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Visiting France with Babies and Toddlers

Surviving a Vacation

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Visiting France with a baby or toddler can be a once in a lifetime experience as you see this stunning country through their wonderous eyes. France isn't the most baby-friendly destination, however. It can also be a challenge finding much-needed baby and toddler supplies with a language barrier in the way.

Stroller-accessible? Mais, non!

France is not stroller or wheelchair friendly. There will be times (especially if you travel by rail) when there is no other way to get up or down than to carry baby and stroller together. If you are dragging luggage, this gets even more challenging. While you are still home, I highly recommend scaling stairs without using an elevator to get some practice. It's better to get accustomed while relaxed in your home environment than stressed on the road. Also, look for a light-weight stroller that is easier to lift. You can also visit more accessible cities, like Montpellier.

Bring your own car seat

If you will be taking taxis or riding in a car at all, bring your own car seat. French cab drivers think nothing of having a baby in lap in their cars, and I have only come across one taxi company that could bring a car seat. Don't let unruly cab drivers rush you while installing the car seat either. If it's too much a problem for the driver, leave the cab and take the next one (unless he is the only cab in a small town). (For tips, including a recommended car seat/stroller combo, see my article,Packing for Travel with Babies and Toddlers.)

Yes, they have it here

You can find all the typical baby and toddler accoutrements here that you will find back home. In fact, I believe many options in France are even better. Be sure to bring the most crucial items, but extras can be found. Baby food and formula here is wonderful. I prefer the choices here to those in the States. Older baby/toddler meals have nice options, including duck dishes, paella and risotto.

There are formula/cereal, formula/vegetable and formula/fruit drinks that include a great selection of flavors (my 1-year-old is a huge fan of the chocolate flavor). They do tend to have common allergens in baby food (like seafood), however, so be sure to have a good French-English dictionary to translate the ingredients (and heating instructions). Examine the picture closely, as you will typically see all the ingredients depicted there. If you aren't sure about anything, find a local pharmacy (preferably that speaks English) instead of using a market and ask. Bring your formula label and show it to the pharmacist.

Diapers are the same, yet different

Diapers are easy to find in local markets and pharmacies, and you can find old favorites Pampers and Huggies. Although they are slightly different than their American versions, they have much better quality than the French varieties. Be sure you know your baby's weight in kilograms (use my Metric Calculator to find out, since the sizing system isn't identical.

Bedtime blues

Be sure to check first to see if a hotel has a crib before booking if you will need one. Even so, have a backup plan. You might consider bringing a portable co-sleeping bed for the baby. My experience has been that many hotels have old and downright dangerous folding cribs. Also, practice folding and opening a playpen/crib while at home.

You will probably be better at it than the hotel staff. Almost every time a hotel staffer has set up a folding crib, it has buckled the second I put weight on it. There is an art to opening them properly, so be familiar with it. Always check the crib for tears, jerk it around and push on it to be sure it is safe and will remain intact. Don't be afraid to ask for another crib. Even smaller inns surprised me by having a second one.

Late night feedings

Be prepared for France's later dinnertimes. Often, we just ate in our room while traveling so our daughter could go to bed on time. Since you will probably be adjusting baby to a new time zone anyway, why not allow the child to stay up a little later? That way, you can all have late dinners together. Most restaurants don't even start serving until 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Visiting France with a baby or toddler can be challenging, to be sure. It is a memorable experience, however. With these tips and the baby/toddler French vocabulary below, you should be well prepared.

Baby and Toddler Vocabulary

EnglishFrench
Do you have...Avez-vous...
...diapers/nappies? ...les couches?
...formula?...le lait pour le bebe (or) ...le lait croissance?
...an elevator?...l'ascenseur?
...a crib?...un lit de bebe?
...baby food?...les plats des bebes?
...a high chair?...une haute chaise?

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