France with a toddler - help, please!

Sep 26th, 2012, 06:49 PM
  #1  
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France with a toddler - help, please!

My husband and I are supposed to travel to France for 9 days in mid-October with our 16-month-old. This is decision time -- where to go, for how long. (Also last point at which we can just cancel the whole thing!) Any advice would be much appreciated. (fyi, I did check the forums for other posts on this topic, and other people's circumstances were a little different.)

We're going to try and travel light-ish. A travel crib is probably unavoidable, and we'll need a stroller probably (tho I'm tempted to just take the baby carrier). No car seat, so I'm thinking we should stay in cities/towns and defer my dream of spending a week in a little village in Languedoc or the Dordogne or heck, Provence, going to the local markets, driving around the countryside. Am I right about this?? And can anyone with experience traveling with wee ones share their wisdom and any tips on towns to consider?

I was thinking about spending three or four days in Paris and the rest somewhere else -- somewhere quaint and scenic, get-around-able by bus or train, and with a good market!! We live in a city and the kid spends time in the country too, so he'd probably be happy in both settings. Thank you.
phileasfogg is offline  
Sep 26th, 2012, 07:30 PM
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HI, no advice about where to stay, but just my thoughts on equipment and type of accommodation. Most accommodation will provide a crib, you just need to tell them in advance, sometimes also high chair and potty if that's where you're at. No crib, then try another apartment / hotel / B&B. You probably won't have trouble with this unless the host doesn't want children in their lodgings (we encountered this once before having kids). Same with car seats - if you rent a car, you can always rent a car seat. It costs extra but isn't crazy expensive. We always take a very cheap lightweight stroller ($20) so if it breaks we won't cry. It can be picked up in one hand.

Apartments are always better with kids, one with at least one separate bedroom to the lounge room, so your munchkin can get sleep while you are relaxing in front of TV / drinking wine, if you do / whatever you do when they're out of your hair. Plus you can do laundry (essential), keep a normal routine with regular meal times and whip up snacks / warm milk / whatever you need if you have at least a kitchenette/ microwave. You can still eat out, but sometimes restaurants just aren't the answer with a small child.

The fewer destinations the better, but if you feel you must move (and only you know how your child travels), picking a base and doing a couple of short trips from there can work quite well. We travelled three times on long-haul trips with our daughter by the time she was three, once at 15-16 months, and we had a base for the weekdays, doing short trips on weekends (over several weeks). This worked quite well for us, and we weren't deterred from travelling with her in future.

Lavandula
lavandula is offline  
Sep 26th, 2012, 07:38 PM
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The youngest we did an international trip was about a year older than you're dealing with, but I will say this - don't forego the stroller. I don't think a bells-and-whistles model is needed, but an umbrella stroller will come in handy, will let the baby nap wherever you are, and will let you keep him safely confined on busier streets.

I would also suggest looking into an apartment in Paris for a longer period and then maybe a shorter side trip. It is SO nice to have the comforts of an apartment with young kids.
Barbara_in_FL is offline  
Sep 26th, 2012, 08:06 PM
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Why NOT the Dordogne or Languedoc or Provence? I traveled with my wee ones all over there (though we certainly didn't travel with a travel crib, whatever that is - we just threw the kids in beds with us or made them beds on the floor). We usually had a collapsible stroller and a front carrier (when they were really little - yours may be too heavy for that).

