We just got back from a family trip to France to celebrate my Mom’s 60th birthday. It was one of those trips that you dream about for a long time, and even when you’re on it, you can’t believe it’s real. I am going to write a series of blog posts about the trip, so I wanted to start out with how we even chose the destination and planning where to stay.
Why did we pick France?
The idea for the trip to France started with us brainstorming different destinations centered around wine (because my Mom loves her white wine) back in October before my Mom’s birthday. We looked into renting houses in Napa or Sonoma but the prices were crazy to get a house big enough for us and nice enough that it felt special. When we started to look at renting houses in France, the prices were a small fraction of the California houses we had priced out…like $4k/week vs. $15k/week for 4+ bedrooms!!
There happens to be a (seasonal) direct flight from Pittsburgh to Paris that made the thought of international travel with an 18 month old seem possible. The direct flight meant that our flight from Pittsburgh would only be a couple of hours longer than the flight to San Francisco.
Tip: Go to your local airport’s official website and check for direct flight destinations. This is how I discovered the flight from Pittsburgh to Paris.
Many of the people in our group had never been to Europe which also made France an exciting destination. My Mom’s last trip to Europe was in high school! And let’s be honest…going to France to celebrate your 60th birthday just sounds dreamy!
Although the cost of the Paris flight was double the PIT to SFO flight, the savings on the rental properties on Airbnb more than made up for it. This made the decision easy. The trip to France in total would actually be cheaper than a trip to California for us! Hard to believe, right?
I’ve been spreading the word to anyone that I talk to about this direct flight from Pittsburgh to Paris and a co-worker told me that he just found summer flights in July and August for $600…what?!?! Can I go back now please?
Deciding where to stay in France…
Once we decided on France, we quickly had to figure out where we wanted to go in France and book our lodging. We’ve loved using sites like HomeAway and Airbnb in the United States to travel with baby, so we were hoping to do the same in France. It is so much easier to travel with a baby when you have a living space and kitchen instead of a basic hotel room!
We decided to stay in Paris for 3 nights for the more touristy part of our trip and then travel to Provence for the wine and relaxation portion. My initial plan was a little more ambitious with a new destination every 2 days, and then I remembered, we will be traveling with a toddler that takes at least 1 night to adjust to her new surroundings.
We searched for places in December for travel in early June and could only find 4 places available in Paris with 4 bedrooms or more on Airbnb. The limited availability stressed me out, and I felt like we had to book immediately. We found a great apartment in the Latin Quarter that had a large living room for around $500/night (including the fees and taxes) for 7 adults and a baby.
Provence lodging searches were a bit trickier because I wanted to find a good area to stay that would allow us to do day trips to the many beautiful sites and towns in Provence. I decided on Aix-en-Provence because it was centrally located and there was a high speed rail station nearby. Aix-en-Provence also looked like a beautiful French town to visit with plenty of history and scenery to take in.
For the Aix-en-Provence house, we wanted the focus to be on relaxation and planned to spend more time here than the Paris apartment. We found a historic house with a pool and gorgeous view that was about 10 minutes from downtown Aix-en-Provence for around $350/night (including the fees and taxes) for 7 adults and a baby.
Looking forward to sharing more about our trip – including our prep for the trip, flight to Paris and our stay in Paris soon!