Three days in Paris, France

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The Louvre

It’s Thanksgiving break 2019, and my husband, three teenagers, preschooler, and I took our first family trip to Europe.  We flew from Chicago to Paris, boarded the underground train from Paris to London, and flew from London to Sintras, Spain.  This post will be dedicated to our first leg of the trip: Paris.

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Brotherly love in the city of love 

We loved Paris.  During our three days in the city, we walked and photographed all the major landmarks in the city (Notre Dame, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Luxembourg Gardens, Seine River), which were all close to our hotel in Place St-Michael.  I used various walking tours of Paris from Pinterest to walk efficiently to the best spots in the various arrondissements.

My favorite parts of the city were the playgrounds where my four-year old could play and the older kids snacked on decadent pastries and espresso purchased from a nearby cafe.  See pictures below!

Once we were done walking through Luxembourg Garden, we toured the Eiffel Tower.  Henry and I played in a park near the tower while the older kids and dad tried to find a bathroom.  Hint: searching “public bathrooms” on Google Maps saves a lot of time!  We watched the night show of the Eiffel Tower before walking back to the hotel for the night.  The kids were exhausted and slept so well needless to say!

 

The next day we enjoyed brunch and more sight-seeing.  We missed the Paris Catacombs, however, which were something the older kids really had their heart set on.  My regret is that we didn’t buy tickets in advance.  That night, the kids were relieved when we took an Uber to the Christmas Market outside of the city.  The kids tried (and enjoyed!) escargots before we inhaled a box of beautiful macaroons.  We visited Santa and bought a few souvenirs before leaving the festivities to return home before our early morning train ride to London.

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All the macaron flavors you could imagine! 

Lessons learned in Paris:

  • Buy a durable, compactable, travel stroller before the trip like your husband suggests (and not in a Paris mall on the second day of the trip because your toddler refused to walk and your arms were burning from carrying a 50-pound child across the city!)
  • Eat early in Paris on weekday nights because places suitable for kids closed unexpectedly early (and our teens prime hunger time seems to be after 9 pm)
  •  Enjoy the afternoon tea time that many hotels observe, where they set out pastries and coffee for their guests
  • Purchase Catacomb tickets prior to your trip
  • Double check that your oldest son has his luggage in the Paris train station when it’s time to board the 6 am train to London!

From Iceland to Ireland: Our trip with our parents, in-laws and children.

June 2018

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A group of 9 travelers

Travelers:

Orlando, Emily, Orlando’s parents, Emily’s mom and the children drove around Iceland and the ring of Kerry in Ireland.

How did we pay for this trip:

Miles, miles, miles. Emily and I had about 120,000 miles each through Delta. Emily also had the equivalent to $600 dollars worth of points through Chase. We started looking up destinations in Europe where we could use 60,000 to 70,000 miles. Our options were Rome, Iceland or Paris. We ended up paying for 2 tickets (kids). We also used WOW airlines from Iceland to Dublin, tickets were about$170 round trip.

What Airline(s) did we fly on:

We flew economy on Delta Arlines to Iceland, and WOW airlines from Iceland to Dublin. We usually like Delta the best out of the three major airlines, but from our last experience we can no longer recommend the airline.

Comfort: 7/10 – For basic economy, seats were fine for everyone.

Food: 7/10 – Food and drinks were reasonable.

Service: 4/10 – Worst customer service from ORD to JFK as they didn’t allow us to board with all the kiddos when they called for passengers with small children.

Kid Friendly: 1/10 – I have to give them a 1 because they didn’t let all the kids board at the same time.

Entertainment: 9/10 – Plenty of movies to make the time pass by.

We flew economy on WOW Airlines from Iceland to Dublin. 

Comfort: 7/10 – Decent space for a low budget airline.

Food: 7/10 – Food was OK, but you have to pay for it.

Service: 10/10 – Friendly faces everywhere.

Kid Friendly: 8/10 – No complaints.

Entertainment: 0/10 – No entertainment available.

