Taking your kids to Paris? Read this itinerary by VitaminDaily.com Editor-in-chief Sarah Bancroft first! Or, "How do you say umbrella stroller in French?"
Get your bearings with day passes for the BatoBus, sightseeing boats that stop every 15 minutes along the Seine so you can hop on and off at all the major monuments ($15 Euros/day). It's the best way to get the pretty and sprawling Jardins Des Plantes with its Menagerie (the oldest zoo in the world opened in 1794). Don't miss Nenette, the famous 40-year-old orangutan. Hint: if you go just before closing at 5, you can see the cats get fed whole chickens. Menagerie Du Jardins Des Plantes 9 Euros/7 Euros.
The L'Ouvre and Musee D'Orsay are for a different trip. To get your culture fix, head to the Centre Pompidou, the famous inside-out art gallery. The very best view of Paris is from its rooftop café (try the Vietnamese spring rolls) and there are lots of free activities for kids in and around the lobby and grounds, plus a great gift shop. www.centrepompidouparis.com
Hands down my favourite afternoon was spent at the stunning Jardins Luxemburg. Check out the art exhibits in its Orangerie, ponder the immaculate topiaries, and make sure to rent the affordable wooden boats (pictured) for your kids to play with in the main fountain. There is a pretty garden and wading pool just for kids under five, which makes a nice oasis for a picnic from nearby Le Petit Luxe (2 Rue de Vaugirard) which has inventive take-away salads and sandwiches for just 3 Euros (hence line-ups).
If your local science centre were designed by Philippe Starck and housed in a massive sculpture park, you are beginning to get a sense of the sheer scale and scope of Paris' Cite des Enfants. We wished we had a whole day to explore inside and out, but at the very least take them to the main science experiences where they can "work" in a water factory, play with a light wall, collaborate in a kiddie construction site and stimulate their growing grey matter. Cite Des Sciences, www.cite-sciences.fr
Even the best parents deserve a date night in Paris. We used the babysitting service Baby Chou and met a wonderful English-speaking au pair named Aude. Ask for her! It is better to phone rather than book online. 9 Euros/hour plus agency fee. 01 43 65 58 58, www.babychou.com
Be prepared to carry strollers up and down Metro stairs and wait for grumpy attendants to open access doors beside the turnstiles. For shorter journeys, taxis are better (get a business card and reserve a "maxi cab" for your trip to the airport).
Remember: the Eiffel Tower is best viewed from the park at its base, don't waste half a day dodging pickpockets in the lineups. Instead, take them to the Eiffel Tower Carousel, the prettiest in the city.
We found that picnicking in parks was better than trying to keep the steak knives and wine glasses out of tiny hands. Not to mention all the glares we avoided this way. If you have rented an apartment like we did, even better.
Credit cards and online reservations are de rigeur, but you will find that your booking can't be retrieved with a foreign credit card. This applies to train tickets, museum passes, etc. Be prepared to line up.
The 12 per cent VAT can add up. Make sure to carry your passport number and ask for a tax form at point of purchase. You can get the tax back in cash at the airport before you check in as long as you have your purchases on hand to present to them.