Finding Affordable Paris Digs For a Family of Six… Or Dreaming the Impossible Dream

June 30th, 2009

I awoke at the crack of dawn yesterday (which is 8:00 am in my world) and after staring at my garden for a while (which is my new favorite hobby) I made a pot of coffee and set about the task of finding a place for my family to stay during our upcoming three day visit to Paris.  ”How hard can this be?”  I thought, “All I need is a small, charming hotel with a fabulous bakery and picturesque flower stall just next door… that has a room large enough for all six of us… within minutes of all the major sights… for less than eighty dollars a night.  Surely Paris has literally millions of hotels like that!”

Hwahhhhhh Hawarrrhhhhhh Hwahhrrhrhhrhhr Awahwhhwhwhahahwhehwhh. Hooo Heee Ha ha ha ha ha ha HO!

Twelve hours later, I had eliminated the flower stall, the bakery, the charm, the central location, the tidiness and I had certainly eliminated the eighty dollar room price.  

Instead I was looking at spending more like $500.oo a night for two tiny rooms where the six of us would have to share four twin beds, in a far flung arrondissement (or burrough) that is a twenty minute subway ride to the next subway which will finally get you to the Eiffel Tower.

I gave up on finding an affordable hotel and switched to looking at ‘family hostels’.  I found several on Trip Advisor that have incredible prices starting at around $60.00 a night!  Thank God I thought!  My family will be able to sight-see AND still eat!  Then I started reading the reviews of the hostels and I saw far too many comments that said things like…

Bed Bugs…

Smelly mattress…

I watched the janitor snap on a pair of gloves, clean the toilet and then move over to the beds without changing his gloves.

There were some positive reviews too, but my mind pretty much shut down after ‘bed bugs’ and ‘smelly mattress’.

So I moved over to the idea of renting an apartment for three days…

I had a lot more luck with apartments.  I found several that were in a good locations (the 5th and the 6th arrondissement as Marilyn so wisely instructed me), could sleep six, and were slightly cheaper than two tiny hotel rooms that could only sleep four.  We would be able to make a few of our own meals in the tiny apartment kitchen, and live like real Parisians for a few days!  I sent thousands of emails to the various apartment owners telling them that we were a party of six which included two adults and four of the most well-behaved boys ages seven to fourteen that you have ever laid eyes on.  My boys  would never even think about turning a tiny living room into an indoor soccer field and in fact, my boys spend most of their time sitting quietly, praying, and doing crossword puzzles.  

This morning I eagerly checked my e-mail as all of these apartment owners promise to reply within 24 hours.  So far, I have heard from NONE of them.

Do you think it has something to do with the whole ‘four boys’ thing?  

Should I have lied and said I had ‘four daughters’ instead?  

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place.  I consulted my Fodor’s guide to Paris.  Fodor’s mentioned one hotel that was centrally located, a bit Bohemian, but a great value.  I don’t mind Bohemian!  I love Bohemian!  I am Bohemian!  I checked out their web site.  I could get two ‘triples’ which means a room that sleeps three, for about a hundred dollars less a night than any other hotel I had found.  Around midnight, I sent off a very polite e-mail to this ‘Bohemiaan hotel’  

Bonjour! We are looking for rooms for two adults and four children ages 7, 11, 12, and 14. 

Your hotel looks lovely and I hope you have room for us! 

This morning there was a hot and fresh email in my inbox that still smelled of Bohemian baguettes and Bohemian cafe au lait.

Dear Madam, Sir,

It is with great care that we have read your request. Please find 

herewith the information about our establishment. Our 

charming Hotel located in the Latin Quarter, in the very heart of Old 

Paris , within walking distance of all the major monuments of Paris 

like: Notre-Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum, The Oldest Zoological and 

Botanical Gardens of the World and the Luxembourg Gardens…

The email went on to give a description of each room including the view from each balcony.  It is still outrageously expensive and I am sure our rooms will be microscopic, but it is in a great location and the actually replied to my email without flinching about the whole four boys thing. I didn’t flinch either.

