Travel/ Designer/ Fashion/ Living / 23 Oct, 2019

Our Paris Itinerary & Guide To Tax Free Shopping

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fashion blogger mia mia mine with husband Phil in parisSimilar Leather Jacket | Equipment ShirtAnine Bing Lace BraletteBlank Denim PantsChanel Bag | Celine Edge Sunglasses (similar here) | Christian Louboutin Heels (similar here, better for budget here) | On Phil: Similar Leather Jacket | Similar Vince White Tee | All Saints DenimGucci Belt | Gucci Sneakers | Ray-Ban Sunglasses

After our trip to Paris last week, so many of you reached out asking for our itinerary and details on shopping there so I thought I’d pull together a review of our trip. It was our first time in Paris and we tried to go in with tempered expectations as we had friends that said it didn’t live up to their expectations, yet we’d heard it was better than expected from so many others. To say we were pleasantly surprised by Paris would be an understatement. It’s even more magical than we expected and it quickly became one of our favorite cities (if not our favorite). We honeymooned in Bora Bora, but we both said Paris would have been equally as enjoyable – albeit a totally different experience. It is expensive and your trip can really become pricey with all the luxury shopping at your fingertips, but overall the city is just unlike any other. We loved it and are already thinking about going back.

We first flew to London for a couple of days since we had not been there either and then we took the train to Paris for the remainder of our trip. The train was convenient, but not for the amount of luggage we had so we probably would not do that again, to be honest. We didn’t spend enough time in London to really do a full recap of that and there were climate change protestors everywhere so getting around was difficult and taking photos of monuments was nearly impossible. I will include a couple of highlights though at the end of this if you’re curious though.

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a red dress with husband in front of the eiffel tower in parisMichael Costello Red Dress (wearing an XXS) | Alexandre Birman HeelsSimilar Chandelier Earrings | On Phil: Hugo Boss Tux |Tom Ford Bowtie | Salvatore Ferragamo Loafers

Our Paris Itinerary

Airline: We booked our trip kind of last minute (less than a month in advance) so flights were pricey. We found the best deal on Aer Lingus which required just one short stop in Dublin so we went for it. The biggest benefit to flying Aer Lingus (aside from the savings) is that the Dublin airport is the only airport in the EU to offer US pre-clearance so we were able to do our customs check in the airport there instead of at home. We did not have to gather our checked bags, they simply look at a photo of it and that’s it. It saved a lot of time and hassle. The Dublin airport also has great food choices and a large Duty-Free shopping area so we kept busy on our short layover.

Hotel: We stayed at the Prince de Galles hotel near the Champs Elysées. It was just steps away from the Louis Vuitton store which we frequented several times and just a few minute walk to the Arc de Triomphe which is such a beautiful landmark. It’s right next door the Four Seasons too so catching a taxi was really easy and the area was super clean and safe.

fashion blogger mia mia mine at cafe de marly in parisH&M Sweater | Revolve Skirt | Zara White Biker Jacket | Chanel Combat Boots (available in my shop) | Nolabel Hair Clip | Celine Sunglasses (similar here, better for budget here)

Best Areas To Stay: We stayed off the Champs Elysées – which we loved because it was near great shopping, but overall pretty quiet and not too congested. The other area we considered staying was near the Place Vendôme which also has a lot of the best shopping nearby, however, it is much more congested.

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a camel coat at the jardin des tuileries in parisPrivacy Please Olive BodysuitSimilar Camel Coat (better for budget here) | Revolve SkirtStuart Weitzman Over-The-Knee BootsGucci Velvet BagGivenchy SunglassesSimilar Chandelier Earrings

How Long To Stay: There are so many things to do in Paris, it honestly felt a bit overwhelming. We wanted to do and see everything, but we just didn’t have enough time. We ended up extending our trip by a day just to squeeze in a little more, but we could have easily extended it by a few more days to see everything. We were there for five nights in total – which ended up being a good amount for us. As much as we loved Paris, we were ready to get back to a regular work schedule and back home to our dogs. We also know that we’ll be getting back there sooner than later. Had it been more of a once in a lifetime trip, we definitely would have wanted to stay for a week at least.

