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Need expert opinions -- Travel to Paris with small kids -- YES or NO?

Need expert opinions -- Travel to Paris with small kids -- YES or NO?

Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 02:24 PM
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Need expert opinions -- Travel to Paris with small kids -- YES or NO?

Our 10 year wedding anniversary is coming up and I was planning to surprise my wife with a trip to Paris. The catch -- we have 2 and 4 year old boys who would be traveling with us (leaving them at home is not an option).

My wife and I have been there before and traveled extensivelybefore kids. However, since our second was born we've only traveled from DFW to New Orleans and DFW to Philadelphia with the both of them. In both instances they were ok (not great but ok).

My friend thinks it's not a good idea and suggests somewhere nice in the States.

Your opinion and ANY advice greatly respected and appreciated. . .

Thanks.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 02:35 PM
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Well, I took my two to Paris every year from the time they were born, and not only lived to tell the tale but had a great time with them. Obviously, the trick is to plan the trip around them, not you.

Paris is full of kids. There are playgrounds and parks and loads of things for kids to do. Knowing what your kids enjoy doing, and scheduling your days around their routines for eating and sleeping, is really all you need to do.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 02:38 PM
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I think it would be great. Rent an apartment so you have lots of room, can have meals at 'home' and so they have a place of their own. They'll be more relaxed.

My sister-in-law has been to Paris several times with little kids and it was always fun.

You will make your wife VERY happy!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:07 PM
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That's exactly how old ours were on one of our trips to Paris, and I can't imagine having gone without them. It sounds like you deserve a vacation with them. Here are some tips, based on experience.

-Make sure the flights have seatback screens if at all possible. This made the flights so much easier.

-GET AN APARTMENT!!! For bread and cheese, quality down time and naps, a little TV, wine (for you two - hello!), a separate room (or rooms, depending on budget) for the kids. We used a babysitter twice, through an agency called ABABA in Paris.

-Be near a park, in our case it was the Luxembourg Gardens. I took the kids every morning early while my wife slept in. There's a playground (with a small entrance fee) that they'll love.

-Go to the Jardin de Acclimitation. If our experience is any indication, it's what they'll remember most. They still call it the "Fun and Amusement Park," and the trip was 8 years ago. (We just got back from our most recent trip, but the issues are different at 10 and 12) It has both age appropriate carnival-type rides as well as huge and wonderful play areas, with things like giant see-saws, huge rope "Eiffel Towers," long slides, spinning rope structures, a water park-type area in warm weather, a little zoo, miniature golf, a house of mirrors. . . just fantastic. Oh, and you can enter by taking a miniature train from just outside the metro station to inside the park itself.

I wish we had gone this past trip (yes, even at their age), but hey, we spent a full day at Disneyland Paris, so. . .

Finally, and this depends on you and your two year old, but we had them walk everywhere (no strollers), but I did bring a toddler backpack with me, and occasionally would pop my boy in it for walks back to the apartment - he was usually asleep within minutes.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:08 PM
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My daughter and her husband took their 5 year old daughter and 2 year old son to Paris for five nights during the first week of November. The kids had a great time, they enjoyed Angelina's yummy hot chocolate, visited the Musee de Science, rode the train at the Bois de Boulogne and of course went up the Eiffel Tower.

They took their stroller for the 2 year old so they could keep going when he was too tired to walk. They also made sure to go to dinner early so that the servers had more time to deal with little ones. They also ate at the crepe stands and bought groceries to eat in their hotel room.

My grandson still talks about "ma soeur Mimi", he had fun learning French.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:23 PM
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timsmom makes a good point about food, and reminds me of one crucial thing we did at restaurants. First, we had vowed not to avoid restaurants just because we had the kids with us.

So what we did was let our waiter know we were ordering entrees (that is, appetizers) for us parents to come at the same time as the kids' plats (main course), and then for our plats to come at the same time (or a little before) the kids' desserts. This let us cut down somewhat on the usual lengthy Paris meal time, but kept the kids busy for most of that time. Sometimes the kids' main course would be off the appetizer menu, but typically it was an omelet or a chopped steak.

This worked out so well for us at the Brasserie Ile St. Louis that we went twice. What's nice about brasseries is that they are open continuously (usually) throughout the afternoon and early evening.

We also went to Hippopotomus, a chain restaurant that is recommended for families with kids, and we all found it horrible.

You might want to try Chartier for a classic Parisien restaurant with good (though not great) food, where the prices are reasonable. We got out of there this past trip for 80 Euro for the four of us, with everyone getting 3 courses, and the wife and I splitting a large carafe of wine.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:30 PM
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Make sure the flights have seatback screens if at all possible. This made the flights so much easier

And if not available, at least take portable dvd players with extra batteries!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:35 PM
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There are so many wonderful things for kids to do in Paris, and so many parks you can take them to -- as long as you adjust your expectations to accommodate their pace, I think they and you can have a great time. All the advice you've gotten is good, especially the apartment and walking a lot with maybe a toddler backpack for the 2-year-old. Hope you have a great time!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:49 PM
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I would go somewhere in the USA and postpone this type trip when they can write about it. A 2 and 4 year- old could not care less they are in Paris, so if you are going to be limiting yourselves to parks and kids entertainment, might as well just stay in the USA where parks and kids entertainment are tops.