We always, always had a car, though. I can't imagine doing this in France on public transportation, though I imagine it's possible, but sounds like a real hassle.
StCirq is online now  
Sep 26th, 2012, 11:33 PM
  #5  
 
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ok. first when you book a hotel you have to tell them you have the child, it is not ok to arrive having booked a double room but show up with a child. Some hotels will definately turn you away as occupancy rules (fire code) can be strict and if they don't have a triple they may have to boot you out. If you tell them you have a child many hotels do have cribs. I would not, and did not ( three kids) ever travel with a crib, they are too heavey and bulky.
Do not pass up taking a stroller, you would regret that for sure , best museum and sightseeing is often done once child is passed out at nap time!
justineparis is offline  
Sep 27th, 2012, 05:36 AM
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Many thanks, all - that's very, very helpful. I should have mentioned we will be renting an apartment, not staying in a hotel. I will look into whether a crib is provided. We'll need one because our little guy co-slept with us for 10+ months and now it seems he is as anxious about not falling back into old patterns as we are, because he just doesn't sleep in our bed! (We've tried a couple of times away from home.)
That's great news about the car seat - I didn't know how easy this would or wouldn't be to rent in France.
A couple more questions: we are thinking of not buying him a seat on the airplane. Seven-hour flight, which is daunting - but we don't want to lug a car seat, plus it's expensive! Will we regret this?!
And - maybe everyone would answer this differently but - should we make Paris our base for the trip? Or somewhere in the Dordogne/Languedoc/Provence and then just do Paris for a couple of days on the way in/out? (I'm taking to heart Lavandula and Barbara's advice to choose one base.) Any thoughts on what would keep a toddler occupied better, but also let us enjoy ourselves? It's our first time in France, btw.
phileasfogg is offline  
Sep 27th, 2012, 07:05 AM
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I assume your 16month old is walking. How do you plan to keep him settled during the flight? I don't think you can stroll the aisles the entire time. I know under 2 can technically be a lap child, but we've never gone that route, so I don't have any suggestions. It's doable, but I wouldn't want to do it.

As for where, I say go where you want. The toddler is just along for the ride. He will slow you down wherever you go, but he will also be entertained wherever you are as well.

But fwiw, as a 1st trip to France, I suggest staying in Paris for a bulk of your time. Having time to just hang out a park/playground will be priceless.
eluckhardt is offline  
Sep 27th, 2012, 04:25 PM
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Eluckhardt, did you buy a ticket for the child too when he/she was under 2? And did you have to carry a car seat to do so?
phileasfogg is offline  
Sep 27th, 2012, 05:38 PM
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I think not buying the child a seat - so he can be comfy in his usual car seat - is a big error.

Planes now are usually full - so at best the two of you - switching holding the child - will be packed in with a 3rd person (who no matter how cute your child won;t want to hear whining or crying or to be subject to lot of squirming and arm waving/leg kicking.) And there is no way a toddler will quiet/still for all those hours.

Besides the risk factor of an infant flying without a seat (pediatricians strongly advocate car seat) it will help you sanity for the child to sleep in the car seat he's used to.
nytraveler is offline  
Sep 27th, 2012, 05:58 PM
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Would your child make the height / weight requirements for a bassinette that attaches to the bulkhead? Check with your airline. At 15-16 months our daughter just made it. We did not have an extra seat for her on that journey, and when she was not in the bassinette (which they can be secured into by a series of straps that hook across), she was attached to my seat belt by a strap that went around her waist. We also had some night flights ( Sydney - Singapore - Frankfurt and reverse), and it was a blessing to have the bassinette because we got a rest and she got decent sleep. In my daughter's case it was inevitable that she would want to crawl all over us anyway when not asleep!

At your son's size it might be mandatory for him to be strapped to your belt on takeoff anyway, if he is too small for the big seat belt in his own seat, if you are not bringing a car seat yourselves.

Lavandula
lavandula is offline  
Sep 27th, 2012, 06:10 PM
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There are also lots of things you can do to keep a little one quiet and amused on a flight. We went to Chinatown and bought a whole lot of little toys or amusements (wind-up toys, little Mickey Mouse head with flashing lights, finger puppets, small sets of books). You need quite a few small things (we had about 10 -12 over the length of a 3 week trip), which pack down to nothing. They should be new to the child for maximum effect. Click on my screen name and you will see a trip report about travelling with a toddler (I have a couple there), with tips on small toys to bring and our general experiences.

