Jun 30, 2013

Travel with Baby: France

The Journey

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, we met up with my husband's side of the family in France, in the Moëlan-sur-Mer area of Brittany.

Since I've traveled with the baby once before, I knew packing would be easier this time around. Basically, I packed all the same stuff I did for NY since he was still wearing the same size clothes and the weather in France was going to be similar to what it was in NY. What I really had to think about was our journey to get there.

From Houston, it was a bit of a pain to get to since United Airlines suspended its direct service to Paris. It meant we had fly other airlines which, we usually try to avoid since our loyalty program is with United.

The easiest and most cost effective route we found was to fly with KLM: Houston-Amsterdam-Nantes and then drive from Nantes to Moëlan-sur-Mer. Not including flight time, with a 7-hour layover in Amsterdam and another 2-hour drive to Moëlan-sur-Mer, our whole journey going over from the time we left Houston to the time we arrived in Moëlan-sur-Mer, was 21 hours! With that in mind, I had to make sure I had enough supplies for the baby. We also had every intention of going in to Amsterdam even though that didn't happen for reasons I will detail below. Heading back to Houston was a little easier with Air France: Nantes-Paris-Houston. The layover in Paris was only 2 hours, not bad!

For some reason, booking the flights through Delta on Expedia turned out to be cheaper than booking directly on KLM/Air France. However, I don't know where the screw up happened but, there was an issue with the baby's ticket... both ways. It took us an hour to check-in both in Houston and in Nantes. In the end it all worked out but what a pain!

The good thing about flying with a non-US airline, when you have an infant ticket, they usually reserve a bassinet for the baby at no extra cost. US airlines these days make you pay extra for those bulkhead seats, they consider it Economy Plus.

For the flight going, we got bassinet for the baby. Once we boarded, they even gave him a KLM bib. Nice! I've actually never flown with KLM before. Overall it was a very pleasant experience. The flight attendants were very friendly and helpful. The plane itself, even though it's a Boeing 747, had it's own individual screen with on-demand videos. The food was ok (I've had better but I've also had worse).

For the flight, I dressed the baby in a long sleeve onesie and long pants. Once he was ready to be put down for the night, I changed his pants to his sleepsack so he would be more comfortable.

In the past I'd catch up on movies on the plane but, I guess those days are behind me now (yes, my record was watching 12 movies on one round trip flight to/from Bali). Instead of movie watching, it is now baby watching. And, it's not like sitting in the bulkhead seats make any easier... it was a pain to maneuver the monitor and food tray with the bassinet on. For that reason, as nice as the bassinets are, I still prefer regular seats with an empty seat in between since it allows me to stow things in front of and underneath my seat. But hey, a bassinet is definitely better than holding a baby for 9 hours!

Once we landed in Amsterdam, like I said, we had every intention of going in to the city so I can... eat!! I was dying to have some Dutch pancakes and herring (not together! I'm not that crazy!). We had gate checked the baby's infant carseat and stroller in Houston but once we got to Amsterdam, we see infant carseat but, no stroller! We went to customer service to see if they can recall the stroller because we're pretty sure at this point they treated it as luggage and checked it all the way to Nantes. They said they can't because everything is secure, blah, blah, blah... Don't get me wrong, customer service was very nice, they even tried to find us a stroller to borrow but, no luck! In the end we were stuck for 7 hours at Schiphol airport which, if you've ever been to this airport, you know it's not a bad airport to be stuck in. It's actually one of the nicest airports in the world. They even have a baby care facility with cots, changing area, microwave. We didn't stay there long as there were a couple babies crying which made it harder for our baby to nap. In the end, we settled for a spot in the main lounge that was more comfortable for him.

Baby sleeping in KLM's bassinet
Baby care lounge at Schiphol airport
Baby care lounge at Schiphol airport

Our flight back to Houston was with Air France. It's been a while since I've flown back to the US through Charles de Gaulle. It's truly one of my least favorite airports. Our flight was out of terminal 2E, gates M. I was surprised to see the new terminal - it was very modern and looked completely different from the rest of CDG. Nice improvement although a better one, in my opinion, would be to build inter-terminal trains instead.

We had a surprisingly pleasant experience with Air France's customer service. I say surprisingly because let's face it, the French are pretty grumpy when it come to service. But this time, everyone was very helpful especially the desk agent in Nantes. After spending an hour trying to check us in, turns out she gave our baby his own seat to Paris and then for Paris to Houston, she blocked an entire row of four seats for us. We could've switched to bassinet but they only had one bulkhead seat available and after the KLM experience, I much prefer the empty seats than bassinet anyway. 

It's been a while since I've flown Air France especially since United switched from Skymiles to Star Alliance.  The old Air France plane was a bit... old. So it was nice to see they're using a newer plane now. They've also upgraded their entertainment system to an on-demand one. I also liked their footrest feature. I've only seen it on one other plane.

We did experience a hiccup with Air France. Our luggage was checked in in Nantes all the way to Houston. But apparently it's not an automatic system. Air France didn't recall our luggage until we were at the gate ready to board. Well d'uh! I could've told you we weren't going to get our luggage in Houston. Sure enough, we get to Houston and waiting for us at the carousel were Air France agents letting us know they were on the next flight out. Lucky we were home and not starting our holiday since it took two days before we got out luggage back.  

Looking good, Air France!
Conor sleeping on the extra seat(s)
Baby Accessories

We pretty much packed the same accessories we did for NY:
- My awesome diaper travel backpack! Although we did bring an extra backpack this time because of our long layover in Amsterdam.
- Infant carseat since we're renting a car in France. It also doubled as a place for the baby to sit while we dine since he can't sit up just yet. We didn't take the base, though.
- Carseat cover in case it rained. And it did! And you know you have a good product when a French woman jumps out of her car at the Intermarche parking lot asking us (in French) where we got the cover from.
- Stoller, of course...


While we were there, we stayed at a gîte that my in-laws booked. A gîte is basically a rental house. It makes traveling with baby a lot easier since we have all the convenience of a house while abroad.


This trip was about family time so eating to a backseat. And since I wasn't sure where we were staying, I didn't even bother researching any restaurants. It also didn't help that midway through our trip, I caught a stomach bug. I couldn't believe it! I'm the queen of street food and I even ate bugs in Thailand, and I catch a stomach bug in France??!! Blimey me!

Brittany region is famous for the crepes and galettes!

Seafood pizza because we're near the sea


Very nice seafood bouillabaisse - just what I needed!

Grilled lobster. Too bad it's covered in butter.

The description said sea urchin. What?! Must be lost in translation.


  1. The only thing I'm not sure about is the seafood pizza.

  2. Always great to read about your experiences. All that food is making me hungry. yummy!!! I hope the stomach bug passed quickly.