Traveling with Babies & Toddlers in France
Before we moved from San Francisco to Paris with our now 3-year-old son Emile, we took him to France when he was 9-months-old — what I consider "prime time" for baby travel. Really, anytime between 6-12 months (before they're walking) is ideal. Traveling with baby is infinitely easier when they can be contained in a carrier, bassinet, or stroller! Also, they fly for free until 2 years old.
If you have the chance to travel to France with your little one (at any age!) it's totally doable. You just need to be prepared with a few pro tips:
Before Your Trip:
Immunizations: Check with your pediatrician to make sure baby has all the proper immunizations and flu shot. Even if they've had one recently, they will likely suggest a booster. Take care of that well in advance, so you're not dealing with any unpleasant reactions while traveling. You may want to pack some baby Tylenol, as they don’t have it in France (the equivalent is called Doliprane).
Requesting the Bulkhead Bassinet: If your baby is less than 6 months old, the bulkhead bassinet is a nice amenity during a long-haul flight — it’s essentially a deep tray that clips into the wall, where your baby can sleep (or sit, or play). That way, you don't have to hold them the entire flight. Keep in mind that if your child is used to sleeping in quiet & dark places, the bulkhead bassinet won't be very sleep-friendly — there's no cover to block out light or sound. Again, it's like an extra large tray table, but better than nothing!
You can request the bulkhead bassinet in advance by calling the airlines, after you’ve booked your own ticket. They will charge you a supplement for your baby to fly on your lap (not a full fare of course, but usually between $100-200 for the extra... weight I guess?) When you get to the gate, confirm with them that the bassinet is waiting for you. You'll also get to board early, during family boarding (for extra time to schlep all your gear). Oh, the perks!
Airport Transportation: After a long (maybe sleepless) voyage, you'll want to hop right in a taxi instead of navigating the Paris metro with a jet-lagged baby and all your luggage. You can reserve a taxi with a carseat in advance via the G7 taxi app or you can reach out to our preferred chauffeur, Stephane, who is super reliable and professional — and has carseats at the ready. A taxi ride from CDG to Paris center should be around 50-60€.
Baby gear: Good news! You don’t have to drag ALL your gear (carseat, stroller, crib, highchair, etc) with you to France. There are plenty of baby gear rental companies that will deliver to your address in Paris. A stroller is good to have for getting around the airport, but all the rest you can rent once you land in Paris. Baby’tems is a pretty user-friendly option.
Baby-Friendly Accommodations in France:
Vacation rentals like Airbnb are a much better option than hotels for families. We usually book a 2-bedroom, so our son has his own room to nap & sleep in (remember to pack your baby monitor & check that it's voltage is compatible for European outlets). Because Paris is the #1 Airbnb market, you can find tons of options at decent prices. If you don't have a separate bedroom or suitable sleeping spot for baby, hallways & closets can work well. I know it sounds odd, but our son definitely took some great naps in dark hallways.
A few extra things I recommend packing are:
a crib sheet
a mini noise machine (because Parisian apartments have the squeakiest floors!)
a large, dark-colored bed sheet & thumbtacks to create blackout (see below).
Sleeping & napping tips: I love a luminous apartment with big sunny windows, but it makes for an impossible nap room. Be prepared to nap anywhere by bringing a dark flat bed sheet & push pins along with you, so you can black-out any room. This was a savior for us!
Food, Formula & Supplies:
You don’t need to worry about bringing food, diapers, and other baby essentials from home. Once you arrive, you can stock up at any supermarket (Monoprix, Franprix, Carrefour are everywhere). Note: many grocery stores are closed on Sundays. You can find corner stores / mini marts that are open 7 days a week, if you’re in a pinch to buy food, diapers, milk, etc.
If you shop organic, look for items labeled “Bio” or “Agriculture Biologique” (certified organic). You can easily find organic baby food & formula, along with eco-friendly diapers and wipes here.
Getting Around Paris:
The best bet: by bus & on foot! Paris in general is not the most stroller friendly city, and the metro is especially dreadful with a stroller. There are virtually no elevators and escalators. That leaves the option of hiking up many flights of stairs with baby gear, which I passionately avoid. The bus goes virtually everywhere the metro does, is more scenic and has designated areas for strollers. You can hop on & off super easily. Here’s 3 apps I recommend for navigating Paris.
If your child is under 1, and still fits in a baby carrier like the Ergo, then the metro is do-able (as long as you’re cool climbing all those stairs with baby strapped to you).
You can also grab a taxi in a pinch. I’ve heard parents like the MiFold travel car seat for bigger kids.
Train Travel with Baby:
Traveling by train in France is a surprisingly baby-friendly option. The trains are spacious, quiet, and even have baby-changing stations on board. You might want to buy an extra seat on the train just for your carseat, so your baby could (maybe) nap during the train ride. The “snack bar” car is a good place to hang out with a toddler, if they need to run around.
Other France Travel Tips:
Electrical Voltage compatibility: if you’re bringing electronics like a baby monitor or breast pump, check to make sure the voltage is compatible with European standard voltage (look for “Input: 110-240V" on the plug). Many US appliances aren’t compatible, so be careful.
Smoking laws & second hand smoke: the cliché is true: there’s an abundance of cigarette smoke in Paris. If you want to avoid secondhand smoke at cafes & restaurants, opt to sit indoors (smoking is allowed outside on patios and terraces).
All it took was one trip to the Urgent Care in France to make me realize I needed these numbers saved in my phone! Hopefully you won’t need to use them, but never hurts to be prepared. From an out-of-country phone, you’ll need to dial +33 first, then:
Fire - 18
Police - 17
SAMU (Service d'aide medicale urgente, aka: ambulance) - 15
When in doubt, you can call the European Emergency Number at 112. Operators can communicate in French or in English, and can redirect your call to the appropriate emergency service.
What travel tips & tricks have you used while traveling in France? I’d love to hear in the comments section!