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Flights San Diego to Paris In May? Help please

Is anyone familiar with flying from San Diego to Paris? If so, I'd like to pick your brain. What would be considered a "good rate" for round trip airfare in early May? When would be the best time to buy? What is/are the best airlines? Which airlines should we avoid? Have you found better deals through certain websites (orbitz, Travelocity, etc)? The best price I'm finding right now is about $1200 with fees. I don't want to buy too early and then miss out on a good deal later, and vice versa.
This will be our absolute first trip to Europe so any help you can provide is much appreciated.

Posted by
11294 posts

The best time to buy is when the fare is cheapest. Unfortunately, only the airlines know when that is, and they're not telling. You can go to Kayak.com and look at prices now. These will almost definitely be "high," as the only people who book now are the ones who have to - conventions, weddings, etc. You should look at which airlines fly the route, and where the changes are. Then, sign up for fare alerts at Kayak, and with each airline that flies your route. From San Diego, you'll have to make at least one change. I'd limit it to that, but that still leaves you a plethora of choices. From what I've read, most prefer to have the trans-Atlantic leg be as long as possible, because this shortens the overall trip, so changing in San Francisco or Los Angeles is what they would recommend. But, if you get a better fare, I wouldn't rule out other airports. I would try to avoid changing in JFK (even though I live in New York, and it is being improved, I still think it's harder than necessary). Philadelphia and Newark also get bad reports. But as with airlines, you will find good and bad reports about almost every airport. Do check the overall flight time and layover times - you don't want 8 hour layover, but you also don't want a 50 minute one. Having done this research, you will know the airlines, the baseline price, and which routes you would and would not take at any price. Then, start monitoring Kayak, the airline websites, and your e-mail inbox for deals. When you see a deal, you'll know it - and be ready to POUNCE. Discounts can last less than an hour; if you hesitate for any reason (say, to consult your travel partner, or if you're in the office but your credit card is at home), they can be gone. (Yes, these two scenarios were actually posted on this helpline - don't let this happen to you!)

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you so much Harold. I'm glad to know that now is likely a "high" time because that at least tells me not to commit to any flight yet. Clearly you've done this before. I'll get myself signed up for alerts.

Posted by
16942 posts

$1200 is not a bad price for one-stop flights from the West coast in high season (which includes May for Paris). You have good options for a one-stop flight on Delta or Air France, with the intermediate stop in LA, Atlanta, or Salt Lake City. Of those, I would choose Salt Lake as it is a small airport and easier to navigate. The Delta/Air France direct flight from SLC to Paris is popular and does sell out, so it is not very likely to go on sale. But the total flying time to Paris using that connection is 13-14 hours which is good.

Posted by
11294 posts

One more thing: don't listen to anyone who has an absolute "formula" for when to book. You'll read things like "always book 6 weeks before your flight for the best deals." These kinds of things used be more true, but more recently, several have posted about how they paid several hundred dollars more by waiting, and they only waited because of such dubious advice. When you see a price you can live with, book it - and don't look back. Sure the price can go down, but it can also go up. I agree that $1200 sounds good for your route at that time of year, but I haven't done the research. I do know that Paris, lately, has gotten more expensive from New York (often starting at about $700 or 800). But Brussels, lately, has been much cheaper; you could look into that, if it works for you (remember to figure in the cost of getting from Brussels to Paris, and the "wasted" time if you didn't want to see Belgium on this trip). I keep saying "lately" because it does change all the time. When I was looking for autumn 2011, the cheapest fares from New York were to Istanbul and Warsaw. And while Krakow cost only a little more than Warsaw, Gdansk was $200 more. Why? Who knows? Again, the only airfare rule these days is that there are no rules.

Posted by
2916 posts

I'd wait until the end of the year or the beginning of 2013 to start looking for real. Fare sales are almost never announced this far in advance. We go to France almost every Spring, and I think the earliest I've ever booked a flight was in December. Generally it's more like January or February. And if you want to get in touch with someone who has flown from San Diego to Paris and other European cities, I have a friend in San Diego I can put you in touch with.

Posted by
527 posts

I will add that if a non-stop isn't that much more it's worth it from the West Coast. When we can't fly non-stop from San Francisco sometimes from door to door it's a 24 hour process. Also watch out for connections through Atlanta. They allow, as I recall, a minimum 49 minute connection, and I watched a pattern of missed connections after my friend missed theirs. Night flights are alot easier on your body as you may be able to sleep. Also look at what time you arrive so you don't lose a day of your vacation. Those early morning return flights can be harder as you need to allow time to get to the airport and the required checkin time. With reward travel we have had to return out of Belgium and it is a pleasant little airport but it's not a cheap train ride to get there. Yes I agree start monitoring those prices. If you sign up at www.Kayak.com I think they will send you price alerts. Our trip in 2011 we got good prices Jan-Feb for May travel but not to Paris which is very popular

Posted by
11294 posts

Karen makes a good point; if you're leaving Europe and connecting within Europe to get to the US (say, Paris to London to Los Angeles), watch out for the departure time. It's often very early, and even though you "only" need to be at the airport 90 to 120 minutes early for most intra-European flights, that's still no fun with a 6 AM (or even an 8 AM) departure. However, for your itinerary, you should have no problem getting a flight from Paris nonstop to somewhere in the US, then connecting to San Diego. These will usually leave later, although you can't leave too late, or you won't be able to connect to San Diego the same day. Also, before you book any airfare, consider whether an open jaw itinerary would work better (into one city and out of another). It may not even cost more, and it saves time and money backtracking. To find open jaw flights, don't use two one-ways (much more expensive); instead, choose "multi-city" on the booking website.