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a balmain blazer at a cafe in parisBalmain Blazer (better for budget here) | Alix NYC Black BodysuitZara Black DenimGolden Goose Leopard SneakersGucci Velvet Bag | Celine Sunglasses (similar here, better for budget here) | Similar Earrings (better for budget here)

Favorite Restaurants: There were so many great restaurants on our list to try and we definitely didn’t make it to all of them! The ones we loved most were L’Avenue and Hôtel Costes – which are owned by the same company so the menus are almost the same. We preferred the atmosphere of L’Avenue more because we were able to sit outside on the patio with the Eiffel Tower glistening behind us. It made for a pretty magical dining experience and the food was amazing. The sea bass and yellow tail were two of our favorite dishes. Popular tourist spots for breakfast that we went to were Ladurée, Café de Flore and Le Café Marly at the Louvre. All were great, but Café de Flore felt the most authentically Parisian. We had their famous Croque Monsieurs and hot chocolate – which was incredible.

fashion blogger mia mia mine with husband phil thompson at the eiffel tower in parisSimilar Camel Coat (better for budget here) | Alix NYC Black Bodysuit | Blank Denim PantsChanel Bag | Celine Sunglasses (similar here, better for budget here) | Alexandre Birman Heels

Best stores: As much as I love shopping, I didn’t want to make our trip all about shopping since it was our first time in Paris and there are so many sights to see. Of the stores we went to, the Louis Vuitton flagship on Champs Elysées and the Chanel Flagship (31 Rue Cambon) were the best experience. The Louis Vuitton flagship was huge and the art installations are amazing. The Chanel flagship is home to the apartment of Coco Chanel and you can take photos on the famous stairs leading up to her apartment. The one store we didn’t get to, but I wish we had was Celine (53 Avenue Montaigne). Unfortunately, we planned to go there on Sunday without realizing that location is closed on Sundays. Another must-see is Galeries Lafayettes Paris-Haussmann with over 750,000 square feet of retail heaven.

fashion blogger mia mia mine with husband phil at the eiffel tower in parisRevolve Sweater Dress (better for budget here) | Chanel Bag | Leather Beret | Similar Earrings

Top Attractions: The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre were top on our list of must-sees in Paris. They were even more impressive in person! The Arc de Triomphe was stunning in person especially around sunrise when the sun really lit it up. The Tuileries Garden was magical this time of year with the leaves changing. We went there several times given how close it is to the Louvre and shopping. Also near the Louvre was the Jardin du Palais Royal – which is famous for those black and white striped columns. Walking along the Seine was so magical especially around sunset. A couple of nights, we walked along the Seine in front of the Eiffel Tower – which was just stunning. The Trocadéro Gardens offer a great view of the Eiffel Tower especially around sunrise- many of the Eiffel Tower photos on Instagram are taken there. One night, we ventured out toward the Montmarte district to see Moulin Rouge. It was fun to see such an iconic show, but it was a bit lackluster and probably not something we’d recommend doing.

A few attractions that we missed, but will definitely do next time we’re in Paris are: the Musee d’Orsay, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Palace of Versailles and a river cruise down the Seine.

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a louis vuitton shawl and a white sweater dress from revolve in parisLouis Vuitton Shawl (also here) | Revolve Sweater Dress (better for budget here) | Christian Louboutin Heels (better for budget here) | Givenchy Sunglasses (better for budget here) | Chanel Bag

Pros To Shopping In Paris

Most French designer items are 20% to 30% less in France than in the US – which makes sense because they don’t have to pay import fees. As a consumer, you can take advantage of that, and while you likely won’t realize the full amount because you’ll have to pay a small duty at US customs, you’ll still be spending less overall. Additionally, goods in Europe include VAT of 20% and you get to claim a portion of that back before departing the country (you end up getting 10.8% to 12% back). Since the Euro to USD conversion rate is about 1.1 currently, we just knew the sticker price of items was about what we’d pay in USD. So on a 2,000 Euro bag we’d end up paying around $2,000 USD after the tax refund. That made shopping a lot easier!

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a leather jacket and a chanel bag in parisKate Spade Leather Jacket (similar here, better for budget here) | Equipment Shirt (wearing an XS, better for budget here) | Anine Bing Lace BraletteBlank Denim PantsChanel Bag | Celine Sunglasses (similar here, better for budget here) | Christian Louboutin Heels (similar here, better for budget here)

Cons To Shopping In Paris

One thing that I didn’t even think about was the limited inventory at the hottest designer stores. Louis Vuitton was by far and away the busiest store (there was always a 15-20 minute wait just to get into the store). All of that traffic from global tourists meant that the most popular items were often sold out. I had quite a few bags on my wish list and they were sold out throughout France. Many of the pieces I requested had been sold out for months. Phil and I had always planned to buy his and hers Louis Vuitton luggage and we did end up getting some of that there. At Chanel, most of the classic flap bags were sold out in neutral colors (black, beige, white etc) and the smaller sizes were all sold out. I had a couple of classic bags and backpacks on my wish list, but had no luck.

