Contributor: Josefa Abdelnour
Dates of Travel: August 2015
My husband and I love to travel. We have an innate need to explore new places. Having children did not thwart our wanderlust. We just reprioritized the focus of our trips. When we travel with our children, we make every effort to maximize playtime. Some of our children’s fondest memories have taken place on the playgrounds of Europe.
In 2014, our little family of four traveled to France where we spent the first week in Nice and the second week in Paris. We arrived in Nice after two days of travel from Connecticut and we learned a couple important hotel policies along the way. Though they were not huge mishaps, it would have reduced our anxiety levels a bit had we known these policies in advance of arriving in Paris, off a red eye with two sleep deprived children. My daughter was almost eight years old and my son was four and a half at the time, so avoiding mishaps was critical to a successful European vacation.
We started our journey in Connecticut with a two hour drive to Newark Airport. After a few hour delay, we boarded a red eye to Paris and managed to sleep a little on the plane. Our plan was to spend one night in Paris, then take the TGV, France’s high speed train, from Paris to Nice the following day. However, when we arrived at the hotel in Paris off the red eye, that’s when the mishaps started.
We had hoped to check in to our hotel right away. Instead, we were forced to wait in the lobby for several hours because our hotel had a strict no early check in policy. Additionally, unlike in the United States, hotels in Europe have strict occupancy rules based on the room. We had booked a two person room foolishly thinking we would get two beds, but they were strict about not letting us squeeze in our children. The hotel was able to move us into a two room suite for which we had to pay a whole lot extra, but again, since there was no early check in, we waited for several hours in the hotel lobby before our rooms were available. If you can afford it, I recommend splurging and reserving your room for the night before your arrival so you can check in early the following morning.
Fortunately, my kids were pretty good sports about not having a hotel room right away. I emphasized many times before embarking on this trip that it’s not about getting there, it’s about the journey. And, that as long as we’re together, we are home. And somehow, they received the message. So with no hotel room ready, we stuffed our kids full of juice and pain au chocolat from the hotel restaurant to give them a little pick me up. Then we headed out to explore the streets around our hotel. Because it was Sunday, many businesses were closed. And to make matters worse, it started to rain. So we headed back to the hotel lobby to wait for our room.
Our daughter befriended a Spanish boy in the lobby and we learned that Subway Surfer, a popular kids’ iPad app, transcends language barriers. They played while we passed the time waiting for our room.
I strongly advise checking your hotel’s early check in policy before arriving in a foreign country off a red eye with sleep deprived children. Also make sure that you adhere to your hotel’s occupancy policy. Many hotels in Europe are booked by occupancy, that is two, three, or four people to a room. Pay attention to those occupancy rules.
Since our kids were so young, my husband and I abandoned our jet setting ways and embraced more family friendly activities. Our first stop was the Musee du Chocolat which offers a children’s treasure hunt for learning the history of chocolate. The displays which provide the answers to the clues of the treasure hunt were set up with Playmobil characters, one of my children’s favorite toy. We finished our visit to the museum with a Family Workshop in which we made our own chocolates treats. The museum also sells hot chocolate made from various types of chocolate.
Everyone knows the Louvre is not to be missed. Want to know how to navigate a visit to this world renowned museum with little ones? To see every work of art at the Louvre, it would take twenty-five days straight by one estimate. Some of the best money I ever spent went to Paris Muse Clues: A Family Tour, a private family tour and scavenger hunt at the Louvre. Though the information is aimed at children ages 6-12, both my children and I found the tour informative and fun. And as an added bonus, we were able to skip the long queues and head to the front of all lines with our private tour guide’s museum pass.
Seeing the Eiffle Tower is another must in Paris. There is a height restriction on buildings in Paris to prevent skyscrapers from dwarfing the Eiffle Tower. It’s easy to catch a glimpse of this beautiful structure from various spots throughout the city, but if you want to climb to the top, avoid the long lines and buy tickets in advance through the Official Eiffle Tower Ticket Office. Oh, Paris, how I love you…
your old buildings,
and your food.