Ah, France! It is truly our favorite place to visit with beautiful sights, delicious food and wonderful people. But can a trip to France be done with kids?
While traveling to a foreign country with small children can be nerve wracking, it is possible to have an enjoyable trip to France with your kids.
We spent a month in Provence, France when our little guy was 10 months old. Here are some helpful things to know when visiting Provence with a baby.
The most important factor for any successful family vacation is to have reasonable expectations. Traveling with kids does impose its own restrictions. It is important to recognize that your little ones will be calling all the shots, just as they do at home.
For example, will you be able to wait 4 hours to go up the Eiffel Tower? No, but you can have a nice picnic in the adjacent park with a better view of the tower.
Another important expectation to set involves the amount of travel during your stay. We find it easier to ‘live like a local’ by staying in one place and taking short day trips. Food for thought…
When we are away for more than a couple nights we like to rent an apartment. Websites, likes AirBnB and HomeAway, provide plenty of options in a variety of price ranges. In Europe, there are many other local short-term rental websites easily found through Google.
The advantage of an apartment is more space, separate bedrooms and the option to cook meals at home instead of eating out. This is especially useful with a baby since they may not make it to dinner at 8 pm when the restaurants open.
When searching for an apartment, pay attention to what floor the apartment is on and if there is an elevator. You might not want to be carrying your stroller up four flights of stairs every time you head out.
Also, check with the owner if they are okay with kids. Most owners are happy to host families and if you’re lucky, they may be able to provide a high chair or a crib!
Most restaurants are not overly kid friendly in France. Many restaurants do not have children’s menus and most do not have high chairs. We found some restaurants more accommodating to dogs than kids!
If your baby is old enough, it’s good to have a portable booster seat to avoid having dinner with your baby sitting in your lap. We recommend the Go Anywhere Booster Seat which features a five point harness that is perfect for 6-12 month olds. If looking for a smaller option, take a look at the washable one by wotvo™.
The most difficult obstacle with restaurants in Europe are their hours of operation. Most restaurants open for dinner somewhere between 7 pm and 8 pm, which depending on your child, could be past their sleep time. Don’t forget any dining experience in France is at least an hour and a half – if you’re rushing!
When we did eat out, we found it better to feed the baby at their regular time and bring snacks for the restaurant.
Many streets in Provence are cobblestone making for a fun bumpy ride for your little one. Sadly, there are also a lot fewer elevators, especially for apartments.
As a solution, we recommend investing in a good travel stroller. We have the UppaBaby g-Luxe, which was perfect for navigating the cobblestone streets and folded up easily to be carried up the stairs when there was no elevator available.
To visit all the beautiful towns in Provence you will need to rent a car. Most car rentals in France (and all of Europe) are manual transmission. Automatic cars are available at limited locations, usually at at airports and rail stations, at higher prices and limited selection. We found that Avis offered the best prices and selection of rental cars
You will also need a car seat. The regulations in France are similar to those in Canada and the USA. We like to bring our car seat with us. This avoids any problems with the rental company not having a seat available or having a seat in poor condition.
Savvy tip: Bringing your own child seat can save you hundreds of dollars and almost all airlines allow them to be checked-in at no charge.
If you rent an apartment with a kitchen, you will need to stop by the local grocery store and food markets to stock the fridge. Be aware of the different hours that are kept by the local shops. Grocery stores are not always open like many are in Canada and the USA.
The main grocery store in downtown Aix-en-Provence, for example, is only open until 7 pm and doesn’t open on Sundays.
It can also be difficult to find products that your child is used to eating at home. When we traveled, our boy was eating baby cereals at the time, but local baby cereals in France all tasted like cake.
Try experimenting. You may find some hidden gems that your baby loves. The jars of baby food were a big hit for our guy!
If you are worried about some food, like formula, it may be easier to bring your own to be safe and for peace of mind.
In Provence, there are lots of other places to buy food besides the grocery store. We did most of our daily shopping at the markets. And it’s always fun to pop into a bakery for the best fresh bread or the butcher for fresh meats.
All told, with a few adjustments, your family can spend an enjoyable time in France.
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