On a cold winter day, at the start of this year, I received a call from Preen.Me and Mustela with the most delightful news: I had won their #Iwantnatural photography competition with the prize being a family trip to PARIS!
After booking flights for the fall, I learned a week later that I was pregnant with our third and would be due the week of our trip! My husband’s work schedule being inflexible, the only time we could travel before baby was when I would be 36-37.5 weeks pregnant. Embracing the bold, we rebooked for this time frame and thankfully didn’t end up with a little Parisian bebe!
Spun on charmingly carved carousel elephants, ponies, and planes
Let cotton candy melt in our mouth
Said yes to every pastry, ice cream cone, and macaron
Went up-up-up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and kissed as it sparkled
Represented the US and France in our choice of wooden sailboats
Got the hang of hopping on and off the Metro with a stroller
Marveled at artists of old
Adventured to Monet’s breathtaking Giverny
just twirled our way around Paris
MERCI to Preen.Me and Mustela for choosing us for this dream of a trip.
I am linking a few of my favorite spots with some tips on traveling at the end of my third trimester with a two and four year old!
The plane ride:
We took a non-stop, overnight flight from Indianapolis to Paris and were thankful to have friends willing to drop us off and pick us up from the airport since we needed our car with car seats. We flew Delta which doesn’t have a limitation on how late you can fly in pregnancy. The children each carried a small backpack with a journal, colored pencils, stickers, a water bottle, and a new toy. In our carry-ons we packed snacks, our kids’ comfort blankets, melatonin gummies, and an iPad with TV episodes of their favorite shows. The plane was fully booked which made sleeping for the children a challenge as they are used to moving around a great deal in their sleep. We cradled their limbs and didn’t sleep ourselves. The return flight was much simpler as it wasn’t an overnighter and the kids were given permission to live their best lives watching unlimited shows and eating (almost) unlimited treats! In hindsight I would advise booking window seats for the children, so they have something to lean on, and buying child headphones as the adult versions slipped off our two year old easily.
We took about three days to acclimate to the six hour time difference. At first I was waking at 2am and the kids at 4. We got ourselves outside walking in the sunshine and took a melatonin gummy at night which helped! We knew we could probably only handle getting an early start to our days or staying out late. So, we chose early!
After much deliberation we purchased a Zoe lightweight, double stroller to take on the trip. We already have a heavy duty Baby Jogger we love, but we knew we would have to carry one up and down the steps of the Metro (there are precious few elevators) and thus would need something thin and lightweight that could fold easily if need be. When approaching steps, with our stroller, our four year old would get out and take my hand and my husband would carry my son still strapped in the stroller down the steps. Sometimes the Metro car itself was a tight fit, but we were always able to find space without having to fold the stroller. Because our stroller is a single with an add on seat, we could use as a single or double. We definitely needed the double at the start of the trip when everyone was jet-lagged. But, as our time progressed we learned to rely on the Metro more instead of walking and our four year old wasn’t as tired and didn’t need the ride as much. Often having a stroller got us into a “better” line (or not having to wait in a line at all as was the case to see the Mona Lisa). So, that was also an unexpected benefit! We also found the stroller helpful in keeping the kids subdued in museums, etc or any time they were getting a little too wild.
We knew we wanted to stay in a charming, historical arrondissement of France within walking distance of the sights but out of the tourist hubbub. For us, this meant Le Marais (the 3rd) or Saint-Germain-des-Prés (the 6th). We landed on Le Marais when we discovered our fabulous AirBnB apartment. Our daughter even took to calling our home in Indianapolis our “old home” because this family apartment suited us so happily! There was an elevator to our fourth floor (which I was very thankful for being heavy on my feet by the end of the day), a washer, toys, multiple rooms (which allowed everyone to be a rested as possible), and the sweetest unassuming ambiance. We were surrounded by local life, our alley nestled between a book store and a flower shop. Across the street was a primary school and in the mid morning we heard the delightful sound of school recess. We were also a few minute walk from a playground which was helpful on days when the kids still had energy and we did not! One of my favorite parts of the trip was walking a few minutes to our favorite pastry shop in the morning for croissants and bread and making breakfast in our small, sunny kitchen with the windows open to the noise of the street. Upon request, our host even gave us a discount for booking our ten day stay. We wholeheartedly recommend our apartment and Le Marais for families who enjoy immersing themselves in a beautiful, local side of Paris.
