Paris with kids: top tips for a budget saving city break
Ah Paris; the city of lights and love. If you buy into these traditional ideas of what Paris is all about you might think it’s not a destination that screams: FAMILY CITY BREAK!!! But you’d be wrong my lovely reader, because it is possible to do Paris with kids and to do it on a budget.
The team at Asda Money have asked me for my top tips for a thrifty trip to Paris as part of their City Breaks on a Budget campaign. They also offer travel insurance and travel money, and other budget tips for city breaks abroad.
At this point I have to admit that it’s six years since my last trip to the French capital, and that was when I was pregnant with Tot, so all I had to entertain then was my cravings. Before that I was there for the final leg of a European road trip with Mr Tin Box. We were very much at the end of our budget but couldn’t miss the chance of a short stay in Paris before heading home.
So, the challenge of working out how to be frugal with children in tow as well intrigued me. Where can Euros be saved and is there enough to entertain children in Paris without splashing too much cash?
Here’s what I found out and what you need to know about either visiting Paris with kids or on a budget:
Tip 1: When to travel to Paris
Like most big cities, if you travel and stay outside of the main holidays you’re bound to save money. However, when you have school aged children, that’s not the advice you want to hear. Having looked into the best times of year to visit Paris, families might want to opt for April or May. This is when accommodation is relativity cheap and there are still fewer tourists. A late Easter break or May half term city break with kids would be ideal.
If you want to visit Disneyland then May is the best month of the two as the weather is warming up, but the queues for rides and to meet characters will not have reached their summer peak.
Whatever you do avoid June and September as this is when trade shows come to town. Accommodation will be pricey and business people are likely to factor in some sightseeing, adding to the crowds at tourist attractions. I know – I was in Paris with work during my last visit. Every restaurant near the Paris Nord Villepinte convention centre was packed out.
Surprisingly, July and August might be a bit quieter as these months coincide with the French summer holidays when the locals leave the city for the countryside and coast. However, family-friendly places to stay in Paris will still be asking for premium summer rates.
As April and May seem to be the best months for families to visit Paris these are the months I’ve used to calculate the costs of how to get to Paris and the places to stay. My other tips can apply around the year.
Tip 2: How to get to Paris
If you’re UK-based there’s a few options for getting to Paris: drive and catch a ferry; drive and catch Le Shuttle; fly; or catch the Eurostar.
Ferry and drive
If you decide to get the ferry from Dover, the crossing to Calais takes 1 hour 30 minutes and can cost from just under £100 for a car with four passengers. This was how Mr Tin Box and I reached Paris on our first visit. It’s great if you have plenty of time to spare.
Le Shuttle and drive
Tunnel crossings using Le Shuttle are faster and cost from £141 if you want to save time. The drive to Paris via Reims or Arras is straight-forward and takes about three hours. Having taken Le Shuttle too I can recommend this. Driving onto the train is a lot less scary than I thought.
Fly to Paris
Flights from London Airports to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) are cheapest saving £40 or much more on flights from regional airports in the Easter and May school holidays.
You can get the Eurostar from St Pancreas to Gare du Nord for a similar price to flights from London, but you’ll save money on transfers into the city as your journey ends not far from the centre of Paris.
The best budget option for getting to France really will depend how much time you have for your trip to Paris and where you are traveling from. For us, coming from the South West of England, a flight from a regional airport might seem pricey to begin with. But once we factor in the cost of petrol or train fares to get to Dover or London, the costs begin to even out. It’s worth calculating the cost of all the options.
Tip 3: Low budget places to stay in Paris with kids
When we’re travelling abroad with the kids it’s always reassuring to book into hotel chains we know are reasonably priced and family-friendly like Ibis Styles*. Expect to pay at least £500 for four nights mid-week over the Easter or May school holidays with rooms at these prices being snapped up fast. It is possible to find last minute deals on hotels right in the city centre. We found a characterful, luxury hotel* a street back from the Champs Élysées when we were travelling as a couple. It cost about £100 a night and was in the perfect location for sightseeing. However, it wouldn’t have been great with kids – bookmark that one for a romantic weekend!
If you prefer to have a bit more space and the option to self-cater, an aparthotel* can also be found for £500 for four nights. We’ve always found self-catering to be a good option when travelling with young children. Mornings feel a lot more relaxed when you can have breakfast in your PJs!
Another good self-catering accommodation option in Paris is Airbnb. The average price in April is £153 per night but it is possible to find self-contained flats accommodating up to four people for £50 or under a night just inside or outside the Boulevard Périphérique ring road.
Tip 4: Things to do in Paris with kids
Find an urban park
If your kids are anything like mine, there’s only so much sightseeing they can take in a day without needing somewhere to let off steam. City-weary kids will love a wander through Jardin du Luxembourg where there’s puppet shows and pony rides. It’s also where you’ll find one of Paris’ best playgrounds. Entry to the playground is €2.50 per child.
