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10 days in Paris/Normandy/Brittany - with kids - help with itinerary

Hi, we'd love some help with our upcoming trip to France this summer. This is our first trip overseas and we're taking our 6 and 8 year old boys. They're fairly well traveled and can walk and hike a good amount. We love travel, nature, adventure, and road trips, and are hoping to incorporate this into our trip. Here's our rough itinerary, any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Day 1:
Fly into Paris, rent a car at the airport, drive to Rouen, stay in Rouen, explore Rouen for the day.
*is Rouen a good base of operations for day trips to Etretat and Honfleur? anything else we should see while we're there? Which beaches do you recommend?

Day 2:
Day trip from Rouen to Etretat, see white chalk cliffs, arches, hike, etc.

Day 3:
Day trip from Rouen to Honfleur

Day 4:
Drive to Dinan - stay in Dinan (is this a good base of operations for St. Malo and Mont St. Michel?)
Explore Dinan

Day 5:
Day trip from Dinan to Mont St. Michel
is this an all day activity, or what should we combine it with?

Day 6:
Day trip from Dinan to St. Malo
is this an all day activity, or what should we combine it with?

Day 7:
Drive to Versailles, spend the day in Versailles
should we spend the night in Versailles or where?

Day 8, 9, and 10:
Drop the car off in Paris upon arrival to Paris.
Spend paris for 3 nights - attractions include: river cruise on Seine, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, Champs-Elysees, Luxembourg Gardens, Tuilleries Gardens.

One last thing I wanted some help with - one of my kids is severely allergic to shellfish, so we are somewhat limited on where to eat, particularly in poorly ventilated places that serve shellfish, and even things like touching oysters at oyster farms in low tide. I plan to bring a French chef card to explain to the restaurants about his limitations. If anyone has any advice or suggestions on how to navigate around this, please do.

Thank you in advance!

Posted by
53 posts

Good itinerary. I did a tour of the Normandy beaches, but I’m solo and no car. There’s a museum at Utah Beach and you can’t miss the American Cemetery very moving.
There are lots of places in Paris that aren’t predominantly seafood. Best to take your big meal in the afternoon and small tapas type things at night. check other posts re families traveling with children.
Good luck

Posted by
425 posts

I personally think you are trying to do too much. I would have a central place I could stay and take day trips from there. Also if you are coming from US might not be a good idea to rent a car immediately if jet lagged!

Posted by
45 posts

I think moving around 4 times in 10 days is too much. You could definitely do Versailles as a day trip from Paris, rather than overnighting in Versailles. There is A LOT of time involved with packing/unpacking and driving to a new destination. It also increases the chance that something will be left behind. I would either spend the whole time in Paris and do day trips from there, or base in Paris and one other spot (maybe Bayeux, which would let you do day trips to the D-Day beaches as well as Mont St. Michel). If it were me, I would do the following:

Day 1: arrive in Paris, get settled into your hotel, try to walk around outside as much as possible to beat jet-lag.
Days 2-5: Paris (with day trips if you want - Versailles, Giverny, Reims, etc.)
Day 6: Train to Caen, pick up rental car (agencies right outside the train station). Drive to Bayeux. Walk around Bayeux and see the famous tapestry.
Day 7: D-Day beaches
Day 9: Drive to Mont St. Michel (be there EARLY to avoid crowds)
Day 10: drive to Caen, return rental car, train directly to CDG and stay at a hotel there the night before your flight.
Day 11: fly home

Or you could skip Bayeux and DDay beaches and instead base in Rouen, with day trips to Honfleur and Etretat. My policy is to change hotels the absolute least amount of times I have to, but that's personal preference.

Posted by
6033 posts

I'm not going to make any general comments about the whole trip because it's way too fast paced and action packed for my style. My one comment is your day 7. What time are you planning to leave Dinan in order to arrive in Versailles to 'spend the day'? It's a minimum of 4 hrs drive time, and that's with good weather, no road construction/detours, and flowing traffic - not to mention that with 2 young children you'll need some potty stops, leg stretch stops, maybe breakfast or lunch stop. It's going to be 5-6 hrs and maybe more which isn't going to leave that much time in Versailles. Personally, unless it's a must do for you, I would probably skip Versailles and go right to Paris.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks for your comments and suggestions, everyone!
Sounds like the drive to the Brittany area might be a little much to add to the trip, we should probably go as far as Mont St. Michel and not any further west. We wanted to end the trip in Paris instead of starting there, so that there's no risk of missing our return flight, and because we wanted to celebrate an occasion at the end of our trip in Paris. We also love road trips and would love to incorporate this into the trip, rather than taking the train (although I'm sure trains in France are wonderful too). So we would still like to fly in and start driving up to the Normandy region.

