The first thing families usually ask us when considering a trip to France is, “Is France child-friendly?” It is! Not in the “please run through our restaurant screaming” way that you find in Italy, but child-friendly in that there are many rewarding, exciting things to do with children all over France.
Tips for Traveling to France with Kids
How to Craft a France Itinerary
We’ve spent years putting together helpful tips and guiding families on keeping itineraries focused to maximize fun. Plan on spending at least 10-14 days in France if you plan to explore Paris plus one or two other regions.
I recommend spending at least four days in Paris to experience the City of Lights meaningfully. We love Paris with kids!
One popular itinerary that combines city, beach and countryside experiences is to start in Paris, take the TGV train to Provence, spend a week or so there and in the Côte d’Azur, and then fly out of Nice.
While the Côte d’Azur offers beautiful seaside villages and famous cities such as Nice and Cannes, it’s also very busy, particularly over the summer months. For a quiet beach vacation during peak periods, families should look elsewhere.
Other coastal options include rugged Brittany and its two car-free islands. Brittany is very convenient coming from Britain and can be combined with Normandy and/or the Loire Valley.
For a coastal experience in the south of France, we also like Biarritz. Bordeaux and Biarittz can easily be combined with Paris via the TGV train. People think Bordeaux is for wine lovers, not necessarily for families, but there is plenty for families to enjoy in this region. Be sure to read our article on Bordeaux and Biarritz with kids.
The Dordogne region is not as well known as Provence, but we love this region in Central France for its history, castles, caves and activities for active families. For more information, check out Dordogne Holiday Highlights.
Mountain-enthusiast families should head to Chamonix, home of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps for skiing in a breathtaking setting. We also love Val Thorens and Les Gets, part of the expansive Portes du Soleil, for skiing with kids.
Southwestern France and the medieval walled fortress city of Carcassonne are fantastic to explore with children. Country Kids Resort is based in this region and is dedicated to hosting family holidays.
Finding Paris Accommodations
Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Finding accommodations for families is challenging. Although the beautiful old buildings that house many of the hotels are full of character, many hotel rooms cannot accommodate a family of four or more people in one room. Many hotels do not even offer connecting rooms or family suites. We’ve curated a list of great family-friendly hotels in Paris.
Paris hotel rooms can be noisy and some hotels have single-pane windows. You may want to forgo the view for a quiet room in the back, so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.
Apartments are another great option for families in Paris for space and money, and allow families to live in a neighborhood like a local. Having a kitchen not only saves money on food, but shopping at the fabulous city markets is a true Parisian experience.
Note that many apartment rentals in Paris have minimum stay requirements of four or more days. Also, if you rely on a concierge in cities for advice and assistance, an apartment rental may not be the best choice unless the agency provides additional services. For this reason, we like Haven in Paris, as they offer hotel-like services to their guests.
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Finding Countryside Accommodations
Countryside accommodation options in France include hotels, guest houses and gîtes (farmhouses converted to rentals), as well as independent villa/home and apartment rentals. We haven’t found as many resort properties offering high-quality self-catering units in France as we have in Italy, but we do have some excellent accommodation options on our France family hotel list.
We’ve heard horror stories of idyllic vacation plans gone awry when a rental property does not meet expectations. If a rental is described as “child-friendly,” make sure to ask for the property’s definition of those terms. Be sure to ask for specifics like the proximity of the pool to the home and any dangerous features for young children.
Our Family Travel Consulting team manages a list of vetted villa rental agencies that we use use as part of our trip planning services.
Guest houses and B&Bs in the countryside can be a wonderful option for families to connect with other traveling families. A great example is Le Chevrefeuille in the Dordogne.
Our Trip Planning team can also suggest some upscale properties on the coast of France that have supervised kids’ clubs for all ages.
Planning Kid-Friendly Activities
A family trip to France is a significant investment. We strongly suggest having a line item for guides in your budget as they greatly enhance the experience for all ages.
Paris is one of the world’s most visited cities. Seeing its best-known monuments and museums can require wading through masses of people and waiting in long lines. Children will be exhausted before you even get inside. The Paris Museum Pass not only saves money, but also precious time, given that you can skip the line at many popular museums.
The secret to a successful holiday is to explore the sights at a leisurely pace and take time to discover your neighborhood’s parks, bakeries and cafes. Forget the Paris you think you’re supposed to see, and you’ll get much more out of the Paris that’s actually there.
Pre-book tickets to the Eiffel Tower. You still have to wait in line after the first landing, but this saves significant time. Read 72 Hours in Paris with Kids for more Paris time-saving tips.
To create your own “scavenger hunt” in the museums, the book Katie Meets the Impressionists lists exactly which museums house the paintings listed in the book.
