Points, Miles & Life

Travel adventures on this earthly pilgrimage

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Planning a last minute getaway to…Atlanta!

Before summer is over I’d been looking to book a weekend getaway for my older son and I sometime in August. In July my daughter and I headed to San Antonio to surprise a friend of hers. She was lucky enough to even experience first class for the first time.

Our middle child was a bit sad that he didn’t get to go. He expressed that he like a trip with “just papá” as well. I’ve taken the older two several places (SEE: visiting grandparents, Sacramento, southwest road trip, Paris and Luxembourg) since we adopted our three kids last fall, but the trip with my daughter was the first time I’d only taken one of them.

But I’d run into a wall trying to plan a trip. I wanted to include air travel, since he is already obsessed with planes (which is probably my fault). But this meant either forking over some coveted United miles to fly out of Arcata, or finding a decent enough fare deal out of the Bay for which we could use some travel vouchers from previous poor experiences (SEE: United’s problem is…everything).

Plus, there was the issue of timing. And the drive to the Bay. I didn’t really want to drive 5 hours each way for a trip of just 2-3 nights. If other costs could be minimized, then maybe. Things would have to align perfectly to make this work.

But then they did, thanks to a site I follow for fare alerts. Looks like we’ll be heading to Atlanta in a couple weeks!

Why Atlanta? 

Honestly, I was originally looking at Boise. It checked the most boxes. Boise offers decent summer weather where my son and I could enjoy the outdoors. Plus, it is not a super long flight, and we have both United and Alaska vouchers that could pay for most of it. It would also be both a new state and new city for me, so there was that appeal. We’d still have to get to and from the Bay, pay $50 out of pocket for airfare, and use up $500 worth of flight vouchers. That’s a lot for a 3-night trip. So I kept putting off booking.

Which turned out to be for the best. Near the end of July, The Flight Deal notified me of a fantastic sale from San Jose to Atlanta. Tickets were offered at $168 round-trip. A second check of the United website found them for even cheaper: $154. And this was *not* basic economy!

Given that we’d have to rent a car if we visited Boise, visiting Atlanta for a few days makes a lot more sense logistically. The mass transit options are a lot better. We could stay in the city center and have plenty to do.

With the tickets safely booked within the 24-hour free cancellation window, I confirmed with my wife that the dates would work. Georgia it is, then.

Putting all the deals together

The tickets cost us $307.20 for the two of us, but with a $300 United voucher, I only had to shell out $7.20 in cash. We’ll have to rent a car to get to San Jose, but I still have a small stash of Hertz points. The rental car should run us about $20.

As far as hotels go, I’m using a combination of Radisson points for our first night near the airport and then Hilton points for two more at a hotel in downtown Atlanta. We’ll have free breakfast those three days. Our final night will be at the Hyatt in midtown on a cash and points rate. I’m positioning myself to earn the 5-brand bonus free night.

The metro will cost us a few bucks, and we’ll have to pay for attractions. We’ll also need ~$60 for Amtrak tickets on our return to take us to Sacramento. My son actually has a doctor’s appointment in the Sacramento Area the day we drive home. Finally, Enterprise points will keep our one-way car rental cost home to just $28.

So, things aren’t free. But I can get them pretty close…

Cash back for the win

Given that we’ve lately been blowing through our budget (seriously…kids are expensive), I don’t have a lot of cash allocated for this trip. Luckily, I’ve been saving the cash back on my Citi DoubleCash card for months. I also have earned nearly $50 from Ebates. I should also have enough “miles” for a redemption using my Barclaycard Arrival Mastercard (SEE: Increased bonus of this flexible point travel card!).

Combined, this should be about $150 in cash back, which will put a major dent in the expenses listed above. I love being able to put together a trip to another city for a few days for next to nothing.

Anyone have ideas of where we should go?