Would it make sense to drive to some short distance out of Paris to spend the night, before heading out to Rouen? Maybe stop at Giverney for lunch, spend the day there, and spend the night? Is there another area that's on the way to Rouen that would be a good place to stop? We also don't necessarily need to make Rouen our base, it was just the closest area to the airport that made sense logistically - but if we'll spend the night in Giverney or something, we could get a hotel in Caen or Bayeux for the next 3 days. Etretat and Honfleur are a must for us, that's why Rouen seems to make more sense as the base.

We are also interested in the Suisse Normande (Switzerland of Normandy) area, as we love the outdoors and hiking, so maybe that's better logistically than going to the Brittany area.

Thoughts?

Posted by
1528 posts

How exciting- a first trip overseas, your boys are lucky!

I would not recommend flying in and driving right away. We never do that, arrival after an overnight flight- when you may or may not (more likely) sleep- is always a bit disorienting and nerve wracking, even for frequent overseas travelers. A wait thru baggage claim, passport control, car rental, 2hr drive - UGH- won’t your kids be antsy, hungry, bored by now? Will the driver be getting sleepy?

On a 10 night trip I’d try to limit location changes to 3.
3 nights is really 2.5 days or less

The best way to get over jet lag is to get out and walk around in the sunshine.
I’d take that night away from Versailles and put it Day 1 Paris. I am not crazy about 1 night stays but sometimes it’s warranted.

Day 1: Take taxi into Paris for 1 night- Left Bank walk- Luxembourg gardens for exercise and fresh air, Notre Dame before closing, cruise on Seine.

Day 2: Pick up car- drive to Rouen-3 nights
Day 3, 4: Day trips- Honfleur, Etretat

Day 5: Drive to Dinan- 3 nights
Day 6: Day trip to MSM early am or late afternoon.
Day 7: Day trip St Malo- or consider a day off here.

Day 8: I’d be done with driving by now. Drive to Rennes, drop car. Train to Paris. Great experience for your kids.
Arrive Paris 2pm?

Day 9, 10: Paris

Is Versailles of interest to your whole family? It’s an all day event.
I’d skip it if I only had 3-4 nights in Paris.

Take a look at Musee de Rodin, Invalides, Pere Lachaise, Orangerie...

Do you have RS France or Paris book?

Posted by
6752 posts

That shellfish allergy is serious, so I would stick to creperies, crêpe restaurants, while you are in Brittany. Otherwise, seafood restaurants, or even regular restaurants, will be serving raw oysters, depending on when you go. People travel to Brittany to slurp these beauties,, some juice gets on the hands, the table, the side of the chair when scooting forward or getting up. It’s best to stay clear, picnic, eat crêpes, really buckwheat galettes for main and wheat crêpes for dessert.

Christine H has proposed a good itinerary.

Posted by
53 posts

What month will you be traveling? Some of the responses have suggested train travel. I love it myself but remember there is a train strike until the end of June. Check OUI.com for on/off strike days.

Posted by
603 posts

I'm going to blast through this, so apologies for spelling mistakes.

We were in Brittany with the kids (11 and 7) last summer and did the following:

Day 1. Arrived in Dinan in afternoon, did the Rance River walk to Lehon in the RS guidebook
Day 2. Toured Dinan in the morning, MSM at 4pm, dinner in Cancale (this was not a busy, stressful day, in fact the pacing was nearly perfect for us)
Day 3. Toured San Malo in the 1st half the day, then took the coastal drive in teh RS guidebook to the sculptured rocks (wicked awesome) and the other nice things to see. It rained in the PM so chilling in Dinan
Day 4. Fort la Latte in the morning, more Dinan, Rance river walk again, swimming at the public pool in Lehon in the evening.

It was fun and not rushed. Dinan is a great base for the area. The driving was fine and not long to get to these places.

thanks,

Matt