As many of you know, we took our children to Paris for 8 days over April vacation and instead of trying to blog as I went, I decided to totally focus on the trip and take lots of good notes along the way. Our children are ages 11, 9, and 7. My connection to France goes back to 1992, when I landed in Paris to spend my junior year abroad. I lived with a family in Rouen, which is the 9th largest city in France and is in the Normandy region. While in France, I attended the local university and still consider that year to be one of the best in my life. My husband and I have been back several times, and my adoration for the French people, the food, and the culture runs deep. As you can imagine, I was very excited to show France to my own children. We specifically planned to spend all of our time in Paris with the exception of one overnight in Rouen to visit my French “parents”. There is so much to do in Paris itself, and we were worried about overwhelming the kids. I’m very glad in hindsight that we made this choice.
If you are considering a trip to Paris with children, I recommend doing some advance planning to ensure your trip is a success for the entire family. Here are a few tips I hope you will find helpful.
1. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself and/or your spouse about your expectations for the trip. If your goal is to have your children see twelve museums in four days and come home bragging that they stood in line for two hours to see the Mona Lisa, you might want to re-think things a bit. We were consistently amazed by the little things that made our kids smile during the trip, starting with the free red blanket wrapped in plastic that they each found in their seats for the overnight flight. Traveling to a city of this magnitude with young children requires having appropriate expectations. If you wake them up
at the crack of dawn, looking like Julie McCoy with a clipboard in your hand listing the days’ activities, be prepared for them to mumble, “I’m so tired. It’s vacation. Can’t we sleep a bit longer?” For wee ones, the sensory overload of being in a foreign country combined with the jet-lag is very tiring. We started each day with my husband making a run to the patisserie for fresh croissants and cranking up the awesome coffee maker in the apartment. We vowed to just “go with it,” knowing full well that if it had been just the two of us, we would have been up and out as early as possible. Once we got going, my kids found such joy in activities that would make children anywhere happy such as sailing boats in Luxembourg Garden, jumping on trampolines in The Tuileries, and ordering hot crepes from a stand in The Latin Quarter.
2. Figure out where you want to stay and consider renting an apartment. This was hands-down the best decision we made before going. We rented through Air B + B, and it was so incredible to live in a neighborhood among the locals and to have our own kitchen, a big bathroom, and a washer and dryer. Eating out in Paris is very expensive, never mind that many kids are picky eaters. Your kids will be very tired after a day out sightseeing. We ate 4 dinners in our apartment and enjoyed breakfast there every morning. It made it so much more relaxing for all of us. We had way more space to spread out than a hotel room would have offered us. Never mind that our apartment rental averaged about $300/night and was in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Paris. I’m not sure I will ever stay in a hotel again with my kids.
3. Buy some good books to get your wheels turning. I ordered two books for my husband and I, and one for the kids which was a big hit.
Here are the books I bought:
–The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris With Children: Eat, Shop, Stay http://www.amazon.com/Little-Bookroom-Guide-Paris-Children/dp/1892145987/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1398704224&sr=8-2&keywords=paris+with+kids
-For the kids, I bought Lonely Planet Not For Parents Paris. My kids loved reading this, and it gave them some ownership of the trip and understanding Paris. http://www.amazon.com/Lonely-Planet-Not-Parents-Paris/dp/1742208177/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398704366&sr=8-1&keywords=paris+for+kids
4. Write up a loose schedule of things you want to do. Be flexible. It was definitely good to have 1-2 structured activities planned for each day. If you plan to eat out for lunch, take the time to visit sites like Trip Advisor or email everyone you know who has spent time in Paris. Try to pick suitable spots to dine near where you will be sightseeing. Writing up a schedule also helps you to choose things close to one another so that you aren’t crisscrossing the city every day.
5. Buy Metro passes, buy museum passes. We bought 5-day Metro passes. I love using public transportation when we travel because it is an easy way for your kids to see how real people live in a big city. The best thing we bought in advance was the Paris Museum pass. You get VIP entrance into most of the museums and monuments, entering through a totally different line. The lines are LONG in Paris, and this will make a big difference. Visit the official Paris tourism website for all of the information on both the Metro and the Museum Pass: http://en.parisinfo.com/ Note that you can easily pick these up in Paris upon arrival.
Happy planning! Next Post: Paris Sights With Kids