We spent our Spring Break in the area of Paris, France with our 2 kids (ages 7 and 4), and my parents! Overall, the vacation was a huge success! I’ve already commented on the accommodations at Marriott Village Ile’ De France, our flight experience with Air France, and our view of Disneyland Paris nearby. The other part of our stay, we were taking on the city of Paris itself – and then did a bonus day in Champagne Region. Having visited (and loved) Paris before having kids, we knew we had to do things in a simple way that they could handle, and find a way to make the city’s attractions we chose connect with them as much as possible. We ended up making our trip “splurge” be some private family tours – and it was worth every penny! (Note – we ate 90% of our meals in our villa ‘home cooked’ and used hotel points and other means to save on the rest of our trip!)
First of all, transportation – not staying in Paris proper, we made good use of the RER from the Disneyland Paris Marne de Valle train stop on a regular basis. We used the Paris Visite passes that we actually purchased before we left home, and these were a great value. On the days that the trains were striking, we used Taxi, Private Transfers and Uber (you can request carseats with taxis and private cars) to our destinations which all worked out well though definitely were not cheap. I should note that we did use the trains on a Sunday which was a strike day, and had no issues whatsoever – but we would not dare do it during the rush hour season when many are cancelled and trains that do run are packed! We also made good use of the metro inside Paris, which is very user friendly and extremely easy. We highly recommend using Google Maps if you have a working phone, as this will tell you precisely where to get on, get off, change trains, walk, etc. On the note of transportation – lugging strollers through the train/metro gates is a royal pain. While it was handy on long walking days for our 4yo, there were several days we told her “no stroller” (including Versailles and the day we did the Notre Dame towers) and she did just fine keeping up with a few short carries in the way. Strollers are great at Disneyland, but not on cobblestone streets and getting on and off subways at high speed in crowds, going through pedestrian turnstiles, etc. They were handy for walking tours, but certainly not necessary and more of a hindrance. For a baby, I’d recommend using a front-carrier, and lugging a toddler along when necessary or in a similar carrier on your back.
Our first tour was a chocolate tour courtesy of Meet the Locals, where we explored the Saint Germain and Left Bank region of Paris tasting all the finest chocolates, macaroons, and other pastry traditional treats the city has to offer. We also learned a ton of history along the way, about the French Revolution and even where the American Revolutionaries liked to hang out! Camille, our guide, was fantastic and our kids took to her immediately. This is my favorite area of Paris, the charm and culture are just fantastic. It is where we have stayed in the past, and, if you can make it work, where I would stay for a home base if you want to enjoy the city without having to use transportation every day. It’s convenient to major landmarks and just full of amazing food and treats. We ended our tour at a cafe across from Luxembourg Gardens, where the kids even got to make their own chocolate bar! We returned to the Gardens on a sunnier day, and these are a kid paradise as well – sailing boats on the lake, running around the clean pathways and snacking, getting fresh ice cream… true paradise for the little ones. Meet the Locals was fantastic!
Camille was a sweetheart! Making their own chocolate bars!
Our son is obsessed with this chocolate spread!
Chocolate fit for a queen!
We loved their service so much, we used Meet the Locals for our trip to Versailles. Daphne was our guide here, and she made the palace tour awesome for our kiddos, making up a character for each of us to play and pausing to teach us about our role at the various places in the tour. Our son really soaked up the history, and our daughter was just in awe of the opulence and royalty she’d long considered “her people” – she’s still scheming how to become royalty and live like that! 🙂 Daphne was flexible and accommodating, and also showed us the Carriage House at the end of our tour after a pit stop to refuel in the cafe. Her knowledge and perspective on French history were invaluable and so different from canned things we have done in the past! Another win for Meet the Locals and a kid friendly version of Versailles (the gardens here are great for them to run around and enjoy!)
Quite a chapel!
Learning all about royalty from Daphne!
She now wants to be carried around in a carriage
Daphne was amazing at engaging the kids!
For the Louvre, we used a Scavenger Hunt tour from Family Twist. Our guide, Paolo, met us outside and took us in the private entrance. An art student at the college inside the Louvre, he was absolutely fantastic at engaging the kids and making it fun. He used an iPad and lots of visuals, held our daughter’s hand throughout the whole thing, and guided the kids on a real scavenger hunt which was heaven for our 7yo. He is still citing facts weeks late ron a regular basis that he learned on this tour! We all learned os much about art that we never appreciated before, and it was a condensed but informative time in the museum for us to really take it in and appreciate what we could. We cannot recommend this tour enough, and I’m happy to book it for you as your travel agent!:)
Paolo is fantastic! Kids adored him!
Venus de Milo
Finally, when we visited the Champagne region, we also took a private tour that took us out in the vineyards, to a small Mom and Pop winery in a small village, to a traditional French lunch in Reims, and then to Reims Cathedral and Taittinger for a larger scale champagne production tour. All were fascinating and super informative!
All in all, our trip was a resounding success and the kids did great. My overall tips would be:
-While overnight flights go faster with sleeping, our kids definitely do better flying during the day, even if up a long time, as the sunlight helps them psychologically and they don’t feel nauseous or overtired like they do after a late night flight
-Economy Plus is WELL worth it (see my Long Haul Flights blog)
-When traveling, budget some splurged on private, family oriented tours that cater to kids with the sights. They are well worth it for adults too! Besides the fact the kids learn more, they also get to connect with local people and learn about them in a way you can’t in large tours or just on your own. Adventures By Disney is especially good at creating an entire vacation around this model, and I book them as well 😉
-Minimize stroller use in large cities (depending on destination) – bring for long walking days but if possible use a carrier or other more easily portable device . Gate checking strollers is very easy in the airport, though you do have to put it through the XRay machine, so simple and light is your friend!
-In some cases if you have grandparents along, it may make sense to park some of the family at a nice bench with younger kids and take the older ones on the more intense excursions.
-Metro use in Paris was very easy! Google Maps will help you immensely!
-Going to the grocery store is a fun way to show your kids local foods and explore a non touristy setting! 🙂
-Contact a Travel Agent to help you plan out your stay and do all the legwork for you! I’m always happy to help, or contact one in your local area!