Lavandula
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Sep 27th, 2012, 07:27 PM
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We bought our daughter a ticket when she was 9 months old. Sorry, her life is worth more then saving some bucks. She was fastened into her carseat on take off and landing, and slept and ate comfortably in her carseat too. While sleeping she had her straps lightly fastened, I didn't worry about her hitting the cieling of the plane if we hit turbelence , a small chance, but sorry not one we would gamble on. It was much nicer being able to put her down in her seat too, and eat our meals etc.
It just never occured to us to save money by putting our child in possible danger, and we also had two other kids, thats alot of seats to buy, which explained why we did not get to take alot of flying holidays when kids were younger, and then sometimes split up when they were older ( mom and child or dad and child trips occaisonally).
justineparis is offline  
Sep 28th, 2012, 05:49 AM
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Yes, we usually buy seats for ours when they are under 2. Back in the States, we would bring the car seat b/c we would use it at our destination. Much safer than using one from a rental car.

We are currently living in Germany. On our last 2 flights (to London and Rome) , we did not need a car seat at our destination, so we went ahead and bought the CARES Harness to use on the flight. I know it gets mixed reviews, but overall, we were pleased with it and found it suited our purposes just fine. If your little one is too small for the CARES harness, is there not another option, something called B'aby Air Vest or something?

I also agree that you should look into the bassinette option. That may be the perfect compromise. Good luck.
eluckhardt is offline  
Sep 28th, 2012, 07:49 AM
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We absolutely not only bought a seat for our son when we took him to France and Italy at 13 months (and he was definitely walking -- more like running!) by then, but we also bought him a seat when we took him to Canada at 3 months, and Canada again just shy of 2 years. For the same reasons justineparis said.

Seriously, when I was a wee one in the dark ages (!), my parents took me on a prop plane (all they had back then) to DC. Turbulence followed by a drop apparently pulled me out of my dad's arms and my head hit the ceiling. I still have the dent to prove it. We went by train after that, and my dad, so traumatized by the incident, was never ever to fly again.

We did leave the car seat at the airport in Paris, since it was a pain in the neck to lug around and we were traveling by train once in Paris.

I cannot emphasize too much the value of a stroller -- make sure it's one with good wheels that can navigate the streets that may include cobblestones.

On our last trip, as it has been many trips before, we've seen the French and the Swiss (and English, of course), using the MacLaren stroller, which seems to have sturdy wheels.
Surfergirl is offline  
Sep 28th, 2012, 09:38 AM
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I'll second the suggestion to go for apartments (a 1 BR, NOT a studio) in lieu of hotels.

It will make a world a difference in quality of life while on vacation with a toddler - especially for mealtimes as well as for room to scoot around. Small children are always happier and if junior isn't happy, nobody is...

In Paris at least, close to a park or playground would be a bonus, though not a necessity.
bardo1 is offline  
Sep 28th, 2012, 12:48 PM
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Our daughter, who is now 10, has made over a dozen trips so far with us from Texas to Europe (my husband is British). Believe me, whatever that third seat on the airplane costs, it is worth it!

At 16 months, a car seat on the plane may not be needed - the space between rows now is so tight - it's hard to get the child in and out. What we did was buy a booster seat, usually from a thrift shop, and then leave it behind at the airport if we weren't driving on the trip. You can easily find another booster seat in any French hypermarche. Put a couple of surprises in the little side drawers and your child will be happy in it.

Lavandula's idea of lots of little toys is excellent. On the plane ride, each new trinket presented is good for a couple of hours of fun. Just one plea - PLEASE do not get toys that make noise. After a few minutes of "whiz-ding-boink" your neighbors will be boiling.

Europeans love little children. Who doesn't, of course? But the formal and stand-offish French will warm up and be much friendlier to you. Especially if you dress him/her cute. We were in France when my daughter was a toddler and she always wore a little red sunhat. Everywhere we went we heard people on the street exclaiming, "Regardez la jolie petite fille avec le chapeau rouge!" (or words to that effect)

Bon voyage!!
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