The whole family wants to go to Paris! Now what? Is it better to first buy your plane tickets, or find a place to live? There are options for the neurotic & options for the carefree. More than likely, you will find yourself planning somewhere between.
There are many factors to consider: Is it peak season? What’s the budget? Do you have a specific neighborhood in mind? How much will a steak frites cost you? Will the kids have anywhere to run around? …Do you need to speak French already? Below are our top tips for families:
- Decide your budget. While thinking about how long you can afford to visit/move to Paris, make a little spread sheet of expenses & compare to your home budget. When planning your budget, consider tacking on an extra 25% for surprises along the way. Save more than you think, & you will likely have less owing on that credit card afterwards. While bringing an emergency credit card is a good idea, you will savor your Paris memories better, if you’re not paying interest on it months after you’ve returned. No one uses travelers checks anymore. Browse ParisExpat’s post on food expenses & Paris living expenses* for a general idea.
- Recon-visit – If a longterm move is on the cards, consider budgeting a reconnaissance trip. Organize school visits; Visit apartments. When an employer asks you to move to Paris, he or she should offer to pay for the travel.
- Researching activities / vacation planning will help give structure during your stay & complete your budgeting research. For more info follow this link; For some great ideas for adult tourism check out Context Travel. Sponsored by Disney, this site has some pretty good vacation suggestions: family.go.com – take or leave the Disneyland Paris suggestion! Also: Paris Info, the official website of the Convention & Visitors bureau.
- Check your passport expiration date before you buy your airfare. You need 90 days remaining validity upon entry. US passport processing runs around 4-6 weeks. For an extra $60 + expedited mailing, rush processing takes 2-3 weeks. Consult the US Bureau of Consular Affairs for latest delays. US passports for adults & minors cost over $100 for first time applicants & renewals.
- Compare airfare prices –e like Kayak, because not only will it compare flights from all the airlines companies, but it will also offer to open additional tabs with all the other comparison sites’ listings. Search in your preferred currency/language too! (& no. ParisExpat.com does not have any advertising advantage with this company. We just like its efficiency.)
- Consider temporary accommodation for your first few days, if you are renting a hotel room or apartment site-unseen. Allow yourself the flexibility to change locations. If you are traveling during peak season, this may be unrealistic. Go ahead & assume your Parisian accommodation is different from your usual; ask questions to clarify necessity differences, like, is there a freezer? What floor & is there an elevator? Is the room on the building interior or street side? Choosing your Quartier (Neighborhood) is important, but a little flexibility may allow you something cheaper. If the kids are young, having a playground, or at least a park to run around could be crucial to give you or your partner a break. You’ll find most international schools are in western areas of Paris.
- Do pay more € to stay closer to the activities you will likely be doing everyday. If your budget allows, being able to visit places on foot will be helpful. You will likely be doing lots of walking, regardless of whether you have the added metro journey. Even traveling from one side of Paris to the other by métro or RER will take no more than 45 minutes.
- Kids can travel. Sometimes I think jet-lag is worse for adults than kids. If you are flexible & relaxed, your children will observe & likely follow your lead. Bring back-up batteries for the long flight. Make sure they have a change of clothes & undergarments in their carry-on. Try to hold out that first day you arrive. Resist the nap, or if you must, limit it to 45 minutes. It is better to go to bed early. You & the kids should adjust more quickly. Find the local park or aire de jeux (playground) to burn off that captive plane energy. For more info on Kids in Paris, see our post: The Whole Family is Moving to Paris (Now What?) & My Little Nomads blog for travel tips.
- Pack & then pack again: You really will need less than you think. (This also leaves room for purchases made abroad). Packing can be tricky, as weather can be fickle. Brightly colored, waterproof sportswear, like Northface, is very North-American-practicality. However, you will definitely stand out as tourists. Regardless of whether you are concerned about blending in or not, do bring lighter weight, sweaters/jumpers/jackets that can be layered. Bring sunscreen for touristy activities; it’s significantly more expensive in France.
Onya Bags are a great option for light-weight carry-ons or day trips while you’re away. Made of parachute fabric, they can hold a lot of weight, & now come in lots of different styles & colors: backpacks, carrier bags… AND they come in their own attached pouch with a small carabiner to hook onto your belt loop. Onya is from Western Australian, & the Aussie site has more options: Onya Australia. Holds over 20 lbs/$10-25
- Buy international health insurance before you leave home. There are innumerable insurance companies dying to ensnare you. Read the fine print. The “socialist” French healthcare system is not free to non-tax paying citizens. (No hospital will turn you away, as is known to have happened in the USA, but they will (eventually) bill you just the same!) If you need to see a doctor, dentist, etc., expect to pay upfront & seek reimbursement from your insurance company afterwards.
- Departure Check-lists are invaluable, especially when herding families. We are well-seasoned travelers & still make a short check-list in advance. Doing it last-minute won’t help. Making a list in advance will prevent you from forgetting that phone charger that never normally leaves its post. Your child’s favorite blanket he cannot sleep without…
Things to Include: Address tags on your bags Back-up credit card Back-up batteries Bank – let your bank know you are traveling abroad. (Some banks put card alert freezes on sudden changes in international usage.) Change of clothes in carry-on luggage Keys/Entry code for your accommodation Medicines Noise canceling headphones (I never realized what a difference they make!) Passports Plane tickets Select your airplane seats (if you can!) Snacks for the kids during travel Timers for your home Toiletries (I have often forgotten my toiletries, because I was using them until the last minute)…
Some of the family-sized rental property ParisExpat has available:
*Post coming soon!