This year we spent winter break in Paris with our (for lack of a less egregious word) tweens. It could not have gone better unless I could've eaten croissants at every meal without gaining weight and performed the Tango in the Tuieleries with Armande Assante. But I digress.
Here are my six tried-and-true ways to keep your kids happy on vacation while still being able to enjoy it yourself.
1. Let your kids sleep whenever they want.
We were in Paris ten days and never really adapted to the time change. We tended to go to bed around midnight and got up around 10 a.m.
This actually worked beautifully for us as Paris is a vibrant nighttime city. We hit museums and shops from noon til six or seven p.m., then had late dinners and time to walk the City of Lights into late evening.
Here the girls and I sleep in the train on the way in from the airport to the city. Let Them Sleep for the love of mon Dieu!
The Champs Elysees and Arc De Triomphe at night. The best time to be there:
2. Feed your kids whenever they want.
A child fed is a child willing to stand for hours in the Louvre without complaining.
You may even need to feed them again to combat boredom in the midst of the Grande Gallerie or withstand freezing climates while sightseeing from un bateau on the river Seine or jettison weeping and gnashing of teeth whilst appreciating the massive, vertical trajectory of the Eiffel Tower despite frigid climes.
Bridget at the Eiffel Tower Before Food:
Bridget at the Eiffel Tower with Food:
Me enjoying Eiffel Tower with no one kvetching at me:
My girls with their gelato, shaped like flowers, during a mommy shopping spree on the Rue Mouffetard at night:
3. Encourage your kids to journal about their trip and take their own photographs.
My kids are 9 and 11, but even if they'd been a few years younger I would've given them my iPhone to take photos, because in doing so, this the trip becomes THEIR TRIP, not the trip their parents are forcing them to take.
They became invested in the environment and the experience. Here are some of the gorgeous photos my daughters took.
Clare captured my mother and me having lunch at the world famous Ladurée: Maison de Macarons (so yummy) on the Champs-Elysées:
Clare's photo of Napolean III's dining room in The Louvre:
Okay, my husband Henry took this one:
Clare's selfie with a particular lady at The Louvre:
Bridget documenting the entity which is my naturally dried hair on the Metro at Rue Monge. (My hair speaks French and was frequently able to translate for us):
Clare's panoramic vista of Paris from the roof of the Institut du Monde Arabe:
4. Let your kids have their own money and buy whatever they want.
We gave our daughters a certain amount of Euros for their own purses that they were responsible for. They became very frugal all of a sudden when they knew it was their money they were spending.
The girls fell in love with the most expensive art store to have ever existed. But they spent their own money on Derwent pencils and other high end art supplies. I couldn't begrudge them this as they instantly fell to sketching Paris.
Don't get me wrong, they also spent their own money at Le Gallerie Lafayette on Barbies they could've gotten in the States for a lot less money. But those purchases made them so happy they were willing to light any number of candles in Notre Dame.
5. Let them do stuff kids like to do in any country.
We took them ice skating at Le Village de Noël des Champs-Elysées:
They rode the carousel with me in the rain just outside of the Hotel Ville:
We rode the Roue de Paris ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde at night:
... and were thrilled to see the Eiffel Tower light up from such heights:
6. Interspersed with all your kids' eating, sleeping, spending and having fun, make them do a few things they aren't that interested in doing.
Because even if they don't appreciate it now, these experiences will open the world to them and stimulate interests they may not be aware they have.
They must attend long, Parisian, many-coursed dinners with friends. This is me with my glamourous friend Andre, world renowned for his intrepid Tango and the fine Art of Appreciating Women:
Our girls learned to climb tall sightseeing edifices to see the city from every spectacular angle:
We all tried new cuisine. Here I am with a buttery, garlicky bite of escargot:
And thanks to my own parents taking me off to Europe at the tender age of 15 when all I cared about were French sailors, I now, at the perhaps more petrified age of 48, finally appreciate art:
I had some explaining to do about posing nude for Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres' "The Grande Odalisque" in a previous life (circa 1814). I'm hoping my girls will be the artists rather than the muses like their mother. Sigh.