Hartsfield-Jackson airport is the only thing I’ve seen in Atlanta, and I’ve seen it 7 times. Once I was even able to spend the night in the terminal (story for another day). So I really don’t know what Atlanta has to offer. On my list so far are:

  • The Georgia Aquarium
  • World of Coca Cola
  • Centennial Olympic Park
  • Botanical Gardens

If you have any other ideas, be sure to let me know. I’m about to break the news to my son, who I know will be quite excited!

Featured image courtesy of tableatny under CC 2.0 license

Roma Pass vs Omnia Pass: Which is Better?

My wife and I had the privilege of visiting the Eternal City for a week in summer 2016 as part of a month-long excursion to Europe that included touring Italy, France, and Ireland. Oh, and San Marino (SEE: 5 reasons to visit San Marino). How could I forget that?!

While doing my research for Rome, I came across two sightseeing pass options: the Roma Pass and the Omnia Pass. The question is…which is better? Are either worth it? Let’s take a look.

Roma Pass details

The Roma Pass comes in two flavors: the 48-hour and the 72-hour. Both give unlimited free access to ATAC, the public transportation system of Rome, during the time they are active. The Roma Pass also gives significant discounts to dozens of exhibitions, events and businesses.

The main differences between the two versions are the cost and how many museums you get into for free:

  • 48-hour Roma Pass – Free entry into your first museum or archaeological site – Cost of €28
  • 72-hour Roma Pass – Free entry into first two museums or archaeological sites – Cost of €38.50

You can find the list of museums here. We used ours to enter the Colosseum/Forum and the Capitoline Museum, a value of €12 and €15, respectively.

When visiting the Coliseum, the Capitoline Museum, and the Castel Sant’Angelo, you do not have to wait in the ticket line if you hold a Roma Pass (as long as this is one of your free sites where you get this access). This can be a significant benefit, as ticket lines can be long in peak summer season. The longest lines we observed were at the Coliseum.

The typical Rome ATAC 48-hour transit pass included with the Roma Pass normally costs €12.50. A 72-hour transit pass normally costs €18. The ATAC transportation network does include buses to Ciampino airport, but there are other options to make this trip as well (SEE: Best way to get from Rome City Center to Ciampino Airport). Neither pass covers transportation to/from Fiumicino.

Grafitti everywhere. All the metro cars are decorated.

The card is valid from the first time it is activated, either during a visit to a sit or when used on public transportation. Your pass will require you to put your name on it when you purchase it, and you may be asked for proof of identity.

The Roma Pass doesn’t offer entry or discounts on anything related to the Vatican City, which has its own sort of pass: the Omnia Pass.

roma pass vs omnia pass

Omnia Pass Details

The Omnia Pass is a different animal entirely. It includes the same coverage as the Roma Pass, but with some additions. The price is also substantially higher at €113  for adults and €80 for children (although the passes sometimes goes on sale).

The Omnia Pass includes:

  • Free entry to 2 top Rome attractions out of a list of 6, including: the Colosseum/Forum, Capitoline Museum, Castel Sant’Angelo, and Borghese Gallery
  • Free Admission to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
  • Fast Track entry to the Vatican sites
  • Free hop on-hop off bus tour of Rome
  • 72-hour ATAC card
  • Discounted entry to other sites

The value of the Rome attractions is directly comparable to what is offered by the Roma Pass, as the Omnia Pass literally includes a Roma Pass as part of the pack.

Free admission to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel with the Omnia Pass is a savings of €17. The “skip the line” tickets that you can buy online cost the entry fee plus a €4 processing fee (per order). You do have to pick a date and time when buying your ticket, while I believe you can go at your leisure with the Omnia Pass.

The fast-track entry to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel may be something you definitely want during peak times. The lines for the Vatican Museums are insane. What I don’t know is if there is a separate line for Omnia Pass holders, as we stood in a pretty long line even after purchasing tickets online.

You also get fast-track entry to St. Peter’s Basilica with the Omnia Pass. There is no entrance fee to visit the church, but visiting the dome costs €6-8. With the Omnia Pass, you get a free Audio Guide and fast track entry (typical value of €15).