I booked it.

Now to find a charming, spacious, centrally located, vine covered English cottage, with a luminous garden, free scones and all the tea I can drink, from which to do all of our English countryside exploring…

for less that fifty bucks a night of course.

That shouldn’t be too hard.

Should it?


  • What? No Best Westerns or Motel 6s in Paris?

  • Just don’t wear white sneakers in Paris, please. You’ll feel bad about yourself 5 minutes after arriving!
    The rooms in Europe tend to be smaller so don’t think that it’s just your hotel:) Also the beds are smaller and the shower pressure generally a little weaker. I don’t know why. I’ve had visitors who have commented that here in the US my shower was a bit too violent for them. I laughed and put lots of ice into their drinks……..:)

    You and your boys will love the trip.

  • eclecticdeb:

    I stayed there for 4 months (12 years ago). It’s about an hour outside London, in the heart of Hampshire countryside. If I recall correctly, it was about a 2 hour drive to the Cotswolds.

    They’ve changed owners, but it still looks lovely. I loved it there — my then 2.5 year old son came with my, and also my mother (I was working on a long-term project in the area). If the location worked, it would be perfect for your family.

  • I haven’t been to either in over 10 years but I had really good luck with Sofietels (sp?) They were like staying in a Best Western and about $69 a night US. The one I stayed at in Paris was within walking distance to EVERYTHING>

  • Bwaaahahahahaha!

    SUCH an American!

    That was a HIlarious description.

    I think you have a lot of French rolling their eyes at you.

    Are you assembling your chic BLACK wardrobe? Don’t forget the scarves! Or are you going as an American?

    I’m excited because I’m going to Switzerland in September, and maybe Italy if all my dreams come true.

    I’m excited for you too! Scones and croissants! Woo Hoo!

  • Good luck and hope you have a great trip. We head to Paris for a couple of days in October, we’ve gone the apartment route. We’ve booked a 2 bedroom appt in a Haussman building, not too horrifically priced. There are stacks of cottage rental/ holiday lets websites for England – you’ll find something! Think chic!

  • Carol:

    We did the apartment rental thing twice for vacations in Paris, with two teenage girls. One was utilitarian and small, the other was faded but grand, owned by faded aristos off in the country, earning money from their city apartment. It had antiques galore and many rooms, and laundry! I think I would have been uncomfortable there with four boys (splendid tho they may be) but the girls merely swanned about as if it came naturally to them.

  • NY Times had a great article this Sunday on frugal Paris….

    I’m sure it’s still up on their website under Travel…

  • Tamatha:

    As you’ve already booked your Paris apartment I can’t be any help there- but if you’re in need of London digs I know of a two and also three bedroom apartment that went for about £120 a night, with bathroom and kitchen. It’s close to the Marble Arch, maybe a 10 minute taxi drive from King’s Cross. It’s also a 5ish minute walk to the metro. Looking for outside of London? We just returned to the States from North Yorkshire after living there for a few years— e-mail if you’d like, and happy traveling!

  • Miz Booshay:

    We stayed in that Latin quarter! We took that Metro everywhere!
    It is a fine location and a nice, quaint, safe area!!!


    The picture at the top of my blog was taken at the flower shop right by the Metro!

    Say hello to the flowers for me.
    And there is a great bakery on that same corner.

    French Bread with ham and cheese. GREAT cheap meal.


  • Pam:

    I own timeshares in the US, but when I organized 2 family trips for 16 traveled to Europe-I used time shares. They have places all over the world. If you want to email me maybe I could help you find something via this avenue.

  • When I think of renting a cottage in England I think about the movie “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz. Loved that little cottage…

  • Please – warn a girl! I was taking a sip and nearly choked to death! $80 a night! WOW! If you found that for 80 Euros a night I’d be suspicious… very suspicious!

    Can I introduce you to a friend? – it’s a friend you need to have.

