As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ve decided to take the boys on the adventure of a lifetime next summer: a week in London, England and a week in Paris. I’m not the world’s most sophisticated traveller, so I thought it would be fun to share the planning process.
I’ve been watching flight costs since late August and haven’t seen any deals (we’re hoping for a January or February seat sale) and though it’s a little risky to book accommodations without having our flights locked in first, it’s so tough finding suitable accommodations for a larger family that I was comfortable locking in accommodations now and hoping to find flights to match later. I’ve read enough to know that Mondays through Wednesdays are the cheaper days to fly, so we’re booking accommodations for Tuesday to Tuesday and hoping for the best!
I’ve been to Paris twice before, once on my own and once on our honeymoon in 1999. Both times, I stayed in a charming and tiny walk-up budget pension on L’ÃŽle de la CitÃ© in the very heart of Paris called Hotel Henri IV. I’d have booked it again for the family in a heartbeat based on the location and nostalgia alone, even though the individual rooms on each floor shared a common washroom and part of the hallway to the washroom was open to the outside. Sadly, somewhere between 1999 and 2017, it ceased to exist in its former location.
I spent hours in August and September rifling through vacation rental options. I knew that for five of us, hotel options would be limited and expensive – we’d either be miserably crammed into one room or paying extravagantly for two rooms. Having decided to rent an apartment, I agonized over locations: Le Marais, SacrÃ© Coeur, the Latin Quarter, Bastille, and cross-referenced them against locations of attractions I knew we’d want to visit.
I had a few key criteria in mind, and a few other things that were nice to have but not dealbreakers. We would need at least four discrete beds, because I could not imagine inducing any of the boys to share a bed for a week. It would need to be central to transportation links and preferably within walking distance of several attractions. It had to have “character”, which is a little on the ephemeral side but a key filter to all my searches. And, I really wanted something with boulangeries, cafes and shops within a block or two. I wanted the boys to see “vrai Paris” and how Parisians really live.
By the end of the summer, after countless hours on VBRO, HomeAway, AirBnB, Booking.com and other rental aggregators, I’d built an annotated Google Map of approximately 20 apartments that looked most promising and were in our price range (I was trying to stay under $300 Cdn per night.)
(Obsessive planner much? Seriously, I am having so! much! nerdy! fun! planning this trip.)
Okay, truth be told, maybe I was a little too obsessive, because having sussed out 20 possible places, I found myself paralysed by indecision – how to choose? So I decided to turn my attention to planning the London side of the trip for a while, and when I came back to look at Paris rentals again, there was a problem. A BIG problem, one that pretty much obliterated the hours I’d invested to Paris accommodation planning thus far.
Apparently, there has been a crackdown by the French government, requiring anyone who rents a property (e.g. through AirBnB and similar services) to register the property and obtain a 13-digit registration number, which must be displayed prominently in any online ads. The registration site opened in October, and all properties need to be registered by December 1st. I’d seen predictions that up to 60% or 80% of current apartments available for short term rental in Paris would no longer be legal (and therefore no longer available) as of the new year.
That certainly put a wrench in our vacation planning. I paused my searching until after December 1st, watching travel forums for advice and speculation, and started revisiting ads in mid-December. None of the listings I’d saved were displaying the registration number — but then it was hard to find ANY listing with the registration number in place. Leave it to me to be searching for a rental in exactly the time period that rentals are in complete upheaval. This is the story of my life as a traveller — missed connections and misadventures abound!
For a while, we considered hotel options. Five of us in a tiny room for a week held little appeal, but two rooms would push us out of our budget. Rooms in a hostel would certainly be an adventure, and it wouldn’t particularly bother me, but other travellers in our party were less enthused by the idea. I worried that when the 80% of tourists who ordinarily rented the now-illegal apartments began searching for accommodations in the new year, even the most meagre hotel options would be swept up. I was just about to resign myself to increasing our accommodation budget by a considerable margin when, driven more by impulse than logic, I saw a previous exchange of messages about a rental I’d put at the top of our list this summer and sent a fresh message to him asking about the registration number. To my surprise and delight, he not only confirmed that he had registered his apartment, but sent me a copy of his documentation from the city of Paris.
I’d had a few concerns about this rental from my searches earlier this summer – it’s about half a kilometer to the Metro, which will be a longish hike carrying suitcases, and it’s a sixth-floor walkup, which will also seem more painful with arms full of bags. The street itself seems rather unremarkable, once you’re used to the sweeping grandeur of Haussmann-designed sidestreets that resemble alleys more than roadways. It definitely wins on character, with two of three bedrooms tucked under attic eaves with skylights looking out over Paris rooftops.
What sealed the deal, though, (aside from the registration number, of course) was location. It’s two blocks north of the Louvre in the 1er arrondissement; if you know Paris, you know the location doesn’t get much better. (It’s the one at pretty much the centre of the map above.) And so we booked!
So now we have accommodations booked for both France and England, and I’m frankly so relieved I can’t even tell you how happy I am to stop thinking about it. Stay tuned for more details on the London booking in my next post, and may the airline gods be kind to us in finding flight dates to match our bookings!
What do you value most when booking accommodations? Are you a last minute “we’ll sleep wherever we end up” sort of traveller, or do you love to torture yourself by agonizing over every detail like me?