A cheap alternative to Disneyland
Looking for a day out at a theme park that doesn’t cost anywhere near the same as Disneyland? Take a look at Jardin d’ Acclimatation. There’s more than 40 rides and attractions including a small farm, high ropes and rollercoasters. You can buy single attraction tickets for as little as €2.50 or get a one day, all inclusive pass for €29 per person.
Spread the cost of sightseeing
If you are in Paris for more than a day and plan on seeing lots of the historic and cultural sights then it’s worth looking at what you can save with a Paris Pass. You can buy these to cover your sightseeing over two to six days, with priority entry – so no queueing with impatient little people. It also comes with free travel on zones 1-3 on the Metro, RER (urban trains), buses and trams for the life of the pass you purchase. If you want to spread the cost of your city break you can buy your passes up to a year before your trip and validate them in Paris when you want to start using them.
Tip 5: Free things to do in Paris
We always take advantage of as many free activities as we can during city breaks – getting there and accommodation can be expensive enough. Here’s some ideas for things to do in Paris with kids that won’t cost you a penny:
Place de la Concorde
This is the largest square in the French capital and has plenty of features to impress. At its centre is an Egyptian obelisk that once stood outside the pyramids at Luxor, and at the north and south ends of the square there are two fountains representing the rivers and the sea. If your kids like gruesome facts Place de la Concorde is also where many executions took place during the French Revolution.
The Eiffel Tower
Climbing the Eiffel Tower is the touristy thing to do when you visit Paris. We did it before kids and the views are wonderful. However, you don’t have to ascend the tower to appreciate it. If you’re on a budget you can admire the Tower from the gardens below for free. Or if you can keep the kids awake past dusk, the Eiffel Tower is lit up at night with dazzling effect. This was one of the highlights of my first visit to Paris when we saw the Tower glittering from across the River Seine. You can climb to Parc du Champ-de-Mars to see the whole city glowing.
Visit Paris in May to coincide with the European Night of the Museums – you can get free entry to a number of cultural attractions. There are other free entry days to Paris attractions around the year so do a bit of research before you book your city break.
You can visit one of Paris’ most famous sights, Notre Dame Cathedral for free. Get there early to avoid the queues. We got there at about 10am when we visited in the summer season and totally missed our chance as the lines were already huge.
Champs Élysées is incredible to walk down. 1.9km long and 70m wide, the Champs-Élysées stretches between the Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, which can both be admired for free. The car display room windows are filled with concept cars that are other-worldly. I’ll never forget seeing a Fiat covered in what looked like pink bon bon sweets.
If you visit Paris in the summer hang out on the Paris Plages beside the Seine. These artificial beaches are bought in for the warmer season complete with deck chairs and ice cream sellers.
If your children enjoy art, take them on a self guided tour of the street art in the districts of Canal St Martin, Oberkampf, Belleville or Ménilmontant.
Tip 6: Getting around Paris on a budget
I enjoy walking when in Paris as there are so many pretty buildings and famous sights that could be easily missed if you’re whizzing by in a taxi. However, walking everywhere isn’t practical with kids and taxis are definitely not a budget option. This is where the Metro comes in.
To save time and money on the Metro buy a booklet of 10 tickets called a ‘carnet’. They cost €14.40 and allow 10 rides. Any one ride can last 90 minutes and include transfers between services.
Be aware that children aged four to 10-years-old pay the same as adults for single tickets. You can however get a book of 10 tickets for them for half the adult price (€7.20). Kids aged three and under are free on the Paris metro.
Tip 7: Things to do before your city break in Paris
Here’s a few things I suggest you do before you travel to France:
- Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from the date you are due to return. I’ve just renewed mine and Tin Box Tot’s passports which were both due to run out before the summer.
- If you are planning on driving or hiring a car you need to buy an International Driving Permit. You can get them at the Post Office.
- Having travel insurance is a no brainer wherever and whenever you are travelling. When travelling with kids look for policies that insure them for free on your single trip or multi-trip policy. Asda Money Travel Insurance have some really flexible policies, even if you have pre-existing medical conditions.
- We always like to travel with a bit of cash in our pockets for taxis and ice creams. Asda Travel Money has a super handy click and collect currency service in 140 stores around the country. They also offer an exchange rate guarantee and free delivery on orders of currency worth over £500.
I don’t know about you but I’m now eyeing up flights and hotels in Paris. What do you think? Is a city break in Paris with kids more affordable than you expected?
Disclosure: this post has been written in collaboration with Asda Money. Images courtesy of Pixabay and Shutterstock. This post contains affiliate links marked with *. If you click on these and make a purchase I might make some commission. This does not affect the price you pay. Prices included in this blog post were correct at time of publication.
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