A – Z: Travel with a Six Month Old Baby

This is wordy, you’ve been warned!
I’ve debated how to format this for days. Hopefully the way I ended up choosing you find helpful πŸ™‚   So I started writing out our day-by-day, and then holy cow, no way, it’ll be ten years before I finish it. SOOO this was my happy medium; by all means, if you have more specific questions on traveling with a baby in Paris or the Avignon area – ask me here or Heather@classtvl.com

The Christopher’s in front of the Eiffel Tower – May 2014

Our itinerary was the following: 

Overnight flight to Paris, three nights in Paris, train to Avignon, pick up mini-van, two nights Maubec, train back to CDG Airport, one night airport hotel, non-stop flight home! Brett, myself & Caroline traveled with my coworker Pam & her (adult) daughter, Victoria. 
  • Air France: oh my dear friends; I am not joking when I talk about the airline being the mafia/mob/hating me as much as they hate you, etc. I dealt with the same things you do…because this travel pro is in the travel industry flying biz class on my own dime won’t be happening in the near future.                              
    Gate agent tagging our stroller & car seat

     – Air France was wonderful from IAD – CDG; they (finally) kept our seats after changing them five times so we got a two seat side bulk head for the overnight flight.       – The gate agent sought us out, ensured our stroller & car seat were tagged & made sure we knew where to board early.  Onboard they offered to heat up bottles & brought her food (applesauce).  Having never done a gate check of a stroller system before, we expected to see it as soon as deplaned, as that’s what you see in the States…but AF sends it right down to baggage claim #nothelpful.   On the way home, let’s just say this. I lost my $hit. They would not confirm seats together for us. They didn’t offer early boarding so I had to insist on it. We were not 100% sure if her stroller was actually getting on the plane or not. Now onboard, after many tears from me the flight attendants finally worked out the seating situation thanks to a kind flyer being willing to move & my traveling companions also being flexible. But let me say this, never ever again will I go through a scenario where my seat isn’t beside my husband & baby. And no other family should either. Brett & I are a parenting team. I get the bag, he gets the bottle; I carry the baby; he brings the diaper bag, etc. MAJOR props to anyone who travels by themselves with a baby.  I feel confident I could do a 2-3 hour flight with her, but more than that & I would be hyperventilating in the corner. Our flight was six hours over, eight home thanks to headwinds. My max would really be a five hour flight (although I would gladly make that 5 + 5 to get to my dear Hawaii!). I could write another blog post entirely dedicated to how I feel the airlines could resolve this problem. Such a waste of breath & energy for everyone involved. Anyways, we survived!
  • Hey Mom, look at me! 
  • Airplane Travel:  the part that makes us all nervous!! Fortunately Caroline blew us out of the water & was beyond amazing.  We had a really rough descent & landing coming back into Dulles & she did start screaming at that point & even threw up. Honestly, we could’ve cared less. It was TERRIBLE & I wanted to scream…passengers even said she did so wonderfully after that flight, phew.   
  • We packed: 15 diapers (one for every hr of the flight x2 just in case we were delayed), a whole pack of wipes, three bottles (I rinsed them out – although I did find disposables in packs of 10 on Amazon), “poop bags” i.e. those cheap dog ones you buy at the Dollar Tree to use for diapers, an entire container of formula, pacifiers, two toys, two books, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse loaded on the iPhone, one extra outfit, all medicines, blanket & burp cloths. We didn’t feel like we need anything else.                                                     
  • How we entertained her: Luckily at 6 months she doesn’t need much! She was enthralled with what was going on around her, if she started to get fussy at a few points with not being able to fall asleep we’d give her a pacifier & play MMCH. We fed her at take-off, but at landing she didn’t want any & seemed to do just fine. This was the same for both flights!  Air France did have the baby bassinet which they would install after take-off, we really used it more for a place to store more. She would sit & play in it for ten minutes or so & did sleep in there a few times. 
  • We gave her benedryl, as I mentioned in my other post, which kept her really drowsy going over but did nothing on the flight home!
  •  Let me also touch on the fact that we changed her diaper mainly at our seat/in the bassinet on the flight over because it seemed easier & most people were sleeping. It was also HOT so we stripped her down to her diaper because my child has my hot blooded-ness! #didnotcare  BUT on the flight home we used the baby changing ‘table’ in the restroom, just be prepared for how cramped the space is especially if you have a long baby or very mobile baby/toddler! We even got lucky enough to experience a full  blow out experience onboard our flight home #shelovesus.
  • Airport Security: The other super nerve-wrecking part! At Dulles, Brett wore her in the Ergo, as soon as we hit the line, which thankfully wasn’t busy, I started putting all of our stuff up/taking off shoes/taking out bottles/medicines I broke down the stroller & car seat which both went through the x-ray machine. Brett & Caroline were being taken to the side to wand just his hands, that’s it! After everything went through, they were kind enough to offer to help get it all back together while they were testing her milk. All in all it took less than five minutes, but Brett & I were sweating afterwards from rushing HAHAH             
  •  At CDG, the line for security was long & they weren’t quite as friendly, no direction given but it was the exact same as Dulles EXCEPT they didn’t test her milk..and I had to take a sleeping Caroline out of her carseat :/ #wesurvived
