Even though I am a bit of a travel junkie, I started out travels with my daughter pretty slowly.  For us, it didn’t make sent to jet-set the globe with an infant or toddler.  Instead, we started with short flights to Grandma and Grandpa’s house just before her first birthday, moved up from there to Disney and Orlando, and on from there to other domestic trips, the Caribbean, Canada, and even Hawaii.  I saw no good reason to rush bigger trips like Europe with her at such a young age, and instead decided to wait until it made sense for us to bring her overseas.  In the meantime, we went by ourselves and she got good time with her grandparents…

However, when the opportunity presented itself to join my mom and her sister for part of their big trip across Europe, we decided it was time for my now four and a half year old to earn some more stamps on her passport and come to Paris with me.  She was thrilled, and I was both excited, and a little nervous.  I wasn’t just taking her to Europe for the first time, I was doing it solo to somewhere I had never been myself.  Gulp.

I will be writing about various parts of our trip in detail, but this post will be dedicated to an overall look at how we got it done.

The Flights:

The flights were the hardest part of the trip in terms of planning as I was very torn for a long time between using miles and earning miles.  I knew for sure that we were going to go in business class as even kids sleep better laying down, and I do not play the “travel game” to fly overnight with my kid in coach when we have a better option available.  We would go in coach if that was the best realistic option, but thankfully we flew in a bit more comfort this time.

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Relaxing in comfort across the Atlantic

After much back and forth, we decided to buy coach tickets and apply some of the Global Premier Upgrades I earned via 1K status with United.  Had I used roughly 100,000+ miles each for business class seats I would have been getting just over 1 cent per mile in value compared to the route we took, and that didn’t even take into account all the miles I would earn by flying on revenue tickets.  As a 1k, I earned 100% bonus on all the miles flown, so about 16,000 redeemable miles all-in.  She earned around 8,000 miles.  I also doubt that I will re-qualify as 1K with United, so wanted to make the most of the GPUs while we have them.  So, we bit the bullet and bought the upgradeable W fare coach tickets and applied our GPUs.

To ensure our upgrades cleared we selected flights that had “R” space available at purchase (which isn’t that easy to find).  You could check availability by looking at available fare classes in “Expert Mode” on United.

When I searched for our airfare I made sure to designate that I had one adult and one child in my party.  I did this in order to save money on her ticket.  Child and adult tickets price the same for domestic tickets, and even to places like Mexico or Canada, but when going to Europe you may have some savings when flying with a kid 11 or under on United (and many other airlines).  The savings wasn’t huge, but was in the 13% – 15% range, which was certainly appreciated.  It still was an upgradeable W fare, it just cost a bit less than my adult fare.

Child Fares

Hotels:

Hotels were much easier as I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I wanted to try out the famed Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme.  Since we were traveling with my mom and her sister we needed to be sure that we were staying places that they also had the points for, so we also were going to try out a Radisson property for two nights (using the last award night free via the Club Carlson credit card).

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So, we booked two nights at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme for 22,000 points per night on the old award chart (now 30,000 points per night).  You can transfer points in from the Chase Ultimate Rewards program 1:1 via cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Ink Plus® Business Card, or Ink Bold® Business Card if you don’t have enough Hyatt Gold Passport points.  If you don’t yet have the Hyatt Visa that is a great way to get two award nights at this property!  This hotel goes for about $1,000 USD per night many nights, so there is a 0% chance we would ever stay here if it wasn’t for points.

We then booked at the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysées for two nights using 50,000 points for the first night (now 70,000) and got the last award night free thanks to having the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card.  This effectively doubled the value of our Club Carlson points on this trip!  That hotel was going for about $500 – $600 USD per night if we were paying with cash…which of course we were not.  We selected that hotel due to it’s fantastic location in the heart of Paris.  This was the view from our balcony one evening!

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Normally I recommend building up to the hotel you are most excited to visit on the trip, and starting the trip off with the more modest accommodations, but that didn’t work in our case due to the timing of when my relatives would join us, and what type of points they had access to.  So, the Park Hyatt was first, and the Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysées property was second.  This ended up really not being a great order thanks to how fantastic the Park Hyatt was, but we didn’t have much of a choice in this case.

Activities:

I may be crazy, but I’m not delusional enough to think that my daughter is going to spend her days gazing at art in the Louvre or spend hours sitting at cafes with me while sitting wine and juice talking about life.  However, there is more to Paris than fancy food, wine, art, and high end shopping.  I know, shocking right?!

