Looking back in time again, our 2012 family trip to Europe was full of several firsts for us. Particularly, it was our first time taking both of our boys overseas, without grandparents to help out. The boys were preschool age at this time. It was also our first time venturing outside of Paris in France, and the first time that the boys and I would go to the Czech Republic.
We recently wrote several posts about our 2017 trip to France, including 4 days in Paris, so the time was interesting to revisit for writing this post. We definitely had more challenges and mistakes in the 2012 trip, but both our 2012 trip and our 2017 trip should give you an idea of what it might look like to take kids of various ages with you to Paris.
If you have ever traveled to Europe on your own or with a spouse, trying to take two preschool children with you will be a completely different experience. Yes, it will be somewhat harder. No, you will not be able to do as much as you did without kids. It’s definitely not a care-free escape, but it still can be quite fun to explore with your little ones.
When thinking about where to go with our kids, we were feeling adventurous and decided that Spring in Paris would be great to try with our preschoolers. Paris is a beautiful city, and after looking a few “Paris with Kids” books, we realized that we could easily keep the family busy for a week there. Also, we’d been to Paris pre-kids – this helped somewhat with our confidence in planning the trip – it would be a familiar place to start the trip and get over jet lag.
Beyond that, we wanted to explore somewhere else in France, so we decided to spend a second week split among places in the South of France. We hadn’t been there before, but Jeremy had a colleague who had recently been, and we figured that the boys might enjoy the time near the coast.
Towards the end of travel planning, we decided to add 4 nights in Prague at the end; Jeremy had visited right after college, but I had never been.
One thing to be aware of is that springtime in France can bring its share of rain. Things mostly worked out for us in this respect, but something of which to be aware.
Crowds, though, are somewhat lighter than the summer peaks.
After booking plane tickets for the trip, we found accommodations. In most places, including Paris, we booked apartments rather than hotels in the cities we visited. These gave us more space than a hotel room, as well as access to a washing machine for our preschool kids. It also provided access to a kitchen, which we did use somewhat.
For our meals, we typically planned to eat a nice lunch out, but would eat dinner (as well as breakfast) back at the apartment. The latter was partly due to the reality of our kids’ stamina at their ages – it was nice after a long day to be able to buy some bread and cheese and have a low-key dinner at home, where the kids could rest afterwards. One thing to be aware of is that French meals out take some time – even our lunches out were often an hour and a half. Though with the many courses, the kids adjusted and didn’t really get bored.
Our basic itinerary involved quite a bit of walking, but could be scaled down/up depending on the family’s preferences. We had brought along a really good double stroller that was excellent on cobblestone, which was key to covering lots of ground. When traveling with kids, they do last much longer when they’re being pushed in a stroller (they were 3 and 5 years old, arguably old for a stroller, but oh well).
One thing to note is that we didn’t necessarily start with a grand plan day-by-day, but rather a loose outline that ended up changing based on rain, how tired we were, and other factors. We also got minor colds during the week, which affected things too.
Our 2017 trip was much better planned and organized, so take a look to compare the differences.
7 Days in Paris
In Paris, we ended up staying in an apartment in the 6th arrondissement, a block or so from the Luxembourg Gardens, so you will see this destination prominent in our itinerary. Transit is generally easy.
Day 1: Arrival. Early afternoon arrival. Walk through neighboring Luxembourg Gardens. Walk through the Left Bank to the Eiffel Tower.
Day 2: Get a feel for the layout of the city. Morning walk to Notre Dame and around Île Saint Louis. Pizza lunch. Walk by the Pompidou Center, the Louvre, and the Tuileries Garden. We were blocked by a marathon, and altered our course to include the Opera and Montmartre. Pastries for dinner. Evening on the Sacre Coeur steps and Canal St Marten.
Day 3: Things we can’t do with a stroller. Climb the Arc de Triomphe, do a Seine boat tour, lunch, and Champs Elysees. Get stroller and go to Luxembourg Garden, St. Sulphice, and walk around St. Germain.
Day 4: Day trip plans to a nearby town cancelled due to train strike. Morning in the Marais, go back to Pompidou and walk around East of there, to the Bastille. Lunch. Walk to Rue Mouffetard, train to Luxembourg Garden.
Day 5: Museum Day. Morning at Museum d’Orsay. Lunch. Afternoon at the hotel for sick people and time browsing the bookstores and enjoying the Luxembourg Gardens for healthy people.
Day 6: Museum Day. Morning, lunch and early afternoon at the Louvre. Walk down the Tuileries and to the Arc de Triomphe. Trampolines in the park, sandcastles at the Eiffel Tower, and a walk down Rue Cler.
Day 7: Day trip plans to Versailles canceled due to rain and illness. Morning around the 5th arrondissement. Lunch. Afternoon wandering.
3 Days around Nice in the French Riviera
For our time in the South of France, we set our base in Nice, and took two day trips to see the rest of the region.
Day 8: Train from Paris to Nice. Late afternoon and evening walk through Nice.
Day 9: Day Trip to Monte Carlo, Menton, and Villefranche-sur-Mer. Evening in Nice.
Day 10: Day Trip to Antibes. Evening in Nice
Transit from the Riviera to Provence
To get to the Provence region, we picked up a rental car in Nice, then spent 3 nights in Avignon and 1 night in Aix-en-Provence.
Day 11: Drive from Nice to Avignon, stopping for a couple of hours in Arles. Evening in Avignon.
3 Days in Provence
One observation was that on day 13, we really shouldn’t have taken a day trip to 3 different towns. Two would have been more than enough.
Day 12: Explore Avignon. Palace of the Popes and lots of wandering.
Day 13: Day Trip to Pont du Gard, Mimes, and Uzes. Evening in Avignon
Day 14: Drive to Aix-en-Provence. Spent day exploring Aix.
4 Days in Prague, Czech Republic
We definitely could have done more in Prague, but we were tired, recovering from illness, and simply wanted a few low-key days doing what we like doing best, walking and getting a feel for the city.
Day 15: Transit from Marseille to Prague. Morning in Marseille. Short flight to Prague. Evening in Prague
Day 16: Get a feel for the city. Long walk through both Old Town and New Town.
Day 17: Old Town wandering.
Day 18: Prague Castle in morning, wandering in afternoon.
Day 19: Flight home.