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Common Mistakes Parents Make when Planning a Trip to Paris with Kids

What Not To Do When Planning Your Family Vacation To France’s Capital City
Paris family trip Arc de Triomphe
Last updated June 23, 2023
Planning a trip to Paris with young children can be a challenge, but with some careful preparation, you can ensure you have a wonderful time. Read on for tips from Paris locals and Family Destinations Guide on how to avoid the common mistakes parents make.

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Full of wide boulevards, sweet shops, café terraces, children’s museums, and parks perfect for refueling little legs and little minds, Paris makes a great destination for a family trip.

If you aren’t sure what to expect, learn from these common mistakes parents make when traveling to Paris with kids

Mistake #1: Not Taking a Direct Flight

When traveling with children, it’s best to avoid flights with layovers whenever possible, even if it means paying a little more for your plane tickets. Booking a direct flight can not only save you time, but you’ll also have a lot more energy when you land so that you and your family can hit the ground running.

Wing of an airplane

There are a few reasons it’s worth it to take a direct flight when traveling as a family.

The first is that layovers can be quite stressful, especially if the timing is tight. There’s always the possibility that your first flight will be delayed, which could cause you to miss your connecting flight.

Even if you don’t miss your connecting flight, you may have to rush through the airport to make it to your next gate on time, which can be both hectic and frustrating, not to mention tiring.

Mistake #2: Planning Your Trip During Peak Tourist Season

While the summer is the busiest time of year in France’s capital city, it isn’t the best time to visit Paris, especially with little ones in tow.

Instead, plan your trip during the shoulder season. This is the time between the peak tourist season and the off-season. In Paris, the shoulder season is typically April-May and September-October.

The weather is usually mild during these months and there are fewer crowds, so you can enjoy your trip without having to fight through throngs of tourists.

Ask a local your questions before your trip to Paris.

Mistake #3: Over-Indulging while in Paris

Don’t over-indulge in alcohol while you’re abroad. In Paris, and in France in general, food and drink are meant to be savored slowly. It’s safest to stick to one or two boozy beverages while you’re out exploring the city. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll also be sure to have your wits about you.

You should never leave your bags unattended. While sitting on a terrace or in a bar or restaurant, you should keep them tucked safely between your legs. Having that extra glass of wine is tempting, but it might lower your guard, meaning your valuables (or, more importantly, your children) will be more vulnerable.

Typical French apéro with wine, cheese, and bread.

Mistake #4: Visiting the Louvre when it’s Most Crowded

If you want to visit the Louvre with your family during your trip to Paris, there are a few things you can do to avoid the crowds. For starters, book your tickets online ahead of time on the official Louvre website. This way you’ll be sure to get in and won’t have to wait in long lines.

When planning your visit of Paris’s most famous museum, opt for time slots during the week, when most Parisians are at work. Another helpful tip is to go early or late in the day. The museum is usually less crowded on weekdays, with early mornings and late afternoons or evenings being your best bet to avoid the crowds.

View of Louvre Museum in Paris with pyramid

On Fridays, the museum is open until 9:45 pm, meaning you can go late and still have plenty of time to take in the art while most locals are busy enjoying apéro. Visiting during the off-season, which runs from November to March, also makes a big difference.

Mistake #5: Sticking to Touristy Areas in Paris

For a family trip to Paris, it’s a good idea to “get lost” and explore some of the lesser-known corners. Reserving a tour with a local guide is a great way to discover off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods, churches, markets, museums, and more. They’ll lead you to some of Paris’s most iconic spots and hidden gems.

Want to see a different side of the city? Take a family-friendly guided street art tour of Paris to discover new neighborhoods and interesting urban artworks.

Reserve a private street art tour in Paris

Another option for seeing the City of Light in a different way is to take a tour by Tuk-Tuk. It’s a fun and inexpensive way to see the city and is sure to be a memorable experience. It also lets you avoid taking public transportation during crowded rush hours (8-10 am and 5-7 pm).

Mistake #6: Eating Out for Every Meal

While Paris is famous for its fine dining, budget-minded travelers will be happy to know that it’s easy to find an apartment or hotel with a fully-equipped kitchen so you can make your own meals.

This is also a great option for families with picky eaters, as many French restaurants aren’t particularly accommodating in terms of kids’ menus or substitutions.

Most of these accommodations have a refrigerator and stove, and many have an en-suite, private bathroom. They also usually come with a microwave so you can reheat any leftovers during your stay. In France, restaurants are now required by law to let you get a “to-go box” for any food you don’t finish, you just have to ask!