  • ATMS Do as I say, not as I do πŸ™‚ We intended to exchanged money at Dulles; wasn’t open (between noon – 3PM)…okay so we’ll do it at CDG, too early also not open. ATMs were not as readily available so thankfully the bank of Pam could finance until we could find an ATM! We also used our credit card but prefer to deal in cash. For the record, this is the first time I’ve had ‘problems’ exchanging money.
  • Baby Changing Facilities  soo after day 2 we decided that from what we saw the French don’t bring their babies out and/or they avoid changing their diapers anywhere public. We did find a clean changing station at the Louvre, but I’m 99% sure that is the only public place we could change her diaper. It was mainly in her stroller or on our laps! I thought that was pretty interesting how non-baby friendly it was – I chalk it up to older buildings & lack of bathroom space in general. When we were in the Avignon area, we changed her in the car if out & about as once again there wasn’t readily available places.  If you’ve never traveled in Europe; a lot of public restrooms you have to pay for including the Louvre; although I did not have to pay just to use the changing station. Same with the Avignon train station – I didn’t have to pay to use that part of it. 
  • Bathing. We didn’t bring any baby bathing contraptions with us, we just placed a towel down on the bathtub & used the hand held portion of the shower head – she thought it was super fun!      
  •                                             Best outta three…haha                                                         
  • Cabs. I’m sure there are going to be some parents up in arms when I tell you that I would just hold onto her in the few cab rides we needed. Thanks be to God, all was fine. I don’t know what else to tell you – it’s the same law, as far as I’m aware, in the States too. Finding a mini-van cab in Paris was not happening!                                                                 
  • Dad + Baby wearing + our mini-van!
  • Car Rental We had a great experience renting a mini-van with Hertz (through Auto-Europe one of our partners) from the Avignon train station. It took 30 minutes til we were on our way, we got the GPS & would recommend doing so! Driving in that region of France was no problem at all!  I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of having a car in the area.  It took Brett a few tries but he was able to secure Caroline’s carseat in so she was toodling arrive safely with us, just like at home. P.S. No international drivers license needed.                                                                                            
    Proud Mom & Aunt Pam after our flight over
  • Charles de Gaulle Airport Coming in was easy peasy. On the way home, they do security/passport control differently – you check in for the flight go through security THEN go to your terminal where you will go through passport control – that means you need some time.  CDG is a very large airport, don’t skimp on time – three hours prior doesn’t hurt anyone. πŸ˜‰                                                                                                     
  • Cell Phone Ohhmyyygoshhh…I’ve been in middle the of nowhere Turkey & had an easier time getting wi-fi & my text messages. All four of the big kids on our trip have iPhones & all four of us could not get wi-fi or text or WhatsApp for 48 hours?! And no we’re not all on the same provider. In this day & age, it was just a complete annoyance. I still don’t know what the exact issue was.   
  • Credit Cards: Your daily reminder to tell your bank/credit card company that hey I’m traveling!                          
  • Global Entry so worth $100! It easily saved us an hour plus when we arrived back into Dulles. Brett was a skeptic but he had to admit I was right for making us get it! #alwaysright                                                                                                                                   
  • Hotels another do I as I say not as I do. This was a good reminder for myself  that I’m pickier than I like to think. We used Monograms, a part of the Globus family of brands & one of our preferred partners, for our Paris stay…which had us staying at the Pullman Montparnasse. Hotel was fine; clean, decent size rooms, staff was friendly for the most part (we booked our check in for the night prior so that we could go to our room at 7AM!) we walked up the desk and the man immediately said it’s too early for check in instead of asking how he could help, looking at our reservation etc then when I reminded them of the crib he accused me of not telling them. Umm friends I only had three people involved in that conversation three separate times. I do not have patience for that lack of follow through & lack of just stink in’ LOOKING! This is the difference between a five and a three star. Location of the hotel was fine; walkable to Luxembourg Gardens. It’s a great hotel for what it is; if I wanted five star service I should have reserved rooms at a five star hotel!                                                                                                                                           
  • Laundry  We used the Pullman’s laundry send-out; which was fine except that they lost our baby blanket & a onesie. Luckily the larger haul of baby clothes I sent out came back, it was the second go around that never found us. The general manager was very polite & I really wasn’t that upset as I know there was nothing to be done – either it’s truly lost or someone else needed it more than us! The hotel reimbursed us within a week.                                                                                                                                                 
  • Louvre I read somewhere online that you can’t use a stroller in the Louvre. We were allowed to use it but Brett & I carried it up and down many stairs …it is also very hot in a lot if the rooms so we cut our visit short after an hour.

