip. We were able to come and go at our leisure. Neither of us mind driving. The WAZE app on our phone worked all through France. We used it to navigate. Our car had a nav system. And you don’t have to worry about getting from train stations to Hotels. Plus with a child it is easy to make stops when they need to. Of course never have a car in Paris. I agree about not going to Annecy. We love the Loire Valley. Going back again this year. But I’m not sure what a 6 year old is interested in. Have you traveled a lot? I have 2 grandchildren 6 & 8. The 8 year old we have taken to historical sites since she was 6. She loved it and is a great traveler. The younger child just turning 6 although a good traveler would not do as well at historical sites. They don’t seem to interest her.

Posted by
360 posts

We didn't get to Annecy, but we were in Chamonix and it was pretty interesting to see. It seems the debate is between Annecy and something else -- but i think it depends on what you're looking for. Chamonix is great to see the French Alps (and Mont Blanc), Burgundy is beautiful country and has excellent wine, and then Loire is full of chateaus and history. We spent two days in Loire and thought it was more than enough time (we got "castled out" after hitting five of them plus Versailles on our way down from Paris), but it would be a really long day trip. But your other times seem pretty doable.

We did not get an IDP and have never been asked for one in Europe, but it's recommended you get one if you have to deal with the police, so it's a personal choice if you want to take the risk. The car rental place just asked for our US license. But the IDP is fairly easy to get from any AAA.

We did the Eiffel Tower tour during Sunset and were glad we did it b/c we got the day view and the evening view. And then we were right there when the tower lit up at dark, so we didn't have to backtrack. But you'll need to reserve in advance.

We were in France three years ago and had mixed results with our CC, even with a chip. But we didn't have issues in Switzerland or the UK since then (with the same CC). We had bigger issues with automatic machines, like the subway card machines, the toll machines or even buying a train ticket through self-service. We started keeping cash in our console for tolls.

We stayed in Airbnbs across France and didn't have any issues (nor did we have a 13 digit code to enter). We stayed in a few places that are just meant for two, so I don't know that I can recommend those exact units with your three-person party, but wanted to at least give you peace of mind in using the service (we've also used it in Italy and Germany without issues). We generally prefer hotel/B&Bs for the amenities, but sometimes you can't beat the price of a vacation rental (and in a central location).

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all. Lots to think about. Appreciate it.

For Annecy - we were thinking of doing a trip to Geneva from there. Any inputs?

Posted by
4526 posts

11mom,

I will only address a few of your questions since I’ve not rented a car in France nor have stayed in an Airbnb.

My daughter and I visited Annecy in June 2016 and we loved it!
Your family may enjoy the crystal clear lake where you can rent a paddle boat or go on a boat ride. We did neither because it was rainy, except for the day of our arrival. There’s also a nice park by the lake your son may enjoy.
We enjoyed the market days in Annecy where we purchased delicious fruit and snacks.

BTW, it will be a long trek from Avignon to Annecy (we traveled this route in reverse). If you decide to keep Annecy on your itinerary, make sure you select TGV train seats on the upper deck for best views.

Keep in mind that the journey from Annecy to Paris will also be very long.

You know your child best, so do consider all these distances and time spent in transit from one destination to the next.

We also visited the Loire Valley and enjoyed our stay in Amboise. We didn’t rent a car but were able to visit a few chateaux via public transportation.
I don’t think I’d visit the Loire Valley as a day trip from Paris— too far and tiring.

Have a wonderful trip!😊

P.S. If you want recommendations for places to eat in Annecy, send me a PM.

If you plan to go up the Eiffel Tower; book your tickets NOW.

Posted by
4125 posts

I hope you will head the warnings about logistics and trip times. Partly for that reason, I'd argue against Annecy, even more so Geneva.

The suggestion to fly to Marseilles is well taken, especially if you can do so the day you arrive. This will consolidate your time.

Expect Provence to be crowded, and hot. Siesta may be a good strategy. Will you have a car there, or a driver? Gordes a bit of a hassle without. Loire needs a car too.

In place of Annecy, more time in Paris, Provence, and (if that is your choice) the Loire. Burgundy is another change-of-pace alternative that is more or less enroute. A car is useful. you can rent cars serially as needed; make your reservations before you leave or pay a lot. Lyon is also a very fun city (if you can take a city in August), and only 2 hours from Paris.