10 Questions for My Friends Who Just Took Their Kids To Paris
When you think of who makes a big trip to Paris, the greatest city in the world, you imagine college students, couples who are about to get engaged, travelers who have waited their whole lives to go. You probably don’t think of parents with young children. But my friends Katie and Daniel recently took their 3- and 5-year-old kids to Paris. I was surprised, impressed, and excited to follow Katie’s Instagram stories to see just how the trip would unfold.
Katie and Daniel are wonderful, adventurous, hard-working parents, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that they brought their kids along. The day that Katie shared a photo of her son Desmond napping on the stairs at Sacre Coeur, I decided I needed to know more. Was the picture of the sleeping angel a tuckered-out trooper, or was it the result of a total meltdown? I needed to know if it was actually possible to bring your small children along on a dream vacation, and enjoy it, and if so, how? I needed all the answers and tips. Since they’re always up for an adventure, they were on board to answer 10 of my most burning questions.
Family: Daniel and Katie, Olive (age 5), Desmond (age 3)
Duration of trip: 5 nights in Paris
How did you prepare for your trip differently than if it would have just been you and Daniel?
“I definitely googled ‘Paris with kids’ and visited some blogs to see what general themes emerged from other travelers and to consider what might be age-appropriate for our kids. We knew going in that this trip with the kids would be different than a trip we’d plan for the two of us. Our plan was that the foundation of our trip would be comprised of playgrounds, parks and croissants, and we would be flexible in layering in other cultural destinations depending on the vibe that day. We also knew we needed to build in time for midday naps or quiet time. From there, we considered what destinations to add to the list that Daniel and I were interested in that could also be fun for the kids. For example, this was not the right age to visit the Louvre, do walking tours, or even go up in the Eiffel Tower, but we did a picnic at the Champ de Mars just below the Eiffel Tower which was just fine.”
Were the kids excited? Did they know Paris was PARIS!?
“We definitely began hyping up the trip as soon as the Airbnb was booked. We borrowed the Madeline books from the library and got this cute Paris Puzzle from Kido Chicago which allowed us to point out the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Seine River — all of which we were going to see in person. We also began working on our French, which Daniel and I had both taken in High School and some college but hadn’t revisited in awhile. The kids were saying hello, goodbye, please, thank you, and – most importantly – “I would like a croissant please!” in French.”
Where did you stay?
“We shared a smart 1-bedroom Airbnb in the Latin Quarter (5th Arrondissement). The apartment was small but functional with a full kitchen set-up, and we really chose it for the location. We liked that it was walkable to Luxembourg Gardens and Jardin des Plantes (which we didn’t end up visiting), lots of playgrounds, the Seine River, Notre Dame, the Jussieu metro station, and lots of cafes, restaurants and shopping. We absolutely loved the location. We had so much within walking distance, and it felt like a very family friendly neighborhood with lots of kids at the playgrounds and families at restaurants (on the early side, like us).”
How was it getting around the city with kids?
“It was easy! We knew we wanted to walk most everywhere, so we made sure to bring two strollers (that are easily collapsible and light). Literally the only time I decided to skip the strollers (because we were walking .3 of a mile to a restaurant), the cacophony of whining assured me that strollers are indeed a necessity. We purchased day passes for public transit, which could be used on the bus and train. We took the bus to the Eiffel Tower, which was easy and not crowded, and another day we took a train and a bus to Montmarte to visit Sacre Coeur. The metro was packed full of people, but they created space for our family and even offered a seat to Daniel who was carrying a sleeping Desmond. Desmond ended up nestled on the shoulder of a lovely stranger who insisted we not move him.
Our splurge in the transit area was to use the app Welcome Pickups for the ride to and from the airport. It was super easy to schedule, and it was invaluable to have our friendly driver waiting for us once we made it through customs and baggage claim after a sleepless flight (sleepless for me and Daniel mostly). “
Did you and Daniel have any “Well, this isn’t a kid-friendly activity, but we’re going to drag them along anyway” type of plans?
