By: Laura Brown
France doesn’t have to be expensive. For an amateur traveler, I still managed to pull off a nine day S.O.L.O. trip to France, visit three regions, eat all the beautiful food and drink all the glorious wine, and not spend all that I had saved.
I believe dining reveals culture, so my goal was to truly “travel by mouth;” and I wasn’t going to do this trip and worry about how much my three-course plat du jour was going to cost. With the right balance of research, prioritizing, and splurging on what is important to you, while enjoying the simpler (but still amazing) things, it’s so much more doable than one might expect.
Below are some easy to follow steps that I found helped my trip stay under budget, while still feeling completely luxurious:
Order the house vin (wine). French house wine is between 4-5€ per glass ($5 US), and it tastes like the stuff we pay $12/glass for. Unless you’re eyeing a particular wine, you won’t feel like you’re missing anything. Bonus points for a half carafe or bottle.
Let go of a la carte and embrace the table d’hôte world. Three courses with a limited selection and no worries. I was shocked at how affordable these splurge-worthy meals were, often clocking in at 15-25€. And if a plat du jour is available, say “oui” because the chef isn’t messing around!
Book what you can ahead of time. Buying your train tickets 2-3 months in advance may seem like overkill, but when you’re paying 20€ to get across the country, you’ll thank me.
Grab one or two meals a day in a boulangerie or from street food. A quiche or croissant (or both, in my case) is the breakfast of champions, and you can’t beat a falafel, crepe, or baguette sandwich for lunch. Not only are these deliciously satisfying, but afterwards, I had no problem splurging on a nicer dinner.
Book hostels directly through their independent websites. Hostelworld and such are great for reviews during research, but booking direct saves you extra fees and often allows for a more flexible cancellation policy.
Peruse flea markets and vintage stores. There are plenty of vintage scarves to be found, jewelry to rummage through, and drool-worthy flatware (random, but seriously). I went slightly outside the city center in Paris to the Marche aux puces de la Porte de Vanves for treasures that aren’t a tourist trap.
Check out flights from larger cities for great deals. If you don’t live in a major international hub (*cough* Nashville), this is a game changer. I bought my flights to Paris out of Chicago because Nashville is a quick and affordable flight from there. So naturally, I added a day in Chicago and saw a friend!
Check travel sites. I randomly found cheap flights to Paris while nonchalantly perusing travelpirates.com. I then searched on my own within the parameters suggested, and a solo trip was born.
Plan and prioritize but make sure to get lost. Parisbymouth.com is a wonderful resource for finding restaurants by price, neighborhood, and style. This helped me prioritize specific restaurants I knew I wanted to visit. But be sure to leave some room (meals and time) to deviate from the GPS, turn random corners, and stumble upon charming and authentic mom and pop spots!
Laura Brown is a sign language interpreter in Nashville, Tennessee, where she rebooted her life in 2014. An avid seeker of challenge and growth, she set off on a solo trip to France in March 2017, after never having traveled alone and rarely out of the country. Laura’s love for wine and gastronomy led the way, as she devoured the charms of Paris, Lyon, and Avignon; learning about wanderlust and herself between meals. When not dreaming of her next trip, you can find her cooking, enjoying Nashville with friends, and taking pictures of her dog. She is currently accepting gifted plane tickets back to France.
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SHE ONLY LIVES ONCE or S.O.L.O. is a movement empowering women of all ages to venture off on their own and fall in love with the world around them. This part of the blog hopes to spark curiosity and inspire self-discovery among fellow female travelers by sharing our adventures, mishaps, and most memorable moments. Interested in contributing a short story or photo? Please contact the Trishlist and/or hashtag #trishlist, #solo, or #sheonlylivesonces for a chance to contribute to the blog.