Mix up sightseeing by taking a tour on a bike. Fat Tire Bike Tours offers wonderful tours of the city and they offer multiple bike options for children.
The Pompidou Center has a hands-on children’s area called La Galerie des Enfants, with rotating exhibits designed by artists. It’s free for kids; adults need a museum ticket. Add to that a brief tour of the main collections on Levels 4 and 5, a stunning view across Paris from Level 7, and lunch next door at one of the cafes opposite the fantastic Stravinsky Fountain for a fantastic family excursion.
The simultaneous feeding of 120 hunting dogs at Château de Cheverny in the Loire Valley is a sight to be seen on the chateau’s idyllic setting.
Activities like ziplining in France are great for family bonding, and we’ve found from experience that it’s important to include these types of activities with traditional sightseeing.
The Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanquein Gourdesis a lovely medieval Cistercian abbey that is one of the best places to see Provence’s famed lavender fields.
Atout Franceis a comprehensive online France resource for events and activities in destinations all over France.
Many regions have their own tourism board, which will have listings of special events, local markets and activities.
One of our favorite experiences in France was attending a village festival over the summer. Seek participation in local traditions like this in the French countryside.
The Eurostar train from London to Paris is only 2 hours and 15 minutes from city center to city center. This route is faster and easier than flying.
Vacation time is valuable. Even budget-wary travelers should spend money if necessary to save time.
The Paris Metro is one of the most practical methods of transport, but it can be less expensive and faster for a family of four or more people to travel by taxi rather than the Metro for short trips. Buying passes is a good way to optimize the cost of using the Metro.
Driving in Paris can be stressful during peak traffic periods. Depending on your itinerary, we suggest taking the train from Paris to Tours or another town just outside the city and picking up rental cars there.
If you don’t want to drive in the countryside, you could stay in a larger city such as Avignon in Provence and get a driver to take you to explore smaller villages.
For car rentals in Europe, we like Auto Europe. They are a broker with a 24 x 7 call center staffed with English-speaking agents. When trouble arises, this service is invaluable. Not only do they have excellent service, they are very price-competitive.
The France rail system is called SNCF. The high-speed or bullet trains, known as the TGV, are an experience in themselves. Book your tickets in advance using Rail Europe, as popular routes may sell out in peak season.
Dining in France
France cuisine is sightseeing for the palate. Restaurants in France are very diverse from region to region based on their natural bounty. Experiencing the styles and specialties of different regions is nirvana for foodies. Cheese, crepes and croissants are always popular with the kids!
We had a phenomenal experience in a Ferme Auberge in the Dordogne. This is an experience you can only get in France!
Children are welcome in French restaurants, but they’re more or less expected to behave. Try the French habit of not letting them snack except in the afternoon; hungry children are more motivated to sit and eat.
Picnics are a fast, fun and budget-friendly option for lunch. Take advantage of the great outdoor markets and boulangeries in every town for supplies, then pick a spot with a lovely view. For a sophisticated picnic in Paris, check out L’Epicerie du Bon Marché and head to Luxembourg Gardens.
Too tired to shop for picnic supplies? Pink Flamingo Pizza (serveral locations in Paris) will deliver its exotic pizzas to your picnic blanket along the Canal St. Martin or the Place des Vosges. You stop in, order, get some balloons, then bicycle delivery comes to find you.
Le Relais de l’Entrecoté is a unique experience in Paris if you like steak frites … that’s all they serve! They do not take reservations and are quite popular. There is a queue before they open at 7, so arrive early and you will be among the first to be seated.
Berthillonglaciers is to ice cream what Château Lafite Rothschild is to wine. A stop here is a must after a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral. If it’s Sunday, follow the tweeting to the nearby Marché aux Fleurs et Aux Oiseaux, the bird market on the Place Louis Lepine (open Sundays from 8 am to 7 pm).
Our Family Vacation Consulting team can also recommend cooking classes in Paris or a chef to cook in rental villas and apartments.
At nicer restaurants, the table is yours for the evening, so you may need to ask for the bill.
A carafe of water is free if you ask.
A travel tip that makes parents happy is that a glass of house wine is usually cheaper than a soda everywhere in France.
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Other Important Information
Medical | The first stop if you’re sick is the neighborhood pharmacy. Doctors make house calls for less than you expect. See this list from the U.S. Embassy for English-speaking medical facilities in France.
Travel insurance | Three types of coverage: cancellation, baggage and health. Cancellation insurance reimburses for non-refundable travel. It’s worth it if there’s a one in 20 chance you will need to cancel or interrupt your trip. Check your medical coverage to determine if you need additional coverage.
France is a Playground and a Classroom. Let Us Help You Plan a Trip of a Lifetime.
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