Posted by
3210 posts

You should consider the advice from people on the West coast as that is a very different market from east coast. Your best choice for convenience and travel time is a direct flight to Paris. You can pick one upmin Los Angeles, or Lola mentioned Salt Lake City. The " deals" that show up are often on undesirable route with long connect times or two stops. Make it easy on yourselves and avoid those. Also avoid connecting on the east coast (NY, Wash DC, or even or Atlanta if you can. Too much chance of delay in those hubs. I find the least jet lag with a flight that leaves the west coast in the afternoon or evening and arrives at our destination in Europe the next day, after 14 hours or less of travel. I will pay a bit more for such flights as it is worth it in terms of how we feel on landing. I have never paid less than $1200 for a flight like that from Seattle in the summer.

Posted by
3210 posts

I should add that a couple of years ago, on the advice of someone who used to post on this board, we waited until 2 months out to buy our tickets. That was bad advice and it cost us an extra $1000 for the tickets for our family. The much vaunted " summer sale" never happened.

Posted by
11 posts

Sasha, Thank you first of all. When you say summer...does that include May?

Posted by
11294 posts

Sasha: yours must be the post I was thinking of, when I talked about the alleged "guaranteed best times to book a ticket for the best price." Thanks for the personal confirmation that there is no such guarantee (I still see people saying similar things to the one that led you astray).

Posted by
3995 posts

We just bought tickets for July/August 2013 from LAX ( not that far from you) to DUS for $743 pp. we are 80% sure of where we are going (Germany) so we bought because the price is almost 1/2 the fare to other airports anywhere else in Europe. If we end up not going to Germany we will probably go to France and we are fine with getting from that airport to somewhere in France. We start looking 330 days in advance on www.itasoftware.com.

Posted by
3210 posts

Harold-I don't know how long you have been on the board, but maybe you remember the guy who pretended to be very knowledgeable and kept saying there was a " sweet spot" about 2 to 4 months out and I bought his line. Should have known better as it was not our first trip to Europe. Kept waiting, waiting, and the price went up $250 per ticket over what I would have paid if I bought when I normally do. With rising fuel costs and other expenses fares just seem to keep getting higher. Mona, you got a great price! I can see that on kayak, Air Canada or United. So flights are 21 hours (!) but there are some for 13 hours which is good. The one thing I would caution Tiffany is not to use a low price like that as a goal. When you have a specific place you want to go (Paris) and limited time you must consider the extra cost of flying into some other airport. Say you land in Dusseldorf. It is probably late in the day and you are tired after a long flight. So you spend the night there. Add the cost of that room to your airfare when comparing. Then you have to get from Dusseldorf to Paris and that takes more time and money. My point is just when people are flexible like Mona that is a great deal. But if someone has limited time and a specific goal (Paris and WW2 sites in France) then flying to a distant airport is not a good cost-saving measure.

Posted by
11294 posts

Sasha: I couldn't agree more with your last post. I see this mistake all the time on travel boards: "We got a cheap flight into Frankfurt, but we're really going to Budapest. How do we get quickly, cheaply and easily from Frankfurt to Budapest?" The answer is, of course, you can't. Flying to Duesseldorf when you want to see Frankfurt, or to Brussels to see Paris and Northern France, can make sense. But just getting a "bargain" airfare that does not go where you want to be is a false economy. Similarly, I see people reject an open jaw flight because it's "more expensive," forgetting that it takes not only money, but time, to get back to your starting point. For Tiffany's proposed trip (Paris and Normandy), a round trip makes the most sense. But for many others, it doesn't.

Posted by
3995 posts

@ Harold I don't think buying a 1/2 price peak summer time fare is a bad idea. We land at 8:30 in the morning and we've priced a 50 Euro R/T (if we want to move to our final destination in Germany quickly) flight onward on Air Berlin or for 19 Euro O/W we can go by relaxing train for a few hours to our final destination. If we end up going to France instead of Germany it will probably be northern France so we are OK with this being our European airport this summer. Not all of us can have perpetually cheaper flights from the US East Coast. For California this is as good as it gets. In looking at Tiffany's post later I see that she only has 8 days on the ground. There are 100 Euro R/T flights from Dusseldorf to Paris in mid-May so something like this MAY work for Tiffany. Time/$/Location Lots to consider, let's give her something to think about. My main concern for Tiffany would be that since this her first time to Europe, keeping it simple with no airport/train changes might be worth the extra $400 per person. For seasoned travelers, this is a great deal from the West Coast. @ Sasha We got the 13+ hour flights (not 21 hr flights) that don't show up any more at that price--stop over in ORD, stop back in ZHR.

