I brought notebooks for them and we took a few moments for them to sketch some of the sculptures and paintings they saw. Do NOT attempt to bring a stroller in the Louvre unless it is a light umbrella stroller, because there are many half floors, the elevators are slow as molasses and you’ll end up carrying it up dozens of flights of stairs. They have free strollers you can use, so you might be tempted, but do yourself a favor and don’t.
- National Geographic Kids: http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/places/find/france/
- Famous French People: A simple overview of some influential Frenchmen/women http://www.earlystart.co.uk/esfrench1/index.htm
French Language Lessons: Here are a few sites to learn a few words in French
- Cartoonito: http://www.cartoonito.co.uk/games/french-word-fun-colours
- BBC Primary Languages: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primarylanguages/french/
- Chillola: Several categories with pictures and pronunciations: http://www.chillola.com/at/french%20starter%20page.html
- eFlash French iPhone app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learn-french-eflashapps/id393319814?mt=8
- Basic Phrases: http://french.languagedaily.com/wordsandphrases/useful-french-phrases
Family Lodging in Paris: Paris is no different than any other large city, it is nearly impossible to find a hotel/apartment that sleeps a family of 5 or more for less than $800 a night. If you only have 4 people in your family then you’ll have a much easier time, but for more than 4 people you need to look outside the city. I found the best options at Hotels.com and was able to book a great resort style room that included a full kitchen near Disneyland Paris for less than $200 a night. In order to get into the city we had to take the metro or drive in, but the red line takes you straight in and although it’s a good 40+ minute ride/drive, it saved us $400. We ended up driving and parking downtown as metro passes for a family of 5 were around 145 euro and parking was between 25 and 40 euro. I do not recommend the Louvre parking garage as it is very expensive and difficult to access, however the Cathedral of Notre Dame parking was extremely easy to access and quite reasonably priced (not to mention a free bathroom right as you exit the garage).
NOTE: Only drive in to the city if you are a great defensive driver as there are no real lanes, cars merge quickly without warning, but even worse are the motorcycles. They are everywhere and they ride right on the line weaving in and out of traffic mere inches from being smashed. If you are not comfortable driving in these conditions, then book a hotel closer to the city and take the metro in. Although it will be considerably more expensive, your trip will be considerably more enjoyable.
Eating with Kids in Paris: Most hotels charge more than 10 euro per person for breakfast so bringing your own is definitely the most cost-friendly option. We stopped at a local bakery each morning to purchase fresh pastries.
When in France, you MUST buy some fresh croissants (try the chocolate filled ones!) they are simply amazing and while you’re there you’ll find plenty of yummies to eat. All the bakeries we went to gave the kids free samples too. Crepes at an outdoor cafe are a must in Paris as are macaroons (try the lemon ones!)
For lunch you can save money by packing your own picnic lunch, but there are also lots of food options near the Louvre (including McDonalds). Your best bet with kids is to find a cafe with outdoor seating, a bakery or food stand rather than an indoor sit-down restaurant (there are plenty near the major tourist attractions). You can simply look through the window to determine if it’s going to be a good fit for your children, if they have white tablecloths and wine glasses on the tables, it’s probably not the best place. Any cafe with outdoor seating is desirable, we found one with a great view of the Eiffel Tower and they turned on heaters for us. BTW, don’t expect restaurants to have high chairs or booster seats, most won’t. Just set the little ones on your lap or in a stroller.
My last visit to Europe I had to pay for bottled water everywhere and had to specify “no gas” because they love their carbonated water. Tap water has become more acceptable and I had no problem getting free tap water at the places we ate. As with most European restaurants, you must signal when you are ready to leave, they will typically not bring you a check until you ask for it. Most cafe’s in the touristy spots have American menu’s including hamburgers and fries for kids. If you’re not very brave yourself, try the French Onion Soup, it’s excellent, and although not exotic, it’s still French.
Sample 3-day Itinerary (for children ages 3-6)
The most important thing when planning your trip is to be flexible. With small children anything can go wrong and you don’t want to get too worn out the first day. Try to plan no more than two major sites a day and if you are able to fit more in, great!
If you really want to see everything, then you should book a 2-day hop-on hop-off bus tour. The first day, ride around and see everything. The second day, get off on the sites you are most interested in exploring in more depth. We chose to see the Louvre and Eiffel Tower first because those were our top sights and we wanted to make sure we got them in. Then we added one or two sights the next day based on how much energy we had left and drove the sights we were to tired to get out and explore.
We walked Paris because our kids are used to walking around a lot, however if you have small ones or this is your first time taking them out as tourists, you should opt for a metro pass.
One other sight (Pantheon, Sacre Coeur or Arc du Triomphe)
Palace of Versailles
Near the Louvre: If you walk from the Louvre towards the Arc du Triomphe you will pass through an enormous park, Jardin des Tuileries. In this park are several playthings for kids, climbing structures, built in trampolines, slides, etc…
Near the Eiffel Tower: Alongside the river Seine near the Eiffel Tower there is a free playground for children. There are also more playgrounds at the Parc du Champs.
Near Cathedral of Notre Dame:
If you walk around the side of the cathedral, you will find a free children’s playground. It’s also a great place to feed the birds.