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Why You Should Take Your Family To Paris: Even With The Crowds

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Private driver San Diego to LAX Airport

Oh, do I have a story or two or three to tell!

It started at LAX for a quick-ish flight up to Calgary on our way to Paris and the start of a 2-month European adventure.

We decided on a connecting flight for two reasons. The first, we had never been to Calgary and wanted to see another side of Canada after our month in Victoria. Secondly, WestJet started flying an all-new business class product that we all thought would be fun to experience.

Air Canada Business Class Maple Leaf Lounge LAX

We left Los Angeles midday on an Air Canada flight up to Calgary.

It was uneventful except that I got very car sick on the way to the airport and it lasted into our first couple of days in Paris. Looking back, it must have been a vertigo issue of some sort because just as fast as it started, it was gone and I haven't had it since. But because of this, I wasn't 100% and didn't take in the whole experience as I had hoped to.

Having said that, the travel experience was still one of the best we've had.

Air Canada Business Class, Los Angeles to Calgary
Take off from LAX to Calgary

The Air Canada portion was exactly as we expected and very similar to most legacy transcontinental business/first-class flights. Having lounge access for sure elevated the fun.

Air Canada vegan meal LAX to Calgary Business Class

And soon we were back on the ground in Calgary.

We arranged for a driver to pick us up and we pretty much went straight to bed at our hotel in downtown Calgary. The next morning we were up and exploring before our evening flight to Paris. My favorite place we went to on our quick few hours in Calgary was for sure, The Core Shopping Center.

The Core Shopping Center, Calgary

The shopping center was more of an experience than just a place to shop.

With a huge indoor area that was made to look like an outdoor area, it was somewhere I would imagine is even more popular during the winter months. But even in the summer, we really enjoyed it! I thought we would be able to see even more of the area during the day, but we took it really easy.

WestJet Lounge: Chinook Lounge at Calgary International Airport

The Calgary International Airport is just about 25 minutes from downtown Calgary, so it was another easy drive back to the airport that evening. We were through security swiftly and spent some time waiting for our flight in the Chinook Lounge. We had access with our WestJet Business Class tickets.

WestJet New Business Class Calgary to Paris

We took up all of row one on the airplane!

I have to say, this was one of our favorite flights ever. It felt a lot like the JetBlue Mint experience, but a tad fancier. Maybe that was from the plane being newer? Also, the crew was so friendly and seemed as excited about the flight as we were.

WestJet Business Class To Paris

Emmy was seriously thrilled the entire time. 

Calgary To Paris WestJet Business Class

We also enjoyed the best food I've had in the sky!

Since we are vegetarian and vegan, we never know what we will be served. On this flight, we had big plates of veggies and a tofu bowl, popcorn and a bread basket with margarine. I didn't take a picture, but I think we had fruit as a dessert.

WestJet Business Class Vegan Meal

For breakfast, it was coffee, tea, and loaded oatmeal which is something we all love. (The pastries in the back I don't think were actually vegan so I didn't eat them, but Emmy did and thought they were excellent!)

WestJet Business Class Vegan Breakfast

Now here is where my luck seemed to run out.

But actually ended up causing us to experience one of the favorite parts of our time in Paris.

We booked a vacation rental right by the Louvre. We booked relatively early and found a place we were all super excited about. We got there and it wasn't anything like it said it was. Three bathrooms were actually 2 and the toilets were in the kitchen. I'm not even joking. You couldn't look at this in any light and think it was luxury accommodations like it said in the listing.

We've used vacation rentals before and never experiences anything like this. Not feeling great and having flown all night, I was surprisingly disappointed, but not as upset as I imagined I would be in this situation. I think that traveling a lot makes you more flexible. You roll with it.

If you are ever in a situation like this, you should immediately contact the booking company. If the property owner could fix the issue, contact them through the booking company (so there is a record) and ask for them to fix it. In our case, they couldn't fix missing bathrooms and the other issues so we requested a refund.

