Friday, June 27, 2008

Advice: Somewhere to Stay

We've found that lodging is often the hardest part of planning our trips, especially with our European trips. Since European hotels often have lower guest limits (usually 2 to 3 people per room), we either have to book several rooms or find a hotel offering a "family" style room.

I've found several sites that have offered great deals and have accommodations that meet our needs. (a British based site)

Another thing we have discovered about lodging is that you should always call the hotel directly. Often times we've been able to book one room because our children are young, by calling the hotel and speaking with a rep. I've also been able to get additional "amenities" by speaking directly with a hotel rep. It is amazing what you can do by talking to someone!

Tip: Snacks

When we are traveling, we are inevitably out and about during snack times. Since are children are still pretty young, snacks are still important. Not wanting to spend a fortune on buying something while we are out (at least all the time), especially since Europe is so expensive, we came up with snack packs.

Each of our older children (ages 3 and 5) has their own hip pocket (very retro I know). They get a small water bottle (about 8 ounces with a sport cap), a packet of Kool-Aid to go, and several snack options. You can use anything portable, like fruit snacks, fruit leather, individual packages of crackers or cookies, or you can make your own little packets using snack sized ziploc bags.

This idea has worked out well. The kids have snacks, which they can access at their leisure, and we don't have to carry them!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Paris, France

Location: Paris, France

Time Frame: December 2007, 4 days


Type. With three kids, especially in Europe, we are generally required to get two hotel rooms. Sometimes, we can get one room (if the room limit is at least 4 people), since our youngest is just a year. We found a decent hotel called the Hotel Migny Opera Montmartre.

Cost. We paid about $150 a night (we booked through Last, for a family quad room.

Amenities. It had 3 double beds, a bathroom with a tub, shower and sink, and a separate room with the toilet. We brought our own baby cot (playpen or portacrib), and there was plenty of room for it. The room was a bit odd, in the fact that the room key was needed to activate the electricity in the room (so we had to place the room key in a special box to turn on the lights), so every time we had to leave the room, all power was turned off. This was a bit of a downer for us, since we were carrying our portable fridge for the baby's milk, we also had to reset the alarm clock (provided by the hotel) every night when we came back.
There was no parking at the hotel. It did offer an internet terminal for hotel guests. There was no elevator, as the hotel is older and oddly designed, so we had to lug our kids and luggage up three flights of stairs to our room. The hotel did offer a breakfast, but it was a bit pricey (about 9 euro per person), so we brough our own! There was someone at the desk pretty much 24/7.

Other. The hotel was decently located. It was on the edge of the "red light" district, which you had to pass through to reach the Metro station. The Metro station was close enough to walk to, which was nice. We had to turn the room key in at the desk every time we left, and pick it up again when we returned. We also lost hot water for an entire day, with little explanation from hotel staff, and their promises were not fulfilled as far as when it would be restored. Considering it was the middle of winter, losing hot water was not a good thing.

Kid Friendly Rating: I would give this hotel two stars (**) for kid friendliness.


Driving. We decided to drive to Paris from our home in Germany. Driving in the city was pretty chaotic and stressful (think New York City, only worse). Luckily we were planning on leaving our car in a garage and using public transportation during our stay. Parking was difficult, and somewhat hard to find. We finally found a parking garage about 1 KM from our hotel (sadly it was the closest). The parking rate was 25 euro per day (24 hours). This is pretty standard rate for big European cities. It was a secured garage, which was nice.

Public Transportation. Paris has an AWESOME public transportation system. Upon arrival, we purchased the Paris Visite Pass, which gave us 3 days of unlimited transportation on Paris' transit system. We had to buy passes for myself and my husband, and our oldest child required the reduced pass (he was over 3 at the time). The pass comes in different forms, covering different time periods, and different zone coverage. It was fairly inexpensive (considering), and well worth it with kids. One thing to keep in mind though, Paris' subway stops are NOT handicap friendly, which means they have a lot stairs. If you are bringing a stroller, be expecting to be carrying it up and down a lot of stairs during your trips. Luckily, you are likely to find a lot of helpful Parisians and tourists willing to lend a hand.

Walking. Paris can be walked...if you are very determined. Even using the public transportation system, you will still have to do a lot of walking, so be prepared for some tired little feet and legs. Luckily there are plenty of fun things to see along the way.


Food was probably the hardest part of our trip. Since we were there over the holidays, a lot of stuff was closed, plus, we aren't really food snobs, so we had a hard time find stuff to eat.

