Preparing for an Extended Family Trip to France

What a monumental weekend it was for France last weekend, with la fête nationale on Saturday followed by the Coupe du Monde win on Sunday! My first visit to France (as a high school student) was just months before their first World Cup win in 1996, so this weekend brought back fond memories.

  Champions du Monde by Gustave Deghilage

Champions du Monde by Gustave Deghilage

My husband and I and our four children will have the opportunity to see if France is still celebrating a week from now when we arrive in France for our extended family séjour. Three years ago we took our children to France so they could improve their French language skills and even attend school for several weeks. (I also traveled to Paris with a friend last year to run my first marathon.) During our family trip, we had an amazing stay in Paris and Lyon, and the children enjoyed their school attendance even though we had only homeschooled until then.

What's different about this family trip to France?

  Our summer 2018 family photo (by Mandy Red)

Our summer 2018 family photo (by Mandy Red)

First, our children are three years older, and we've added a new baby: On our previous trip our children were 5 months, 3 years, and 6 years old; now the four of them range from 4 months to 3 years, 6 years, and 9 years old.

Secondly, we're packing much less on this trip. No car seats--we're renting them this time because they were incredibly cumbersome and got us into trouble in Paris! No cloth diapers--I found that some of the European washing machines couldn't manage the weight of wet diapers, and having to air dry the diapers made them stiff like cardboard. Finally, my husband won't need to pack all of his track and field gear for the World Masters' as he did last time because this year's competition is in Spain and he won't be participating.

How long will we stay? 

My husband will be with us for a month before he returns to the U.S. for work. I will stay on in France with our children until late October. That's three months! Why are the children and I staying this length of time? Because we want our children to gain as much immersion as possible, and we can stay up to 90 days without a visa. I really don't want to be away from my husband any longer than that!

Where will we stay? How did we find housing?

On our last trip we did a home exchange and used Airbnb as well as staying with friends for short spurts. This time I found Paris housing using Kid & Coe. In addition, we will be staying with our au pair's family, then with my "adopted" grandparents in Bretagne before using an Airbnb apartment in the Loire region. Finally, we'll do another home exchange before settling in Lyon at an apartment booked through HomeAway.

Where will we go in France?

We'll spend a week in Paris, visit with friends in Bretagne, experience Puy du Fou--France's incredible history theme park, and we'll tour châteaux in the Loire before returning to our home base apartment in Lyon, France's third largest city.

  Scene from The Vikings,  Puy du Fou  (photo courtesy of Puy du Fou)

Scene from The Vikings, Puy du Fou (photo courtesy of Puy du Fou)

After our travels around France, what will we do for two months in Lyon?

The older three children will attend school (public preschool starts at age 3 in France) while I focus on developing relationships, attending my French Protestant church, shopping the outdoor food market, prepping meals, and trying to write about our experiences while the baby naps. That's the plan!

  My children on le Carrousel de la Tour Eiffel, summer 2015

My children on le Carrousel de la Tour Eiffel, summer 2015

Where would you want to take your family if you had three months to spend abroad? What would you want to experience?