Paris with Kids: Should You Do a Day Trip?

When planning a Paris vacation with kids,  it’s tempting to pack your family’s time with as many mini-outings as possible.

Should you day trip or not?

As a mom myself, I know that touting your family all over France—however tempting—is easier said than done. Before you start booking up your precious days or madly checking opening hours against train timetables, here are a few things to consider.   

Energy Levels

Never underestimate how tired your kids (or you!) will be after landing in the City of Light. As a guide, I’ve given tours to families on the very same day they touched down.  Understandably, most kids and parents end up losing steam by the end of our two hours. Imagine the toll a day trip could have on jet-lagged kids who haven’t had a chance to rest or catch up with a new time zone.  Lots of our tours are for kids 6-12, so we see both the positive and negative effects of travel on young ones.  Being in a new place can be an intense challenge, physically and mentally, on everyone.

My advice? Keep your family’s first day in Paris as low-key as possible. Take a relaxing river cruise, linger at a local café, or simply stroll the city’s boulevards. Take advantage of the fact that Paris is scenic and walkable, and don’t feel pressured to leave the city limits for at least a few days—or even at all. Strolling around Paris is a family-friendly activity on its own.

A river cruise is an easy, enjoyable way to see Paris

Transportation

Once everyone has adjusted (for at least one full day) you may feel up for an all-day outing. When choosing possible sites, carefully consider transportation demands.

Popular destinations like VersaillesGiverny, and Disneyland Paris are accessible by train.  And by the way: if you’re from or near the US, there’s nothing wrong with saving the Disney magic for your family’s next domestic vacation, especially if you’re feeling short on time in Europe. On top of ticket prices for trains (kids get reduced rates), there are two things we always consider when planning a trip outside of Paris with our daughter: point of departure and length of the journey. 

Point of departure is important, as no two journeys are alike. To get to Versailles, for example, you can catch the RER C at several stations in the city. To board a train heading from Paris to Giverny, however, you’ll need to head to the Gare Saint-Lazare.  Since getting to the station may add a lengthy leg to your journey, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind when choosing a destination—especially if there are younger kids in your crowd. If you’ll be relying on a taxi to bring you to the station, I recommend reserving with G7. This cab company lets you request an age-appropriate car seat, so you don’t have to bring your own.   

Kelly’s baby Amélie in a G7 taxi and car seat

Once you’ve sorted out how you’ll get to the station, it’s time to take a look at travel time. Some of these train rides can be long and in crowded cars. In addition to making little ones restless, it can feel like these journeys use too much of your precious Paris time. If train travel is not ideal for your family, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying put and using your energy for quality moments in the city instead. Months later, your kids will probably remember these times of togetherness more than the list of sites you did.

But if you are raring to go, fire up Google maps and make your way to the station. 

Amélie on the train

What to Bring

If you do decide to take a day trip, be sure to pack accordingly.  When my husband and I travel by rail, we try our best to take a minimalist approach, because heavy bags can be exhausting.  Space is limited in Europe, and you can’t always easily check bags where you go.  But this doesn’t mean that we sacrifice any essentials—especially when it comes to keeping warm and staying cool. 

In the summer months, bring plenty of water, hats, sunglasses, and extra sunscreen, as popular sites usually have outdoor queues. Brumisateurs, or little cans that spray mist, helped our baby beat the heat this summer. You can find them in most Monoprix grocery stores.

French families always pack food. Nothing can ruin a day more than hunger or thirst.  As a guide, I often see visitors to France surprised by the relative lack of readily available snack options—those conveniences they’re used to at home. Walking around makes you thirsty and hungry, and remember that your kids’ normal eating schedule will be off.  When planning an excursion, we usually pop into a fromagerie the day before to grab some cheese and meat. Then, in the morning, we pick up a couple of baguettes en route to the station. Throw in some napkins and utensils and voilà! Lunch is sorted. 

In the fall and winter, don’t forget gloves, warm jackets (bonus if they’re waterproof), and enough umbrellas for the whole family. The Paris region is particularly cold in January and February, and you can expect chilly temperatures, unexpected rainstorms, and even snow all season along.  We often see families even those who live in cold climates unpleasantly surprised by how deeply chilling and wet Paris can be.  Standards of heating are different, too, so you’ll want your family to be prepared so you can enjoy yourselves in any weather.

On top of weather gear, it’s always a good idea to carry around a few euros in change, as public bathrooms around touristy sites often cost money.  Also, if you have tiny ones in your party, a light umbrella stroller may be a good idea. Fortunately, I’ve found that trains in France have ample room to stow folded buggies, but try to board early to secure enough storage space, especially if you have a sizeable stroller like us. 

My Recommendations 

So, where does my family go for day trips?

For a “long journey” destination, I recommend Bayeux. Nestled in Normandy, this medieval city is famously home to the Bayuex Tapestry, a 230-foot-long linen textile from the 11th-century that colorfully depicts the Normans’ conquest of England. Today, the piece is housed by the Bayeux Museum, which is centrally located and within walking distance to the big and beautiful Parc Michel d’Ornano.

To get to Bayeux from Paris, take the Intercités 3301 train from Gare Saint-Lazare. After 2.5 hours, you’ll reach the Bayeux train station, which is a 10-15 minute walk from the museum.

The town of Bayeux

For a nearby outing, we love Chantilly, an idyllic commune packed with cultural heritage. While there are many beautiful historic houses to choose from, we love the Domaine de Chantilly, a 19th-century estate boasting opulent salons, decorative art treasures, and a traditional French garden.

Aerial view of Chateau de Chantilly

From Paris’ Gare du Nord, board the TER train towards Gare de Creil. After about 20-25 minutes, you’ll reach Gare de Chantilly Gouvieux, which is a 4-minute cab ride or a half-hour walk to the Chateau. 

Of course, you don’t need to leave Paris for a nice day out. While not a conventional “day trip,” exploring sights beyond the Louvre or Eiffel Tower make for a memorable outing. My family and I love spending the day in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a sprawling 61-acre green space in Paris’ 19th arrondissement. As you enjoy its kid-friendly eateries, wander through its awe-inspiring caves, and eat ice cream along its manmade lake, you’ll forget you’re in a bustling metropolis. 

Want more city-centered tips for your days in Paris? Check out our guide of fun things to do with kids in Paris.

Kelly and her baby Amélie at the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont