Over the Thanksgiving break, we enjoyed a vacation in Paris with kids, and wow, I’m still thinking about our amazing time. I have to admit that I was worried taking my family of six to Europe for the first time, but thanks to lots of research and planning, we had quite a memorable visit, even in the cold, rainy weather.
If you’re planning to travel to Paris with kids, or have been wondering if it’s doable (and let’s be honest, enjoyable), here are my tips, tricks, and helpful advice that I hope make things easier for you.
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1. Rent an apartment in a smart location
I’m fortunate to have a few friends who travel frequently to Paris, so they offered helpful advice in terms of where to stay with my family. Le Marais was a popular choice, as was the Latin Quarter. We opted for a small apartment in the Marais, which we found through Homeaway, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled with the location. We were in the middle of everything, with two Metro lines within five minutes, attractions within walking distance (Hello, Louvre – above, also Notre Dame, and most importantly, Berthillion), and of course, the busy, trendy neighborhood right outside our door.
The apartment itself had a kitchenette and a washer and dryer, which allowed us to keep our food costs down, and keep our packing on the light side (to save room for all the things we bought). It was definitely on the small side, but we were rarely ever in the apartment, save to rest our feet and sleep, so even for our family of 6, a spot that was just a few beds, a couch, table, and bathroom (plus the kitchen, of course) was enough.
Do your research to ensure your accommodations will be comfortable for your family, but also, well positioned so that you’re not walking a long way (or having to take an Uber or taxi) to get to a Metro line or any of your must-see destinations. Those are deal breakers when you’re traveling with kids.
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2. Plan actual things to do vs things to see
Even with teenagers, I was very careful to plan actual activities for my family. I’d like to say my kids would have loved to walk through all the amazing museums, but heck, even I don’t love to do that. So, I kept my expectations reasonable and booked some activities to mix with the “looking at pretty paintings on the wall.”
Instead of just walking through the Louvre, we did a scavenger hunt with THATMuse which was so much fun (highly recommended, especially if you’re a competitive family). We took a bike tour with Fat Tire bike tours (also highly recommended, even in the cold), which allowed us to see lots of the sights of the city I didn’t think we would be able to hit in our 5-day visit. I hear their night tour is fantastic, but it was a bit too cold for us to partake.
Your kids will not suddenly become museum people when you get to Europe, so the more you can plan for them to do, the more enjoyable it will be for all of you.
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3. Be cool with splitting up.
As a family of six, it’s probably no surprise that things start to get pretty expensive. That’s why I decided to split everyone up so not everyone had to do everything. And to my joy, there was not one bit of fear of missing out (FOMO).
My son (the soccer fan) went to a Paris Saint-Germain soccer game (or um, football game). I took two of my girls (the ballet fans) to see the Paris Opera Ballet. My two youngest kids took a cooking class at Cook’n with Class while my oldest kids (who actually really like museums) went to the Army Museum (and got caught in a protest). What we found was that it still felt like family time, but everyone got to do something special while keeping within our budget.
Even if you don’t have four kids, it will give you some individual time with your kids, and let’s be honest here, a break, which is actually good for everyone’s mental health.
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4. Don’t be afraid to be spontaneous, and try new things
I had a pretty set plan for our trip, with games and events and all sorts of scheduled things, but I was also open to veering off course, like spending an entire afternoon at the Christmas Market playing carnival games and riding rides. Granted, there was the incentive of roasted chestnuts and mulled wine and cider for me, but still, my kids probably had the most fun trying to win a selfie stick at this one game. (Spoiler: They won! Two, in fact).
You’ll probably find all sorts of events and happenings while you’re in Paris that are not on your list and I say, don’t just brush them off because you’ve got something important you have to see. More times than not, the building you wanted to admire or museum you wanted to visit will take you way less time than you had allotted (because yay kids).
Also, you’re in a new city! It’s the perfect time to do, see, or eat something you might not do, see, or eat at home. (Escargot, I’m looking at you). I always find my kids are more adventurous when we’re away from home so I take advantage of that. Even I branched out and got on a ferris wheel (above) which I’d generally just pass on at home.
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5. Just suck it up and do a touristy thing. Or two.
I debated whether we should have dinner in the Eiffel Tower because it sounded a little cheesy to be honest. There are so many amazing restaurants in Paris so why spend all the money on the one in the Eiffel Tower. But then my friend told me that she always remembers her meal in the Eiffel Tower, even though it was probably 20 years ago, so I sucked it up and spent the money.
So it turns out that kids are pretty reasonable at 58 Tour Eiffel (the first floor restaurant), and it’s pretty darn magical. I’m pretty sure it was one of my son’s favorite moments of the whole entire trip, and well, mine too. We posed for the photos (which we have hung on our wall), we ate the little Eiffel Tower cookie, and we enjoyed a wonderful fancy sit-down dinner inside one of the coolest landmarks in the world. Totally worth it.
And one last reminder: You just won’t be able to see or do everything. And to me, it’s not worth busting your butt to do so. We skipped a bunch of popular spots (Musee D’Orsay, Sacre Coeur, and Centre Pompidou, just to name a few) that I imagine we all would have liked. No Angelina hot chocolate either. But that’s okay! It’s just a great reason to go back to this wonderful city again, and see everything you missed the first time.
There was nothing sponsored about this trip. Just sharing my amazing family travel experience. Got questions? Leave them in the comments!
Love this post, Kristen, and your advice about traveling to Paris with kids. We recently moved here with 3 kids from the US and were completely overwhelmed with all there is to see and do! You hit it on the head with limiting what you do, dividing and conquering, and trying something new. Our family has been trying to do exactly that! It sounds like you got to see so many wonderful things while here AND expose your kids to a good, ole French protest. Glad the Gilets Jaunes didn’t ruin any of your plans.
There’s a weekly metro commuter pass that makes travel quite affordable. It’s meant for commuters, but tourists can get one too. Some planning is needed, as a passport-sized picture is required per person. Another tip: The Mission Paris scavenger book was a big hit with my kids.