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Springtime in Paris

 There is actually tons for kids to do in Paris in the spring, including some absolutely fantastic parks such as Jardin d’Acclimatation and Jardin du Luxembourg.

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She loved parks in Paris!

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She had no problem making friends with kids in Paris!

I made sure not to over-schedule things to do in advance as I didn’t want the trip to feel stressful for us, especially since we would be on our own for much of the time.  I had a rough outline of things I hoped we could do each day, but with one exception, nothing had a specific time or advance reservation attached to it.  This turned out to be a very good strategy and helped us go with the flow, rest when needed, and not feel stressed.

One iconic attraction I did want to visit was the Eiffel Tower, but I knew way better than to wait until we got there to try and get tickets and wait in what could be a very long line with a little one.  So, we tried to secure tickets in advance only to find out we had waited too long and the official channel was “sold out” for our dates (I tried a couple weeks in advance).  We then turned to a third party tour company to secure Eiffel Tower tickets as well as a riverboat cruise.  This was a reasonable play considering the tickets were sold out otherwise, but it was a much more expensive route, and turned out to not be a very simple process on the day of the tour.  My advice is buy Eiffel Tower tickets WAY in advance.  They are 15€ for adults, discounted for kids 4 – 24, and free for kids 3 and under.

Of course, just dancing under the tower is free….

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Our trip to Paris probably looked a lot different than say someone’s honeymoon trip to Paris, but I can assure you it was very enjoyable.  We did a few touristy type things, but mostly we just acted like a young family that lives in Paris and gets to spend their days visiting parks, going in a few shops, going for walks, and talking/playing with others (to the extent possible).  It was one of my favorite miles and points trips yet, and I can’t wait to share all the details!

 

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Posted by Mommy Points | 28 Comments

28 Responses to “Planning a Family Trip to Paris”

  1. Wilhelm IV says:

    This is great!! I am so happy Little C and you enjoyed the trip! I can’t wait to hear about the next adventure.

  2. Cindy says:

    I recognize those parks! My partner and I took our then 18 month old twins to Paris a couple of years ago (40k off peak on AA). What a great pic under the Eiffel Tower!

  3. caveman says:

    Is it necessary to go up on the Eiffel tower. I mean, first you pay the ticket price, then wait in line just to see the aerial view of Paris. Cant you do that from any other high rise in Paris. We are a party of five visiting Paris for the first time in August. I definitely plan to see Eiffel tower but going to the second floor or further up with five people makes me think twice cost wise. I will highly appreciate others experiences and input.

  4. Tom says:

    Can’t wait to hear more about it. I’m excited to take my two year old son on some trips to Europe, and appreciate all the tips!

  5. Matt B says:

    @caveman, in my opinion it is well worth the ticket price. Go all the way to the top, you won’t regret it. Went last summer and my kids are still talking about it. It is not the same just to look at it from the ground, and it’s not the same old view from other buildings. But totally agree with Summer to buy tix way far in advance.

  6. Stephen says:

    I’m also planning a trip to Paris this Christmas. Booked a ticket on American and used miles to upgrade to business. Thanks for the heads up on buying Eiffel tower tickets in advanced.

  7. Sam says:

    There is only one high rise in Paris-Tour Montparnasse, a 59 story office building. There are, however, good views from the Arc, Montmatre and also the Pompidou Art Museum.

  8. Ray says:

    Thank you so much!! After reading this, it reminded me to book my tickets to the Eiffel!! There was just one time slot left for the days I am there too! Just booked it. PHEW!

  9. Robert Hanson says:

    Montmartre, high on a hill above Paris, is reachable by Metro and a short uphill walk. While not as close to “downtown” as the ET, it is much higher, and on a clear day affords a wonderful view over all of Paris.

    You can also get great views right downtown, for free, from the rooftops of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores.

  10. Paul says:

    “Best realistic option” was purchasing tickets even though you had miles? For a 4 year old? To Paris? What sane family would ever choose that? I’m a 1% and think long and hard about buying W bucket and using a GPU vs using miles. I can guarantee I’d never flush money down the toilet on a 4 year old (who would more than likely be happier at home with the grandparents – and is unlikely to remember much anyway). Unreal.

