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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tripping with Kids - Guest Blog, Part II

XLMIC is back with how to travel everywhere with your kids...after you take off! If you missed the first part, check it out!  Also, give her a vote over at Circle of Moms. Her wit and writing at her blog, Taking It On, deserves it!

Once that plane has touched down, it is time to review your checklist for a successful rest-of-the-trip... communication, flexibility and division of labor.

Before the "fasten seatbelt" sign has been turned off, everyone else on the plane is standing and grabbing their stuff out of the overhead in a real hurry... so they can stand there and wait. Do not get sucked into this "hurry up" mentality. Remember... you are traveling with kids! Your new motto is:  ssssslllooooowwww doooowwwwwnnnnnn....

You have just flown for an eternity... and so have your kids. Whatever you are feeling, so are they... but they have a very limited or nonexistent skill-set to deal with how they feel. You still have to get off the plane, get through passport control and collect your luggage... ALL of it!

 there is a stroller full of carry-on stuff right in front of me... see it?
this is just on the way to passport control and luggage collection...

after luggage collection, waiting outside the airport for our ride... 
both luggage carts you see are ours

typical amount of luggage for our travels with two kids for a trip lasting two weeks

Here is the first question... how do you leave the airport?

Cheapest always seems to be public transportation. But if you take into account the hassle-factor of getting from wherever it drops you off to your home away from home, combined with whatever transfers you will need to make, added to how many bags you need to lug around through all of that, compounded by tired and cranky or asleep kids... you may just decide that a cab is worth it. That is the method I choose. Worth the extra $40-50, no doubt about it.

Creating a comfortable set up

I'm proceeding with this as if you are staying in an apartment. Right off the bat, one adult goes through the place and puts all heavy, breakable, valuable, not-kid-safe items up out of reach (out of sight is preferable) ... screw the décor... we want our kids safe and our deposit back ;-) We want to minimize our stress... this step helps immensely. While that adult is doing what we call 'the sweep', the other is getting the kids something to eat or drink from the small stash that you hopefully have left over from the plane ride (try to make sure there is something to snack on... I even pack stuff to eat in the checked luggage).


They have grocery stores abroad! Just like we have here in North America! It is fun to peruse the aisles and see the different stuff and how they organize the store... often very different from here! Be sure to bring some change (a euro or two) for the carts... many grocery stores require a deposit for cart-use. And watch out! Most grocery carts in Paris move on FOUR swiveling wheels... they seem possessed! Restaurants are not your friend...unless your kids do well in restaurants at home. Mine don't. (I am always sure to pack tons of food in a daypack before heading out) Street vendors selling crêpes are wonderful... especially for staving off those hunger-triggered temper tantrums.

What to do?

–Playgrounds! The Paris playgrounds are awesome... even the little neighborhood ones. And they are plentiful. See my two posts about the Jardin du Luxembourg playground here and here... they alone will make you want to take your kids to Paris!

–Kids like big stuff, colorful stuff and going to the top of stuff... and they like to move. Even just seeing the Eiffel Tower up close strikes kids with awe. It is HUGE.

–Boat rides and bus rides are a wonderful way to see Paris... especially when little legs are tired of walking and playing :)

–most kids don't tend to groove on museums, but here are a few fun kid-favorites... the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages, the Natural History Museum and the Museum of Paleontology.

*there are lots of books outlining fun activities for kids in Paris.

Tough things to contend with...

Sleep... in all likelihood, everyone's sleep is going to be screwed up. This comes with the territory. My advice is to not fight it but to work with it. Don't plan on naptime and bedtime being the same as at home. I always work to get to a 10 or 11 pm bedtime which leads to a 9 or 10 am wake-up time. And the nap comes when it comes... usually on the go. (this was hard for me to finally get... I tend to be a real sleep nazi at home). We travel from California, and it takes five days for us to feel "normal" when we go to Europe.

Food... is hard with picky eaters. My plan is always to try to get some healthy stuff into the kids, but if I get uptight about it, my trip sucks. And I want to have fun, too!

going to the bathroom... if your little one(s) are still in diapers then this is not of concern, but if you have potty-users and especially new potty-users, finding a place to pee or poop is of tantamount concern! Many cafés have restrooms that they will let your children use... often if you just ask with a smile of desperation while clutching your child's hand, they wave you on back. And there are pay-toilet booths around town... it always feels weird to walk into one of these, do your biz, and then walk out... everyone knows why you were in there! And no one snickers. Those cost money. So always have a pocket full of change! There are also public restrooms at some parks and monuments... these often require a payment as well. With the very new-to-the-potty kids, I always brought a little plastic potty with me everywhere. I had it in a double plastic bag in the bottom of the stroller... and it got used...

these are from other trips we took... not in Paris... but they illustrate the potty-use!

I'd rather get the odd glance than deal with pooped-in pants!

As I said in the Getting There post, it is a lot of work. It is a lot of hassle. And it is a LOT of FUN!

There was a question raised in a comment on my last posting... how do you afford this? In the "old" days (from 1998-2005) I was able to score super cheap tix... like $378 round trip from San Francisco to Paris. And the dollar was strong back then. We traveled a lot. Our last trip we afforded with all those accumulated frequent flier miles! And our friends were doing a home-exchange in an enormous house and invited us to stay with them! We really lucked out... and I acknowledge that. While we were there, we didn't spend much money... no shopping excursions, no restaurants... only a few attractions that cost money. And we had a blast! Swinging the airfare and the lodging expense are the biggies, granted. But not traveling simply because you have kids... I'm just saying that you needn't use that as your excuse!


  1. This is particularly timely for me as we are planning a trip to Paris (from California!) with our 20 month old son. Thanks for the tips!

  2. We just took a 6 week trip through Europe with a 2 year old and an 8 year old. It's fun to read of other parents getting out there. We just finished an article about some of the best playgrounds we stumbled upon in Europe:
    Thanks for sharing.

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