    the only photo I took at the Louvre #fail


    Naps I <3 my daughter! She learned within 24 hours how to nap whenever & wherever! At home she would typically go through a bit of a fussy period when she was ready to nap…she just fell asleep while we traveled and toured. Even now at home (HUGE KNOCK ON WOOD!) she’s napping much easier! I’m not saying it was foul-proof but 9/10 times she’d just knock out! 

           Sleeping on the bus during our 1/2 day tour of Paris 

    Trains.  We had an easy experience finding our train at the Paris Gare de Lyon station after we finally saw where the car numbers were located! We were prepared for the mad rush of getting all the luggage on the train quickly. We purchased first class tickets via Rail Europe, another one of our partners, which worked out perfectly.   The train ride was smooth & enjoyable although after hunting for a baby changing bathroom (the signs literally pointed in opposite directions!) Brett held her and I changed her in the handicap restroom.  Our train back from Avignon to CDG wasn’t quite as nice. A man was in one of our assigned seats and acted super casual about moving all while. My backpack was hitting the person opposite our seats because it’s extremely cramped & I was also carrying Caroline in her car seat while Pam, Brett and Victoria worked on finding luggage space. Do I sound whiny here? It’s because I was annoyed. We then had an awkward lost in translation moment with the person collecting tickets (which they never did on our train down) it ended with tears on my part…by day 6 I was just exhausted! You really have to be ready for disembarkation process & getting your stuff off.  If it were just us adults, this would’ve been smoother & less hassle; babies = stuff.  

  •                                                           I look forward to riding the trains in Europe again – it was relaxing                                                                                         
  • Recovery Let’s be real here folks. It was BAD. Poor baby was SO confused – we landed around 3PM or so back into DC, she fell asleep as soon as she was in her carseat & we drove to PA to pick up our dog. We went to bed (in PA so again not her bed) by 8PM that night, she cried every other hour for 30 minutes or so at a time. And she continued that pattern the next two nights, then finally we got into a good groove again. She was also teething hardcore upon return! Hey if you’re going to do – do it all at once! πŸ™‚                                                                                                                                                        
  • Strollering in Paris We were so grateful for our clear rain protector! A must have! Overall we just made it work. Yes an umbrella stroller would’ve been easier bit since we had been forced into bringing our car seat it just made sense to bring our stroller. The streets of Paris our stroller friendly but the restaurants are not. We saw very few Parisians out with their under one year old.    
    who needs a stroller when you have DA-DA!
  • Strollering in Avignon prepare to use a baby carrier in the tiny towns you’ll explore as you might imagine they are cobblestones and uneven! 
  • Time Change Night one was bad; lots of crying. After that she caught right on & never had a problem sleeping 8+ hours a night. By the way, we had cribs the hotels – they were the old school scary kind so she slept between Brett & I. It confirmed our feelings on co-sleeping …we couldn’t wait to have her bed back! But it was worth it to know she was safe – luckily we had king beds!  
  • Washing bottles/binks As I showed in my last post; I brought along dish soap  – used a bottle then put in two Ziploc bags, along with a bottle brush. I would put a little soap & hot water in one of the drinking glasses in our room and soak the the pacifiers. I would set the sink of with hot water & dish soap and let all the bottle pieces soak for a few minutes before washing them. Worked great!                                 
    Notre Dame!

    Overall, would I do recommend traveling to France with a six month old? I can’t answer that for you – I keep thinking about this. We had a reason for going, a beautiful wedding, otherwise it wouldn’t have happened.  BUT have no fear, if Brett & I could do it – you can too!! I feel completely confident in traveling with her anywhere now (with my seriously amazing husband along!). 

I can’t wait to show her the photos as she gets older! And look forward to taking her back someday!
again, the best one we got. Plastic flowers are SO yummy.
Sorry about the awful spacing – I tried fixing it a 100xs without any progress!

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