This is a no brainer to me...what am I missing???
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 03:51 PM
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Okay - I'll say it - NO, not a good idea. I took my kids to Europe first time at 9 & 11. Looking back, I think the youngest that would have actually been a really good trip would have been 5 & 7. I have grandchildren now who are 2 & 4. The oldest is a perfect angel but she has a hard enough time going to Canada on a 5 hour flight, much less an overnight one. The youngest is a VERY typical 2 year old who melts down in the afternoon if her nap has been disrupted or rearranged. No, I would not take my little darlings to Europe at this point.

I think the hardest thing would be the flight. I really can't imagine not sleeping - I get at least 4-5 hours on even the shortest trip so I would be horrible with less than that. And again, in my experience with my own kids and my grandkids, very young children (the 2 year old) do SO much better when they are in a routine. They really don't "go with the flow". One week at a beach condo was the BEST family trip - we did that for 7 years and EVERYONE enjoyed it.

You said it yourself - the trip from Dallas to Philly was only okay. And before anyone jumps on me, please know that if there were really good reasons to travel with the young ones - i.e. you will be living in Europe for 6 months, or you have family there who will never see them otherwise, etc., then yes - of course I would take the kids and "suffer" the little bit. But given a choice? I'd wait.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 05:13 PM
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Yep. I would go.

I traveled with my daughter (when she was real little, to Rome and Tuscany) and I cherish those memories.

There are some trip reports here about traveling with little kids to Paris -- a great resourse and confidence booster.

And if I was your wife, I'd love a surprise trip to Paris




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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 05:14 PM
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Absolutely I would take your children! I second (or third or fourth - didn't have time to read them all!) the suggestion to rent an apartment. Make sure it is near a Metro stop (and walking distance to a park would be a huge plus!)

The hardest part is going to be the flights. If you can keep your kids entertained on the flights, once you get there you will be fine. I bought "Around Paris with Kids" (a Fodor's publication) which had some great ideas.

I would not recommend going to Disney Paris. Unfortunately, if your kids are familiar with Mickey and friends, they are going to see the huge advertisements in every Metro stop. We went as a treat for our daughter, but I wouldn't waste the time. If you decide you must go for the kids' sake, post back here and I'll give you some time-saving tips.

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Old Feb 3rd, 2009, 05:24 PM
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I had a wonderful trip with my almost 2 year old in Paris in October but I would NOT have wanted a trip like that to be a surprise. It is a great time but not relaxing and I was in need of a "vacation" upon return. I would ask your wife if she wants to do this trip. Maybe she does and it will be great or maybe she'd rather just go away overnight and leave the kids at home. you should ask her! And if this is a nice gift you are giving to her, be prepared to do your share when you are away (that is not to suggest that you wouldn't).

If you search under my name you should be able to find my trip report.
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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 06:16 AM
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Sally -- good point. I wouldn't surprise her with four nonrefundable plane tickets to Paris.

Unless you're completely sure that is what your wife wants.


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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 08:45 AM
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Don't surprise your wife with the trip. Surprise her with the idea of the trip, and see what she says. If you can accept that the trip will not be the same one you would take with only your wife (no kids), you can have a great trip.
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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 10:26 AM
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Save your money and go somewhere in the US or Canada. The children will not remember anything about the trip in a few years and your Paris experience will be hampered by having to entertain them all the time. I entirely agree with Atltravelr.
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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 10:37 AM
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I say yes! If you have been before you will experience it in a whole new way. As just adults we found we spent more time in museums, lingered over meals, and strolled the streets endlessly. With our son we interacted much more with other people -- other kids and their parents at parks, waiters and waitresses, even random people on the street.

Although I think my son is amazing, truth be told, he probably isn't perfect. We've found the key to keeping him happy is to stay a step ahead of him. We don't wait for him to be too sleepy, too hungry or too bored to function. It does take a lot of preparation! For that reason, I agree that it would be better to surprise your wife with the idea -- not the tickets!
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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 11:59 AM
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Thanks to everyone who has provided input. Such an awesome wealth of knowledge and experience. . .unfortunately the two arguments for each have only made my decisions harder!

Everyone comments were really insightful so far, so please keep them coming.

One comment in particular sticks out --- "If you have been before you will experience it in a whole new way. As just adults we found we spent more time in museums, lingered over meals, and strolled the streets endlessly. With our son we interacted much more with other people -- other kids and their parents at parks, waiters and waitresses, even random people on the street."
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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 12:19 PM
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I think the primary question is "who presently spends the most time taking care of your children?"

If it is kind of equal or a nanny, then go with the kids. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, then the trip kind of seems like more of the same.

If you are a stay at home dad, then it is a good idea.

dave
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Old Feb 4th, 2009, 12:25 PM
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I totally agree with the comment you quoted. We've taken our daughter on overseas trips since she was a kid and it is truly amazing how different they and you interact with others and get very different experiences.

Having said that, I will say we took daughter to Hawaii when she was 3 - was 10 hr flight for us from IAH. She was very easy to travel with, but it was also really too young for her to remember much. She's remembers going, but she's also forgotten a LOT. If this is a factor for you, I'd give some serious thought before going.
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