Visiting France with a baby or toddler can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience as you see this stunning country through their eyes. France isn't always the most baby-friendly destination, however. It can also be a challenge finding much-needed baby and toddler supplies—especially with a language barrier. But with some planning and flexibility, you can avoid some of the challenges and focus on family travel fun.
Stroller-Accessible? Mais, Non!
France is not particularly 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. Look for a lightweight stroller that is easier to lift.
When you choose a French city to travel in, check first to see what is accessible. A wonderful city with an ancient château might seem perfect, but there will be stone stairways, small passages, and often ramparts to negotiate with little ones.
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 the lap in their cars. Don't let unruly cab drivers rush you while installing the car seat, either. If it's too much of a problem for the driver, leave the cab and take the next one (unless it is the only cab in a small town).
If you plan to hire a car, Renault Eurodrive Lease Back Programme might be better. It's cheaper than the usual car hire; however, you have to hire for a minimum of 21 days.
Yes, They Have It Here
You can find all the typical baby and toddler accessories here that you will find back home. Be sure to bring the most crucial items, but extras can be found. In fact, many options in France are as good or better. Baby food and formula here are wonderful, with older baby/toddler options including duck dishes, paella, and risotto.
There are formula/cereal, formula/vegetable, and formula/fruit drinks that include a great selection of flavors (the chocolate flavor is particularly recommended by the young critics). To avoid unexpected common allergens in baby food (like seafood), 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 where the staff speaks English) and ask. Bring your formula label and show it to the pharmacist. You will find the pharmacies very helpful, particularly with baby foods.
There are many excellent French baby formulas, including Babybil, Blédilait, Enfamil, Gallia, Modilac, Nestle Nidal, and Nutricia.
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. Be sure you know your baby's weight in kilograms since the sizing system isn't identical. Some restaurants will have a baby-changing area, but this is not common.
If you'll need a crib, be sure to confirm your hotel will provide one before booking. Most hotels cater to children but some have old and downright dangerous folding cribs. You might consider a backup plan, like bringing a portable co-sleeping bed for the baby. Also, practice folding and opening a playpen/crib while at home.
Always check the crib for safety, shake 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 as needed.
Booking Your Hotel With Kids
Only some of the top hotels might have a no-kids policy. And the better the hotel, the more likely to have babysitters to book. But even in smaller places, there's often a family teenager who might babysit for a small fee.
Late Night Feedings
Be prepared for France's later dinner 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 pm. But more and more brasseries are open all day long, so in larger towns you will find somewhere to eat during the day.
Visiting France with a baby or toddler can be challenging, to be sure. It is a memorable experience, however. With these tips and a few handy baby/toddler French vocabulary terms in mind, you should be well prepared.
Baby and Toddler English/French Vocabulary
- Do you have diapers/nappies? Avez-vous des couches?
- Do you have baby milk? Avez-vous du lait bébé?
- Do you have an elevator? Avez-vous un ascenseur?
- Do you have a crib? Avez-vous une haute chaise?
Edited by Mary Anne Evans