Paris is famously the most romantic city in the world, but what happens when you throw a toddler into the mix?
Margot Black attempts to get the best of both worlds on her family trip to Paris.
What could be more romantic than spending four nights in Paris to celebrate a fifth wedding anniversary?
Well, it can get tricky when there’s an extra (and admittedly, very special) piece of luggage along for the journey: a 3-year-old toddler.
The fact is, Paris is a busy city and the people aren’t particularly kid-friendly. But as the French say, “c’est la vie” and away we went.
PLANNING IT OUT
I chose Expedia not just because it had some deals, but most importantly, we could always talk to a real person on the phone—comforting in a foreign country with a toddler.
The one glitch: our agent had never been to Paris and he didn’t have any kids.
Thus, the planning process became more involved with phone conversations and online research, resulting in a booking at the Hotel de Prony near the Arc de Triomphe, for just under $250 a night.
Though lovely, typical Parisian hotel like this can be challenging with a family.
For example, there was no elevator to the first floor (translation: drag your bags, kid and stroller up a flight or two), and the one elevator they had was advertised as being able to hold three people but in my opinion, could barely fit one skinny French lady.
In the end we loaded the luggage into the elevator and ran upstairs to meet it as the door opened.
Mom tip: If you can’t negotiate a free breakfast with your hotel rate, chances are you can find a better deal outside the hotel. At €11 per person for breakfast, we ate there once for convenience and opted to eat out the rest of the time where we could find better value and explore the city.
Although we flew into Paris we departed via high-speed train on Rail Europe, a TGV to Leon.
At $84, a monthly ticket offered the best value while allowing us to travel throughout the countryside after departing the big city.
The downside of train travel in this European city is that the elevators are few and far between, so expect to drag your luggage around.
The extra bonus of the rail pass is that it provides discounts elsewhere, including the City Rama Paris L’Open Tour Pass.
The big hit with our son was the Hop On Hop Off Bus. The top level is open-air, so you really get to see the city and we spent two days viewing Paris from this lofty perch.
More Mom Tips: A Traveling Mom’s Tips For Visiting London With Kids
Mom tip: Paris is a sprawling city and there’s no shortage of ways to get around. Walking with a stroller is easy enough, but with access to buses, trains, and river boats, it’s wise to combine all forms of transport as an easy way to entertain a toddler.
NAVIGATING THE ICONS
With the bus ticket came a free pass to with a free pass to every museum in Paris, so it made sense for our first stop to be the Louvre.
Our son fell in love with the Egyptian room which featured tombs, mummies and drawings. Of course, one of the occupational hazards of touring Paris are the many naked statues that seem to be on every street corner.
Our son pointed at the male parts of one statue and declared very innocently, ‘Look, Mama, his pee-pee’s out.” Something we will never forget, nor will those that were around us.
Museums are great kid experiences, just be prepared to answer a lot of questions on anatomy.
Mom tip: Though large museums can be overwhelming for any age, keep your kid engaged by focusing your tour on specific exhibits.
It would have been a crime to visit Paris and not take in the view from the Eiffel Tower.
But be warned: although there are lots of fun things to do at ground level such as play in the parkChamp-de-Mars, the line to get up the Eiffel Tower is crowded and not very well organized.
We timed our visit for early evening thinking it might be less busy around dinner time but it was packed, and annoyingly, there’s nothing to tell you how long your wait will be.
There are no markers or people along the way to tell you from this point on average 45 minutes. Hello, Paris? Haven’t you been doing this long enough?
Ultimately, it took us more than an hour and a half to get up to the first level. Tourists from every nationality are there and there is very little authority, so we endured lots of pushing and shoving.
Even with my son on my husband’s shoulders, it was uncomfortable … to the point that he had to yell to the line behind us, “Stop pushing”!
Skip the crowds and relax with the locals. Check out our Ask the Locals City Guide: Paris, France
This wasn’t our idea of family fun, and I would warn against taking tiny children there. We arrived at the viewing platform, exhausted and exasperated.
Once up there of course, the views of the city at night were stunning, and we’re happy to say that we did it. Box ticked. Pictures taken. Everyone survived. Job done.
You can’t help but be impressed by the River Seine, so we took cruise on one of their water boats. This was an extraordinary highlight for all ages.
And even with a toddler in town, we couldn’t help but feel the romance. In fact, it almost made me want to conceive another one. (If I had a girl, I could name her Paris.)
Along the water theme, we spent afternoon at the Jardin du Luxembourg Park, where Jett was able to run off some energy and play in the lake with toy boats.
We rented go carts, took donkey rides and watched a puppet show. Kid nirvana.
PARISIAN DINING WITH KIDS
You don’t get kiddie meals in Paris, but most of the restaurants and bistros offer grilled cheese and pasta.
They say that you can’t get a bad meal in Paris, but I would suggest otherwise.
We opted to eat outdoors a lot, at the markets, where people were far more tolerant of a toddler. And I’m not ashamed to say that we ate at McDonalds one day to pacify our son. It was the easier option and we took it.
We did enjoy a superb meal one evening at Cafe Marly in the Louvre, when it poured with rain and Jett slept for three hours. So in the city of romance, my husband and I managed to steal a brief moment of romance – and for that we were grateful.
Mom tip: We found that it was best to eat during off-peak hours as the wait staff were more patient and had more time for us.
Top Travel Tips for Paris with Kids:
In this city, pack a picnic whenever possible. There are lots of parks, and your kids can burn off some steam at the same time.
Otherwise, long, leisurely meals at sidewalk cafes are not often toddler friendly. Plus, pocket books prefer picnics.
At the Eiffel Tower, be careful up there. It attracts many cultures, and frankly, some of them push and shove. Hang on to your kids, and let them know it might not always be orderly.
The Hop on Hop Off Bus is great way to see a city. Superb value, you’re out in the open, and you’ll never tire of the view.
As far as trains and hotel, travel as light as possible. Don’t expect elevators where, as Americans, you would traditionally expect them. Ditto for ramps.
Don’t miss the Jardin du Luxembourg, a city favorite for generations. Rarest of all in Paris, it has an area where you can actually walk on the grass (if you’re accompanied by a toddler).
By Margot Black for PeterGreenberg.com. Visit Margot on the Web at https://blackinktravelwriting.com.
Related links on PeterGreenberg.com:
- Off The Brochure Travel Guide: Paris, France
- Le Tramway & Beyond: Paris Transportation Tips
- A Traveling Mom’s Tips For Visiting London With Kids
- Paris Bargain Shopping: Flagships, Flea Markets & Outlet Malls
- Luxury Hotels, Luxury Travel & Bargain Shopping In Paris
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- Ask the Locals City Guide: Paris, France