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 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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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?!
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.
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….
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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