We're certainly not the only family headed to France soon--an article in The Wall Street Journal last week announced that Europe is bracing for record numbers of visitors this summer, largely due to the favorable dollar/euro exchange rate. Nonetheless, I think Audrey Hepburn would agree that even when traveling as a family during the height of tourist season, Paris is always a good idea. Over the past five years, the amount of home and apartment rentals online has grown exponentially, making it simpler to find an affordable and accommodating space for your family. Here's what you should know if you're looking for family lodging in Paris:
Start your housing search as early as possible. The best options go quickly! Reserve your space as soon as you know your travel dates. Booking six months or more in advance will give you more spacious choices in better locations with better amenities. Booking just a few months before your trip means paying more and getting less.
Know which area of Paris you'd like to stay in. Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, with the smallest numbered arrondissements around the heart of the city (near Notre Dame de Paris) and spiraling outward to the higher numbered arrondissements in the suburban outskirts. Don't just aim for something near the Eiffel Tower--neighborhoods can be hit-and-miss around there.
My favorite area of Paris is the 3rd and 4th arrondissements (le Marais) for the location, shops, and character, but the 6th has le Jardin de Luxembourg, an ideal park for children. If you're willing to stay further out, the 11th with le Canal St. Martin provides a touch of nature in the city.
Consider a home exchange. Exchanging homes allows you to step into the life of another family, enjoy their home's comforts, and save hundreds of dollars on housing costs. Thanks to homeexchange.com, we're doing a home exchange that will allow us to enjoy a stopover in another country for several days on our way to France. (Location hint: we'll have close to 21 hours of daylight while we're there!) I look forward to providing home exchange tips in a future post!
For families, furnished apartments are a far better choice than hotels, providing more space and more amenities--and often for less money.
Direct rental sites like Airbnb and Kid & Coe are game-changers: they allow families to rent their apartments directly to visitors for a small fee. In other words, when August arrives and Parisians flee to the countryside for vacation, a number of Parisian families rent out their apartments to families like yours while they are away. They recoup some of their housing costs and you get to relax in a fully stocked apartment geared for family life.
There is a huge inventory of listings on Airbnb. To find a great choice for your family, limit your search to those that are family friendly, examine the photos closely, check the number of listings the host has listed (one is best), and read the reviews. I've compiled some of my favorite child-friendly listings in Paris here.
Kid and Coe specifically features global listings of kid-friendly homes and apartments with awesome decor. Established in 2013, the site doesn't yet have the depth of inventory of larger companies like Airbnb, but every listing is beautiful inside. Unfortunately, I found their Paris listings were out of our budget, but you might find something wonderful in your price range.
There are also good rental apartments available through third party companies such Haven in Paris, but their apartments are full-time rentals so they may not have as many extra amenities pertaining to children. However, these agencies can provide personal service and many offer transportation from the airport. Check Rick Steve's Paris guide or The Little Bookroom Guide to Paris with Children for other reliable apartment rental companies.
Search in French and English for apartments with amenities that match your children's needs or ages. If you have a baby, for example, search for French keywords like bébé, poussette (stroller), lit bébé (crib or baby bed). For toddlers and young children, search for labels such as enfants (children), jouets (toys), and jeux (games).
Don't let the daily price fool you: if you're staying for a week or more, many listings have cheaper rates than the daily rate listed. To avoid missing these deals for longer stays, set your search parameters to a higher range of prices, then examine the individual listings up close to see if there's a weekly rate.
Always contact the host before you pay because many hosts do not update their online calendars to reflect its availability more than a few months out. The host may also give you a deal lower than the listed price. We were able to get lower rates for both of our airbnb bookings this summer simply by asking the host about the cost for our dates and family size.
If you're never used Airbnb and you choose to do so thanks to my recommendation, please use referral code www.airbnb.com/c/mvixathep?s=8. You will receive $25 off your first booking and I will receive $25 in credit as well. Merci!
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All of the information here is my own opinion and was not solicited by any of the companies listed. The book links included are Amazon Affiliate links.