The 72-hour hop on-hop off bus tour has a value of €32 based on a review of the Roma Cristiana website. You can also buy a combo bus tour plus public transportation ticket for €39. Since the Omnia Pass includes public transportation with the Roma Pass, this is more or less the value that should be used for both of those.

Roma Pass vs Omnia Pass: which is better?

The value of the Roma Pass is rather easy to determine. We found the 72-hour pass to be a good deal. Simply accounting for the two museums we visited (€12 and €15) and 3 days of free ATAC transportation (€18), we each saved €6.50 by purchasing the pass. Not incredible savings, but it did also save us the wait in the long lines at the Colosseum. And that’s the most basic usage of the pass.

Beyond that, you get reduced rate tickets at other sites. My wife and I visited Castel Sant’Angelo as well using the Roma Pass, and the ticket price was €7 instead of the full €14. If you plan to visit several of the sites on the list within just a few days, you’ll definitely get great value out of the Roma Pass.

The Omnia Pass is a pricier alternative that offers more in one pass, but really doesn’t offer an appreciable discount. The “value” quoted is €118.50 for a typical Rome tourist. They are trying to sell you this pass for €113. A 5% discount isn’t anything to write home about.

What irks me most is that the Omnia Pass website actually lies to you. I don’t understand how they get the €30 valuation of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel ticket (I see it online for €17 + processing fee). They are basically selling you everything bundled together for maybe market price, if not a hair more.

Here’s how I add up everything up for the Omnia Pass: €39 for bus tour plus ATAC card, €27 for the two Roma Pass Museums, €15 for the Vatican fast track and audio guide, and €21 for the Vatican Museum tickets plus processing fee. Total value of €102. Typical Omnia Pass price is €113. It falls short for the basic user. You’d really have to maximize the value at other museums (with your included Roma Pass) to maximize the value.

If you aren’t interested in a hop-on, hop-off bus tour, the Omnia Pass definitely isn’t for you. You’d be looking at a major loss.

Comparing the Roma Pass vs Omnia Pass, we concluded that the Roma Pass is better. It is cheaper and offers tangible savings, while the Omnia Pass is pricey and is much hard to maximize. This was true when I looked up the pricing for our trip to Rome two years ago, and it is still true today. Unless I’m missing something, they are really suckering most people with the Omnia pass.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the Roma Pass is solidly the better deal. The Omnia Pass may be an okay deal in a small minority of cases, but I would venture to guess that it wouldn’t meet the needs of the typical Rome visitor. If the Omnia Pass cost €20 less, my mind might be changed. But it’s simply too expensive to be a deal.

When you pit the Roma Pass vs Omnia Pass, the Roma Pass is definitely the clear winner.

Increased bonus on this flexible point travel card!

While I tend to target hotel, airline, and bank cards with flexible transferable points, sometimes you just need some “miles” that just act like cash. This is for those random expenses you can’t cover with other currencies. It could be a night at a bed and breakfast or a ferry ride to Newfoundland. That’s where cards like the Barclaycard Arrival+ come in.

Elevated bonus on the Barlcaycard Arrival+

The Barclaycard Arrival+ is currently offering an increased bonus of 60,000 “miles” after $5,000 in purchases within the first 90 days and payment of the $89 annual fee. After hitting the spending requirement, you’ll have $700 worth of flexible travel points that cost you $89. Definitely worth looking into.

Redeeming your miles is easy. You simply charge a travel purchase to your card and then use your miles as a statement credit to offset the purchase within 120 days. One of the only “features” I dislike is that the minimum redemption is $100 or 10,000 miles.

Additionally, the card provides a 5% rebate when you redeem your “miles”. The card also waives foreign transaction fees and earns 2x miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

At the end of the day, it really isn’t an earth-shattering product. It’s essentially a 2% cash back card that has a $100 redemption requirement and gives you back an extra 5%. Things like the collision damage coverage may help make up for the annual fee, but a better card might just be a plain ol’ Citi DoubleCash (SEE: 5 of the best no-fee credit cards for travel) that will earn you 2% back on everything with no annual fee.