Fast Food. Paris, like every other big city, has plenty of fast food. There is the ubiquitous McDonalds (which we did go to!). We also found a place called Quick Burger, which was good and cheap, and easy to find! Another fun way to have "fast food" is to visit one of the many Crepe stands that dot the streets of Paris. Our kids were so excited to see that there were "pancakes"! We also enjoyed a doner kebab (a yummy treat from Germany), from one of the many Kebab stands, which are a Turkish fast food place!

Sit Down. We only had a few sit down meals, mostly because we found a lot of the sit down restaurants were not really family friendly or kid friendly. Our best sit down experience was at a little restaurant across the street from Notre Dame, called the La Rosace. They were so nice to our kids, and had cheap food (which was another hard thing to find in Paris). The food was so good!


There is plenty of stuff to see in Paris, and so little time. We tried to see as much as we could in the few days we were there. If you are interested in visiting a lot of sights, consider getting the Paris Museum pass. This pass covers many of the "toursit" attractions (with a notable exception of the Eiffel Tower), and can help reduce the cost. Check out their site to determine if the pass is worth it for you. If you do decide to purchase it, you can get it in Paris at any of the Tourist Information offices.

The Eiffel Tower

Times: Open 365 days a year, times vary on the season and type of ascension (stairs or elevator), check the website.

Costs: Children under 3 are free. Other costs depend on age, and to what level you want to go to. The max fee (for all the way to the top), is 12 euro for adults, and 6.70 euro for children (3 -11 years).

Comments: This was our children's most memorable and favorite stop in Paris. We chose the elevators (with a stroller and two other tots, it was the least stressful). The lines were not that long (though keep in mind we were there in the middle of winter), but I would still recommend getting there as early as possible to avoid long waits. One thing to keep in mind. For travel all the way to the top, you have to get off the elevator at the second level. It is an incredible view. However, in order to get to the top, you have to wait in another line to get on the elevator for the top. It was a very long wait, as the elevators are small, and there are huge crowds. We had to wait over 2 hours (and it was bitterly cold and windy up there, so it wasn't very fun). The view from the top wasn't really any better than the view from the second level, so I would recommend that you just go up to the second level and enjoy it from there!
The Eiffel tower also offers enjoyment at night. After dark, they have a light show, which occurs every 30 minutes. It is essentially lit up with sparkling Christmas lights. It is a great sight (the kids loved it), and is best viewed from accross the Seine at the Palais de Chaillot. This is the one thing my kids vividly remember from Paris.

Notre Dame
Times: The cathedral is open every day of the year from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm.

Costs: Entrance to the cathedral is free.

Comments: The inside of the cathedral is gorgeous, and well worth the visit. Lines can be long, especially during peak periods (Christmas, Summer, other Catholic holidays), so be prepared to wait in line. You can purchase audioguides, and other guides inside the cathedral. Keep in mind this is an operating church, so dress codes are expected (generally no bare shoulders and knees), and so is quiet. Our kids did okay with the quiet part, but we did have to watch them closesly to ensure that they did not disturb worshipers or other vistors. Pictures are allowed, but the lighting is not spectacular inside, so either don't take photos, or make sure your camera has a wide aperature to allow maximum light in.

Notre Dame Tower
Times: Opened every day, from April 1st till September 30th, 10 am at 6:30 pm, however in June, July and August it is open on Saturday, Sunday, 10 am to 11 pm. From October 1st to March 31st it is open from 10 am to 5:30 pm. The last access is 45 minutes before the closing time. The towers are closed on January 1st, in May 1st, and December 25th.

Costs: Touring the towers does require an entrance fee, which is 7.50 euro for adults. Children are free.

Comments: There are 387 steps to the top of the south tower (where you enter), and there is no elevator to use, so be prepared for a long climb. If you bring a stroller, be prepared to seek out a place to store it (depending on who is working the ticket desk they may let you keep it there), or haul it up the steps. Small children will have a hard time. Our 5 year old was able to climb the entire way up (slowly), but our younger children had to be carried up (making it more work for us!). It is an incredible view of Paris, and the kids really enjoyed seeing all the gargoyles and the bells. Don't worry the walky way on top is fenced in so little ones won't be able to climb or fall over the edge. I highly recommend this trip. Lines are long (especially in peak season), so get there really early to make sure you don't have to wait forever.

Arc D' Triomphe

Times: The Arc is open from April 1 to September 30 from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. and from October 1 to March 31, from 10 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Keep in mind that the cashier closes 1/2 hour before the closing time. The monument is closed January 1, May 1,May 8 (morning), July 14 (morning), November 11 (morning) and December 25.

