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Would you recommend taking a trip to Italy or Paris with 4 children(5-12)?

My husband and I have been to Paris and the surrounding sites several times, but have never been to Rome. We are going to take our 4 kids (5-12) to either Paris (and break it up by seeing Versailles/Normandy etc.) or Italy(Rome, Florence, Venice etc.) in February, but are wondering which one the kids would most enjoy? Does anyone have any thoughts on this? We obviously know that traveling with children changes the traveling dynamic, but which area would be most fun for them and easy for us to navigate?

Posted by
6439 posts

Hard for the forum here to know what your kids like.

Where do you live that there is a school break in February?

Posted by
2 posts

We homeschool, so we are super flexible & love to travel during times when there aren't huge crowds! Our kids are very funny, spunky, respectful, and enjoy history...if that is helpful at all! They can walk easily and endure train rides etc.

Posted by
17088 posts

Would unpleasant weather be an issue? I think the odds of that in northern France are higher than around Rome. We usually encourage winter travelers to head for cities like Paris because there are lots of indoor activities available, but many of those activities might not be of much interest to the typical child.

I wonder whether you've considered southern Spain?

Posted by
974 posts

Our first trip to Rome was during the middle of February. The weather was pleasant for walking (in the 50s). You don't mention how long your trip will be. We spent 10 days in Rome and barely scratched the surface.

Posted by
651 posts

With the right attitude, either place can be great for kids. Perhaps not so much Florence unless your kids REALLY love art, although gelato in Florence is the best. Rome has great ruins, the forum, the colosseum, just tons of interesting things, plus a bajillion churches and museums (St. Peters is the biggest church in the world). Venice is awesome because no cars, only boats! And if you tour the doges palace you can walk thru the bridge of sighs and into the old prison (what kid could resist that). And if you’re “lucky”, Venice might flood when you’re there. How cool is it to walk everywhere on platforms above the flood water?

Posted by
5602 posts

As someone who lives in Paris, I agree with acraven's posting that it's likely to be a little more pleasant weather-wise in Rome in February than here. And better weather means you can spend more time outside, which usually enhances a trip.

Posted by
11613 posts

Actually, the largest church in the world is in the Ivory Coast.

On the other hand, no building in Roma is higher (seen on the skyline) than Saint Peter's Basilica.

Posted by
70 posts

For Joe: schools in NH, MA and ME get either President's Day week or the following week in February as school vacation. Then we get Patriot's Day or the following week off in April. I don't know why, but it's excellent if you want to go skiing in February.

Posted by
2334 posts

I've been to both with kids and think Italy may be a better choice. Weather may be better, and Italian culture is a little more accepting of children. Not that France isn't, but there's a bit more formality that can be a challenge. Italian people love children in an expressive way which make it a lot of fun. Plus Italian food is loved by children and you can get kid-friendly things like pasta or pizza at any restaurant. Venice is a hit with kids, and mine got pretty into ancient Rome - Colosseum and gladiators and ruins really fed their imagination.

Posted by
118 posts

Emily, in 1971 my parents brought me and my sister to Europe for a month. We kicked and screamed all the way there.
46 years later I have such amazing memories indelibly etched in my mind that I my wife and I go to Europe twice a year.
The point is they will be amazed wherever you go and it will create memories for everyone. Bon Voyage.

Posted by
2521 posts

As much as I love Paris, I too would recommend Rome because the weather is more temperate and the Italians tolerate children well! Being able to walk through ruins, see the Colosseum, wtch the "authentic" gladiators and Roman soldiers are delights for kids. More so than the Louvre or Arc De Triomphe. My son visited both cities when he was 10 and definitely found Rome more kid interesting.

Posted by
1666 posts

We've been to both in the last two years, not for the first time. I'm thinking of my grandkids and where I'd take the ones in that age bracket. I dearly love both France and Italy, but I'd be more inclined to take them to Italy.

You can't see it all. If you don't want to spend the entire time in Rome, which would be easy to do especially with day trips, I suggest Rome and Venice, with most of the time in Rome. I think they'd be fascinated by the canals.

Another thought would be Rome and renting at an agriturismo in Tuscany. If you could find the right agriturismo, there may be a chance for them to just run and play in the countryside. That would give them another look at Italian life away from the cities.

Posted by
2786 posts

If money is tight then wait till they are older, and they will remember it better.

Posted by
3307 posts

Yes! For that time of year I would choose Rome - the weather would be better and the history is a little more interesting for kids. If they are as amicable as you say then teach them the history before you go and then fill in the juicy details while you're there to make it even more exciting! We took our son to Italy when he was 8 and he was at a perfect age for gladiators, Pompeii, St. Peter's, secret passageways, catacombs, and bone ossuaries. He LOVED it! We taught him the relevant history (big picture stuff) before our trip and then being there just made it come to life for him. Highly recommend! Get an apartment so you can have a little space and even make breakfast before going out for the day. Treat the trip as the adventure that it is and you'll all have a great time!

Posted by
8293 posts

Title of the OP’s post is “Would you recommend taking a trip to Italy or Paris with 4 children (5-12)?”

My answer: No! Wait at least 4 years. Not a popular response, I know. We are all supposed to say “Yes! Wonderful experience for the kids and you.” If you do it, be sure to let us know how wonderful it was. For me, travelling with only three young kids was ruinous money-wise, pleasure-wise and unwise. I have no doubt my now adult children feel the same way.

Posted by
17088 posts

I have no children and wouldn't presume to give advice on this question, but I can't resist pointing out that there might be quite a difference between traveling with one or two children and traveling with four. I wonder how many folks have actually taken four pre-teens to Europe.