But that sign-up bonus is worth chasing. I used the sign-up bonus from my Arrival+ back in 2015 to pay for our ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, something we never could have done without the flexible points.

Experience with Barclays approvals

Some people struggle to be approved for products with Barclays. I don’t know why. I’ve never hit them furiously like I have…uh…Amex. But they’ve approved me for almost everything I’ve applied for.

Just take it slow and steady. If this is your first card with Barclays and you don’t have a lot of hits on your credit report and otherwise good credit, you’ll probably be fine.

Downgrading to the Barclaycard Arrival

After holding onto the Barclaycard Arrival+ for a year, my wife and I both downgraded ours to the plain Arrival card (without an annual fee). I typically would have straight-up canceled, but in this case, there is still an ongoing benefit from having the card: ability to earn miles by writing travel stories.

If you sign up for the Barclaycard Travel Community and link your Arrival+ or Arrival card, you can earn miles by writing travel stories. You can actually earn points towards Amazon gift cards if you don’t have the card, but the earn rate is significantly worse. I can easily earn the equivalent of $2 per story if I write a  quick 100 word summary, add a photo, and add a handful of travel detail “points of interest” that each give you 10 miles.

Conclusion

With the elevated bonus and the ability to use the miles flexibly for any travel purchases, the Barclaycard Arrival+ is a great option if you’re on the lookout for a new card. As always, do your research for yourself. Don’t just sign up because a random guy on the internet told you to. 😉

Pima Air and Space Museum – Must see for the aviation enthusiast!

After visiting Colossal Cave Mountain Park, we headed to the Pima Air and Space Museum as our second stop on the first day of our road trip across the Southwest (SEE: Southwest Road Trip 2018: An Overview). As an aviation aficionado (and with a son that is already very much into airplanes as well), it was a must-see while we were in Tucson.

General info for the Pima Air and Space Museum

The Pima Air and Space Museum is located on the eastern outskirts of Tucson, not far from both the airport and the Air Force base. The museum includes a massive 80 acres of exhibits featuring hundreds of aircraft. It is one of the largest non-government-funded air museums in the world.

Single-day entry prices are as follows:

  • Adult (13+) – $16.50
  • Junior (5-12) – $10.00
  • Senior (65+)/Active Military – $13.75
  • Child (< 4) – Free

There is also a cheaper price for Pima County residents. I’m honestly surprised they don’t offer a fairly inexpensive annual membership. The group rate (20+) is also only $13.50 per person for the day.

While we only were there for one day, the Pima Air and Space Museum also offers 2-day passes. If you’re a serious aviation enthusiast, this might be the best way to go. The 2-day pass is a great deal at $22.00 for adults and $12.50 for kids.

Indoor Exhibits

It is fitting that you are greeted by a reconstruction of a Wright Flyer as the very first exhibit. This brought back memories of our visit to the Museum of Flight near Boeing Field when I was 13 years old, where I got to take a couple turns in a simulator that allowed you to control the Wright Flyer almost exactly how Oroville Wright controlled in on that famous day near Kitty Hawk.

The main indoor hangar is filled with an incredible assortment of all kinds of aircraft, both civilian and military. You could spend most of a day in just this space.

There are also a few short films to watch at various locations and short sound clips. One of my favorite planes in the main hangar was the Martin PBM Mariner.

One of the coolest aircraft on display is a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.

pima air and space museum

My aspiring pilot had a blast at the controls of this kit plane. No, he didn’t get off the ground. Can you believe you would assemble this thing yourself? Not sure I’d trust a plane I put together.

We spent the bulk of our time in the main hangar. There is simply that much to see.

Other Hangars

There are a total of three other hangars besides the main one, as well as an additional building that is a memorial of the 390th Bombing Group and houses a B-17 Flying Fortress. This was the first model plane I completed as a kid, and I have always been fascinated with it.

With such an abbreviated schedule, we spent about 10 minutes in the 390th museum (sadly). We didn’t even get a chance to enter the other hangars. I opted for a tour of the grounds instead.