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a balmain blazer and golden goose sneakersBalmain Blazer (better for budget here) | Alix NYC Black BodysuitZara Black DenimGolden Goose Leopard SneakersGucci Velvet Bag | Celine Sunglasses (similar here, better for budget here) | Similar Earrings (better for budget here)

When To Shop In Paris

At both Louis Vuitton and Chanel, they informed that they get small deliveries almost daily – so if a particular bag is on your wish list, your best chances at getting it is first thing in the morning. At Louis Vuitton they said, the first person in line is typically someone knowledgeable about the process and often gets in the store first, buys the most-requested items and then they’re sold out that fast. The same goes for other top French brands like Chanel and Hermes.

Traditionally, stores are not open on Sundays in France. That said, the more popular tourist areas like the Champs Elysées stay open and the Chanel flagship was open on Sunday.

The best time of year to shop in Paris depends on what you’re after, but for Chanel, it’s best to shop as soon as a new collection hits the floor. The next deliveries would be November and then January. The savings are almost worth the trip alone! Most bags were $1,000 – $1,500 less than in the U.S.

fashion blogger mia mia mine at the louvre in paris

What Is VAT

VAT is a value-added tax that is included in the price of all goods and services in France. It’s a consumption tax that as a tourist, you are eligible to get back. The rules for getting VAT back at the airport are pretty strict – you must have your documents with you, you must not use the item before presenting it to the tax officers (in the event that you have to do so – we did not have to) and you must be leaving the country within 21 days of making your purchase.

The VAT rate is technically 20%, however, as a tourist, you do not get back all of the VAT included in the price of goods because all retailers use a third party which takes a percentage. You either get 12% of you purchase back on a credit card or 10.8% if you’d like it back in cash.

Who Qualifies For A VAT Refund?

To qualify for a VAT refund, you need to be 16 years or older and have spent more than 175 Euros in one store. To be safe, I recommend only planning on receiving a VAT refund for stores that have prepared your documents in advance.

Almost all luxury stores will prepare your tax refund documents (VAT “Detaxe” forms) at the time of your purchase. You MUST have your passport with you so be sure to have it on hand when you are shopping. You will need to decide how you’d like to be refunded (either cash or credit) as that depends on how they fill out the refund paperwork. We opted for to have our credit cards refunded. By doing a credit refund, you can avoid having to wait in line to receive your cash refund at the airport.

Once at the airport, find the Tax Refund area before you check your bags in. If you have a bar code on your completed form, you can just scan your receipts at the PABLO kiosk – which is the equivalent of getting a stamp from a customs officer without the hassle. We were surprised by how easy the whole process was. We didn’t wait in line, we just walked up to a PABLO kiosk, scanned our receipts, checked how we wanted to be refunded and we were done. I received the credit back to my card within a few days of arriving home. If you don’t have a barcode, you will need to wait in line to meet with a customs officer to claim your refund.

How US Customs Works

Individuals get an $800 duty-free spending limit, which if you’re buying luxury, you will be over. Every customs checkpoint is going to be different and many just use their discretion. We went through US customs in Dublin and did not have to handle our checked baggage (they just look at photos of your checked bags) so it was totally up to us to declare what we bought. We were honest and had our receipts handy since we had just used them to get our tax refunds in Paris. I know there are still quite a few people that don’t declare at their own risk, however, the majority of messages I received from you guys, you said you were honest and paid nothing or less than you expected. It helps to have all of your receipts ready and be polite to the customs officers. Our officer charged us the minimum 3% duty while he could have charged us up to 12%. Technically, US customs could have access to the VAT refund documents issued by France and come back for duties later once you’re back home. I read horror stories online of that happening to people or even worse, their items getting confiscated at customs. Honesty is the best policy, in my opinion.

fashion blogger mia mia mine wearing a burberry trench coat and a burberry scarf in londonBurberry Scarf (similar here, better for budget here) | Burberry Trench Coat (better for budget here) | ASTR Black Turtleneck SweaterBlank Denim Leggings | Gucci Sneakers (better for budget here and here) | Saint Laurent Bag | Givenchy Sunglasses (better for budget here)

Highlights From London

As I mentioned, we only spent a couple of days in London and I ended up getting sick there so we definitely did not do as much as we had planned. Seeing Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard were among the top touristy things we did. The London Eye, Tower Bridge, MI6 (we’re big James Bond fans) and Westminster Abby were all stops we enjoyed seeing as well. Trafalgar Square was overrun with climate change protestors and Big Ben is covered in scaffolding until 2020 so we unfortunately did not get to appreciate those areas. For restaurants, top on my list was Novikov restaurant for their famous cheese wheel pasta – which was amazing. It was probably our favorite meal during our entire Europe trip. In terms of shopping, Harrod’s was a must-see with over one million square feet of retail selling space. It houses everything from Louis Vuitton and Chanel to a butcher and florist.

xo, Maria

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