Where did we stay:

There is one thing you have to know about Iceland… well maybe two. #1, hotels are really expensive! #2 you get what you pay for.

Hotel Grásteinn

The area looks kind of sketchy at first, but the hotel is nice, quiet and staff is really friendly.  This hotel is a great value if you are staying the night close to the airport. Kids loved the breakfast and the uniqueness of the hotel.

Acco Luxury Apartments

We really loved the Akureyri area and this condo was in a prime area of town. We really enjoyed the good selection of coffee houses, restaurants, the port and the parking options. The price is a bit higher than what we normally pay for hotels, but for the amount of people and the location, this condo is worth every single penny.

Stracta Hotel

We absolutely loved this hotel! When you think of Iceland, this is exactly the type of hotel you think of. The entire family was fascinated by the rooms, the sauna, hot tubs and the surroundings.

BB Hotel Keflavik Airport

This was the first hotel we stayed in Iceland and we had an instant shock as to how small the rooms are in Iceland! Rooms were clean and would recommend anyone staying there.

The Wild Atlantic Lodge

We highly recommend staying at this hotel. The hotel is really charming, the staff is really nice and attentive and the area is really pretty. It is close to the cliffs of Moher.

Hotel Isaacs Cork

If you have little kids this hotel is not for you. The hotel itself is clean, unique and the staff is really friendly. However, the hotel is in the middle of the pub area. We would recommend this hotel and the area to couples, but stay in a different area if you have children.

Lessons learned:

We loved Iceland and Ireland. The children complained that we drove for most of the vacation and they may be right. We recommend spending at least 7 days in Iceland or 10 days if you are planning on driving around the country. We recommend the same amount of time for Ireland. Both beautiful countries with lots to see.

 

Four countries, one week, and a toddler: Our trip to Netherlands, Greece, Portugal and France.

May 2017

 

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Travelers:

Orlando, Emily and the toddler.

How did we pay for this trip:

Emily and I had 70,000 miles each through Delta. Emily also had the equivalent to $500 dollars worth of points through Chase. We started looking up destinations in Europe where we could use 70,000 miles. Our only options were Amsterdam and Paris. Both cities were cold during May so we looked into flights within Europe. To our surprise, flying in Europe is pretty cheap! It’s actually cheaper to go from Amsterdam to Athens than to go from Chicago to Miami; this may be due to our limited airline choices in America compared to the number of airlines in Europe. We ended up paying about $100 per person for flights going to Amsterdam, Athens, Santorini, Lisbon and Paris. We stayed at 4-star hotels at an average of $150 per night (with breakfast frequently included).

Delta is not paying me for this, but if you are interested in the Delta American Express card, you can apply using this link: http://refer.amex.us/ORLANHVbco?xl=cp53. You will get 70,000 miles and I will get 10,000 bonus miles, not bad for a credit card.

What Airline(s) did we fly on:

We flew economy on Delta Arlines getting there and Delta comfort+ coming back. Out of all the domestic airlines, we like Delta the best. Service is good and they are kid friendly. Do yourself a favor and upgrade to Comfort+, basic economy seats are really tight for long flights.

Comfort: 5/10 – We were pretty tight and uncomfortable.  Emily is 5’7 and petite and Orlando is 5’7 and weighs about 165 lbs.

Food: 7/10 – Good food and drinks.

Service: 9/10 – Friendly faces everywhere.

Kid Friendly: 8/10 – They have movies available and the flight attendants do a good job to accommodate parents with kids.

Entertainment: 9/10 – Plenty of movies to make the time pass by.

We flew economy on Aegean Airlines from Amsterdam to Athens, Athens to Santorini and From Santorini to Lisbon. This airline is what I wish all airlines were. Friendly staff, awesome with kids and everything is free.

Comfort: 9/10 – Great space for basic economy.

Food: 9/10 – Food was pretty tasty.

Service: 10/10 – Friendly faces everywhere.

Kid Friendly: 9/10 – Emily loved how child-oriented the staff was.  Our son was given his food first and offered toys and coloring books.

