To read Part I, click here: Flying Internationally With Kids
Whenever we had talked about visiting Europe again, it only involved the kids when they were much older. Never did we ever plan on traveling with them that far at this young age. When my dear friend, Ellie, told me of her and her husband’s plans to live in France for a time as I cradled my newborn in my arms, I told her how excited I was for them and how I would love to visit if not for our two little ones. After a few “It would be so fun to visit them if not for the kids…” mentions to Doug, I thought about it more seriously. People travel to other countries with babies all the time and they survive. It wouldn’t be the same type of trip, but it’s totally doable.
“Let’s do it,” I said one day, to which he responded with a look like I was kidding. “I’m serious. Let’s just do it.” He hesitated and was doubtful at first, but by the the next day, he was on board. This was probably largely in part because I had said he could take a week to do his dream bike trip through the South of France. After confirming with Ellie and G that it would actually be ok to stay with them for two whole weeks, our plane tickets were booked–no turning back now!
As far as the planning this trip, other than figuring out baby gear and such, I spent the least amount of time researching than any other trip before. It was nice not to have to worry about a place to stay and a car to rent. We decided to have a low-key vacation to make it easier with the kids–I would hang out mostly at the beach and pool while Doug was on his bike trip and then when he joined us after, we would play the rest of our time by ear. I knew I wanted to see Nice, Cannes and Antibes, but that was pretty much it. We ended up sticking with this plan and it worked well for us.
Staying with friends who were living there is the best thing we could’ve done and is really what made this vacation doable. It was wonderful to have a home base for the entire time we were there rather than stay in different hotels in different cities. I also loved being with people who spoke French, which made it so much easier.
We were also lucky that Ellie is a fantastic cook and prepared lunch and dinner most every day for us. From goat cheese and tomato tarts to ratatouille and lamb chops, we ate well! It was fun being able to go to the beautiful markets there and actually buy the food to take home and cook. Eating at home made it a lot easier with the kids and the view from their home was better than most other restaurants.
We did eat out a few times, which was a little challenging since most restaurants don’t have high chairs for babies. Emme would either sit in her stroller right up at the table or be passed around as we ate. Restaurant meals also take a lot longer in France and while my kids are usually quite good in restaurants, these were very lengthy meals. It wasn’t even that the meal itself was long, it took a long time to get food after we ordered it. On occasion they would bring out Reece’s food first and he would be done by the time the adults got their food, which is never good. I did have to resort to letting him play phone games while he waited (normally not allowed), because he was done eating and there wasn’t anything else for him to do.
Really, this was a great vacation to take with kids because of the beach being within walking distance of Ellie and G’s place. The beach is Reece’s happy place and he loved being there so often. Emme went from being cautious of the waves to happily splashing in them by the middle of the trip.
The only time we were really strained was the day we took a family trip into Nice. It was just the four of us as a family, which should have been fun, but I started out the day not feeling so well, Reece was having an off day and Emme was hard to get to nap. Usually when we’re at home just walking around a town such as Los Gatos, we always plan a little time for the him with at least a park break. Parks aren’t as common in France, so there wasn’t anything we could do with Reece other than bring him down to the (very rocky) beach for a bit and let him pick out something small at a toy store. He kept asking where the park was, poor guy. I’m still glad we saw Nice that day, but it made me realize how challenging a European vacation would be with kids this young if we were trying to do more than just enjoy beaches.
The worst part about the whole trip was the jet lag. Jet lag is no fun for anyone, but with kids, it’s so much worse. It took us about four days to adjust on the way there and an entire week on the way back, but Emme is still waking up more than she did before our trip and we’ve been back for two weeks. Night weaning strategies have commenced.
We planned well in that we arrived in France at a time that was good to take a nap without throwing us off, but I could’ve slept for days at that point and had to keep it to just a couple hours. We went to bed at a decent time that night, but then at 2am, the kids were both wide awake, Reece asking for breakfast. I let him get up, fed him a snack, played with Emme a bit, but kept the lights as low as possible to let it set in that it was nighttime. We finally headed back to bed a couple hours later, but it was a struggle getting Emme back down again. We slept well towards morning, with Ellie having to wake us up around 9:30 (which was brutal, but necessary) to get our bodies adjusted. The second night we had another long wakeup, but after that we became accustomed to the time zone (a 9-hour difference). There are things I did to try to get us quickly adjusted like keeping the blinds open during nap time so they knew it was still daytime, only allowing shorter naps and getting lots of time in the sun, but really, you just have to go through it and there’s not any magic trick that will ease the pain.
Overall, it was a great vacation and even with the challenges, I would do it all again. I’m so glad we decided to get over our fears and just go. I would imagine that traveling internationally with kids only gets easier as they get older and we get more practice, so hopefully there will be many more trips in our future.
Lastly, a few more photos. 🙂