We didn't wait around for their response, instead, I started looking for hotels that were close by because we loved the location. Truth is, I had already scouted out a couple just in case.

Thankfully there were rooms available at the newly re-opened, Hotel Du Louvre.  This is a Hyatt property and we stayed in connecting corner rooms with little balconies. 

I could not have loved this hotel more.

Hotel Du Louvre In The Unbound Collection By Hyatt
Hotel Du Louvre Paris

Over the next seven days, we did so many fun things.

We had to get creative to do everything we wanted to because it was August and it was busy in Paris. The streets were thick with others coming and going, and this was even with some locals on holiday. I can only imagine how it must seem almost impossible when it is at the absolute peak of the travel season. But that shouldn't stop you from visiting.

Shangri-La Hotel Paris

No matter how many people are in the city, you can still have an amazing time like we did.

The first thing on our wishlist was the vegan afternoon tea at Shangri-La Hotel Paris.

We have never had such personal care during tea as we did at the Shangri-La. They even created a special tea for Ash that was gluten-free after I emailed them ahead of time. At the time of our visit, they were working on creating an on the menu option that is gluten-free.

Shangri-La Hotel Paris Family Tea
Shangri-La Hotel Paris Vegan Tea Review
Afternoon Vegan Gluten-Free Paris Tea
Afternoon Tea At The Shangri-La Hotel Paris

The hotel was absolutely stunning too and the perfect place for a Paris family tea!

Paris Guide For Families During High Season

Next on this list was a sunset boat ride on the Seine. 

The way we got around the crowds on this popular activity was that we chartered a private boat with a captain.

Paris in August

We left when the sun was still up so we could see all the sights along the river and pulled back to the dock at dark.

Paris Private Boat Ride

This was for sure one of the highlights of our time in Paris.

Private Seine River Cruise

This picture was taken the night that I was starting to feel better, but it was such a relaxing experience that I had to fight falling asleep!

Family Seine River Cruise in Paris

The boats are super smooth on the water and you can arrange for food and drinks to enjoy while you take in the sights!

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile

Another way to beat the crowds is to book a private city tour.

The Arc de Triomphe passage way

We do this in every city, and in Paris, it was even more responsible for the good time we had because our tour guide knew all the ins and outs of the city and how to see it in a way that the other tourists weren't.

Side note- we saw way too many people playing leapfrog (remember that game) getting to the Arc de Triomphe by running across the VERY busy street. Please don't do that. There is a tunnel that takes you underground to it.

The Arc de Triomphe island
Cartier on Champs-Élysées

He took us to the Champs-Élysées for a quick stroll (we came back later in the week too to do some shopping!).

Shopping on the Champs-Élysées
Champs-Élysées shopping with teens
Food in Paris for families

To some delicious patisseries and boulangeries!

{A lot of the places we went to with our tour guide, we liked so much that we came back again later, so these pictures are a hodgepodge of all the days.}

The steps of Sacré-Cœur

I was really excited to show the girls Notre Dame, and we did go onto the island to walk around a bit, but we didn't get close.

It was blocked off around from the recent fire so we knew we wouldn't have a proper viewing, but we were also told that there were carcinogens they were cleaning up and we decided to stay farther back as a precaution. 

Even though I love Notre Dame, I have to say that Sacré-Cœur has been my favorite Basilica ever since I first set foot in it many years ago. So we got our church fill. Unfortunately, this was one of those times where the massive amount of people won. We went twice and twice it had lines. I think that they wouldn't have been too bad, wait wise… but we were on a zero wasted time plan so we just took in her beauty from outside.

Plus, look at the view over Paris from her steps! 

View from Sacré-Cœur

Our guide knew the best ice cream places too!

Montmartre
Montmartre Paris

And the best places for macarons!

Emmy must have eaten her weight in them all over Europe… she even ended up trying one at a McDonalds! Ha!

Macarons Paris
Montmartre art walk
Art shopping at Montmartre
Exploring Paris

Then he guided us all around Montmartre and we came back to see all the artists at work. The girls purchased some art for their rooms too!