Baking classes in Paris

Why not teach your whole family how to bake French pastries while you’re in Paris? Reserve a cooking class now.

Mistake #7: Not Watching Out for Pickpockets

Nothing ruins a vacation quite like having your valuables stolen. This list of common scams lets you know what to look out for so you can avoid being a victim of pickpockets in Paris. Thieves flock to the main tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, so be on your guard while visiting them. The metro is also a favorite spot for pickpockets looking to take advantage of tourists.

Wallet in back pocket

A few simple rules to follow: don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, don’t speak too loudly in English on the subway, keep your phone safely in your bag when on the metro, and never leave your phone out on the table when on a café terrace. Also, be sure to always keep an eye on your bags and keep them close to you whether under your arm or between your legs.

Rather than converting hundreds of dollars into euros before your trip, and carrying around a lot of cash, know that you can use ATM machines when you arrive in Paris to take out euros.

Most ATMs in France don’t charge fees, but your bank may charge withdrawal and international fees. This is an easy way to avoid losing too much should your wallet get nicked.

No need to panic, but do be vigilant, just like you would be in any other large city such as New York or Chicago.

Mistake #8: Forgetting Important Documents

You’ll want to make sure you have everything you’ll need during your stay ready before you leave. This includes your driving license (if you’ll be renting a car), passports for every member of your family, and other personal documents. It’s also a good idea to have a list of contacts in the country if you have any.

You should also scan your documents and save them in an electronic format so you can access them anywhere.

Before you’ve sorted out your travel tickets to Paris, the first thing on your checklist is official documentation. Depending on how long you’re staying and the country you’re coming from, you may need a visa for the trip and that can take several weeks or even several months. You can find all the information you need on the embassy website for your particular country of origin.

US passports

In all cases, you’ll need to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you plan to leave Paris.

If you’re a US citizen or resident, it’s also a good idea to register yourself in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so you can be located if you’re ever in need of assistance. Although the crime rate is low in France, it’s worth being prepared for any situation.

Speaking of possible unpleasant surprises, be sure to check the weather forecast too before deciding what clothes to put in your suitcase.

To help you prepare for your trip, here’s a detailed checklist of what to bring with you to Paris:

  • Maps of Paris
  • Guidebooks to Paris
  • Camera
  • Film or memory cards for your camera
  • Chargers for electronic devices
  • Adapter plugs for French outlets (if not coming from another EU country)
  • Credit and debit cards
  • Clothing
  • Umbrella
  • Sunscreen
  • Hats
  • Sunglasses
  • Sneakers or walking shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Prescription medications
  • First aid kit
  • Insurance cards
  • Passports
  • Tickets

In addition to bringing your debit and credit cards, you’ll also want to put in a travel notification with your bank so that you won’t have any problems using your cards in France.

Airport ATM in France

It’s always wise to get a few euros out of an ATM at the airport when you first arrive in Paris to have some cash on hand and to know right away if there are any issues with your cards. If need be, you can then contact your bank or credit card company to approve the transaction and ensure that you won’t have any problems for the remainder of your trip.

Mistake #9: Winging It

Spontaneous adventures are fun, and you should certainly leave yourself plenty of free time during your stay for improvised outings, but you should also plan activities for all ages before your departure. When planning activities, it’s important to take the weather into account. Winters in Paris can get quite cold and wet, and the French capital is no stranger to unexpected downpours of rain and sometimes snow.

Custom Paris trip concierge service.

Would you like a hand when making your travel plans? Get in touch with our Paris concierge.

Make Your List of Must-Sees in Paris

There are so many things to see and do in Paris that it can be tough to know where to start. Make your trip easier by researching beforehand and making a list of the things you absolutely want to do as well as other things that you think could be cool or fun if you have the chance. That way you won’t be disappointed but also won’t be wasting time wondering what to do if you find yourself with extra free time.

You’ll of course want to avoid tourist traps, but still explore the city and see the sights.

Not sure where to start? Create a free Urbansider account then browse our curated city guide, and bookmark your favorite places to make your own personal Paris bucket list.

Urbansider Paris Club

And Most Importantly…

Enjoy your time in this beautiful city! Paris is a great city to visit as a family. Just make sure you’re prepared before you go so you’re all set to take in the sights and sounds the city has to offer.

 

Discover our tips for planning a trip to Paris with teens.


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