Remember that one time we went to Paris for a week with our 2 year old and 7 month old and survived? In fact, we actually enjoyed ourselves? Well, I thought of some tips about that trip that totally saved us and made it enjoyable so I thought I'd share them with you!
People are often so negative about traveling with kids, and I get it, sometimes it can be a beast. BUT it CAN be done, and it can still be a blast!
Here's a few ideas on what worked well for us as well as a few things we thought of afterward that would have been helpful:
1. Long, awkward layover? If possible- Plan travel time to be more flexible.
For our trip, we flew in to LA from Salt Lake City at 7am. This meant we were up at 3:30am in order to get to the airport on the time. Then, our flight straight to Paris didn't leave until 8pm, (notice the PM there!) and then it was delayed until 11:30pm. So that meant we were all running on about 4 hours of sleep ALL day (20 hours to be exact) which was a bit rough, especially towards the end. Although it was still doable and we made it through, afterwards I thought it probably would have been better if we had flown to LA a day earlier, got a hotel and actually got some sleep the night before our 11 hour flight so we didn't feel so close to losing it before we boarded. However, it did work to our benefit that our kids were so dead tired, because they slept amazingly for most of the flight there.
2. Be prepared for the Long Flight
On our flight back to LA we had Henry watch kid shows offered on the plane and then packed these amazing coloring books that kept him entertained the whole time, thank goodness! We also had some shows downloaded on our iPad for the flights that didn't provide movies and Henry loved it. For Rose we brought some little toys and treats for her as well, but mainly we just had to distract her or try and help her sleep. She's pretty calm by nature which was super helpful, but Kyler and I did have to take turns holding her or rocking her in order to get her to sleep. You just have to know your baby and what will distract them or make them the most comfortable and plan accordingly and then hope for the best.
3. Your Stroller is LIFE!
Our double stroller was such a life saver for us on this trip! It helped us lug all of our bags when we were using the metro to and from the airport and it helped poor Rose girl get some naps in while we were out adventuring. Seriously, it was the best. We did bring a baby carrier for times when we couldn't have the stroller (a couple of tours didn't allow them) but if that was our only way to cart the kids around our backs would have died.
The only complaint we had in regards to using a stroller was the fact that when we used the metro for our traveling, they often had multiple floors of stairs at each station. Every time we'd get to stairs Kyler would have to lift the whole thing and carry it up or down. I have weak-sauce arm strength so I was of no help. Sometimes you could find elevators or escalators at certain museums or sites which was a big help, but 75% of the time the metro only offered stairs.
4. Pack lots of Snacks!
Being hungry makes any other frustration a hundred times worse, so bring or buy a ton of food! We packed a lot of snacks for the flights and we also stopped at grocery stores once we were in Paris for snacks for the week as well. They were constantly our saving grace. Of course we bought food along the way, but sometimes we weren't in a convenient place to buy something (while on a train or metro) and I was so grateful to have packed goodies to keep the kiddos happy. If they were getting antsy, some crackers or snacks would settle them down right away.
5. Stay in a place with multiple bedrooms.
Its always a bit harder for our family to sleep well when we are all shoved into one room at a hotel. This time around we got a two bedroom Airbnb with a big front room and we were all able to have our own space! We put Rose in the front room and Henry in the second bedroom and it was marvelous! When you're out traipsing around all day, you need to be able to get good sleep at night.
6. Check the weather ahead of time
Since we went in the winter, I made sure to bring the kid's coats and warmer clothing. It would have been miserable if we were cold the whole time! And on the flip side, you don't want to only have long sleeves in the summer because who likes being a sweaty mess?
7. Remember what your kids can or can't handle
Henry didn't have a "real" nap planned for the whole trip, but he's two a half and can get away with it. Occasionally he dozed off in his stroller, but mainly he stayed awake all day and then completely passed out once we got home. I was so shocked but every single night he didn't make a peep until we woke him up the next morning.
Rose had the harder time with sleep because shes still at the age for 2-3 naps a day. The double stroller was a big help for her because her seat could lay down and she could snooze while we played. It was definitely harder for her if we stayed out past 8 pm though, so we had to take that into consideration and tried to be home before then so she could get the sleep she needed.
Its true that it's a big deal to be on a vacation somewhere new and you want to take advantage of being there, but it's also not worth making the family miserable in order to see one more attraction. So take a rest day, come home a little earlier at night, or let the kids sleep in so that they can have an enjoyable time too. And we all know that if the kids are happy, mom and dad are happy. :)
8. Expect that some people don't love kids, but most do
I was terrified that people would be annoyed of us with our massive double stroller and loud little ones. And we have all heard the stereotype of the "snooty Frenchman" so I'm not going to lie, that was on my mind as well. In reality, people were so kind, and that stereotype is bunk! (Aren't they all though?) Most people couldn't help but smile and many offered help to carry the stroller up or down stairs.
We definitely stuck out like a sore thumb with two little ones so close in age so people stared a lot, but those stares were mostly accompanied with smiles. In fact, only three people acted frustrated with us, and two of them were American tourists! I was so afraid we'd be hated that I was truly taken back but how much we were liked. It was awesome. But, with that affection at an international traveler's hot spot, it may also bring some people who have different cultures and boundaries than you. One woman went in to kiss Henry ON THE MOUTH so I definitely had to step in there. But, out of the thousands of people we came into contact with on that trip, that only happened once, so I think the odds are in your favor that that's not a huge issue to worry about. :)
9. Be Realistic with your Expectations
The bottom line is that traveling with kids is going to present some inconveniences. If that's going to destroy the trip for you, don't bring your kids.
But, if you don't mind a little problem solving and planning ahead, you can have a great time with your little ones in tow for sure! And luckily for me, Kyler was the real MVP of the trip- when anything got difficult with the kids, he handled it like a pro. So maybe consider bringing a Kyler with you when you travel with little ones? ;)
I wish you well with any traveling you may do with your kids, and I highly recommend a trip to France! You can do it!