Things have been a little crazy around here with the end of the school year. It’s enough to make me really grumpy (and in need of a getaway). Summer cannot come soon enough!
It was such a refuge for me to spend the day thinking about Paris (yippee!). What prompted the planning was my desire to secure my tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Yes, I’m going in August and it’s only May. However, I’ve been reading on travel websites (both French and U.S.-based) as well as on TripAdvisor that the lines are crazy in high season and pre-sold tickets will sell out. Tickets go on sale 90 days in advance, and I was at the 90-day mark!
There are both advantages and disadvantages of pre-purchase. On the plus side, while you still have a line for the elevator, the ticket line is much longer. So if you have your tickets, it’s one less line. We are not line people. Patience is not our virtue. Traveling in Europe in August when the rest of the world is on vacation is already going to test us. The disadvantage of pre-purchase is the commitment. The tickets are non-refundable. So if it’s raining that day, someone is sick or you just aren’t in the mood, you are stuck with your tickets.
We are not commitment-phobes. On a big vacation like this, I like having an outline of a plan to ensure that we see what we want to see. If we don’t have the framework, we are aimless each day and our time gets away from us. Everyone has expectations (including me) and nothing is worse than taking an epic trip and thinking, “I really wish I had…” Now, reality is that you cannot do everything. There will be things that don’t get seen, eaten, ridden, explored, etc. That is why we prioritize as a family, and we decide our “must haves” and “nice to haves” in advance. And, if we go to a museum that I want to see, then we go to an amusement park my kids want to see. Balance keeps us sane. But every family is different, and some have the endurance to do it all. We do not.
So, for OUR family, what I have learned along the way is:
- Keep extra time in the plan for eating, wandering, flaking, etc. Being over scheduled makes for very un-fun trips.
- Keep the plan flexible. Prioritize the absolute “must haves” each day and know which items you are willing to abandon if necessary.
- Pre-research rest stops, kid-friendly food and fun.
So, clearly, the Eiffel Tower is a “must have.” So, booking tickets in advance was important to us. We purchased our tickets at http://www.toureiffel.paris/en/preparing-your-visit/buying-your-tickets.html. I opted not to go with a “front of the line” tour group because of the price and inconvenience of being with a group. Instead, we will do this on our own. There is some great information on this website and it is fully in English (such as the featured image above). I also found some great tips on TripAdvisor (as usual) and in a great series of articles on Conde Nast Traveler by author Wendy Perrin, who traveled to Paris with her two sons a few years back. Here is the link to one of her articles: http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2012-06-18/family-travel-paris-museums-monuments-with-kids-photos-tips . But, she has more than one article on the site.
From my research, I plan for us to walk up to the second floor. If we poop out at the first floor (that would be embarrassing), there is an elevator that will take us to the second floor from the first floor. It may cost a small fee. Regardless of how high we make it, we WILL climb some stairs because I understand the view is great from the stairs. At the second floor, my understanding is that the queue for the elevator to the third floor (the top or sommet) is very manageable. As we will be exerting ourselves, I chose a 10am time slot for my ticket purchase. Not too early (must enjoy breakfast at the hotel), but early enough that we are still fresh. I read that others arrived 15 minutes early and were allowed in early. I imagine we will be standing in line, so if we are early, it probably won’t hurt.
I plan to research places to eat nearby after visiting the tower. We will need to eat after all that stair climbing! The restaurant at the top of the tower is out of the question for my family (although I did research it). It’s out mostly because my kids are so picky that they wouldn’t appreciate the expensive meal. But also, I don’t want to be tied to a meal reservation when exploring the Tower. It will be our top priority for the day, and I want to give it all the time it needs.
I purchased the tickets online and was able to print them immediately. I have an account on that website where the pdf files are stored if I lose these copies. It’s just like online ticketing for concerts, etc. And voila! We are set!