Here are my best tips for traveling with a toddler, as well as some tidbits I noticed about Paris. I’m sure both lists are not as complete as they could/should be, but I’m still jet-lagged so it will have to do.
Traveling with a toddler:
- Lessons Learned Don’t bring too many carry-on bags…seriously, less is more. Pack and check all you can.
- Don’t over pack carry-on bags…you won’t need anywhere near as much as you think!! A favorite lovie, one or two small new toys, a few snacks (goldfish and animal crackers), a bottle of water, a few diaper and wipes and a change of clothes was all we actually used.
- STICKERS, lots and lots of STICKERS…best activity/toy for an airplane of all time!
- If possible, rent an apartment over a hotel. You’ll love having a kitchen, bathroom (try to get one with a washer/dryer!!!) and a room with a door to shut so the little one can go to bed before you. I think it also give a much better local flavor than a cookie cutter hotel. It’s about the same cost too (ours was actually cheaper).
- Having a travel bed that is familiar to your toddler is very helpful in keeping at least something about the trip normal. We have the Kidco peapod which looks like a miniature tent. It’s especially great for mobile kids/babies to keep them from crawling out of a smaller pack and play type bed/crib. It also packs really small
- If you have a thing that turns your car seat into a stroller, don’t bring the stroller through the airport. Check it. We use the gogo kidz one and LOVE it.
- Try to get on local time as fast as possible. It took us about 3 days for an 8+ hour difference. Jury is out on coming home, -8 hrs, but so far, it seems easier.
- Keep naps as normal as possible, as well as keep meal and snack times as normal as possible (we failed at this, but recognize how it would have helped a lot).
- Bring a cloth toddler chair (hooks around a chair) to use on restaurant/café chairs where high chairs do not exist. Lifesaver!! We bought one here. You can also, in a pinch, use an Ergo to strap a toddler to a chair!
- If you’re “tall” (I am 5’6” and am too “tall”) and have an umbrella stroller for travel because they’re ‘light and convenient’, find some sort of handle extender (we never found one) or just bring the full size stroller…you’re back and shoulders will thank you!! More likely than not you’ll end up carrying the stroller up with your toddler in it and down stairs instead of getting your toddler in and out every time (especially if your toddler has a fit getting put back in) so that fold small to carry around feature is basically worthless. In that case, having the smaller stroller really does you no good at all…and may be a detriment since they do not have a 5 point harness and if you have a toddler who loves wheels like our does, he’ll be able to reach them and that is just dirty and unsafe
- Speaking of strollers, for cold weather travel be sure to have/bring/buy there a cozy toes/bundle me (or similar sleeping bag type thing that is like a blanket you zip you kiddo into to keep them warm…we got a great knock off version at Burlington for $17…way better than the $90 for the name brand and works great!!) and a rain cover. The rain cover doubles as a wind-breaker and we found to be an absolute necessity for really cold days and was great for naps to block out wind and I presume a little bit of noise.
- Factor in transit time to and from places and balance that with nap times. ..unless you have a stroller your kiddo will sleep in.
- Apparently, for our son, ~9 days was his travel limit…our trip was 12 nights, leaving on the morning of Day 13. We had some truly disastrous
- The most random things are great meltdown stoppers/distractions…most often they are food. For instance, here are a few that worked for us when out and about and not near an Elmo video (not our proudest parenting moments, but sometimes you do what you gotta do): popcorn, sugar cubes, sugar packets dumped on the table for fingers to dip in, M&Ms, pouches of pureed fruit, looking for busses, motorbikes, pigeons or dogs, being held by Mummy (and ONLY Mummy), and my favorite, wisp disposable toothbrushes…you know the kind you kept in your purse when single for the morning after unexpected ‘sleepovers.’
- Try to hit restaurants and other places at non-peak times. It will be easier to maneuver yourself and your toddler and all of your toddler’s stuff with more space and fewer people. It will also be a little less embarrassing (i.e. fewer people to apologize to) when meltdown happen at a table.
- Take lots of photos…look at the cutest ones when your toddler is finally asleep. It will help you forget the tantrums during the days and remember how sweet your child really is.
- My husband’s tip for traveling with a toddler? “Don’t”
- There are no toilet seats (that I saw) in public places. Odd, but at least we didn’t run into any squat toilets(I know they still have them and have used many during my last trips to France). Toilets yes;seats, no…it’s like your hubby left the seat up on a permanent basis!
- The public toilets on the street are surprisingly clean (with a handy cleaning cycle between every use)…though being pregnant with a baby dancing on my bladder when I walked, I wish there were more of them.
- Almost no restaurants will have high chairs. If they do, they are probably in a touristy café and
- look like they are from an antique store and might be just part of the décor.
- In December, it is dark until around 9 am…which makes getting up any earlier pretty hard.
- Nobody on the streets make eye contact or smile. Best to just do as they do…apparently, as a woman, if you look a man in the eye it means you want to sleep with them! If you’re single and looking though, how easy is that?! lol
- If you buy a stroller in France and expect to get a bucket that clicks in back home, think again. Different safety standards mean that the same brands (Britax in my case) have different models and compatibility in different countries. Oops! It’s still an amazing stroller by itself though!
- If someone tries to give you a gold ring (asking if you lost it), say no and keep walking. It is a scam.
- If someone tries to get you to sign a petition of any kind, say no and keep walking. It is a scam.
- The Parisian homeless with sweet, sad looking dogs will break your heart…it seemed like almost
- every homeless person had a dog (or two).
- You must try the macarons…the most amazing cookie in the world!!!
- You must also try the hot chocolate…chocolate in the bottom of a mug that you pour hot milk over. Amazing!!
- Apparently, the French do not drink water. At least not much of it. When they do, they do it from tiny little glasses that hold about 4 oz. Unlike in the States where giant glasses of water are brought and refilled without even asking, in France you must ask for a carafe d’eau. It will barely fill 2 or 3 4 oz. wine glasses. You will not get a refill (unless you ask) so ration carefully. Better still, bring a filled water bottle with you if you like to actually stay hydrated.
- The French have very cool (in theory) washer/dryer combos. Very cool to stuff your clothes in,turn it on, then not have to do anything until your things are dry. These machines (at least the one in the apartment we are staying in) have a teeny capacity and fit about 2 towels, max. I’mnot kidding. It also takes 3 hours to run a cycle. That is 50 minute for the wash and 2 HOURS for the dry. Often, the clothes are still not dry so an extra hour of drying time is added.
- Despite everything, including (and especially) all toddler tantrums Paris is ABSOLUTELY worth the visit – a truly amazing city!!!