There may be no more iconic sight in any city in the world than Le Tour Eiffel. I doubt anyone has ever visited Paris without at least seeing it. Unfortunately, that is all that many can do, without careful planning.

Like many major cities, Paris requires advance thinking. The big attractions in New York, London, Rome and others like those can mean incredibly large crowds. Tourists make casual encounters like the ones in my previous blogs much more diffficult. Sure, you can still turn around and find surprises, but to see the landmarks requires research.

The internet is filled with suggestions on how to “do” sites, with package tours as well as self-guided tours. Yet even if you don’t choose one of those, at least buying an upfront ticket for a specific attraction actually makes sense. Prices are usually no more than a walk-up ticket, but many offer “front-of-the-line” boarding, or even like in the case of the Eiffel Tower, a ride above the rest.

This blog therefore extols the virtues of pre-planning, planning, and reviewing plans – all before you go! When planning our last trip to France, my wife suggested to me that she wanted to be at the top of the Tower when the lights went on at night. SO I pre-purchased a ticket that got all the way up (Sommet) at the time we wanted. When we arrived we saw long lines of tourists just waiting to purchase a ticket; our reservation put us in a different line. On top of that (pun intended), our ticket was to the uppermost deck, which only accomodates a certain amount of people at a time. Others go to the mid-level point only. We were up these when the flickering strobe lights came on, and it is still one of my favorite travel moments of all time.

Planning also helped with our Seine river cruise. Yes, there are dozens of boats to choose from. Some have meals, some have window reserved seats, and some have live music. Ours had all of those, with a five course wine-paired meal. And no, it wasn’t so expensive…we just got what we paid for. And with the exchange rate of the Euro, that’s really saying something. Educate yourself about the offerings in a major city before you go. That means more than making a list of sites to see, it entails comparing offerings from tour operators, reading reviews both good and bad, and even printing hard copies of all reserved activities.

Booking the big attractions means having the clarity of mind to enjoy the smaller surprises on the trip, like cafes with real coffee, or hotels with an employee who walks you right up to your room. One last note: transportation in cities also requires attention, especially in foreign locations where conversing with attendant at train stations means having a good understanding of the language. I have been able to get on a train where I thought it left from, but found getting off a lot more difficult: “How do you get up to street level” is not a phrase I ever want to speak again!

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