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10 Things I Learned Traveling With a 20 Mth Old From Australia To France

My friend Kiri didn’t let being located on the other side of the world stop her from visiting Paris!  Here are the lessons learned from her longhaul adventure, Australia to France with a 20 month old…

The Stejkos in Paris

1. Thai Airways are fabulous for travelling long hauls with children. They automatically pre-select the bulk head seats for families and go out of their way to find spare seats for the father or mother to give the infant a seat of their own. They also have excellent crayon, sticker and balloon gifts for the kids, and they happily gave my 20 month old a toddler meal, despite her not having a paid seat.

2. Bangkok International airport (where we did our stopovers) is wonderful with kids – they let you go through the premium (express) lane and treated our daughter like a little princess. All the staff in the airport are amazing (unlike Sydney which is not family friendly at all).
Stejkos at airport

3. Size matters! The Airbus 380 is vastly superior with so much room for our toddler to move around. Also hotel rooms in Paris are very small, which we learned the hard way. The first hotel we booked into had rooms so small the baby cot was pretty much banked up against our bed. We all woke each other up constantly and suffered through jet lag in this environment. It was horrendous. Next time I would be carefully checking room dimensions when booking in Paris! We moved out early and into a hotel with much better size rooms (Hotel de Nell), and eventually into an apartment (Residence Nell), which was the best experience of all. If we did this trip again, I would book an apartment through Airbnb for the whole trip.

4. All patterns and habits formed (sleep, food, behaviour) go out the window when travelling long distance and into a new environment. Our toddler turned into a screaming monster at times and it was more challenging than I could have imagined. All my usual tricks for managing her went out the window. She seemed to be constantly cold, tired or hungry. She did not have any inclination to try new food in France, so at times we were resorting to crackers and nuts and sultanas for her diet, until we finally agreed on new fruits, yoghurt etc. and found pasta outlets that she was happy with.

5. Snacks really do solve a lot of problems. It took me a little longer than it should have to realise this! Next time, I will be much better prepared when it comes to snacks and give them out liberally.

6. “Silence” is golden and in France/Europe, it is expected in many of the tourist sites (eg. Notre Dame and all other cathedrals). However, toddlers don’t care about silence. Next time, I’ll take turns with my husband to view anything which requires silence.
Stejkos in Paris 3

7. Having a toddler in a pram allows you to skip queues to big galleries such as Musee D’Orsay in Paris. We didn’t realise this initially – it only took us about 30 minutes to realise others were going straight in (some hilarious families seem to have stuffed 5-6 year olds into a pram in order to take advantage of this rule!) – but that was 30 minutes of our life we’ll never get back.

8. First class train travel is not ideal in France with a toddler. We booked this as it was only 15 euro more and we thought “why not”. Not a very well thought through decision as it turned out. When we took the TGV from Paris to Strasbourg, our daughter chose that trip to have a meltdown which resulted in many disapproving eyes staring down at me. I have never felt more judged as a mother. On the return trip, our daughter was well behaved, but still a toddler – making noise, banging things, joyfully announcing things she could see out the window. The couple sitting in front of us could not have made it more clear how unhappy they were to be sitting in front of a child – with extreme huffing and puffing and shaking of their head as they turned around to look at us every two minutes. These were very long 2 hour train journeys and I longed to be in more family friendly second class.
Stejkos in Paris 4

9. I was over-prepared for the flights, and under-prepared for the jet lag. I was cheering when the flights went relatively smoothly with lots of sleep and minimal crying outbursts. However, I did not know what jet lag with a little one is like. So much awake time in the middle of the night and no way of managing it. Next time, I will be prepared for both and expect to be awake at all hours for the first 3 nights in the new time zone.

10. 20 months is a challenging age to travel such a long distance with – but would I do it again if I had the choice? Yes, of course I would. There were so many highlights and new experiences and joyful moments shared as a family. We created memories that will last a lifetime.
Stejkos in Paris 6

2 comments

  1. Barbara

    I like your post a lot. We travelled 26h last week with our 3 and 5 year old. And: it was relaxing. Here are some of my recommendations:
    http://ants-in-our-pants.com/survive-long-haul-flight-with-toddler-8-recommendations/

    1. Nicola

      Thanks – great recommendations Barbara!

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