Entertainment: 0/10 – No entertainment available, but no problem since it was a short flight.  We brought an old Asus tablet with Disney digital downloads from the Disney club for our son, too.

We flew economy on Tap Airlines from Lisbon to Paris. We had high expectations of this airline based on how great the Portuguese culture is, but it turned out to not be so great.

Comfort: 7/10 – Your average space for basic economy.

Food: N/A – We can’t recall if food was served on this trip.

Service: 4/10 – There was a lot of confusion about FAA approved car seats and we were asked to move the seat and to check-in the seat. We were also asked a few times if we had paid for a seat ticket for our toddler. I guess in Portugal nobody pays for children tickets?

Kid Friendly: 4/10 – See comments above.

Entertainment: 0/10 – No entertainment available.

Where did we stay:

Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel, Conveniently located right by the airport to make sure you don’t miss your flight the next day.

Price: $0. We used a hotels.com rewards credit and the booking was free.

Family friendly rating: 8/10, no breakfast included

Herodion Athens was centrally located and everything we wanted to see was within walking distance.

Price: $150 per night on hotels.com.

Family friendly rating: 9/10, Amazing and expansive breakfast included, and the front desk offered Henry toys to play with while we checked in.  It was amazing how child-oriented Europe was.

Nautilus Dome is a beautiful hotel located in the same island as Santorini, just on the opposite side.

Price: $90 per night on hotels.com.

Family friendly rating: 8/10, Free shuttles to Fira during your stay if you book with the hotel’s airport shuttle.

Residencial Florescente is an old fashioned hotel centrally located in the most beautiful part of Lisbon. This is by far Emily’s favorite hotel.

Price: $120 per night on hotels.com.

Family friendly rating: 7/10, awesome and expanisve breakfast included.

Radisson Blu Hotel Champs Elysees is a five star hotel centrally located in the tourist district of Paris.

Price: $0 for the first night thanks to a free night that we redeemed on hotels.com. Second night was $225 using a coupon on hotels.com.

Family friendly rating: 7/10, no breakfast included

Recommendations:

Amsterdam:

Go as a couple and enjoy adulting. It can be tough finding activities with children during the cooler months.

Greece:

We loved Athens and its beautiful architecture, but if you are in a time crunch, it can be skipped for the Greek islands.

Portugal:

You will need lots of time for Portugal and even then you will wish you had more time. Lisbon is a beautiful city for adults and children. Don’t forget to go to Sintra! Get an Uber and ask the driver about personal tours, they will know someone who knows someone. We had a private driver take us to Sintra and around Lisbon for the entire day in a BMW. We paid $100 dollars for the entire ride plus a $20 tip.

Paris:

Walk the city! Yes, take a stroller if you have smaller children and walk around the city. We did and we enjoyed every moment of it.  *Bring an umbrella from the hotel.

 

Lessons learned:

We loved the Dutch culture, but the Netherlands is not a country we would visit with children due to the lack of outdoor activities during the cooler months.  Also, we experienced jet lag the night we arrived, in which all three of us were wide awake at 3 am.  We eventually crashed, but missed an opportunity to see the tulip fields in bloom before our flight later that morning.  *If you buy tulip bulbs to bring back, they have to be certified so customs doesn’t toss them.

We loved Greece and we feel like the time we spent there was just enough. Greece is definitely a country to visit in the summer.  Emily recommends the thermal pool on the outside of the city, and let us know if you find Orlando’s wedding band in the water!  Also- we ordered octopus as much as we could.  This is the place to eat octopus.

The weather in Portugal is just right in May. Don’t go there unless you have at least a month to enjoy beyond the Lisbon area.  The culture was very child-friendly, and people were constantly crooning at our toddler and calling him an angel, even when he wasn’t being so angelic.  This culture was Emily’s favorite as a mother.

Paris is beautiful, but full of tourists. The amount of tourists takes the beauty away from any city in my opinion. We wish we would have gone to a smaller, more medieval city.  Do check out the local artists on the street.  Great place to buy an original.