  11. DBest says:

    Lol @ Paul. In other news, Americans drive $50k BMWs instead of $20k Kias, buy $4 lattes instead of $1.50 coffee, and commute hours per day in order to pay for large houses they don’t need and can’t afford.

  12. caveman says:

    I totally agree with you Paul but I think DBest has answered your concerns very well. My trip to Disney world was when my youngest was still 4+ and whenever we watch our old movies, my other two kids enjoy each moment but the youngest who is now 18 has complete blank looks.

  13. Katie in NYC says:

    Paul – seems like Mommy Points wanted to go herself, and decided it was time to bring little C along. There’s always childcare to consider, and heck, she can’t stow a toddler away in coach while she’s sitting up front. Not the decision I would make myself, but no need to pile it on.

    Anyway MP, the trip looks like it was awesome. Paris is one of my favorite cities, an really lends itself to just hanging out on parks. Why only 4 days though? I’ve gone for a week on my last two trips. I rented an apartment once, which worked out much cheaper than a hotel, and really helped with feeling like a temporary local. Hope you stay longer next time.

  14. mommypoints says:

    -It was a really great trip, and I look forward to giving more details about the kid friendly things we did.
    -The Eiffel Tower was great if you want a good view of Paris. I’m glad we did it, but I personally didn’t find it to be a make or break activity in terms of going up…at least for us. Seeing it twinkle at night from the ground was really cool though! If you are going to go up though, book in advance.
    -It was a very tough call whether to use points or cash, and I debated on it literally for months. However, in the end, it was a poor use of miles relative to the cash price. I had no stopovers or free one-ways to build in and the redemption options were poor with our dates being fixed. It was a bunch of money for the coach tickets, but if the worst “flush” of money I ever make is to expose my kid to a different culture and have a great time with three generations of my family together, I can live with that. It is also somewhat different because we don’t travel just 1 or 2 or 3 times a year the way many families might, so we have to pick and choose what gets paid for with cash and what gets paid for with miles. Sure we could use the cash to buy miles and then pretend it was all done on miles, but the reality is if you travel as frequently as we do, you gotta supplement with some cash…or backdoor into using cash to get miles. We just took the direct route and bought the coach tickets.
    -Four days was the max this time just because of everything already scheduled around it. The dates were fixed based on overlapping with my mom and aunt in Paris, so we made the best of it. Honestly I didn’t find four days to be too short for our purposes. Wouldn’t have argued with an extra day or so, but it didn’t feel rushed for us and was a nice intro to Europe for our daughter.

  15. Gen says:

    @caveman I took my family of 5 up the Eiffel tower the other day. We had no prepurchased tix and ended up in the partial climbing line. It cost 50 euros which must be cheaper than the total elevator line. TOO many people so the wait was long. I’ve never been to Paris during high tourist season and March was the worst of my experiences so I’d think twice about summer. I’ve done it before once or twice and I didn’t want to go up, but we did it for the kids. It’s an experience. I didn’t enjoy it $75ish bucks worth, but the kids did and it was their first time going up so I think it’s a worthy endeavor unless you don’t have the funds for another “experience”. If you don’t go up, take a family picture from down below cause that’s where the good family shots will take place anyway. At any rate, the views were pretty great and the photos we got from the top are kind of amazing to look back at. You can go up the arc de triomphe for a lot cheaper supposedly. I’ve done that before too, but I don’t think it’s nearly as high. The view from Sacre Coeur is soo different so it’s not comparable. I took my 1 year old and a 4 year old to Paris the time before. So who cares if her kid is 4. Time flies mine are now 12, 9, and 7. They’ll want to travel without me soon, but for now I’m still in charge and where I go so do they.

  16. Sam says:

    I figured the over/under on someone weighing in with the judgemental lectures was about 5 comments, We got to 11-not bad.

  17. Jerry says:

    Data point – I just returned from 7-day Italy (Florence, Venice, Milan) Wideroe price error (~$250/person in Y) with my 3 year girl and 7 months boy. I’m glad we went, Day 1 was tough due to long transfer and each day simply got better. Italians loved kids and she behaved very well, chasing pigeons and running in parks, eating Gelato every day. What a trip

    @MP – I applaud you and glad to hear you enjoyed Paris, as I now eagerly plan my next Europe trip in 2015, in Aeroplan 90K business class (probably on UA and SN, as I’ve tried LX J and TK J is too far via IST)

    I’m going crazy – want to do Amsterdam (2-3 days), Zurich (stopover), Paris (4-5 days), and Brussels (1 day) with my kids. But gotta do them before boy turns 2 :) and I’ll probably try AirBnB for Paris

    Looking forward to your Paris trip report

  18. I have to laugh whenever anyone says they can’t understand why you would spend money on buying a child a ticket anywhere. We travel all the time with our kids and it is money well spent. It may not be your idea of a good use of money but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea for someone else.

