8 Tips for Travelling to a Big City with Young Kids

Oct 21, 2013

For many people, travelling to a big, busy city like Paris with young children can seem daunting. Here are some tips on how to minimize the stress and maximize the fun: 

1. Keep your arrival day simple. Start your vacation in a big city with a visit to a park. We took the kids to a lovely park in Paris, Luxembourg Gardens, the same day we got off the plane. They played and rode on the carousel. We socialized with some locals and they gave us advice on what to see and do in Paris.
2. Limit to one attraction per day. Keeping your schedule light can keep kids from feeling overwhelmed. By planning one attraction per day, you leave enough time for bathroom breaks, lunch breaks and shopping at gift shops.
3. Go early to avoid crowds and lineups. By getting to attractions in the morning, not only do you often avoid crowds, you open up more options for the kids in the afternoon. You add a trip to a nearby park after lunch so the kids can enjoy the fresh air and chase the pigeons while you enjoy a coffee.
4. Take breaks. Some tourist attractions involve more time commitment and crowds than others. The kids need a break after this. Visit a tranquil outdoor space or head back to your hotel for a nap. After spending a lovely time at the world famous Louvre museum, we took the kids to the nearby Tuileries Gardens where they sailed model boats for at least an hour while my husband and I sipped our lattes.
5. Always carry snacks. We would always carry nice snacks from the Parisian markets to munch on. You never know when the kids will suddenly feel hungry.
6. Consider food options that are convenient. During the day, have lunch at the museums. The food at the museums in Paris, for example, had many choices for children. Consider packing a picnic (i.e. baguettes and cheese). Visit a local market and take away food. We reserved formal restaurants weeks ahead (and brought toys to keep the kids occupied). For the days where we were really tired from all the walking, we ordered dinner online--in Paris, even the take-out is gourmet!
7. Try different ways to get around. Walk, walk, walk! This is the best way to experience big cities! Because we had a stroller, we made every effort to walk as much as possible. The kids discovered many treasures during our walks, such as colourful carousels, toy stores and lovely patisseries! Consider a river cruise or bus tour. This is a great way to see a city and not feel tired. We took the kids on a one-hour tour along the Seine river the day after we arrived so that they could see all the major attractions including the Eiffel Tower. Use the metro, taxi, bus when you have to. If you're taking public transit and have a stroller, find a map ahead of time to let you know which stations are accessible, or be prepared to carry your stroller down a few (or many!) flights of stairs.
8. Help your kids preserve their memories from the trip. When you get home, let the kids call their relatives and talk about the trip. We even prepared a scrapbook by cutting out pictures of various monuments and museums from the tourist pamphlets we had collected during our stay. The scrapbook summarizes every day of our trip, including the attractions we visited, the food we ate, and the new friends we made--what a great way to remember a vacation!


Divya Chandra is a mother of two young children. Her hobbies include reading, yoga and travel. Her children also love to travel with their parents, and frequently like to share their interesting travel experiences with friends and relatives. Divya balances her family life with her part-time job as a paediatric dentist, and teaches at the University of Toronto. More by Divya:

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