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Kid-Friendly Travel: An American Family Visits the City of Lights

After half a day in the airport, a canceled flight and a sleepless passage over the ocean, I expected my children to nap away our first day in the City of Lights. But the magic of Paris revived us and it was 11 p.m., admiring the fire dancers at Le Sacre Coeur when my son said, “Mom, can I get an ‘I love Paris’ t-shirt? ‘Cause I really love Paris.”

A dream destination for every traveler, Paris is rarely considered a haven for families. I’d like to challenge that assumption. The first concern is usually cost. While not cheap, Parisian retreats are about the same price as a trip to Disney World. Most people think Disney World is a reasonable goal, but why visit Epcot when you can indulge in the real locale?

Deals on flights are everywhere; all museums in France are free for those 18 and under; public transportation is inexpensive and most importantly, an apartment rental saves a fortune over hotel accommodations.

Ahem, this is the moment I need to make a disclaimer that Haven in Paris isn’t compensating me in any way. I begged them to let me write about our incredible experience with HIP.

My family spent a marvelous week in HIP’s gorgeous Champs Elysées; everything from the darling girl who met us at the apartment to the plush bedding, was perfect. We gazed at the Arc de Triomphe from our window and the Metro stop was literally right outside the front door. The location made transportation easy and delightful. Adults might find subways tedious, but for kids riding the Metro is part of the adventure. My boys loved navigating the family throughout the city and the 5-day Visite pass is a steal.

An enormous benefit of apartment rental is the full kitchen. We visited two markets, filled the cupboards and prepared nearly every meal in the kitchen. Foodies might be horrified, but with the exception of visiting creperies, we didn’t eat out once during our stay. The selection and quality of food in the French grocery stores is exceptional; we didn’t feel deprived for a moment (ooh, I’d love to spoon into some French yogurt right now or crack open a baguette from the local bakery).

The French government believes firmly in the education of children and opens every museum and monument to those under 18 free of charge: the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Napoleon’s Tomb, etc. I almost felt guilty strolling through turnstiles with my six freebies in tow. Exclaiming with joy each time they saw a painting from their textbook, my children devoured the museums and delighted in practicing their public school French.

Some may think kids won’t appreciate Paris. Rather, it’s a grand opportunity to inspire kids to educate themselves. Gazing at the mirrors in Versailles prompts questions about European History;

visiting L’Orangerie develops a love for Impressionist art (my two older boys visited it five times during our one week stay),

and ambling down the Champs d’Elysees stirs every Yankee to learn French.

When tired legs need a respite from museums, les Tuileries are replete with playgrounds and carnival rides.

Beyond education or dining, the most important element of a family vacation is time, sweet time, to enjoy each other’s laughter, conversation and moments of delight. And Paris, beautiful Paris, gifted us a week of pure magic.

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Written by Michelle Lehnardt for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Michelle Lehnardt. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

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Written by Michelle Lehnardt

Michelle LehnardtWriter and photographer Michelle Lehnardt, runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, makes movies with her five wild boys and buys way too many dresses for her little princess. She writes for various publications and at scenesfromthewild.blogspot.com.

Website: Scenes From the Wild

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Posted in Parisian Living, Travel | 15 Comments »

15 Responses to “Kid-Friendly Travel: An American Family Visits the City of Lights”

  • Diana says:

    What adorable little goofballs! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Welly Tj says:

    really love your blog!
    and i do love Paris..! for me, there’s no city as good as Paris
    rien ne se peut comparer a Paris..:)

  • cindy says:

    While I love the notion of visiting paris with my family and hope to do it soon, I am not sure if it would cost the same as a vacation to disney world? You mentioned that flight deals are everywhere, I am always searching and prices never dip under the 1k mark and those are cheap, more like 1300 from dallas is the norm. A flight to orlando from dallas is below 200 most of the time, at their most expensive you get them for 300, please point me in the direction of these deals as we would love to visit soon :)

  • Colleen says:

    What a beautifully written piece on visiting Paris! While I have never been, I absolutely adore Europe and Paris is one of my top “to-see” destinations. More importantly, as the oldest of four in a family that packed our youth with museum visits and family vacations, I can say there are no greater experiences or memories than those in which my parents were so great to take us on wonderful adventures. The memories last a LIFETIME!

  • Blue says:

    I adore Paris. I went about 8 years ago for the first time, and it was one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on. I had a bestie living in Fontanbleau, and every day we’d take the metro into the city and soak it up. Having a friend there made it even more fun…they took me to Giverny and I painted in Monet’s garden. We were able to do some things I wouldn’t have managed otherwise since they knew places and had a car. I long to take my family there someday. It’s just magical. Your pictures make it even more enchanting…you have such a wonderful style and way of capturing the world. Love it! ♥

  • Jeannette says:

    Funny…we’re looking for Paris travel arrangements and who do we find? Your family!!! Looks like a great vacation. Traveling with the family is the best! I love seeing your opinion because our family is so similar. Take care!

  • Katy B says:

    Just when I thought I couldn’t want a trip to Paris any more, I read this! Your family never ceases to amaze me and I am so glad you have such a real and tangible love for the city that I called home. Very well done!

  • Sara Spock says:

    Gorgeous photos! We have loved taking our family to Paris. When my 5 year old talks about dream vacations, he always lands in Paris. Shopping in the markets and cooking in our flat is the best part. Mmmm, I can just taste the endive. Can’t wait to get back.

  • What a beautiful trip. I hope to take my family back to Paris someday very soon. xo

  • I absolutely love these photographs! And great advice for any family.

  • Kiki says:

    well, Michelle, I think HiP SHOULD pay you something or at least send you a few baguettes to your home from time to time…. :)
    what a wonderful article and glorious happy pixies of your family and so very American!
    I understand Isabella, although I don’t agree with her; I know how much you fancy ‘smiley’ pictures and I know that you can’t do anything about that. I smiled with you and think it’s great that you showed your enthusiasm in such a creative and sunny way.
    I also agree that kids get ‘auto-educated’ on trips like this because they consume culture without the hassle of ‘having to learn’ but in a play-like way – ‘en passant’….
    Thank you for the joy and Happy Valentine’s Day!

  • Nancy Powell says:

    Wonderful photos, and smiles on all the faces. A trip of a lifetime! glad you started early in their lives, so they can go back as they grow and compare… I wish I had gone when I was younger, and my kids, too.
    Happy Valentines
    Nancy
    http://www.powellbrower.com/2012/02/roses-are-red.html

  • Michelle Lehnardt says:

    Isabella– you have a beautiful name, but your comment was just plain mean. We are very much a real family, with real problems who smiled our way through the magic of Paris.

    Hmm, but I guess I’m flattered that you think my photos have a glossy magazine look.

  • Christine says:

    The free museums are such a huge perk! I went to Paris for the first time when I was 11, and I absolutely fell in love. Pains au chocolat, the Disney store on the Champs-Elysee (my “I love Paris” shirt had Mickey and the Eiffel Tower on it!), Versailles–so much for a kid to explore and enjoy!

  • Marivic L says:

    Love this! I’ve been wanting to bring my girls (9 and 10) to Paris because I know they will love it as I do. And reading about your 6 kids (mostly boys) just makes me wonder why I keep putting it off! Love your photos!

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