    And my kids love to travel – and they are 3 and 6. Don’t assume young kids would rather be at grandparents.

    • mommypoints says:

      Andrea, Gen, Jerry, and all….I agree. If you are spending money on your family and seeing the world it isn’t wasted. It may not be spent in the same way someone else would do it, but it is not “flushed” for sure. Literally 2 minutes ago my daughter asked if we could practice French together, and that would not have happened were it not for this trip and it is genuine interest on her part. I’ll gladly spend money to invest in her interest in the world.

  19. Gen says:

    @Andrea Or even assume kids have living grandparents or that grandparents are even willing to take care of their grandkids.

  20. mdtravel says:

    Curious (hoping not to rile Paul): what company did you use for the Eiffel Tower tour/tickets? I’m in a similar position as you and am considering this. It is, after all, vacation…I’ve sacrificed all year to be able to splurge!

    • mommypoints says:

      mdtravel, I’ll post more about it soon, but we booked via Viator and didn’t have a great experience. Seems that lots of companies (including Viator) sell the same tour package, but the execution of buying through this company was not fantastic. Worked out in the end…barely. Would book directly via the Eiffel Tour website if it isn’t sold out for your dates.

  21. mdtravel says:

    Thank you. The dates are sold out more than 7 weeks in advance and we really want to get up in the tower. Listening to someone talk about the tower…no, not really. Getting up is what we’re after.

  22. VERY informative post! I really enjoyed it, thanks!
    Great images as well. It really added to the article and it looks like you had a great time in Paris.

    Here’s a great family travel resource you may want to share with your readers Real Family Trips Thanks!

  23. Farnorthtrader says:

    Anybody know if there is a method to the Eiffel Tower ticket madness. Just checked for our trip in June and no luck, however, it is wide open after July 17 (3months from now) and has a lot of availability for the next couple of weeks.

  24. rahul says:

    What a great way to spend time with your child. Money and time well spent for sure. In 2012 when my daughter was 13 months old we “flushed” cold hard cash for W fare class tickets for mommy, baby and I to all have 3 seats and upgrade to Business from SFO to Sydney well worth it. And that same year when she was 18 MO we used miles for three first class tickets on Singapore to fly to the Maldives.

    As you point out we all are busy and the time we spend with our loved ones is precious, and like you we thought this was the best way for us to enjoy our trip. Even though our daughter 2 yrs later will never remember those trips, but they will shape who she is forever.

  25. iahfra says:

    No need for advance purchase Eiffel Tower tickets: just walk to the second level. It’s cheap (like 5 euros), easy and great fun. We do it everytime we’re in Paris. If you’re capable of walking a mile, you’re capable of walking up the Tower. I wouldn’t do it any other way.

    As this is supposedly a family blog, I’ll offer the most pertinent tip for “real families” thinking of visiting Paris: it’s VERY expensive for Americans right now, and you have to be creative in planning your trip. Meals and activities can be extremely expensive: sign up for Groupon Paris and book restaurants that offer good discounts on thefork.com. At least kids under 18 are usually free at the museums, which helps a little.

    While I do occasionally buy biz class tickets for my family, it is completely unnecessary IMO. We flew for free on off-peak AA coach tickets: 40,000 each.

    We also stayed at the Radisson Blu Champs Elysees because it was “free.” I’ll be curious to read Summer’s review, but our own impression was “do people really pay $500 a night to stay here.” Very unimpressive, but fine when you’re using points.

    • mommypoints says:

      iahfra, there is no way we would have been able to walk up to the second level with two ladies in their 60’s and a 4 year old, so I think walking up might be fun for those with older kids, I don’t think it is good for young kids or older folks. I do totally agree about pricey food, but if you can limit your big meal to one a day it isn’t terrible. I’ll share some of the places we ate – some were quite affordable. I also agree that Rad Blu would not make me smile at $500 per night, but it was decent on points.

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