Air-hotel vacation packages to Paris

Last time I spent a week in Paris, it was on a packaged vacation—and it saved me a ton of money.

In high season, you can get a plane ticket and six nights' lodging in Paris hotel starting around $1,000 per person.

What is a packaged vacation?

First things first: a vacation package is not an escorted tour, where they shuttle you around Europe in a hermetically sealed bus bubble of Americanism.

With a packaged vacation, all you are getting from the company is the airfare and lodging, bundled together for less than you would pay for each separately. (Some versions throw in a rental car or rail travel as well)

Your trip is entirely your own—everything expect having to book a hotel separately, that is.

Packages tend to last for a "week" (which might be anything from four to seven nights), and include round-trip airfare, your lodgings, daily breakfast, and sometimes transfers from the airport to the hotel and back.

The biggest drawback to a vacation package is that often the hotels they offer for you to choose tend to be either the huge, cookie-cutter international chains or bland "tourist class" properties, or dull and inexpensive place in outer neighborhoods—often near a train station (ugh), but many also around Montmartre (not bad).

Besides the companies listed below (which really do tend to be the cheapest by a long shot), know that most search-engine sites offer DIY packages as well, allowing you to book airfare, hotels, and rental cars.

The best vacation packagers ( - Hands-down the cheapest and best packager of air-hotel vacations out there (along with fly-drive tours and some walking and biking tours). Lots of two-city packages as well (Paris-London; Paris-Rome, Paris-Prague, etc.)

Gate1 Travel ( - One of the consistently cheapest tour providers around. They cover the entire world and offer a range of travel products from "Independent Vactions" (air-hotel, air-rail, and air-hotel-car packages) to escorted tours.

The Big Three (Orbitz.comPartner, Expedia.comPartner, Travelocity.comPartner) - Since the three major travel search engines all offer competitive prices on airfares, hotels, car rentals, and the rest, they can easily put together vacation packages as well. OrbitzPartner, ExpediaPartner, and TravelocityPartner now all prominently offer "packages" or "vacations" as a main menu option at the top of the page. The prices can be phenomenal—and the offerings often a bit more flexible than at the competition (number of nights, multiple destinations, a freer mix of lodging, transportation, and sightseeing options)—so it's well worth looking into.