…It was inevitable. I knew someday I would have to write about taking kids to Paris. My dear friend Mary called and asked me some advice for her short trip to Paris with family and friends. She is an amazing gal so of course I took the time to help her and now I will share my tidbits with my loyal readers.
1. Start out by taking either a double-decker bus tour or Bateaux Mouches boat tour down the River Seine. This makes it easy on the little ones who will tire easily from walking. Paris is not really a stroller friendly city so it also helps by not having to go up and down the Métro steps or escalators which break down very often.
2. Touring the Louvre Museum is a good idea but based upon the age of your child plan to only spend one hour hitting the highlights – things they will need to see at least once in their lives! If they are still engaged and in good humor keep going from there. I let my boys lay on the floor in the rooms with very interesting ceilings and admire the artwork and history displayed there. They got a kick out of laying there looking silly! Buy your tickets in advance online and try to go on a Tuesday when the museum is least crowded. Go right when the museum opens in the morning. Head directly to The Mona Lisa and work your way backwards from there. The layout of the museum is available online and you can link to it by clicking on this: http://www.louvre.fr/llv/pratique/plan.jsp?bmLocale=en
3. For a smaller, more intimate museum check out: Musée Marmottan. This museum is full of impressionistic art with a strong emphasis on Monet’s works. The fact that it was formerly a house in a wonderful neighborhood and is right next to a park where the kids can blow off some steam before or after you tour makes this a favorite for those with children.
4. If you have older teens who already drive it is a neat thing to rent a Segway and take a tour on one. Paris is very exciting by Segway. If they are really fit or want to be, another great way to tour Paris with older kids is by bicycle. Fat Tires is a company that runs both night and day tours in the city and outside of Paris by bike. It’s truly a fun, unique way to see France and get some energy out of the kids!
5. Bring lots of “American” snacks in case your child does not like the food served at the restaurants. At least they will not go to bed hungry. A good idea too is to head to a Monoprix supermarket which is a grocery store chain that has local treats and some new favorites your kids might fall in love with while there. They are all over Paris and easy to find!
6. Be forwarned that the milk tastes completely different and so does red meat so your child will need to be prepared to try new things. If all else fails, they can eat crêpes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
7. If you are there in spring or summer try the Luxembourg Gardens “Jardin du Luxembourg” which has an amazing public park and is home to a Palace with incredible gardens. This is another opportunity for your kids to get in some breathtaking sights while stretching their legs and running free! There is a café there as well.
8. Definitely try to stay in a hotel that includes breakfast. It’s generally very expensive to have breakfast out and in our experience it’s great to start the day off full in case you get caught up in touring and there is not an easy spot to stop and have lunch right away. Every street corner has a shop that sells simple sandwiches of ham and cheese – sure to please any finicky toddler.
9. Bring rain jackets with hoods as opposed to umbrellas as they are difficult to use on crowded streets, especially with young children who want to walk on their own.
10. Taking the Métro is generally safe, but do keep hold of your child’s hands and watch for pick pockets. It’s an inexpensive way to travel and most cabs will not take more than 3 people at a time anyway.
11. Let the kids help you plan the route ahead of time. Show them the maps, especially the Métro ones and let them help you figure out which way to go. Make it a game – on the way out for the day point out landmarks and street names or train stops and see if on the way home they can direct you back to the hotel.
12. Copy all of your passports and leave a photocopy of them in your hotel safe or safety deposit box in case anyone loses theirs. Write down your names, your cell numbers, the name and address of your hotel with phone number and make sure your child has this information in their pockets in case they get lost. Also include the phone number for the American Embassy. This way, should you get separated they can contact you or hand the paper to someone to help them. 911 for medical emergencies in Paris is: 112