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Ask Shelly: Best ages for France trip with baby and toddler?

by Shelly Rivoli
toddler flying to france

Fly to France with a child of 3? Mais oui!

It’s been like Ask Shelly: Paris whack-a-mole around here lately! 😉 I always love to hear your questions, and of course I love France, so before I return to some earlier questions I’ve promised answers on, let me answer this easy one! Well, maybe not SO easy. Catherine writes:

Hi Shelly:

I am emailing you to get your suggestions. I’ve read your blog, but I’d still like to know your opinion on my personal situation.

I live on the East Coast but my parents live in France. Once a year on average we fly to Paris (maybe Nice in the near future). My first born was not a good flyer… We flew with her when she was 11 and 15 months old to France and both times she’d do well at the beginning, even fall asleep but would wake up by noises of the plane. So she’d wake up upset because tired. If the seat belt sign was on, she had to stay in her car seat (she had her own seat per safety suggestions…) making her even more upset that I could not pick her up and hold her.

We are expecting another baby due in July and I am not sure when it would be best to travel with both of them. I am hoping that my first one will be more easily reasoned with as she gets closer to 3 and more easily distracted with games or videos. With the new ones i don’t know what it would be best. At some point i considered going around the end of my maternity leave (baby would be less than 12 weeks old) so i would not have to use PTO; but then i thought it was absurd to take the baby to a place with 6hrs difference at a time i am trying to get him/her used to the day/night times here on the East Coast.

I thought if we went to France for Christmas the baby would be around 5 months old, i hope i would still be nursing him or her, and he/she may be able to still fit on the bassinet that airlines provide.

Based on your experience travelling with young children, would you have any recommendation as to when it might be best to travel with our 2 little ones.

Thank you for your advice!!!


Having had my first  two children just under 2 years apart(!), I am compelled to say, “Wait!” Yes, you could certainly do your trip with baby at 10 weeks and toddler at 2.5 years if other reasons made that necessary, and I understand taking advantage of maternity leave is a definite incentive. But I suspect that YOU will enjoy the trip more when you’ve had a little more time to recover from the birth and your baby can go longer in between feedings–and therefore will likely sleep longer stretches at a time as well. Your toddler, at 3 years, will be easier to entertain for longer stretches of time as well, whether with reading, a kids’ movie, a new puzzle, or bendaroos, or sewing boards as shown above, etc. He’s also more likely (we’ll hope!) to recognize when he feels tired and the need to sleep, which is very helpful when you need to get them to sleep on a plane or in a new time zone.

As for baby’s sleep routine, you might be surprised at 5 months, when baby still sleeps multiple times each day, that it can sometimes be easier for baby to adjust to the new time zone than the other members of the family (who don’t voluntarily take a mid-morning nap, etc.), and she’s more likely to sleep at least part of the flight than an overtired 1-year-old. Be sure to read the Nighttime Sleeping and Naptime Sleeping sections in Travels with Baby for help on this, if you haven’t already, and there are on-the-go tips to help while you’re there Take-Along Travels with Baby.

Whenever you decide to go, consider your airline choices carefully — flying one airline overseas can differ tremendously from flying another when you have children at these ages on board. To compare some of the differences in infant/child discounts (where available), kids meals and entertainment packs, baby meals and diapers, etc. you can look at the Airlines Comparison Chart in Travels with Baby.

For more help, see related posts and pages below. Anybody else have a burning travel question for me? See the Ask Shelly page for tips on getting your question in – and answered! 😉

CARES harnessGIVEAWAY IN PROGRESS! Have you entered to win the CARES flight harness I’ll be giving away this Friday (go to the post here for details)? I’ve enjoyed reading your comments so much and really appreciate the feedback and shares – more sharing, please! 😉

Related posts and pages:

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli
Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby

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Catherine June 19, 2013 - 10:48 am

Thank you Shelly! We finally decided to go for Christmas as my mother is also turning 70 on 12/23… So baby #2 will be 5 months old and #1 almost 3 years old. Do you have a preferred airline company to fly to Paris? We usually take Air France. My guess is that like for our first child, we’ll get our 2nd baby his own seat and/or the bassinet. Have you ever taken a long flight without having your baby in his/her own seat? If so, how did that go?
BTW: i did get your book! It is really good! Thank you!


Shelly Rivoli June 19, 2013 - 11:41 am

Hi Catherine! Thanks so much for circling back to share your comment (and buying my book!!). I can’t imagine a better 70th birthday gift for your mother than having the “grandbabies” there to help celebrate. I have flown Air France with a bassinet, and at 5 months this may be a good move for you guys – plus your 3-year-old won’t be able to kick a seat if you’re seated on the bulkhead row! 😉 Just be sure you get a bulkhead bassinet in case Air France still has any of the bassinets that mount below the overhead storage compartment, which we almost had one time – scary! 😉 I’ve also flown British Airways to Paris with baby/ toddler and had good experiences, thought some have reported otherwise https://www.travelswithbaby.com/blog/one-very-good-reason-to-fly-british-airways-with-your-baby-or-lap-held-toddler/ Have a wonderful trip!

Shelly Rivoli February 13, 2013 - 7:04 am

PS I also added a link to another post that may be helpful, “How to help a baby adjust to a 9-hour time change” https://www.travelswithbaby.com/blog/ask-shelly-how-to-help-a-baby-adjust-to-a-9-hour-time-change-and-jet-lag/

Robin February 11, 2013 - 2:33 pm

I’d actually like to advocate traveling on your maternity leave. Before going back to work I did a month in India with my 3 month old daughter and 2.5 year old son. My daughter, hands down was the easiest. She wasn’t moving, wasn’t on solids, and entirely breastfed. She would just go in the carrier and nurse wherever. As long as she was dry, fed and not too warm, she was happy. And at that age, the sleep schedule is erratic anyway, so they adjust more quickly than anyone else. My daughter who only woke up once in the night at home, adjusted to the same schedule in India in two days.

However its important to note your oldest will be the difficult one on the trip. At that age the flight was OK as long as we had a full iPad. He could sit through a full movie at that age. But the time change was difficult since he didn’t understand why he was not tired at night but was during the day. Make sure to give your older one plenty of time to adjust to the time change and keep the schedule light the first few days.

Good luck!

Shelly Rivoli February 13, 2013 - 7:01 am

Thanks for your input, Robin! I think there can be advantages either way – two other things worth considering are the weather, and then the holiday. For most of us, late summer / early fall would be a great time to be in France to make the most of time outdoors, especially with your toddler. However, the Christmas holiday may be a very special and memorable time to go since you would get to spend that with family. Also, airfare begins to go down for early fall flights, but climbs back up for Christmas in Europe. So many things to consider! 😉 I’m sure it will be a great time whichever you decide.

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