Outdoor Exhibits

There is so much to see in the outdoor exhibits that you could literally spend all day walking around and under every single aircraft on the 80 acres of the museum.

I ended up paying for the tram, as it was a fairly hot Arizona day, and I knew the kids wouldn’t be up for walking much of the outside areas. Plus, it was faster and included a guide, and we didn’t have a lot of time. At $6 per person, the tram adds up quickly for a family. But I would recommend it, especially if you are on a schedule.

One of the perks is that the drivers are retired professionals from the aviation industry. Our tour guide’s name was Ron. He was a retired pilot who had a 27-year career with Northwest Airlines after seven years as a Navy Reserve pilot. His knowledge of aircraft and aviation history was impressive.

The first tram stops were near some U.S. military fighters. My favorite was “Big Sal”, an F-105 flown in the Vietnam War by Capt. John Hoffman and named for his wife, Sally.

One of the next stops was at a Marine Corps Sikorsky S-43.

Across from it on the other side beyond a fence is an Orbis Flying Eye Hospital DC-10. My son thought it was super cool with the engine built into the tail. However, this plane has the affectionate nickname “Death Contraption 10”, among other equally awful monikers, due to several incidents that resulted in loss of life. The most famous is very likely United flight 232. After suffering critical failure in the tail engine, the pilots were left with very little control of the plane. Amazingly, they still managed to nearly land it at Sioux City, Iowa.

One plane that stood out especially was the “Flying Guppy”.

Further along we saw a Trans World Airlines Lockheed Constellation. Our tour guide remarked how sleek and unique the plane’s lines are. The triple tail was a design feature that allowed the aircraft to fit into existing hangars with low ceilings. It’s a beaut.

The Lockheed Constellation (not this one specifically) holds the record for the longest duration, non-stop passenger flight on a piston powered aircraft. Trans World Airlines’ inaugural flight from London to San Francisco was a ridiculous 23 hours and 19 minutes. This wasn’t mentioned during the tour, but it is an amazing feat. The aircraft would have averaged a mere 230 miles per hour.

Soon we had passed enough aircraft that I began to lose track of what we saw. It was information overload. And my phone was dying, to boot.

I took a few more photos while I could, including this U.S. Air Force Douglas C-124 Globemaster II, nicknamed “Old Shaky” due to the aircraft’s tendency to due just that during flight. The large nose cone sported by the plane is a weather radar.

There were also a couple more modern airliners featured at the Pima Air and Space Museum. These included the second Boeing 787 ever manufactured. It is accompanied by a China Southern 737.

Near the end of the tour is what the tour guide called the queen of the lot: a Convair B-36.

Overall, I enjoyed the tram tour immensely. If we had had the time to spend (say, 2 full days), and had visited during the winter, I probably would have opted to walk the facility. But the knowledge of the tour guide plus the fact that we didn’t have to walk over 2 miles up and down through the outdoor section of the museum is definitely worth $6 per person.

After the tram ride, we spent maybe another 15 minutes inside. The kids were soon ready to move on, and we took off for the hotel (SEE: 2 Consistently Good Mid-Range Hotel Brands for Families).

Conclusion

The Pima Air and Space Museum was a great way to begin our trip. I already have a son that is very interested in aircraft and aviation in general, and it was the perfect place to see. Next on the list of aviation destinations is Seattle, where I’d like to take him to the Museum of Flight and on a tour of the Boeing factory. We’ll see when I manage to fit that trip into our schedule.

3 Days in Paris: Day 2 – Hitting the Highlights

It figures we’d sleep in a bit after going 31 hours without so much as a real nap. Our first day had brought me to the most exhausted state I’ve felt in years (SEE: 3 Days in Paris: Day 1 – Surviving the Jetlag). I still got up fairly early, but actually felt quite rested.

While the kids continued their unbroken slumber, I showered and did some research for the day. I had a general idea of what we should see but still needed to finalize a more concrete plan. It quickly formed around some of the biggest highlights the French capital has to offer.  But the first order of business was breakfast. Time to get the kids up.