“I really wanted to see Sacre Coeur and explore Montmarte, but I wasn’t sure how the kids would do on this big excursion that involved trains, buses, and lots of steps and hills. They ended up doing great. We took a packed train to Montmarte and transferred to a bus — all of which was smooth. Before tackling Sacre Coeur, we visited an incredible patisserie Pain Pain for (more) croissants and pastries. Then we made our way to Sacre Coeur where we found a playground at the base of the steps. Surprisingly, the kids made it all the way up the steps to Sacre Coeur, so we could enjoy the breathtaking view of Paris. We enjoyed an incredible lunch at Au Bercail nearby, and the kids were completely exhausted for the trip home.”
What was your best, most enjoyable day in Paris?
“All of our days were enjoyable, but one of the most lovely days was our first full day which happened to be Mother’s Day (which isn’t a thing in Paris). We were out the door by mid-morning to visit La Maison d’Isabelle, just a few blocks away, a bakery that received “The Best Croissant of Paris” designation in 2018. We took our still warm, incredibly buttery and flaky croissants and coffees to the playground at Arenes de Lutece, where the kids played alongside kids from the neighborhood. After a bit, we walked through the Arenes de Lutece (historic Roman amphitheater surrounded by gardens) where we stumbled upon a child’s Batman-themed birthday party in the gardens and a pickup game of soccer in the amphitheatre.
From there, we walked down picturesque Rue Monge to Marche Monge, an amazing street market with an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, sea foods, cured meats, prepared foods, and other vendors. We picked up eggs, vegetables, apples, cheeses and meats to take back to our apartment for lunch and meals throughout the week. While the kids napped at the apartment, we enjoyed wine on the balcony.
After their nap, we walked to Luxembourg Gardens, a huge and gorgeous park, where we watched people push their boats across the pond. Then we enjoyed some crepes, Orangina (for the kids) and cocktails (for the parents) at the restaurant on-site (La Terrasse de Madame). On our leisurely walk back to the apartment, we admired the beautiful Pantheon (from the outside). We had dinner at the apartment and crashed early. It was perfect.”
Did the kids enjoy French cuisine?
“While I wouldn’t classify our kids as picky eaters, we learned quickly that they were less inclined to try new foods here (“But Croque Monsieur is just ham and cheese! You love ham and cheese!”), and we would be totally fine if they ate baguette and butter for their meal. We kept our Airbnb stocked with fresh fruits, veggies and cheeses procured at outdoor markets as well as the supermarket beneath our apartment. I was amazed at how fresh, delicious and affordable the produce was. A piece of gruyere that would have been $10 in the U.S. was 2 euro. Even the kids commented that the frozen chicken nuggets from the supermarket were the best they’d ever had.”
Were you able to budget or did you find yourselves splurging on the kids in the name of a once-in-a-lifetime vacation?
“Yes, we largely stuck to our budget. We prepared at least one or two meals at our Airbnb every day, and the groceries, in many cases, were of higher quality and lower prices than stateside. We mostly enjoyed coffee at home too. The meals we enjoyed at restaurants often ranged from 50 to 80 Euros, including drinks, and we went out for ice cream at Amorino on a few occasions. Our biggest spending day was when we went to the department store BHV to pick out some moderately priced gifts for family and we let each kid pick out a pair of special sandals. Desmond, of course, picked out Crocs.”
Was the trip stressful?
“I think if we had packed our days with scheduled activities, it would have been stressful. I think the most stressful part for me was making sure we were aware of all the COVID protocols for flying and filling out the required documentation for the flights. We gave ourselves plenty of time on our travel days, and I definitely underestimated how much time Customs would take on both sides which wasn’t stressful but incredibly exhausting for the kids and for us.”
Would you do it again at their respective ages, or wait until they’re older?
“Absolutely! I think we tailored the trip (and our expectations) well for the kids at this age, and everyone is eager to go back. The kids say they miss our tiny “Paris apartment”, and I think we could have another great trip to explore new destinations in the city as well as revisit some of our favorites from this trip. And of course I’d love to go back just with Daniel for dinners out and more cultural experiences.”
Thanks so much for sharing, Daniel and Katie! As it turns out, a trip to one of the most beautiful cities in the world with little kids is absolutely possible, and highly recommended. As all parents know, having “tailored expectations” is key to being able to enjoy whatever adventure you set out on. Big thanks to Katie and Daniel for sharing such valuable insight! Now, off to plan our next adventure.
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