I'm planning a trip to France in 2014 and would appreciate advice about when to pick up my rental car. I'm thinking returning to the airport to pick up the rental car after our time in Paris. We'd then drive and tour Normandy and other locations in France. I plan on tracing my father's path through France where he served in Patton's 3rd Army during WWII so we need a car and can't rely just on public transportation. Any advice would be appreciated.
I don't think you need to head out to the airport to get a car. That will cost you time and train fare. The only thing that might be advantageous, arguably and depending on your itinerary, is if you can take the train directly to someplace on your father's route where there is enough of interest to keep you occupied without a car until the next day. That would save you a day's rental and parking hassle.
You know that if you get a car at the airport and then head to Caen/Bayeux you'll drive right across the north end of Paris, right? Within about three miles of a perfectly good rental place at Nord, right? And that it takes maybe an hour to get to the aiport which is in the wrong direction, right? And that it costs money to get to the aiport, and more money to drive back to the north end of Paris, right? I have a suggestion.......
You don't want a car in Paris, that's for sure. Public transit is excellent, driving and parking would be a chore, to say the least. You've got the right plan: go back to the airport for the car, then follow the Third Army. If your flight home is in the morning, bring the car back to the airport the evening before and spend the night in an aiport hotel, or one nearby, so you can be sure of making the flight. There are several hotels right in the airport complex in different price ranges. We've rented through Auto Europe, http://www.autoeurope.com/. They're a US-based broker that connects you to a rental company (Hertz, Europcar, Kemwel, etc.) at a discounted rate. Sometimes they offer a free GPS if you rent far enough in advance. GPS is a big help navigating. If you already have a device and can't get a freebie for France, it might be worthwhile to buy a Europe map from your GPS maker for around $100 instead of paying to rent a GPS in France. If you're planning to follow your dad (and Patton) all the way to Germany, be aware that it will cost a lot to return the car to another country. In general, check the "Travel Tips" on this Rick Steves website for more info about renting cars in Europe.
Thank you all so much for your advice. I've rented before with Auto Europe and have been very pleased. At this point, I think we'll take the train from Paris to Caen, pick the car up there and drop it at the airport outside of Paris when we fly out a few weeks later.
We took the opposite trip. We came from London and went to Calais and rented a car. Driving around Normandy was so easy and so much fun because we could easily go visit the sites at our own pace. We were also able to stop at quaint little restaurants to eat and meet locals. Be prepared to pay a lot for tolls if you drive the expressway to/from Paris to Normandy. If you have never been to Normandy, be prepared to have a very moving experience. My Dad was also a participant in the Normand invasion, therefore it was a very special trip for me. I have been back three times. If you have time, you might visit St. Mere Eglise. It is a small French town where the airborne were dropped into the town. They have an airborne museum there. I have been to two other American cemeteries in the area (Netherlands and the one at Luxembourg where Patton is buried). Luxembourg is beautiful and the cemetery there is rather small but it is interesting in that Patton was exhumed and moved to the front of the cemetery so that he would be facing his trooops. Your trip will be a very memorable one. There is so much information on the interent about Normandy and the movement of the troops through Europe. After we left Normandy, we drove to Paris and left the car at the airport as we had a flight out of Paris to Rome. The traffic was manageable but the rental car agency was difficult to locate at the airport. Hope you have a wonderful trip. Again, if you drive the express beween Normandy and Paris, make sure you have lots of Euro change for the tolls.
We rented a car in October of 2012 at the airport-from Hertz. The very nice young lady at the counter gave us an upgrade and told us we could return the car anywhere within (inside) the peripherque road and there would be no extra charge to drop off at a different location than the airport. We had an awesome GPS system in the car that got us everywhere we wanted to go - Honfleur, Bayeux, Normandy beaches, Mt. St. Michel, and then back to Paris for drop off - right to the car rental dealership that was closest to our hotel. We then took a taxi to the hotel for a couple of nights, before getting a taxi back to CDG (there were three of us, so the cost was near that of taking the trains and much more convenient). So, Hertz got us where we wanted to go - may have been a little bit more money, as we took the insurance (which we never do in the states), but it was well worth it - absolutely no worries. I think my biggest worry for us was that we would drive in Paris, but as it turns out, just for a short distance to the car rental drop off spot.