Le Petit Déjeuner Parisien

Since IHG has a pretty lousy elite program, the hotel breakfast wasn’t free. And we absolutely weren’t going to pay somewhere around €60 for the three of us.

To our delight there was a wonderful little bakery just around the corner from our hotel. Aux Péchés Normands offers a delectable array of pastries, plus fresh juices, coffee and a few other items. Ordering was a bit awkward, as my attempt at French lapsed into Spanish at a couple points. How I wish I had the time to study a few more languages. Someday, I keep telling myself.

Fortunately the lady helping us was both patient and kind as I butchered her native tongue, plus took twice as long as everyone else to order. Man, could their staff work. The place was hopping and the the handful of employees were giving it their all.

With some croissants, a juice, and a café au lait in hand, we headed to a little park along a canal to the northeast of our hotel. It was the perfect place to enjoy an utterly Parisian first breakfast in Paris.

Except for the coffee. Standard French coffee is an espresso, which is simply too strong for me.

Walking the Louvre and Tuileries

Stomachs full of delicious pastry, we started our adventure with a metro ride to Châtelet once again. But this time we transferred and traveled one more station to the Louvre. I figured that even though we weren’t going to tour this most famous of art museums, we at least needed to see the beautiful Louvre Palace and walk the Tuileries Gardens.

This is also where we met a German mother an her adult daughter who asked us to take a photo of them. We chatted for a few minutes. They were surprised I was traveling with kids and also surprised we had come all the way to Europe for a week. We had a great discussion on the amazing-ness of travel, and I encouraged them to pay the U.S. a visit. They kindly took a photo of us as well.

From the Louvre we meandered leisurely through Les Jardins des Tuileries until we came to the next destination on the list: Musée l’Orangerie.

Marveling at the Water Lilies

If you’re an art connoisseur, you could probably spent a week at the Louvre and not appreciate everything. We could spend all day there, and I’d barely scratch the surface and end up with two unhappy kids. But I still wanted to get in a little art while in Paris. So we settled for the Musée l’Orangerie.

Located at the opposite end of Tuileries Gardens from the Louvre, the Musée l’Orangerie is substantially smaller than its more famous neighbor. But this trove of impressionist art contains one very iconic piece: full wall displays of Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lilies).

We spent a while marveling at the walls of horizonless, shifting mix of pond and plants arrayed around us on all sides.

Even I could enjoy such a moment. I’m not much into paintings, especially impressionist paintings, but I find the works of the early impressionists are substantially better than the later, abstract ones.

Most of another hour was spent on the lower floor as we examined a number of other works in the museum collection. Some were quite skillful masterpieces, such as this one.

Apparently I missed an easy career as an artist, if this is all it takes to get you into a famous museum. Maybe I could still switch? I’d have to kick the eccentricity up a few notches.

Eventually all three of us had had enough art for the day and ventured back outside to the banks of the Seine.

The highlight of the trip

It was finally time. I’d told the kids I didn’t want the Eiffel Tower to be a tale of misery, so I made sure it wasn’t on the agenda for the first day. Instead, this most iconic of Parisian structures was slated for lunchtime and early afternoon.

We’d already had some glimpses. Le Tour Eiffel often peeks at you from various corners of the city, reminding you that it is always there, always watching. When we left the Musée l’Orangerie, our view was the best we’d had so far. But a short train ride later, and we were standing underneath it.

Unfortunately, one of the entrances to the Eiffel Tower was closed, and we’d managed to pick the longest security line of them all. Ask my wife sometime how I feel about lines.

Luckily, once inside, the wait wasn’t as bad. This was mainly because I’d elected to go with the cheap and character-building Eiffel Tower experience, to the dismay of my children: the Snyders were taking the stairs up the tower! It was definitely for the best. Instead of waiting in a giant line for an elevator, we started up the metal stairs after a mere 10 minutes in the queue. Here are my two troopers starting out:

I had a blast. In the end, the kids did, too. But the adventure wasn’t without its share of whining and complaining about hiking up the Eiffel Tower when there was an functioning elevator available. But once we’d scaled the first floor, the smiles came back.

