I love traveling. I love going on vacation. However, I recently came to the conclusion that these are two vastly different things. I know that a lot of people use them interchangeably, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Up until just a few short months ago, I did too. However, over the course of my career as a tour guide, I’ve talked to thousands of people from all over the world about their time in Paris. Specifically, I’ve asked them whether or not they’re enjoying their trip, and from these conversations a trend has emerged. Other than lost luggage, the number one complaint that people have about their time in Paris is that they didn’t plan that time properly. They either planned too much or too little. I think I can help with this, but first, a quick story.
A couple of months ago I visited Japan for three weeks, and let me tell you, every day was packed. I saw temples and shrines, visited museums and art galleries, hiked mountain trails and climbed thousands of stairs, and I took over 3,000 photos of my adventures. Every night I returned to my hotel exhausted and sore, but practically vibrating with excitement over everything I had seen that day. After three jam packed weeks, I returned home and promptly spent two full days in bed recuperating from my trip. That’s when I had my epiphany.
Traveling vs. Taking a Vacation
Traveling is not the same thing as taking a vacation. I loved my time in Japan, but it was decidedly not a vacation. At least, not in the conventional sense of the word. It was my first time in that country and I wasn’t going to waste a second of it. I could use a long list of adjectives to describe my trip, but relaxing is certainly not one of them.
This is because when I think of traveling, I think of seeing somewhere new. I dream of visiting far off places and brand new countries, and I make a list of everything that I want to see and do while I’m there. Usually this list is overly long and ambitious, and I spend all day running from one spot to the next. At the end of the day, I crawl into bed with worn out feet, a smile on my face, and a memory card full of photos. For me, this is the essence of traveling, and I love it. But if I want a vacation, I’ll go sit on a beach somewhere with a stack of books beside me. Just to be clear, this is also something that I love.
So how can this help when planning your trip to Paris? Easy. Before you even set pen to paper to start drawing up your itinerary, ask yourself, “Is this a vacation or am I going traveling?” The good news is that there’s no wrong answer. This is your trip! It can be whatever you want it to be. That being said, how much you enjoy your time in Paris just might depend on how honestly you answer that question.
What Do You Want From Your Time in Paris?
If you decide you’re here to travel, great! Grab a museum pass and hit the ground running. Go on a walking tour and visit a historic church before lunch, and then hit two or three monuments or museums in the afternoon, followed by a river cruise on the Seine after dinner. This schedule will be exhausting, but you’ll cover a lot of ground, and you’ll return home with an enviable list of sites seen. However, if you’re here on vacation, accept from the beginning that you probably won’t get to see everything you want to, and just enjoy the things that you do. Plan for just one or two sites or activities per day, and spend the rest of your time wandering the streets of Paris, poking into little shops, and people watching from a terrace, glass of wine in hand.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Plan a travel day followed by a vacation day. Mix it up. Go at whatever pace suits your needs. Again, there’s no wrong answer here. But always keep in mind that Paris is a big city. It’s not as physically big as other major cities, but it packs a lot into one space, so some planning ahead is required to make the most of your trip. By putting a little thought into your expectations beforehand, you can decided what you really want out of your trip and avoid disappointment once you’re here.
The Best Possible Trip to Paris
In my most humble and entirely biased opinion, Paris is one of the best cities in the world, but there’s so much to see and do it can quickly become overwhelming. This is a shame, because a trip to Paris is often the fulfilment of a lifelong dream, and I only ever want people to have the best possible experience here. So if you’ve been convinced that this is the year that you’re coming to visit, that’s wonderful! I can’t wait to welcome you to the city of light. But before you start packing your bags, remember to ask yourself, “Am I going traveling or taking a vacation?” Then plan accordingly. Your time in Paris will be so much more enjoyable if you do.