Posted by
3210 posts

Mona, your flight sounds terrific. I was just trying to say they flying in to a distant airport might not work for everyone. I am glad it works for you as yup got a great price.

Posted by
11 posts

This is all helpful. So you'd say a flight to Brussels would be okay then? What about Amsterdam? I had actually considered doing Paris, Normandy and Amsterdam but MANY people on this site said that's be too much for us. Everyone suggested that since my husband is such a history buff we'd need at least 3 nights in Normandy and the rest in Paris. Which would mean 6 nights in Paris then. I don't want to cram too much in but I would like to make the best of our time.
Feedback?

Posted by
638 posts

Hi Tiffany, I'm very familiar with flying to Europe and Paris from San Diego, I live in Mission Valley (directly across the street from the mission), Since you have about 8 months till your trip I recommend using sites like Kayak to get fare alerts, you have time in your favor. As others have stated their are stories about how to get the best fare but since the airlines control all aspects each one may be different in one way or another. I've never bought this far out I usually wait till at least after the new year to start searching but if you have the alerts and something comes take it if you feel comfortable. I've traveled to Europe in May twice, my fares were similar to Mona but my last trip was 2 years ago, things change. Every trip (5) to Europe has followed a similar pattern, I left Lindbergh field in the morning usually about 7AM flew to an east coast city (except for one trip through Vancouver BC), arrived back east in the afternoon for an evening flight arriving in Europe in the morning, the Vancouver flight was the same in the fact we left in the evening. On the return it has been pretty much a 24 trip door to door, leaving Europe in the morning, arrive at an east coast city in the afternoon and a return flight to San Diego arriving in the evening, usually after 7PM.

Posted by
638 posts

(to continue)I've never had anything special stick out that would make me pick one airline over another, I've used, TWA, United, Continental, Lufthansa, but the one I've read reviews about and it seemed universal was Alitalia, stay off their aircraft! Sometimes though you may book with one airline you may end up one of their code share airlines. One trip I booked on United, I flew them to Washington DC, but on the flight to Madrid I was on an Aer Lingus flight. Another thing I feel you need to consider is get an aisle seat, the flight to the east coast is usually 4 to 5 hours and the flight over is about twice as long, it's nice having the ability to get up when you desire instead of having to ask someone you don't know move and you especially don't want to get stuck in the middle of the center section where the seats can be 5 across. If you have any specific questions feel free to contact me. I just had my daily European moment, the mission rings their bells 3 times a day, it reminds me of my time in Spain!

Posted by
3210 posts

It looks like flights to Brussels are more expensive than Paris, so no advantage to that. You will have to figure out what you want to do with your time first, but flight pricing may help you decide. If you have ten days, and want to include Amsterdam( 3 nights each Paris, Normandy, and Amsterdam, for example) then look at flying open jaw into Paris and out from Amsterdam.

Posted by
2916 posts

Tiffany, I contacted my friend in San Diego, who read your question at my request, but he said it's been many years since he flew to Paris, and he also used air miles when he flew, so he can't be of much help. But Barry's advice looks like it's very helpful. I'd suggest you plan on flying to Paris on whatever airline has the best fare, and not try to save a few Euros by flying to Amsterdam or Brussels or Frankfurt. Your first meal in Paris will cost more than any savings, if they even exist. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
68 posts

HI Tiffany, Just a few thoughts..I traveled from Los Angeles to London last May and then had our return flight from Paris back to LA...but our Paris flight transfered in London so basically the same flight comming and going. We booked through American Express with points but the dollar value would have been about $1000 per ticket. I was surprised to learn that by booking through a website like expedia you can have difficulty controlling changes to your flight itinerary. I realized about a week before our flight that while I thought I had ed and confirmed our seat locations, on our outbound flight it showed that we had no assigned seats. While I was able to take care of this before we left I heard from many others who had booked through other sights, that it was difficult to control these situations.
As far as travel time...we left at 8:30 pm and flew direct and landed in London about 2:00 pm. It was perfect, we boarded the plane, had a little dinner, watched a movie, took a Tylenol PM and slept for 6 hours.(and I NEVER sleep on planes!) I would choose the same flight times again and avoid any layovers. And, Paris was wonderful in May...Enjoy!

Posted by
3210 posts

So Barry is talking about the kind of flight I prefer to avoid-connecting on the East coast and a long flight time. Leaving San Diego in the early morning and arriving at the destination the next day,some 20 hours later. You have to decide what is important to you. CheApest price, but maybe a long flight with built-in hazards/delays? Or a direct flight from the West Coat to Europe. Which will cost more but leave you less tired on arrival.

Posted by
527 posts

Are there perhaps airport shuttles from San Diego to LAX? I also will add that last year we flew Brit Airways, one daughter flew Virgin and the other had an endless two connections on American with no personal movie screen but one big archaic screen. One connection was late on the return and she sat in a US airport for four additional hours. All this to save a few hundred dollars. Also at this point American is in financial difficulties.