The views from the first floor were lovely.

But the views from the second level are even more stunning.

I’d read that this was the best level from which to view Paris, as you’re high enough to have a sweeping view of the city, yet close enough to pick out landmarks. I considered going to the top, but given the cost and time,  we’d be happily content with the second level.

Lunch was had at the tiny cafe, which to my shock had prices within the realm of reason. The baguette sandwich was delicious. Nothing beats French bread.

Once we were all satisfied that we’d soaked in enough of the view, we headed down, taking the elevator this time. Turns out you don’t need a ticket to go that direction. Just up.

I’ll have more on the Eiffel Tower later, including a rundown on why I consider the stairs to be the better experience, even with kids. On with our adventure!

Triomphe!

After conquering the Eiffel Tower by foot, it makes sense that our next stop was a monument to victory. Napoleon’s victories, to be exact.

We took our time getting there, though. Across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower is a grand set of fountains and park called the Jardins du Trocadéro. From here you can get some great shots of the Eiffel Tower.

After walking a little further an up the stairs, we headed down to the metro and rode it three stops to the Arc de Triomphe.

Although the Arc de Triomphe isn’t especially tall, the views from the top are great. The Eiffel Tower is still fairly close, and being at the center of 12(!) different avenues makes for some unique photos.

Like many other places in Paris, the kids got in for free. And “child” prices typically last until they turn 18. This is one reason I would suggest visiting Paris as a family before the kids are grown, especially if you can travel hack the flights and hotel. The former is fairly easy. The latter is a pain.

The Arc de Triomphe involved more stairs, to the kids’ dismay. They asked why they didn’t install an elevator. I had to tell them they weren’t exactly common in the early 1800s. Not to mention electricity as we know it wasn’t a thing. And renovating an stone monument like this wasn’t exactly…eh…simple.

My last comment is to avoid the Arc de Triomphe if driving in Paris. Unless you relish a challenge. The giant circle is an utter free for all.

After our stop at the Arc de Triomphe, we found a cheap restaurant on a side street to grab dinner. There was still one more stop on our itinerary.

A Montmartre Evening

Montmartre is a neighborhood of Paris that I never knew existed prior to our trip, or that it is a favorite for many people visiting the city. When I was searching hotel award options (which is pretty difficult for a party of 3+, let me tell you!), one of the hotels I examined was the Holiday Inn Montmartre. It just seemed too far away from everything else, and the metro wasn’t all that convenient, so I quickly decided it wasn’t a good fit.

But it definitely may be on the table for consideration if we ever visit Paris again. The Montmartre area is charming. It consists of a mix of narrow cobblestone streets, small plazas, and a lovely hill to climb from where you can enjoy a view of the rest of Paris.

And atop the hill is the stunning Sacre-Couer Cathedral.

You can access Montmartre via the metro, but it is a bit of a walk up the hill. We rode the metro to the Anvers stop and then walked the streets to Square Louise Michel from where we took the funicular for the final stretch. I have an obsession with funiculars. My wife and I enjoyed the one in Quebec City when we visited in the winter of 2016 (SEE: Canadian Adventures in 16 Pictures).

The kids and I spent some time sitting on the hill enjoying the view. There was quite the crowd who all had the same idea. I don’t blame them; it was a lovely evening.

Even though there was a good amount of daylight left, I figured being out much past 8:00 was going to be too much for the kids. We’d seen a lot and walked a lot, and they needed to turn in early enough to be rested for the next day’s adventures.

Exhausted again

We finally arrived back at the hotel around 8:30. It wasn’t long before the kids were asleep, hopefully dreaming about the fun we’d have the following day, our last full day  in Paris.

I drove the two of them hard on our second day. They were troopers, and definitely enjoyed exploring Paris. But they were quite tired. I probably wouldn’t recommend an itinerary as full as ours, especially if your kids are younger. I was already planning on taking things easier on our last full day, and this just confirmed it.

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