A few months ago my husband found out he had a business trip to Paris for two days and asked if we (me and our 3 kids) wanted to tag along and make a vacation out of it. There seemed to be a million reasons why we shouldn’t go: the last week of school for my oldest son, too much going on at the office, etc. But the wanderlust in me took over and the answer quickly became “YES! Let’s make a vacation out of it.” I have not been to the City of Light in 8 years and I was ready to share all of the magic it offers with our kids. But knowing I would have two days on my own to entertain three children (ages 8, 5 and 3), I wondered what I would do to make it as fun for them as possible.
For my husband and I, the ingredients for a successful family vacation include making the kids happy, finding some alone time to reconnect, and experiencing the local culture, specifically the wine and food, in that order. On those three levels, our time in Paris was a complete success. Here are my tips to make sure your family will enjoy the perfect Parisian experience (culture included), so that you won’t feel bad about pulling your kids out of school.
Arrange a Kid-Friendly Tour at the Louvre
Because it’s the largest art museum in the world, the Louvre is where you could spend days walking through it and still not see everything. But this is a cannot-miss cultural activity for kids. Luckily, several tour companies offer private family tours or smaller group tours to cater to the young visitor’s attention span. Arranging a tour also means you get to skip the long admission line... and the impatient pleas to do something else.
Expend Energy at the Eiffel Tower
Have the kids count the stairs and get plenty of exercise (which translates into a good night’s sleep) and reward them with ice cream when they get to the first level. The snack bar also serves beer for thirsty parents, which can be enjoyed on the new turf picnic area. It’s the perfect spot to rest for a few minutes to take on the next set of stairs to the second, and highest level, you can climb. Taking the stairs versus the elevator also means a less expensive entry ticket.
Take a Cruise on the Seine to Capture Ideal Family Photo Ops
And if bubbles are your thing, be sure to book the champagne brunch. It includes a bottle for every two people in your boarding party. We scored three bottles, which made standing in line to see Notre Dame afterwards almost enjoyable.
Let Them Bounce in the Garden of Tuileries
With eight trampolines, the kids can bounce off extra energy before the next museum visit or a somewhat peaceful dinner at a café. Close to the trampolines is a playground and a carousel that offers rides while playing French nursery rhymes, which is a charming touch for all ages. And I should mention that there is an outdoor café nearby that serves beverages for the parents who want to take a few minutes to relax.
Book a Babysitting Service to Enjoy a Date Night
Your children can learn French from a local and you can enjoy a night on the town in true Parisian style. We used a company called Babysitting Services, which came at the recommendation of one of my travel advisor friends. A French date night, filled with adult conversation, food and cocktails, is as enchanting as it sounds. After all, it would be a sin to leave this city without at least a few hours of romance.
Try to Stay on Schedule with Your Time Zone at Home
Keeping the family up late, while sleeping in during the mornings makes your return to the U.S. much easier. Even if it was only an illusion, it felt amazing to wake up at 11:00 a.m., something I haven’t been able to do since my college days. This is particularly easy to do in the summer months when the sun doesn’t set until around 10 p.m. And it gives the family several chances to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.
Five Stars for Kids
Our trip was five days long and we still didn’t get to experience all of the wonderful kid-friendly things that Paris has to offer. If you’re looking for an international experience that would fit well for a young family, then follow Audrey Hepburn’s advice – “Paris is always a good idea.”