3 Best Tips For A Trip To Paris With Young Kids, Based On My Recent Experience.
I was really nervous, to be honest. I mean, this was a BIG trip. 3 nights in Paris, 3 nights in Provence (I will recap that separately), long days of travel on either side, with a 4 year old and 8 year old in tow. But on a whim almost a year ago, I had said that for my 40th birthday, instead of a big party, I wanted to do a family trip. To Paris. Not sure why it struck me as the thing to do- but it did. So…We did. And it was off the charts AMAZING! Yup. It really was. And I didn’t expect it to be.
There are so many things I want to write about regarding the trip- things that I would have loved to read when preparing for it myself- what we loved, what we didn’t love, how we packed, insider insights based on experience- I don’t even know where to begin. So, since I always love a concise list (as should you, since it reigns me in from writing like 100 pages), I am going to start with 3 stand-out moments/learnings, should you find yourself considering traveling to Paris with kids:
1- Push through the first 12 hours. We landed around 8am, and spent the morning hanging at the hotel- nobody napped, and I was antsy to get out, but we had a feeling the downtime would pay off. It did. We emerged around 2pm, at which point the kids were ready to explore. We started with a 3pm private boat ride on the Seine to see the city, followed by a guided visit to the Eiffel Tower- advance tickets and being there with said guide allowed us access to shorter lines which, was major (more on the tour company we used below). By 6:30pm, we were BEAT, and all we wanted to do was go back to the hotel. But we had a dinner reservation for 7:30pm at L’Ami Jean - so we hopped in a cab and powered through a dinner that was, at moments, a complete nightmare. Not because of the restaurant- the food was INSANE and the staff was, especially by French standards, accommodating and even playful with our surly, sleepy girls- but, well, as I just mentioned, Alexa and Goldie were exhausted and, yes, surly. And buried in their iPads. Which I forced myself to be okay with. We collapsed into our room around 9pm, bleary and cranky. But guess what? Everyone woke up at 8:30am the next morning ready to go- and we never looked back. Meltdowns at dinner were a small price to play for NO JETLAG!
2- Plan less, play(ground) more. Before going, Brian spent so much time planning these incredible kid-friendly experiences (we were connected via our travel planners to Family Twist, a company that focuses on European city experiences)- and we ended up scrapping 50% of the bookings. The “tourist” things we did were great (on the day we arrived- Tuesday- We also did a walking food tour on Wednesday morning that was nice- it was 2 hours though and I think one hour would have been sufficient for the girls- but armed with pastry, they will power through most things.) We quickly realized, however, that the parks and playgrounds and carousels strewn all over the city were the true highlights for the girls (and a great chance for Brian and I to sit down and take a breath)- so we spent many hours at Champ de Mars and the Jardin de Tuileries enjoying the playgrounds, and scooter rentals, and of course, ice cream stands.
3- Hire a photographer. When I was going down the Instagram rabbit hole while getting a pedicure the day we left for our trip (I always follow Instagram hashtags before traveling, it is how I get the best inside tips- in this case, my main hashtag follow was #pariswithkids), I landed on the profile page of @theparisportraits. I sent her a DM inquiring about her services and availability- she got right back to me with info on her packages, and suggested we meet early on Wednesday morning. Since it wasn’t something I planned on in advance, we didn’t have a strategic family outfit plan, or, for that matter, an appointment for a blowout. but I decided to say YES. Not only would a professional best capture this once-in-a-lifetime trip, but, forced family photos would keep me from nagging Brian about not getting enough family photos the entire trip. Julie Theis is the photographer behind @theparisportraits- she speaks perfect English (originally from Brazil but went to college in the USA), has 2 daughters of her own (so she gets the tricky moments that happen when trying to take photos with little ones), and she is just so talented and kind. These photos are EVERYTHING, and I can’t recommend doing something like this enough- be it in Paris, or anywhere special you visit with your family. Learn more about Julie here, and my tip to find a local photog in any place you ever visit is to just follow a hashtag like #barcelonaphotographer, #miamiphotographer, whatever city it may be- you will find a ton of options!