Our favorite spots:
Jardin Du Luxenbourg - This was a simple and lovely way to spend the day in a manner that felt oh so French. We rode an old fashioned carousel, dug sand in a playground with locals, watched an indoor marionette show, and sailed wooden boats. Before the trip I had trouble finding hours for the child activities online. So, for reference we went on a Wednesday (many child focused activities are only open on Wednesdays and the weekend during the school year so always check) and the carousel opened at 11am, the sailboat cart arrived at 1pm (can be rented for a half hour at time for a few Euros), and the first of two marionette shows began at 3pm.
Day trip to Monet’s House and Garden in Giverny - The most gorgeous gardens and a nice breather after being in the city a few days! Since we wanted a more leisurely (and less expensive) day visiting Monet’s home and garden in Giverny we took the train instead of a tour bus. To get to Giverny from Paris we rode the Metro to the Saint-Lazare Paris train station where we purchased tickets to Vernon-Giverny. Though we arrived with a half an hour to spare, the automated ticket booths were defective and we could not purchase tickets in time for our hoped for departure even with the help of an employee. This set us behind two hours! Thus, look into buying tickets on an app or online ahead of time or give yourself ample time (more than a half hour) to wait in line to receive help from a real person at the ticket office. When we arrived in Vernon-Giverny there was a little white and gold train waiting at the station that took us on a “tour” up to Giverny, and dropped us off within a few minutes walk of Monet’s home.
Bonton Vintage Photo Booth - We had to visit the store three times to get our pictures! The first time the booth was out of order. The second time it was taking too long to print our photos and the store was closing. The third time we went to pick up said photos and they were defective, so we took them again! Yet still we found it worth it (helped that it was only a ten minute walk from our home). The store is darling (though pricy) and we will treasure our family photo strips! The booth takes a 2 Euro coin and I heard a rumor the shop does not like to make change, so bring your own! The camera shoots fast without warning almost immediately after your put in your coin so be ready and have fun! There is only a photo booth at their 5 Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire location so be sure to go to the right Bonton.
Paris Museum Pass - We purchased the four day option and though we can’t hit as many museums hard with young children we still made our money’s worth (and looooved being able to skip the lines with the pass).
Louvre - I know this is like saying you were amazed at the Grand Canyon. But, I really was in awe of the Louvre. Navigating the maze with a stroller was complicated but we found our way around and opted to carry it up and down stairs instead of finding elevators as needed. Having a stroller also allowed us to skip the line at the Mona Lisa and spend as much time as we wanted looking at her (the rest of the crowd only gets about thirty seconds to stand close to where we were). We found our limit at Museums with kids was three hours though the adults would have loved to stay longer! *The Louvre is included in the Paris Museum Pass but you need to book your day and time ahead of time via their website.
Domaine national du Palais Royale - The striped columns were basically a playground for our kids! We loved the chance to just run and climb!
The Eiffel Tower - This requires no introduction. My kids loved the Eiffel Tower as this feels like “Paris!” I found the crowd overwhelming but still a must do! If you can handle not taking a stroller I would recommend. Also, be vigilant of the many scammers and pick pockets in the surrounding area (circles of people playing a cup game, people asking you to sign petitions, etc). Close by are two carousels across the Seine from each other: The Eiffel Tower Carousel and the Trocadero Carousel.
Montmarte - Sweet part of the city! Sacre Coeur is lovely (and free) to visit. We enjoyed seeing the artists sketching (expect to be asked a lot of you want your child to be sketched). And of course we had to take a peek at La Maison Rose.
Seine River Cruise - We booked a dinner cruise date night through Bateaux-Mouches (we were able to find a babysitter through mutual friends) and it was one of our highlights of the trip! Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle was magical!
I hope this is helpful for anyone planning a trip to Paris with toddlers! Au revoir!