[twitter]Just because you’re new parents doesn’t mean you have to stop your wish to travel. Getting out and exploring the world is actually easier with young kids. When Zacharie was 10 months old, we packed up and visited France for 10 days. We spent time in Paris, took a train out to some small towns, rented a car, and drove around the countryside.
Here are some of the lessons we learned after visiting Europe with an infant. Some thought we were crazy packing 2 suitcases, 2 knapsacks, a stroller, a carseat and a baby on a plane, through subways and around western France. And we probably were. Yes, it was a challenge at times, but, you know what? It really wasn’t that bad. I’m so glad we went.
Once you’ve settled in to a routine as a new parent, break it by getting out of town and exploring the world with your new family. Here are 10 tips for visiting Europe with infants:
1. You Don’t Need All The Food
Bring only enough food to cover your plane trip, you can pick up the rest at markets in Paris. Yes, its a little more expensive, but the selection and quality are light years ahead of home.
2. Don’t Need To Be Downtown
Get out of the city. We spent a few days in Paris to settle down, and then quickly hit the road to Honfleur, Mont St Michel, Le Croisic, and Saint Georges sur Cher. Accomodations are cheaper in the smaller towns. Life is more relaxed, and it’s more like staying at a home than in a hotel. We could do laundry, dishes, cook meals and share common areas giving Z much more space to roam than if we were in a 150sq ft bunker somewhere in the 1st Arr.
3. Take A Break
Once you’re in the campagne, use the rest stops – the cleaning stations at the rest areas in France are fabulous. The gas stations are usually paired with easy restos to feed you, and the bathrooms are totally tricked out for babies. They have stuffed animals to play with, they have huge sinks, padded change tables, and, as Jen says, were obviously designed by a mother.
4. Friends In Low Season
Off season travelling is sooooo much easier. March and April are PERFECT months for wandering France, or, I’m guessing, any part of Europe. The rates are cheaper and the service is better. Yes, it was a little chilly at night, and it rained a few days, but have a look at this lunch in Blois. We had the entire.plaza.to.ourselves. Try that in August. Same in Chambord. Not one single person spoiling our pictures of the Chateau – try doing that when the parking lot is full of tour busses in July.
5. Ask For Help
Dont be afraid to ask to have food heated. EVERYONE has a microwave and is more than willing to help. Brasseries in the middle of Paris will gladly pour you a $5 coffee and run to the back to heat up some turkey stew for your baby – but be warned, they have some pretty powerful machines over there. Less than 30s is PLENTY to heat up your baby’s snack.
6. There Are No Elevators
If you’re spending any time in Paris, get ready to do some heavy lifting when you take the metro. There are a few escalators, a lot of stairs and no elevators. To get from the street down to the station, you’ll need to carry your stroller up many flights of stairs and through a few tricky gates. The station attendants are happy to open up big doors to get you into the station, but you’re on your own dealing with the stairs. Bring a collapsable stroller and a Baby Bjorn type of carrier. Keep the baby in the Bjorn through the stations, and use the stroller when you’re up on the streets.
7. Double Date With Another Family
If you can double date – do it. I wish we would have gone with another couple, and for our next big vacation, we will. It would have been nice to have been able to experience some french nightlife, but with his feeding, bath and bedtime starting at 530 … we ended up grabbing plats a emporter, or salads and baguette from the marche and spent all our evenings inside, early.
8. Make Your Own Food
That said, the self catering became necessary and we saved HUNDREDS by not eating at restos every night. For less than 20 Euros, we could get 2 salads, baguette, cheese, some sliced chorizo, a BOTTLE of wine, some dessert and water. Eat in a bistro and you’re looking at that much for one plat, dessert, entree combo.
9. Planes, Trains, and Cabs
Take a cab home to the airport. We took the train into town when we landed. That meant hauling the stroller, car seat, 2 knapsacks, 2 luggages, purse and baby, up and down stairs, on and off metros and the like. When we got out of town, we took a cab to the train station and it was so easy.
When it came time to come home, we looked at each other, counted up all the money we’d saved by being in our room each night at 5, and we bucked up for a cab. Yes, it was 50 Euros ($80) to get from the 5th to CDG, but it took 1/3 the time and had 5% of the stress. It was the absolute best money we spent all trip.
10. Take The Red Eye
A long overseas trip is made easier if you can time if when the kids are sleeping. That usually means a red-eye. Flying in off-season means your flight might not be sold out and you can stretch out, laying your babe on a couple of seats to stretch out and sleep. Still, no matter all your planning they still might stay up the whole way.
Taking kids on a plane is easier than you think. First off: they fly free. So visiting Europe with infants makes sense because you don’t have to pay extra to get them to tag along with you. If you’re worried about how other people feel about bringing your baby on a plane, check out these tips of breaking the ice and bringing a smile to your seatmates..
This was originally published on The Blog According to Buzz in April 2008.