No, please don’t buy the Paris Pass

I’ve really think that Americans in particular don’t leave enough “white space” in their European travels.  They run around, convinced that they will never return, and so they have to see everything.  I know.  I get it.  That was me once upon a time, too.  And while that allows you to “check off” the big sites, it doesn’t really allow you to enjoy Europe – and Paris – the way they are so desperately inviting you to enjoy them.  Here’s a sample of said freneticism, from a potential client email in 2014:

Upon our arrival we are spending most of the day on the 26th at the Louvre.  On the 27th we are traveling to Versailles.  On the morning of the 28th I would love to accomplish two things, a quick tour of the catacombs and then a stroll in the areas of the fashion houses.  Is that at all possible to accomplish both?

I had only been in Paris a few months, and I already knew that her itinerary was problematic.  The lady had prefaced this by saying she had waited 28 years to come to Paris.  And this was her plan?  Needless to say she didn’t take my advice to cut one or more things from her itinerary.

This “do all the things!” trend is so endemic that half the time I spend chatting on the phone with North American clients, I’m trying to get them to focus.  They want to see everything and are so overwhelmed with advice and information (half of it terrible) from friends, family, blogs, and TripAdvisor.  After I’ve gotten them to focus and craft a schedule that truly delights them, I make sure to add “white space” in their day: time to just relax and enjoy the city, not rush around to see “the next thing.”

This is something you cannot do with the Paris Pass, something designed for the FOMO-obsessed visitor (particularly Americans and sometimes Canadians) who has to see everything.  So, to underline my perspective, here are four reasons you shouldn’t drop hundreds of euros on this thing.

1.  It’s overpriced.  As with most “deals,” you spend your time trying to knock out the big-ticket items so you can prove to yourself you got a deal, even if you have only the vaguest interest in said item.  Do you think they bundled all this together to save you money?  It’s a convenience sale, and they are going to want to get paid for that.  Anyone who actually saved money using this thing only did so by running around the city at top speed.

2.  The bundled Museum Pass isn’t for everyone.  Yes, I’m an art lover and give private tours of the Orsay and the Louvre, and I’ve advocated for the Museum Pass before, but plenty of my guests are not that obsessed with art, and are plenty happy to just go to one of the big museums in Paris, and don’t want the weight of obligation that having a “pass” puts on you.

3.  You won’t use the metro nearly as much as you think.  People have no idea that Paris is so walkable – and beautiful to walk.  There’s also the cheap shared bike system.  If and when you need to use the Metro, buy a pack of 10 tickets.  Or if you are going to be here for more than a week, and plan to head out of Zones 1 and 2 a lot (Versailles, Disneyland, Fontainebleau, etc.) starting on a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, stop in and get a Navigo Decouverte.

4.  You will be stressed, not aided, by their 120 page book.  They boast entrance into places that are too varied and uneven in their characters to be “must sees” for every single guest.  Even one of my favorite Parisian buildings (and included in the Paris Pass), the Garnier Opera House, is not a “must see” on your first visit to Paris.

So, save yourself time, money, and stress by NOT buying the Paris Pass.  it’s for people interested in frantically running around the city so they can later tell people what a “deal” they got by buying some overpriced card.  If you’re interested in taking this city on at a reasonable pace, with white space sprinkled throughout the day, and are willing to not see “all the things,” you should avoid the Paris Pass (and its overachieving advocates).  This is one of the greatest cities in the world, not a checklist.

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2 Responses to No, please don’t buy the Paris Pass

  1. Avatar
    Tammy Young May 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    So totally agree with you on this one! My family and I spent six weeks in Paris this past December/January, in a rental apartment right near Les Halles (very noisy with all the construction happening, but lovely and central). This was my sixth trip to Paris, my husband’s 4th and our kids’ 3rd, so we have ‘done’ the touristy things. This trip was so much more relaxed, even with the heightened security in the city, because we didn’t feel like we ‘had to’ do anything. This time, we did not go up the Tour, we did not step foot inside the Louvre, and we did not go to Versailles. We did, however, spend a lovely morning at the Musee de l’Orangerie, followed by a lovely leisurely lunch at Le Cafe des Beaux Arts, and then a stroll to the Jardins du Luxembourg. On another day, we travelled out of the city to visit the Chateau de Chantilly, which was just as beautiful as Versailles, only much less crowded and a more manageable size.
    We always try to build in one day of rest for every two days of activity, whether we stay in the apartment and read, or go out to a park and let kids run, it really does add to the experience of the city you are in, if you can take time to relax.

    • Stephen Heiner
      Stephen Heiner June 20, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

      Tammy – great attitude!

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