Traveling with two small children half way across the world (and what I would do differently next time)

Olivia and Penelope in our host’s living room after 12 hours of sleep and a croissant, happy as can be.

Olivia and Penelope in our host’s living room after 12 hours of sleep and a croissant, happy as can be.

We have arrived at our destination in Western France in the Poitou-Charentes region. We will spend our first two weeks in the home of George’s colleague, Oli, and his partner Claire who instantly welcomed us with open arms. Their home is light and airy with a modern french style that feels effortless yet refined.

 

Arriving safely with all our luggage and limbs was no easy feat. Traveling halfway across the world with two children under the age of 5 (and on a budget) requires planning, flexibility, and determination. Our journey included:

  • Six hour drive from the Phoenix area to San Diego where we spent 3 nights with George’s family.

  • Two hour drive to LAX airport.

  • Ten and a half hour flight (red eye) directly to Paris.

  • One night stay in an airport hotel.

  • Three hour train ride (including one train transfer) to Niort, France.

  • 45 minute drive to our home for 2 weeks near Chef-Boutonne.

 

Hour 8 on the plane and snuggled up with daddy. Olivia slept over 5 hours on the plane, more than any of us!

Hour 8 on the plane and snuggled up with daddy. Olivia slept over 5 hours on the plane, more than any of us!

What did we did well:

  • Purchasing a seat on the airplane for Penelope, even though it was not required because she is under 2. I do not know how we would have managed the long redeye without having the option to put her in her own seat safely snuggled in the car seat.

  • Being mindful of the suitcase weight and size restrictions on Norwegian Air. While our flights were super cheap ($300 each), they are very strict on baggage allowance. We had to carefully weigh and measure each bag to be sure we were not overcharged. Thanks to George, he got packing down to a science, I am proud that we were able to fit 2 years worth of luggage into so few bags (six checked bags, four carry-on).

  • Ditching Olivia’s car seat for a booster seat. While I was reluctant because she just hit the minimum height and weight requirements, at the last minute we realized we couldn’t manage all our bags, a stroller, and TWO huge car seats. We decided to purchase the mifold booster seat for Olivia and boy am I glad we did. This baby was a life-saver.

  • Packing “airplane fun bags” for the kids. Even though we did not actually use them on the airplane (between sleeping, snacks/meals, and iPads it was enough). These bags came in handy on the train and now that we are at the house. I got most of these items at the $1 section at Target.

  • Staying the night at a hotel that attaches to the airport in Paris vs. trying to go into the city center for the night. The kids (and us) were beyond tired. Once we landed it was all we could manage to get to the airport hotel, let alone trying to get our bags into an uber or shuttle; it would have been nearly impossible. We stayed at this super family friendly hotel that is inside terminal 2 at CDG. Fun fact: breakfast started at 5am.

What we would do differently next time:

On the way to the hotel. We couldn’t have done it without Olivia being able to pull one suitcase on her own. She was quite impressed with herself as well.

On the way to the hotel. We couldn’t have done it without Olivia being able to pull one suitcase on her own. She was quite impressed with herself as well.

  • The number one BIGGEST mistake we made was falling asleep too early after our arrival to Paris. To paint the picture, it was 2:30pm when our flight landed and about 4pm when we arrived at the hotel. Penelope only slept 2ish hours on the flight and George only 20 minutes. By the time we showered and had a bite to eat (in the hotel) it was only 6pm (11am MST) but we couldn’t keep our eyes open, so we decided to go to sleep. Of course the kids treated this as a nap and were wide awake 4 hours later. Needless to say, it felt like the worst party ever in the dark of our hotel room for over 4 hours as we attempted to get them back to sleep. By 3am Paris time we were all back asleep, thankfully until 8am. Next time, I would have forced us to all stay awake until at least 8 or 9pm so it felt more like “night time” and we could have gotten a big long stretch of sleep.

  • We nearly missed our train the next morning. The hotel desk informed us it would take 4 minutes to take the tram to the train station. What they didn’t factor in is that we have two children and 10 bags plus a stroller and car seat to manage. That 4 minutes turned into 50 and we made it to our train platform with 3 minutes to spare. It was especially fun when Olivia announced she had to poo halfway to the station. Next time, I would have left for the train MUCH earlier to avoid the stress.

  • Speaking of luggage, a major mistake we made was not buying a car seat travel strap to attach the seat to our roller bag. A simple $15 purchase of something like this would have been a huge help.

  • We also made a rookie mistake of only brining plug adapters, verses buying the adapters AND converters. So while we can plug in our phones and computers (thank goodness), we are not able to use the sound machines or hair straightener until we track down a converter in this small village.  

The girls with their “airplane fun bags” on the train.

The girls with their “airplane fun bags” on the train.

All in all, I am so proud of our children for making it through this adventure with limited meltdowns. I am reminded of how resilient children are and how when we give them credit, they can do amazing things. If having young children at home has held you back from travel, I would encourage you to think creatively and see how to make it happen. Getting children out of their bubble will help them see the world from a holistic and creative approach. I cannot wait to see how this experience of living in France will shape them, and us.

Now, off to the farmers market to sample some of this regions best-known cuisine…oysters!

Until next time,

Kelly

Kelly Brusch