I was reading guidebooks to Europe before I was 12, so I'm sure I'd have been thrilled at the prospect of such a trip.

Posted by
2235 posts

I hate to be picky with Zoe, as I almost always just happen to agree with her, but the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro in Ivory Coast is the largest church in the world only when measuring the exterior area. It is 18th in interior area, where St. Peter’s in the Vatican is the largest. Just in case y’all wanted to know.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Larry, you are absolutely correct about exterior vs. interior.

Posted by
7124 posts

In five years time, with four kids aged 10 to 17, I think everyone would have a more enjoyable and beneficial time travelling to Europe.

Posted by
6439 posts

OP is asking for suggestion/recommendation for a destination, not comments on "is this a good idea?"

Reading the entirety of the post, its a choice between Paris and environs, or Italy.

Given the issues surrounding weather, Italy seems a better choice, as others have already commented on.

Posted by
11700 posts

I'm also reading the question as wanting advice on preference between the two countries and not whether to take the kids at all?

A spin through forum history turns up quite a fair number of posts from people traveling Europe with larger families of young folks, Many of those questions have to do with accommodations - finding those which can handle group sizes of 6 and 7 - versus general enjoyment but let's just say it's not unheard of.

I don't see any difference between the countries navigation-wise; moving a family of 6 and their stuff around will have some challenges so the fewer moves you make, probably the better. I would go along with Italy being my preference due to its more southerly location. It may be a little sunnier and a little warmer although daytime averages for all look to be in the 40's. Normandy in Feb. would not personally appeal to me.

As far as which would be more "fun", I don't know as we can answer that. Rome would offer more outdoor attractions but mainly in the form of ruins/excavations. Those will probably be engaging for a time with some prior family research and/or kid-focused tours. Bike/surrey rentals are available in spacious Villa Borghese park (Rome), and Paris has some nice parks as well, if weather cooperates. Paris, Rome and Florence are heavy on museums but the two Italian cities also have a plethora of glorious churches which might impress from the visual aspect; lots for young eyes to take in!

All of your children qualify for free entry at Italian National Museums (not the Vatican's) and some other attractions. They'd be free at a number of museums in Paris as well. Some may require a timed-entry reservation for "free" tickets with a small booking fee.

Renting at an agriturismo for a few days was previously suggested and might be a good idea but I'd be cautious about location? If they are rural enough to require car rental for day trips or into town for dinner, that could cause some interesting planning with required carseats or boosters for the smallest, and rental of a vehicle large enough to handle 6. Vehicle rental is not recommended for Italian cities.

As previously mentioned, Italians are very fond of children (not to say that Parisians aren't, just possibly more reserved ) and they'll be welcomed wherever you go! :O)

Posted by
441 posts

I can't speak of Paris, but I can say that my kids (11 and 13) loved Italy. We went in May for 10 days and it was incredible. There is so much to do and see (and eat!) We saw lots of children there and the Italians do seem to be very family-friendly. Rome was so much fun-if they like history, there is a ton of it there. I loved Rome, walking around the piazzas, the fountains, eating gelato and seeing amazing ancient buildings-wow... I want to go back! Have a great time!

Posted by
230 posts

What would be better than a city with canals for streets? Or to see a HUGE old outdoor arena with an exposed basement...or those other buildings with FOUR basements (thinking of some of the churches in Rome). Also, a side trip to Ostia Antica would be interesting to children. And to climb those towers and even a church dome in Florence?

I'd take them to Italy.

I'm hoping you have a 1:2 ratio of adult:children.

Posted by
9 posts

I love Paris, but I would definitely choose Italy for a family vacation. As others have mentioned, Italians love children and it will be much easier to find food your children will enjoy.

My husband and I took our four girls on trips when they were young, and my oldest daughter and her husband have taken their three children on trips to Japan and Panama, and are currently with them in Portugal. Their three children are only ages 3 (twins) and a 4 and a half year old, and love their adventures.

Have you considered renting an apartment in Rome? If you will be staying in the city, an apartment offers you the option of choosing how many bedrooms you need, as well as allowing you to save money on meals by making breakfast and packing snacks for your family. It is also probably cheaper than renting two hotel rooms, especially in February. As a bonus, it makes it easier to do laundry and thus pack less clothing.

  • Look for family plans for train travel. Your children should ride for half price or even free.
  • Teach your children a few words like numbers one to ten, please, thank you, you're welcome.*
  • Don't over schedule each day and plan lots of outdoor activities.
  • Be realistic. Plan a day trip one day, and then find local things for the next day.
  • Have big lunches with your children in restaurants and then make meals at home in the evening followed by an evening walk and a gelato. Children do not do well waiting until 9:00 for dinner.
  • Even though you do not have much time before your trip, see if you can order some children's books about things they will see, buy a big map of the country, introduce them to various Italian foods.
  • You might do well to avoid Venice around the 13th of February as there will be huge crowds for Carnevale (Mardi Gras).

Don't let anyone dissuade you. This is a wonderful bonding experience for your family. Will your children remember everything about the Sistine Chapel, no. But they will remember the grandeur and beauty of it, and it will open their minds to the world for the rest of their lives.

Time for me to stop talking. I just decided it is time for ME to take my grandkids to Italy. Have a wonderful adventure!

Posted by
2463 posts

Carpe diem! I disagree with those who say to wait until your children are older. You never know what the future holds.

Posted by
340 posts

To Norma - I appreciate your honest reply. Made me laugh recalling our travels with our three kids.

Posted by
8293 posts

Thank you, jvb! You are probably the only one not to be horrified by my post. As I said, not a popular opinion or at least, not one most would admit to.