France is an ideal destination for family holidays
It is a country of spectacular beauty and diversity; from the café culture in Paris to the lush vineyards of Bordeaux and the sandy beaches of the French Riviera, it will leave you spoiled for choice and keep you coming back for more. France is only 1 hour ahead of Ireland and the UK so your child should have no trouble acclimatising to the change however, if you are travelling from further away you may have to deal with jet lag.
Where to Go
Paris is ideal for parents with younger babies as you will be able to visit the museums and walk around easily. For older babies and toddlers who want to crawl and walk it is a little bit more trying as the city is filled with museums and sights which may not hold their interest. In saying this there are plenty of parks and activities to keep toddlers entertained but it will all depend on what kind of vacation you want. Just outside Paris is Euro Disney and there is also a huge aquarium on the outskirts also. Both are ideal for older toddlers and children of all ages.
The beaches in the South of France, Brittany and Normandy and along the west coast make for a more relaxing holiday and there are also plenty of toddler friendly activities here such as aquariums, theme parks and adventure centres. There are also plenty of rural locations for a more laidback vacation such as in Lot, the Dordogne, Provence and Bordeaux.
Getting Around France
France is easily accessible by air, ferry and by train from within Europe. If you are travelling from the UK, the Eurostar train is a great option which allows you to bring your car or to travel directly to Paris as a foot passenger.
Car Rental: Driving to France will appeal to many parents from the UK, Ireland and other European countries in order to reduce the stress of air travel with young children. You cannot generally reserve baby and toddler safety car seats in car rental agencies and this will depend on availability so at busier times you might consider bringing your own.
Taxis: Taxis in France will not generally have car seats although there are taxi services in the larger cities and towns that will have them but you will need to book in advance. Your hotel should be arrange such a service. If you do not bring a car seat with you, you will be expected to carry your little one in your lap (for further information see ‘Getting Around’).
When to Go
July and August is the high season in France with prices doubling compared to other times of the year. The French tend to take holidays during the month of August and many businesses will close down during this period. Christmas, New Year and Easter are equally busy and Late December to March is high season in the skiing destinations in the French Alps. Make sure that you reserve hotels and restaurants well in advance if you decide to travel to France at this time of year.France is quite a large and diverse country and the weather varies from region to region. Some parts of France can get quite hot during the summer months so take the usual precautions. Brittany can be wet, even in summer so don’t be surprised if you get one or two rainy days.
Shopping & Facilities
There are plenty of supermarkets and pharmacies in all areas which sell all essential items such as formula, food, clothing and nappies. Restaurants generally cater to children although it is worth calling ahead if you are planning to visit more high end places. It is recommended to take a fold up high chair for younger kids as many of the high chairs are for older babies and toddlers who can sit up unaccompanied and do not have safety straps for in between the legs to ensure your child does not fall out.
Strollers & Slings: France is not very stroller friendly and Paris is particularly difficult with one as there are a lot of steps in the metro stations, museums, cafes and restaurants. Many of the cafes in Paris are quite cramped, so you might want to consider taking a baby carrier as an alternative. You might also consider using a lightweight stroller that can be folded up and stored or carried up and downstairs if required (See ‘Slings, Strollers and Car Seats’).
Changing facilities are lacking in many places although you will find these in department stores and in some restaurants.
There is a wide array of baby friendly accommodation in France, from self-catering apartments and villas to family friendly hotels, B&Bs and campsites. Airbnb and Owners Direct offer some fantastic self-catering accommodation for families travelling to France also. Some of the self catering accommodation may not be safe for babies especially the rentals in the countryside which although charming, are older and may have steps and swimming pools which are not fenced in. If you are driving you could consider bringing a stair gate or other safety devices. There are also rental agencies around France where you can rent baby and toddler safety equipment along with high chairs, cots and other essentials.