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9 days in France (Paris+Normandy) with teenagers - where to spend an extra day

I'm traveling with my daughters (18 & 15) to France in late June this year for 9 days. We were originally thinking of spending the whole time in Paris, but we decided since this is their first time there, we'd spend at least a couple nights outside the city. I've been around different parts of France in previous visits, but I haven't been to Normandy, and given both of my kids' interest in history we decided to spend 2 nights in Bayeux and visit the D-Day beaches.

In planning out the itinerary, I'm left with a day/night in between when we were planning to be in Normandy and Paris, and was contemplating a short stop in Loire Valley (another place I have not been), though one of my kids, and probably all of us, would be happier reducing how many times we're moving, checking in and out, etc.

So, which of these choices would you pick: staying a 3rd night at our AirBnB in Bayeux and driving over to Mont St. Michel or other nearby sights, OR driving to Loire Valley and staying one night, OR heading back to Paris and having time in our schedule for a day trip to Versailles? Based on their priorities and that I don't want to have a super packed schedule in Paris, Versailles probably won't happen unless we shift that extra night back to Paris.

I haven't booked our plane tickets yet so we could consider adding a day on one end or the other (though I booked AirBnb's already covering the beginning/end of the trip, and neither of them has flexibility to accommodate that change).

The itinerary looks like this right now:
Day 1: arrive in Paris in the AM, drive to Bayeux;
Day 2: D-Day beaches;
Day 3: scheduled to depart Bayeux, but this is where above options come in;
Day 4: return to Paris for 5 nights (or choose to head back on Day 3 and have 6 nights in Paris);
Day 9: leave Paris

Posted by
6063 posts

I would stay a 6th night in Paris, personally.
And I would avoid driving after the overnight flight, it is not safe. Best to take the train... and if your main interest is d-day beaches, you might want to take a tour (otherwise they're just beaches if you visit on your own)... And thus you might not even need a car at all.

Posted by
2621 posts

What I don’t like is you’re renting a car the day of arrival after being awake all night. Don’t assume you’ll sleep on the plane even if you’re sitting in first class. However, if you’re flying in from the west coast that might be different but I would make sure my seats were in business class at least.
Another thing I was disappointed with the Loire Valley and Versailles but I’m not a huge museum person either. I loved Normandy but have never been to Mont St. Michel.

Posted by
167 posts

Make sure you take a tour in Normandy, even though you have your own car, I cannot stress that enough. We did a full day tour with OverLord Tours and it was so fascinating and interesting! Well worth it and it is a small van tour.

There is so much to see around that area after you have done Normandy. I think the girls and you will love Honfleur and Etretat. You will recognize the latter from many movie scenes. Both places can be reached in one day and easy with a car. We have been to Mont St. Michel as well and even though we enjoyed, it is very overrun with tourists. Definitely enjoy Honfleur, Etretat (with some hiking on the cliffs) and Rouen over Mt. St. Michel.
Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
1972 posts

I agree with the others: do not fly from the US then rent a car and drive to Normandy. Take the train to Bayeux (will probably take about 6 hours total from the airport). Then do a tour the next day.

I would not add another stop at MSM, Loire, etc. Either 1) stay an extra day in Bayeux and explore the cute town, see the Tapestry, visit the cute bakeries, etc. or 2) take the train back to Paris for an extra night and add Versailles.

If your BnB can’t accommodate you for another night, consider taking an early train from Bayeux to Versailles. Spend a night there before taking the train to Paris for 5 nights.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you all for your input! I appreciate the advice about not driving the first day; we are flying from Seattle, so it's 10+ hour flight and I have slept well on that flight before, but every flight is different. I think if we get on a train to Bayeux right after the flight, we'll have a hard time following sleep/wake recommendations to avoid jetlag, but maybe just unavoidable if we aren't staying in Paris our first night...I will definitely reconsider the logistics of our first day. Thanks everyone for your safety-conscious feedback!

Karen, I really appreciate your thoughts about Normandy! I'm an avid hiker, so Etretat looks like a place we'd love to visit.

Having not been to Versailles, I'm happy to have the feedback on it...I think it's probably not going to fit into this trip.

