Passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris can be a daunting experience for even the most seasoned traveler. On my last trip I took notes on some of the things that help make my travel a little easier…and safer. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful to you.
Tip #1 Stopover at an airport hotel
I’ve always thought a stopover at an airport hotel before a long journey was unnecessary, if not extravagant. I’d come into CDG, for example, by train from Nimes and rush to catch a flight. That was until I practically missed my plane because of a train delay. So my latest trip to the States, I stayed at one of the budget hotels, within easy walking distance of CHD. It made a believer out of me.
Tip #2 Rethink carry-ons
I used to think it was smart to carry a large handbag when I traveled. That, plus a small suitcase that fit in the overhead would give me lots of luggage space for all my study. Plus I wouldn’t worry about getting bored on long flights. Now I have a small shoulder bag and tote a tiny suitcase with wheels. It fits overhead in the airplane and I have everything I need. Except the sore shoulders!
Tip #3 Use the airport luggage carts
First of all, at CDG, you can use a cart for free. Second, CDG is a very big place. No matter how little you’re toying with you, it’s going to get heavy if you walk around much at CDG–never mind, you get lost and go twice as far. There are almost always carts in racks at entrances and, if you miss one there, people often abandon them along the walkways. Grab one. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
Tip#4 Use the airport elevators
I’ve always thought airport elevators were off limits for able-bodied travelers. That was until I realized how dangerous it is on an escalator while carrying more than one bag–or an oversized suitcase. Now I look for the elevator rather than risk a fall. It might take a few minutes longer to get to the next level, but just think what a mess you’d be in if there was an accident. Get to the airport a little earlier than you used to. Ride the elevators. Take the time to be safe.
Tip#5 Make certain your shuttle is heading the right direction
Sounds simple enough, right? Not always! On my way to the States this time, I’d spent the night at the airport hotel, I was rested and I was pretty certain I had all my senses. My flight wasn’t until 11:30 am so I had plenty of time for the 5-minute walk to the airport entrance. When I reached the airport entrance and saw an elevator marked “shuttle” with the door open, I ran over to it and jumped in. The elevator stopped right in front of a shuttle, also with its door open, so I jumped right in it, too.
“Lucky me,” I said to myself.
Never mind, it was headed the wrong way. If I’d paid attention, I would have seen that the elevator at the airport entrance was for the shuttle heading in the direction of the airport parking lot, not Terminal 2 where I needed to go. If I had taken the correct shuttle, Terminal 2 would have been only two stops away. But no. My two stops turned into nine. I went all the way to the parking lot stop and back. (Yes, I could have gotten off at the next stop and reversed my steps, but I had time to ride it out.) again, be sure to give yourself extra time for goof-ups.
Tip #6 Learn to read the arrow signs
The signage at CDG airport is excellent–as long as you can tell the difference between an arrow that points straight ahead and one that points to the level below. While that might seem obvious to most, don’t be too cocky. It can befuddle the most seasoned traveler. In fact visitors to France, including me, have the same issue with road signs with arrows. Just take note.
Tip #7 Read your airline reservation carefully
I hate to admit this but I missed a flight because I misread the printed out ticket and I almost did it again this last trip. If you make a reservation through an airline–say, United, you probably know you don’t don’t always fly on a United airplane. But in a hurry, you might forget and head for the check in for the wrong airline. Don’t do that. If I hadn’t walked all the way through Terminal 2 at CDG looking for the United desk –which wasn’t there– and stopped to ask for directions, I may have missed my Air Canada flight. Duh. It happens. Like the time I missed the Lufthansa flight while waiting to check in at Delta.
Tip #8 Give yourself plenty af time
No matter how much you travel, things can go wrong. If you’re hurried and harried, it makes things worse. Spend that extra day to reach your destination, even if it means spending a bit more to stay at an airport hotel. Stop for a luggage cart. It’ll save your arms and back from a lot af strain. Take the elevator. It’s smarter than a fall. Take your time, look around and take time to understand the direction signs.
Do you have an airport tip you’d like to share? Please leave a comment and tell me all about it.