visiting paris with children
This page is a work in progress, but I'm collecting here a variety of resources on visiting Paris with children, which I've done numerous times, and which my daughters wish I would do numerous more times, with them. The advice starts beneath the photo.
How (why, and whether) to visit Paris with kids
- First, absolutely go. If you can, go. If you avoid going in summer--and you should--airfares can be surprisingly affordable, and so, too, lodging. Don't wait until the kids are "old enough." They're old enough.
- Set reasonable expectations--for yourself. You are not going to go inside every museum. Or even most museums. You may fail to enter a single one. Be patient with yourselves, with your kids. Just walking around the city is an adventure.
- Pick up a copy of Paris with Children. It's compact but comprehensive and full of smart, affectionate advice.
- Stay in an apartment. Unless you have designs on the Ritz, Paris hotel rooms are small, often too small to accommodate additional rollaway beds. A short-stay apartment gives you a place to unwind, regroup--and cook simple meals, and (ideally) do laundry.
- Avoid the Métro. It's perfectly safe, but it's underground. There's so much more to see above ground. Walk, or take the city bus. Better yet...
- Take one of the open-air tourist buses. Yes, it's touristy, but you're tourists--they're great for kids, especially the first morning/day after a long flight. It's too much to ask them to march around the entire city all day--and you do have to keep them awake all day, otherwise they'll never habituate to the new timezone--and a bus is a perfect way to pass the time.
- Give them cameras. We armed our kids with cheap (<$20) digital cameras. Disposables would have worked as well. We weren't worried about losing them, and we were fascinated when we got back to see what caught their eye. If you have teens, this advice will feel obsolete--as if you'll be able to get them to leave their smartphone behind--but see if you can. Then can upload the photos to Instagram later, and in the meantime, out in the city with their cameras, they can focus on getting shots instead of likes.
- Read up! There's no better way to prepare for Paris than with a good book -- I'm clearly a fan of Bemelmans and Lamorisse, but those are just two of many authors to immerse yourself in. Adam Gopnik's massive anthology Americans in Paris is a great way to survey the literary terrain before you travel. I've also tweeted dozens of Paris reading recommendations with the hashtag #parisbythebook