    Also – I know you’re going to think this is hinkey, but seriously, I’ve got lots of friends who live throughout Europe and they do this a lot – a home exchange is a really valid option for a family who is traveling. Lord, we had a horrible time trying to find accomodation for our family of 4 when we took the kids to Spain a couple of years ago. I can’t imagine adding a couple more.

    Remember – most European towns have fresh markets every day – they are THE BEST, MOST AWESOME, MOST AMAZING places to get a great breakfast at very affordable prices.

  • Woo hoo! You got it done. The Latin Quarter is great – the university, food markets, restaurants etc. Bohemian yes, small rooms yes, but you’ll love it.

    Did I not tell you they wanted $$$ for closet-sized spaces?

    Now, on to the shoes. Wear white gym shoes, and no one will speak to you. :)

    • I am not sure I would mind if no one spoke to me;

  • Very French, very Bohemian!

    As for that lovely English cottage.. shame I don’t live in the UK anymore.. otherwise you guys could have bunked with me!

    Now, if you want to come to Sweden, we can put you up in our summer cottage.. the one with the dry closet (no water in the toilet) but lots of garden space for noisy boys! ;-)

  • I’ve always wondered whether I could afford to travel to far-off countries. Now I know I can’t.

  • The New York Times ran a piece titled “Frugal Paris” the other day.

  • becky up the hill:

    Yea! I want to go to Paris and hope to learn mucho from your experiences (only I’m more the flea market type). Okay I live in California and know a little Spanish. Please find out if ‘mucho’ works in Paris ;o)! Yea for this trip! Please consider coming back to California sometime and I will advise you on what beaches, national parks and cities to enjoy. On this topic I can be some help! Also for CD, how to conduct himself if he feels the need for driving to fast, racing crop dusters..yes we have those here too. Signed, the CHP’s wife…becky up the hill.

  • Jennifer:

    Oh my, you’ll have such a great time! Paris is really wonderful (even in a short visit you can do so much). I lived in London 20 years ago–it holds a special place in my heart. No sneakers really is good advice–I know if sounds so silly, but it’s almost a national past-time to point out the ” ‘mer-kins”. Sneakers just make it easy. But don’t worry about all of that, just have a great time. Enjoy the food!!

  • Great Bed and Breakfasts abound in England… pick a city, and you’ll find a great one! Rail passes will get you everywhere… enjoy!

  • Shelley:

    Congrats! take plenty of pictures..I’ll be living vicariously through you!

  • A Mac and a Mug O' Joe:

    Enjoy Paris! The Latin Qtr is great. Stayed their for 10 days back in 1995. Lots of city dust and dirt. Great international food, great bakeries, yum! Best Chinese and Pizza I’ve ever had. We even found a Mexican Restaurant in the LQ. The Metro is great. Be sure to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
    Have fun!

  • I came back because I knew there would be more suggestions and I need to plan for my own trip to Paris which will be shortly after Hell freezes over. But anyway…I love reading about traveling whether I will be traveling myself or not.

    And now I must know what kind of shoes people in Paris wear. Are all tennis shoes bad or just white tennis shoes? What about the Chucks mentioned previously? Are they okay as long as they are not white? Flip flops? Let me see, no American flag T-shirts, right? Even if it is July 4th? I think that’s a safe bet and I will definitely not pack that in the suitcase which I won’t be packing.

    Seriously, Rechelle, I’m really looking forward to hearing about your trip. It’s ridiculous how excited I can get about someone else’s vacation. Ridiculous! Please blog every single detail:o)

  • Susan:

    Rechelle, you absolutely HAVE to visit Saine Chapel. Forget the Louvre (too immence) and even Notre Dame, but st. chapel is replete with GLORIOUS wall to wall stained glass windows and the walls are also fabulous. It is small, your boys wont have to be there but a short time and I still remember it above all other things from 10 years ago.

    But you should visit Paris’ underground ancient sanitary system. What a contrast and your boys would love it.