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 things that make my travel a little easier…and safer. Hopefully, these Charles de Gaulle Airport 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. For example, I’d come into CDG 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 CDG. It made a believer out of me.
Tip #2 Rethink carry-ons
I used to think it was wise to carry a large handbag when I traveled. That, plus a small suitcase overhead would give me lots of luggage space for all my stuff. Plus, I wouldn’t worry about getting bored on long flights. Now I have a small shoulder bag and a tiny suitcase with wheels. It fits overhead in the airplane, and I have everything I need. Except for 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 huge place. No matter how little you’re carrying 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; 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 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 sure your shuttle is heading in 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 sure 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 to it and jumped in. The elevator stopped right in front of a shuttle 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 toward 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, stopped, and went 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 on this last trip. If you make a reservation through an airline–say, United, you probably know you 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 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. For the time, I missed the Lufthansa flight while waiting to check in at Delta.
Tip #8 Give yourself plenty of 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 of strain. Take the elevator. It’s smarter than a fall. Take your time, look around, and understand the direction signs.
Do you have a Charles de Gaulle airport tip to add? Please leave a comment and tell me all about it.
Here’s another post for directions in and around Charles de Gaulle