Posted by
1972 posts

I’ve been to Versailles several times now. It’s really something to see, especially for history buffs. I read a lot about Marie Antoinette, the Hapsburgs, and the French Revolution prior to our first visit. I expected to be completely disgusted by the opulence of the place. It really is over the top. But I found myself also recognizing a great beauty and sadness there. It really is a lesson in the tremendous imbalance of the “have and have nots”. Marie Antoinette’s hamlet was like her personal Disneyland. And full scale naval ships once conducted mock battles in the garden’s pond, it’s just a little overwhelming.

Our last visit, with our teens, we took the King’s Apartments tour. I thought it was very good. My older son is a huge history buff (we also went to Normandy), and he was pretty impressed with the Hall of Mirrors, knowing that that is where the treaty to end the WWI was signed.

Posted by
5 posts

Based on feedback here, I made some adjustments to our itinerary. I added a day at the beginning of the trip, so we'll arrive ~8am, take a train from CDG to Versailles, do what we can manage there that day and spend the night at Versailles. We'll pick up a rental car on Day 2 and head to Etretat/Honfleur before making our way to Bayuex in the evening, staying for 3 nights. Then back to Paris for 5 nights. I know touring Versailles with jetlag isn't the same as seeing it well-rested, but we'll be there in afternoon/evening and at least get a taste of it (and know which areas we want to explore more next time!).

Thanks for the help!

Posted by
23 posts

Hi! If you are going out to Bayeux, you might consider heading to Mont St. Michel after departing Bayeux. Perhaps even, instead of spending a second night staying at Bayeux, plan on arriving late afternoon at MSM. I have my itinerary set up like this:
Day !: arrive into Paris CDG in the am. Drive to Honfleur and spend day exploring Honfleur. (Giverny - Monet's Garden - and Rouen is on the way between Paris and Honfleur, stop if we feel like it).
Day 2. Leave Honfleur for Bayeux after breakfast/midmorning. Spend day in Bayeux.
Day 3 D Day Beaches then drive over to MSM. Arrive about 1.5 hours before sunset. Stay at MSM.
Day 4. Savor MSM in the morning, drive back to Paris. Stop at Chartres for lunch and the famous church. Leave Chartres for Paris late afternoon.
Day 5 Paris
Day 6 Paris
Day 7 Versaille
Day 8 Paris
Day 9 Leave Paris.

My kids are a little younger than yours, so may have different interests and needs from yours.

Posted by
610 posts

Having been blessed to be able to travel to Europe many times, I can say without exaggeration that I never remember anything we did on the first ( arrival) day with any clarity. What I remember is being miserable if I didn't take a nap on arrival and vague outlines. My two cents on your plan- 1) Spend first night in Paris - walk around to see major sights that you just need an impression off. The On-OFF bus tour or a boat ride on Seine would be great.2) get early train to Bayeux in AM. We did a wonderful tour thru the Peace Museum in Caen that brought us to the museum, then the beaches than to Bayeux. They picked us up at train. Or spend the day in Bayeux, overnight and do a DDay tour the next day. You can return to Paris the second evening.

Posted by
1873 posts

I agree with hiking along the cliffs near Étretat, think they are wortwhile in both directions. We walked from Benouville (lovely village btw) along the cliffs to Étretat. If time is not of concern you can walk all the way to charming Vaucottes and Yport. We stayed in Vattetot-sur-Mere, also one of the charming places you can find north-east of Étretat. Can’t say much about places south-west of Étretat but think an area worth exploring too.

Posted by
6691 posts

You might look at a Google Maps route before using the word "near" for MSM. That said, the project is much easier with a car, and there are even options in between, like Vitre or Fougeres. I personally don't consider it necessary to spend the night at MSM, but you have a group's opinions to consider. There's no point in rushing the MSM visit unless they want to do something else, like Dinan, Dinard, Carnac, or St Malo. The US invasion sites and MSM are not the only important places in Normandy and Brittany. Have any of them read the novel about St Malo?

It is useful to have a written plan for D-Day visits, even if it's just a copy of Rick's book plus one other guidebook.

Posted by
87 posts

I also agree with spending more time in the region of Etretat, Honfleur.
You could book only 2 nights in Bayeux (as you originally wanted to do) and, before Bayeux, spend that night in this region.

Moreover you would have more time to spend between Honfleur and Bayeux.

Instead of going by the highway you can go by the coast, there are plenty of charming seaside towns to see Deauville, Houlgate, Cabourg, etc.