How to Visit Paris Cheaply as a Family

Last year when I visited the French capital with my older two kids, I had a rough budget of how much we would spend each day to enjoy the city. We covered our flights to France using overwhelmingly points, but that is only half the battle. Paris isn’t cheap. Sure, it isn’t the most expensive place in Europe, but you can quickly blow through thousands of dollars during a family visit. Luckily, there are ways to avoid overspending, and it is absolutely possible visit Paris cheaply.

Whatever your budget, you’ll need to plan carefully and stick close to it, as things can get pricey quickly. My target budget was actually just $100 per day during our visit to the city. We ended up exceeding this, but it’s still a great target for a truly budget trip. Here are my ideas for on how to visit Paris cheaply as a family:

Cover Your Hotel With Points

To even make a budget like this remotely possible, you’ll must bring the hotel cost to zero. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Paris Republique, which offers a great location with easy metro access. It is a nice enough hotel, but we had one issue: they asked for a co-pay of 30 euros per night for an upgrade to a room that had a 3-person occupancy.

This added fee was one reason we couldn’t stick to around $100 per day. But if you can find a decent hotel that accommodates your family on points, jump on it. Even better, find one that fits all of you and offers free breakfast.

The main challenge in Europe is the room occupancy rate. I have had some success emailing ahead of time and asking for a modest upgrade, especially if we have elite status. In the case of the Crowne Plaza, they offered one, but for a charge. It was still less than the rate difference between the room types, which was nice.

Eat Breakfast Like a Local

Although the Petit-Dejeuner Parisien on the café signs may still cost you a good 7€, you can find one essentially as good at a local bakery. A croissant and a coffee will ring in at around 4€ at Aux Péchés Normands. Add in a juice to share and two pain au chocolat for the kids, and you’ll be out maybe 15€ for everyone. It’s not a typical American meal, but hey, you’re in Paris. Eat like a local.

For your other meals, cut costs by eating food from markets rather than at restaurants. Restaurant meals in the French capital are pricey. Our one restaurant meal ran us just over $50, and it wasn’t anything special.

Turns out the kids are just as content with some ham, fruit, and a delicious baguette. We spent a mere $10 on lunch the last two days. Sure, it wasn’t a lovely cafe for which the city is famous, but it was food, and decent food at that.

visit Paris cheaply - al fresco bakery breakfast

We enjoyed both breakfast and lunch near a canal in the neighborhood, even getting to see a boat transit the locks!

Buy Discounted Metro Tickets

The best way to get around Paris is on public transportation. If you are here for several days, the most affordable option will be to get , the card the locals use for commuting. You have to jump through some hoops, including having a photo on hand for the card, but it is one of the best deals.

With only three days at our disposal, I went with another option. Metro tickets are best purchased as a carnet of 10. The cool thing is that you can get a kids carnet for half price. This means a child can take 10 trips in transit zone 1 for a mere 7.45€. This is enough to last more than one day (unless you transit a *lot*), and it is cheaper than a day pass for multiple days.

Carnets of metro tickets can be purchased from the information/service desk present at most metro stations. I think I bought a total of three for the two kids during our entire visit.

Visit Places Offering Free Entry for Kids

It’s true that art museums may not be high on the kids’ list of places to visit (at least not on my kids radar). But if you do want to experience these, even for an abbreviated time, at least the kids are often free. We enjoyed multiple places for just the cost of my adult ticket. I was not expecting this, but it was very welcome. Here are a list of places where kids up to 18 years old receive free entry:

  • Musée du Louvre
  • The Conciergerie
  • Saint-Chappelle
  • Musée de l’Orangerie
  • Centre Pompidou
  • Other National Museums

On the first Sunday of the month many museums are free for everyone, not just kids. If you have very flexible travel plans, this could save you multiple admission fees.

Also, many museums are free for students under 26 years of age with proper identification. Unless you’re a young parent, though, and still studying, it’s unlikely this applies to you.

Make Them Walk The Eiffel Tower

Sure, you’re kids probably won’t be a fan of this option. Mine certainly weren’t. The experience goes in the “character building” column. But they’ll never forget our visit to the Eiffel Tower now, that’s for sure. It was a highlight, even though my 7-year-old told me he was gonna die. Multiple times. Oh, the drama.

Walking the Eiffel Tower costs just 10.20€ for adults, 5.10€ for youth ages 12-24, and 2.50€ for kids ages 4-11. A family of four taking that stairs will pay just 25.20€, assuming both kids are under 12. Contrast this with 40.80€ for taking the lift to the second level.

visit Paris cheaply - Eiffel Tower

A Sample Itinerary to Visit Paris Cheaply

I know that not everyone has the same goals when visiting Paris. Hitting up the Louvre during on our trip wasn’t even on the “might fit that in” list. Our musts were the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and a handful of other monuments and experiences, such as a Seine River cruise. We struck a balance between budget and the number of monuments and museums we visited.

Still, if you’re looking for a decent 3-day itinerary that won’t break the bank, here is a budget option to visit Paris cheaply. I assume costs for a family of four with two kids under 12:

Day 1 – Eiffel Tower and Montmartre

  • Bakery breakfast – $20
  • Eiffel Tower – $29
  • Ride a Carousel – $5
  • Supermarket lunch – $15
  • Explore Montemartre on Foot – Free
  • Ride the Funicular – $5.50
  • Visit Sacre Couer – Free
  • Supermarket Dinner- $15
  • Metro tickets for the day – $15.50
  • TOTAL $105

Day 2 – Ile de la Cite and Luxembourg Gardens

  • Bakery breakfast – $20
  • Visit Notre Dame – $0 (closed, but can see part of structure)
  • Conciergerie and Saint Chappelle – $34
  • Supermarket lunch – $15
  • Visit Marche aux Fleurs to see the flowers – Free
  • Luxembourg Gardens – Free
  • Pond Boats – $9
  • Supermarket Dinner – $15
  • Metro tickets for the day – $9.50
  • TOTAL – $102.50

Day 3 – Walks and Monuments

  • Bakery breakfast – $20
  • Stroll through the Jardin des Tuileries – Free
  • Musée de l’Orangerie – $15
  • Walk the Champs-Élysées – Free
  • Supermarket lunch – $15
  • Arc de Triomphe – $27
  • Stroll along the Seine
  • Walk the Champ de Mars
  • Supermarket Dinner – $15
  • Subway tickets for the day – $9.50
  • TOTAL – $101.50

Well…we didn’t quite do it. But we got close! If anything, this is a rough illustration of what you’d be able to do in a day in Paris as a family for about $100. You can save even more if you’re able to flexibly plan and can land in Paris on the first Sunday of the month and enjoy a bunch of museums for free. This is yet another way to visit Paris cheaply.

Conclusion

While we didn’t meet this budget during our trip, keeping cash outlay reasonable is entirely possible in this expensive city. You can certainly travel for right around a $100 per day as a family. Some may think it would be a “waste” to travel so far and not enjoy things to the fullest, an attitude I completely understand. At the same time, a budget trip can certainly be plenty fun if you manage your expectations accordingly. More than anything, I just enjoy exploring and enjoying a new place and different culture with the kids.

Vacations don’t need to be expensive, extravagant endeavors. Looking at the costs of visiting Disneyland or Disney World, I could use what we’d shell out for a single trip for multiple international vacations. Even an expensive country or city (like Paris) can be done “on the cheap”. You just need to know how and where to cut and still keep things enjoyable.

Do you have any other money-saving tips for visiting Paris?