The second time we were there we decided to just explore without a plan and as we were leaving we just wandered back towards our hotel.

Paris Streets
Paris with kids
Bubble Tea in Paris

I'm sure this will come as no surprise, but we also found a bubble tea place so we had to stop for a drink. Our time in Victoria ruined us though as we compare every other bubble tea place to that one. The one in Paris was pretty good though!

Paris Métro

Emmy found her fellow passengers on the Paris Métro very dramatic and tried to duplicate their demeanor. I'd say she nailed it!

Really though, metro aside, we found everyone in Paris that was a local to be very friendly and helpful. They were way kinder than when I was last there as a teen. People went out of their way to point us in the right direction without even asking. I'm afraid to say that it was our fellow tourists that were the ones that were sometimes not as considerate as they could have been.

Paris Gardens

We stopped at a couple of museums throughout our day, but we saved the big one for later in the week.

Paris 4th Quarter

The tour ended in Marais so we could see the Jewish District.

By that point, Emmy was past exhausted so we took an Uber back to our hotel. Uber worked really well in Paris and with a family of five, we loved that there were Mercedes Vans available and we had no problem getting one quickly.

Paris Louvre Private Tour

Another HUGE tip for stress-free Paris family vacations is to hire a private tour guide for the Louvre. 

We had an art history expert as ours and she was absolutely fantastic. She had a route all planned out to whisk us through to see everything we wanted to see.

Louvre with kids
Mona Lisa, Louvre Paris

After our tour was formally over, our tour guide directed us to the start of the queue to see the Mona Lisa. 

Pete and I had seen it before, but the girls really wanted to see it, so we did. Had they not been interested we would have skipped it. The path to see it felt like a never-ending curving line up. We would get to the end of one and then another would appear. The Louvre was for sure doing their best and there were people directing you at every bend, but it was still too much. Hopefully, once she is back in her permanent place, it will be easier to see her.

The Eiffel Tour- Reese Family

The top of Emmy's list was The Eiffel Tour. 

I really tried to figure out the best way for us to experience The Eiffel Tour. I looked at the restaurants and the views that they offered, and then decided to buy advanced tickets to the second level. I went to the top level before and the second level and I liked the second level just as much and it was more time-efficient.

We did arrive early to clear security (there is a fence and security check areas). The process was smooth and we had time to spare. Be sure to look for the line for those that have pre-purchased tickets.

After we were in the secure area, we easily found the line to go up the tower. I thought we would need to be in it pretty early, but in reality, about 10-15 minutes in we were still one of the first up.

The line to get down on the other hand, was a lot longer so we just walked down. My legs were very tired after, but the rest of the family is in obviously better shape and didn't feel a bit sore!

The view was worth every step! 

View from The Eiffel Tour
The Eiffel Tour View
Paris from The Eiffel Tour

Last, but not least, let's talk about the food.

The last time I was in Paris, I was a vegetarian. Even though there is some of the best cheese on the planet in Paris I was still offered boiled, flavorless vegetables and a plain omelet.

So this trip I had no idea what to expect as a vegan. 

I was pleasantly surprised. We found a lot of options to eat and I'm very thankful that we were not doing some sort of budget travel challenge because that would have been really difficult. Paris as a whole is not known for being budget-friendly and then you add vegan dining to that and well, you get the picture.

There were a bunch of vegan or vegetarian/vegan restaurants and then just regular restaurants that had good options so we ate at a mix of places. We wanted to eat at as many places with tables on the street to people watch and we found that most had something to accommodate us.

Dining in Paris
Paris vegan and vegetarian food
Paris vegetarian and vegan restaurants

Even though we visited Paris with our family during the busy August time, we still had an amazing time!

Heather
the authorHeather
Heather Delaney Reese is a Lifestyle and Family Travel Writer currently on the road with her family 150 days a year, sharing exceptional family memory making moments and life's everyday fun times. She is a big proponent of encouraging others to join her journey and become a professional blogger so that they too can make money at home and spend more time with their families.

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