Costs: Rates for adults are 9 euro, and children under 18 are free.

Comments: This was a sort of last minute visit for us, but well worth it. It is a bit of a hike (284 steps up), but the view is spectacular...especially at night. You can see the Champs E' Lysees and the Eiffel tower lit up.

The Louvre

Times: The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Tuesday and the following holidays, January 1st, May 1st, November 11 and December. The permanent collection and temporary exhibitions will close at 5 p.m. on December 24 and 31.

Costs: The cost of entrance to the museum is 9 euro for adults, and children under 18 are free. Entrance to the museum is free on the first Sunday of every month.

Comments: This was worth the trip. While we did the "compact" tour (sorry but small kids and museums don't usually mix well), and hit the major pieces, like the Great Hall, the Mona Lisa, and a few other paintings we wanted to see. The museum has a free map which indicates where all the major attractions are, and can help you plan out your visit. You will likely have to carry your stroller at some point, as there are steps between exhibition halls. There are lines at each entrance, so be preapred to wait, even in the "low" season.

The Palace at Versailles

Times: The Palace is open every day, except Mondays and some French public holidays or during official ceremonies. The Garden, the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon is open every day except in bad weather (garden) or when the ceremonies are held. 26 March to 31 October there is an admission fee.

Costs: Admission for adults is 13.50 euro (children under 18 are free) to the palace. The Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon cost an additional 9 euro.

Comments: We stopped at Versailles on the way home, and it was definitely worth the wait. The inside of the palace was incredible. You are not supposed to take photographs inside most parts of the palace, but many people do anyway. It is a long visit (if you hit all the exhibits), so your kids might not enjoy the walking, and will probably get bored. You can also visit the gardens, which during the summer, are gorgeous and offer plenty of entertainment.


When you travel with little ones, bathrooms are an important thing to be able to find. Europeans are generally not big on public restrooms.

Availability: Public restrooms can be found, but are scattered and not always easy to find. Your best bet is to make sure to make use of restrooms offered in the restaurants, museums, and other attractions that you visit. Most of the major attractions have restrooms.

Public/Private: Most available restrooms are actually going to be in some type of business, whether it is a restaurant or attraction.

Cost: Costs for restrooms can run from free to around 1 euro per person. Occassionally bathroom attendants will allow an adult to take a child into the restroom and only charge for one person (I did this with my kids, and even when I took both potty trained children, I usually only had to pay for me).

Nearby Amenities

Laundry: We didn't notice any laundry faciilties near our hotel, but scattered around the city we did see some laundry facilities. Ask your hotel where the best facilities are located.

Groceries: There are plenty of supermarches (supermarkets) around Paris, and prices are generally reasonable. They carry most of what you might need (or want), including baby supplies, disposable dishes, and the normal food fare you need. There are also a variety of great bakeries, fruit stands, and butcher shops that you can visit for a more personal Parisian experience.

Paris was a wonderful experience, and definitely one of the best trips we had with the kids. There was plenty to see, good transportation, and good food. I highly recommend Paris to anyone interested. I would also recommend that parents consider an "adult" only trip to the City of Lights, as there is even more to be enjoyed without kids!

Trip Highlights

- The "sparkly lights" at the Eiffel Tower.
- The Champs D' Elysees at night.
- Riding the Metro in Paris (our kids love trains).

Overall Rating

Paris is definitely a 5 star must see location.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Journey Begins!

Hello all! I know that there is plenty of travel advice out there, books, websites, fliers, name it. I have used many of these resources myself when planning trips. One thing I found, is that many travel resources lack information and advice in traveling with children.

Having three small children myself, I know that there are many challenges to overcome when traveling with kids. Many of these challenges can be eliminated or mitigated with information. To this end, I have decided to start this blog.

I plan to publish a review of each location that I visit. Each review will follow the format below, and be based on my personal experience. Others are invited to submit reviews of locations they have visited as well. Please follow the same format, and include as much information as you can, including web links. If possible, please include labels for your post, so that visitors can easily sort through posts to find the information they want (labels can include location names, tip/advice topics, age groups, etc).

General tips and advice about traveling with children will also be published, and again general submissions are welcome. Have a trick that worked for you? Let us all know!

I want this to be an open forum for sharing ideas and advice. Traveling with kids should be fun...not scary!



Time Frame:

Kid Friendly Rating (out of 5 *, with 5 being really good, and 1 being really poor)

Public Transportation

Fast Food
Sit Down



Nearby Amenities:


Trip Highlights:

Overall Rating: