When to Reserve
Paris is one of the world’s top travel destinations, and hotels can book up fast during high season (see below). Even during what should be a slow month, the city might be completely booked up because of a trade show or festival that you are not aware of.
Make sure you understand the cancellation policy—most hotels take at least 1 night’s stay as a deposit, which they will keep if you don’t show up. What’s more, cancellation policies vary depending on the type of rate or package you end up with. Like airlines, some hotels now offer special low prices that must be paid up in advance and are nonrefundable. Some insist that you cancel a week in advance to get a full refund; for others, 24 hours will do. Read the fine print when you reserve.
High & Low Seasons
Parisian hotel rate fluctuations are a little like the weather—it’s difficult to distinguish one season from the other. Everyone seems to agree that August is the lowest of low season. That’s when most of France heads for the beach, and hotels are desperate for business. December on the run-up to Christmas is also low, but the days around New Year’s are high. The rest of the year is a free-for-all, heavily dependent on the scheduling of trade shows. For the nitty-gritty on trade-show dates, visit the Paris Tourist Office site (www.parisinfo.com) and click on “Going Out,” then “Fairs and Trade Shows in Paris,” where you can get a rundown on both trade shows and conventions. In general, September and October are usually high season, while November, the first 2 weeks of December, and January are low season. Once spring arrives, prices tend to rise.
Getting the best rate
These days, finding a good room rate is a bit like playing the stock market. You see a great rate on a cute double in the Latin Quarter. Do you buy, or do you wait to see whether the price dips in the morning? Prices on hotel and aggregator websites vary radically from day to day, depending on availability, season, and the vagaries of the market. Variables include date, demand, length of stay, and if you are prepared to pay for a nonrefundable booking.
While online travel booking sites like Expedia and Priceline are convenient to use when searching for room rates, often the best place to look is the hotel’s official website, particularly in the case of smaller, affordable hotels. Why? Those sites charge hotels fees as much as 20%, a percentage that many hotels feel obliged to pass on to the customer. Another low-tech but fruitful method is to simply call the hotel and see what they are offering that day—you might happen on a nonpublished, last-minute discount.
Most hotels are listed on both online travel agency sites and those that aggregate prices from a number of sources. Frommers.com did a study, in the spring of 2017, to determine which sites consistently found the best rates for city center hotels and two websites did far better than the rest of the pack: Booking.com and Agoda.com. So do search those two, along with contacting hotels directly. A nice boutique hotel that you thought was completely out of your budget might have rates that are not so different from middle- or even low-price lodgings—if you reserve several months in advance or happen on a seasonal promotion. Many hotels offer discounts for stays of over 3 nights; if they don’t offer one upfront, it’s worth asking.
Perpetually fluctuating prices make it difficult to fix rates in guidebooks; the prices quoted here attempt to offer a realistic range, with the top price reflecting the rack rate (the maximum “official” rate) and the lower figure corresponding to the average discount Internet rate. Note: Unless indicated, rates do not include breakfast.
French hotels are graded by a government-regulated system that hands out 0 to 5 stars, which the hotels then must post at the entrance to their establishment. Unfortunately, palaces aside, the criteria used often has more to do with quantity than quality. Rooms are rated for size, number of beds, and the presence or absence of items like hair dryers and minibars—overall atmosphere and charm are not necessarily a factor. So it’s possible to end up in a darling two-star hotel that’s much nicer than a three-star down the street with big rooms and a minibar but all the ambience of a rehab center. What’s more, the recent addition of a fifth star prompted everyone to try to jump up a notch, so the most basic hotel might now have three stars. One thing is sure: The more stars it has, the more a hotel is allowed to charge. Our advice: Use the French star system as a rough estimate of quality, then do some homework on your own.
By the way, the stars besides the listings are our own and have no relation to the French star system.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.