Paris For All Ages: Tips for Traveling With Kids & Seniors
Since Paris is known as the “city of love,” it only makes sense that you’d want to visit with your nearest and dearest, including grandparents — and kids! The old architecture (think: narrow hallways and steep stairs) and cultural attractions (think: art museums and cathedrals), however, aren’t necessarily the most practical for the youngsters and elders. Luckily, we’ve gathered the best tips and tricks to make this incredible French city the perfect destination for all ages. Incorporate these tried-and-tested tips into your next Parisian vacation to ensure that everyone in the family will have as much fun as possible without any aches, pains, or (as many) temper tantrums.
Spend a day in Montmartre
If you’re looking for a spot to visit that’ll please the masses — We’re talking grandparents and kids — spend a day exploring Montmartre. Place du Tertre, which is just a few blocks from Sacre Coeur, is one of the best places in Paris to see true artists in their element. Lined up in the city square, you’ll see artists sketching or painting portraits of tourists passing by. If you’re lucky enough to get your kids to sit still, get a caricature (they’re more affordable and less time-consuming) or one of the mantel-worthy charcoal, pastel, or paint portraits. When the kids are ready to let their wiggles out, they can play on the playground or roll down the massive hill in Parc de la Turlure.
Stick to brasseries and creperies
While you may appreciate fine dining, there’s a strong chance the kids won’t take to Confit de canard. To avoid mid-dinner meltdowns over an appetizer of caviar, dine at brasseries and creperies instead. You’ll still find something you can enjoy, and kids can munch on food that’s a little more familiar: chicken, salad, and French onion soup. But of course, dessert is fair game because what kid doesn’t enjoy colorful macarons and chocolate mousse?
Rent an apartment instead of a hotel
Even though hotels come equipped with all the amenities (room service, dry cleaning, housekeeping, and so on), when you book a stay you’re compromising money and space for comfort. There are many affordable options big enough for families available on rental sites like VRBO, HomeAway, and AirBNB. Most of the available apartments and townhouses even come with full kitchens and in-unit laundry, so you can have everything you need to make your family comfortable and happy in one space.
Be mindful of bathroom costs
Word to the wise: Don’t wait until it’s too late or you’ll have to pay the price — literally. In many European cities, you have to pay a small fee to use public restrooms. While €1 or €2 doesn’t sound like a big deal at first, it quickly adds up after you realize just how often your squirmy toddler needs a bathroom break. A simple fix: Buy a water (you’ll need it), coffee, or macaron at a small bakery while everyone in your family filters through the bathroom. And sure, it’ll cost you a €1 or €2, but that way you’ll get two for the price of one.
Check the metro before you ride
Not all metro stations are created equally: Some have elevators, others don’t. Some metro stations even have gates that are too narrow to fit larger strollers, scooters or wheelchairs, making it nearly impossible to travel with mobility-challenged seniors or young kids. Scout out local metro stations to make sure it’s feasible for your family, and if it doesn’t accommodate your needs, opt for the bus instead. An added bonus: On the bus, you can get a better glimpse of what Paris has to offer since you’re not stuck underground.
Get around by boat
Even when you’re legs are tired and you have to get to the next sight on your “to see” list, you can still enjoy all the beauty that Paris has to offer by boat. Along the Seine, you’ll find several hop on, hop-off boat tours — Batobus and Bateaux Parisiens, to name a few — that’ll help you get from one place to the next while still keeping your little ones entertained. And if you’re spending a few days in the city, Batobus gives you the option to continue the fun for the duration of your trip for an extra €2 a day after the initial fee.
Book tickets online for museums and galleries
There’s nothing worse than getting everyone in your party — young, old, and in between — excited for a day of taking in culture, art, and history only to arrive at the museum with a ticket line 100 people deep. Buy tickets ahead of time — as close as the day of — to ensure that you don’t have to kill time or energy waiting in line, and can enjoy the sights ASAP. Many museums even offer lower prices (not to mention, student and senior discounts) to people who make purchases in advance.
Consider how many stairs you can handle
The older the architecture, the less walkable it may be. Especially if you’re traveling with seniors and young kids, it’s important to think about which sights have elevators, ramps, or handrails. The Musee d’Orsay, for example, has very few steps, making it one of the most elderly-friendly sights. Same goes for the Eiffel Tower, which has elevators that take you straight to the top.
Take a day trip to Disneyland Paris
Once everyone gets their art and culture fix in Paris, take a 40-minute train ride to Disneyland Paris so that your little prince(s) and princess(es) can experience “the happiest place on Earth.” The resort is made up of two parks: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Together, they’re not nearly as big as DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida, but they’re full of just as much pixie dust. It’s a great way to finish off your trip since it’ll give the kids something exciting to look forward to after the adults check off everything on their must-see list.