Only when I became a parent could I fully appreciate how wonderful Paris is for babies and toddlers – to see this glamorous city renowned for its history, food and artisanship through the eyes of a child. For many, Paris has a reputation for being a city exclusive to lovers, fashionistas and artsy types – the ultimate playground for adults with discerning taste.
Experience from a recent trip has convinced me that Paris is city in love with babies and toddlers. I’ve compiled a “cheat sheet” for parents traveling with babies and toddlers. It is a list inspired by the traveling habits of Dutch families. After all, the Dutch who have the happiest kids in the world and are prolific travelers have some invaluable insight.
Here are seven tips to enjoying a trip to Paris with babies and toddlers from the happiest kids in the world:
A Place to Call Home
For many Dutch (European) families traveling with babies and toddlers is the norm. An apartment offers several conveniences that parents would appreciate such as more room, a kitchen and washing and drying machines. It is also a more affordable option for families looking to be centrally located.
If this is your first time in Paris and you would love to experience the quintessential Parisian neighborhood while hitting major sites, I highly recommend staying in the 7th Arrondissement. Also known as the Left Bank, the 7th arrondissement is home to the Musée d’Orsay and Rodin Museum, within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower and Seine, and has a much more relaxed pace than the rest of the city with its village-like charms.
However, keep in mind that renting an apartment can be a hassle and possibly a gamble. My personal pick is this AirBnB two-bedroom rental. The host is a lovely woman who is accommodating and flexible to the unique needs of families with young children. The apartment also includes free parking – an added bonus for those traveling by car.
Bring A Stroller
For parents who love to travel, almost everyone can agree that an absolute traveling essential is a light-weight, foldable stroller. A toddler can only walk for so long – even for spirited little souls like our son who loves and insists on his freedom. And anyone visiting Paris will soon find out that experiencing the city involves a lot of walking. In fact, I’d argue that the best way to see Paris is on-foot at a leisurely pace. Traveling by metro sometimes takes just as long, if not longer than simply walking on the lovely, outdoor Parisian streets and along the Seine.
Our personal pick is the Maclaren Quest - the perfect stroller for traveling with a toddler. We were initially drawn to the Maclaren Quest because of its reputation for being a preferred traveling stroller among jetset parents, its lightweight aluminium frame, durability and generous weight limit of 55 lbs. Unlike other strollers that have narrower seats and only accommodates up to 30-40 lbs, the Maclaren Quest was a comfortable ride for our 30lb, two year old who is above average in height and weight among his Dutch peers (the Dutch being the tallest people in the world). It’s also surprisingly maneuverable along the Parisian cobblestone streets, grasses, pavements, and dirt paths. And for parents with adventurous and precocious toddlers like mine, I appreciated being able to run after my toddler with one hand while navigating the stroller with the other hand. An added bonus is that the Maclaren buggy hood has UPF 50+, the highest possible rating for sun protective fabrics.
Keep to Nap Schedules
Enforcing a regular nap schedule for babies and toddlers like the one you have at home during traveling can make everyone involved a lot happier. A well-rested baby and toddler can do wonders to minimize tantrums and maintain relaxed temperaments. You can either return back to the hotel/apartment for the nap or simply bring along a stroller. Personally, bringing along a stroller is a much more convenient option and a perfect time to take a leisurely walk to the next destination right after a big Parisian lunch. Consider bringing a fully-reclining stroller like the Maclaren Quest (which has four-different incline positions).
Re-Envision Landmarks Through the Eyes of A Child
The best way to still enjoy the famous landmarks of Paris, a happy, contented child, not lose your sanity and actually have a pleasant time? Utilize the nearby Parisian parks strategically located and dispersed throughout the compact city. One of the best kept secrets of Paris is the seemingly random little playgrounds and play areas scattered throughout the different neighborhoods and along the Seine. And it’s hard not to notice the city’s genuine adoration for carousels strategically placed close to various landmarks and tourist attractions. Parisians indoctrinate the importance of joie de vivre starting from the cradle, providing their youngest citizens hidden gems of carousels and playgrounds, providing momentarily but much appreciated relief for parents and children.
Rather than ambitiously (and arguably naively) trying to climb the Eiffel Tower with a toddler, consider heading over to Place du Trocadero. There is a beautiful double-decker antique carousel, sweeping panoramic views over the gardens and the Eiffel Tower. You’ll not only have the tourist obligatory pictures, but if you arrive there for the sunset, you and your little one will be delighted to see the Eiffel Tower lit and gain a deeper appreciation for La Ville-Lumiére.
Utilize the early morning wakeup calls and head over to the Louvre before the crowds come. Afterwards, head over to the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Gardens), a haven for children offering a traditional carousel, playground, and pony rides to name a few child-orientated attractions. The 25 hectares Parisian garden also provides plenty of beautiful flowers, landscaping and sculptures that adults can appreciate.
Jardin du Luxembourg and Parisian Playgrounds
The Jardin du Luxeumbourg is the definitive children’s paradise of Paris – a playground ripe with nostalgia of long forgotten Parisian childhoods of wooden toy sailboats, pony rides and children’s marionette show. The enclosed playground offers plenty of amusing entertainment for the four and under crowd- sandbox, slides, climbing contraptions, seesaws and twirling toys. An added bonus are the toilets that accommodate to the needs of its smallest patrons.
At the heart of this children’s haven is the 135-year old carousel designed by Charles Garnier, the architect of the Opera de Paris. Built in 1879, the antique manége with its green-roof, well-worn wooden horses and dirt floor makes it a postcard worthy experience for both adults and little ones.
If you are visiting Paris with a toddler (or even older children), this is an absolute must. While the various activities are not free, the €12-15 euros spent for the half-day at the park are well worth the memories you’re making with your child.
Travel Off Season
Arguably one of the best aspects of traveling with toddlers and babies is not being restricted to school schedules. Traveling off season is also a great time to take advantage of lower prices and not having to deal with hoards of tourists suffocating the museums, landmarks and boulevards. If you can get past the temperamental weather that Parisians have made a national pastime complaining about, Paris can be quite lovely. The more relaxed pace at the playgrounds will also make it easier for your little one to make a new Parisian friend or two.
Come with No Expectations
As the Dutch national philosophy goes, “Doe maar gewoon, dat is al gek genoeg.” Arrive in Paris with your little one in tow with no grandiose expectations and simply do what the Parisians do – embrace being a flâneur (a passionate observer). Paris is best enjoyed at a slow, relaxed pace anyway. And what better way than to experience it with children who are naturally curious and full of wonder. Some of the inconveniences of being a parent to young children – such as early morning wakeup calls, nap times and bedtimes – can make a trip to Paris a memorable one. The leisurely pace will give you the chance to see and experience a more authentic, genuine Paris through the eyes of your child. Take the time to pause and see the world from their perspective – discovering hidden treasures, experiencing new places and simply celebrating the here and now.
Hope you and your family enjoy an unforgettable experience in Paris or inspired to take a trip to the City of Light!
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(Photos taken courtesy of me and by my dearest friend Maria Chang. The Maclaren Quest was gifted to me by Maclaren for a review. All opinions are mine. Thank-you for reading.)