Traveling with small kids can be difficult – especially when it comes to urban tourism. When our son was three-years old, we visited one of our favorite places in the world – France. Our itinerary included two weeks in France with the first week in Paris and the second week in the beautiful seaside town Sanary-sur-Mer. It was a great vacation and we learned a valuable lesson about traveling with a young child on this trip.
To be honest with you, we actually thought we wouldn’t have any challenges traveling with our three-year old in Paris. We packed an umbrella stroller that we could use when the walking got to be too much – especially when visiting museums. And, we planned to utilize all of the parks and playgrounds that dot the neighborhoods throughout the city.
Perfectly planned until we realized the airline lost our stroller!
No problem, we thought. Let’s just go with it. How hard could it be without a stroller? We will use the metro more frequently and we still have the network of parks to stop and rest. We’ll just slow it down.
Within two days it was clear that not having the stroller was going to be a challenge. Our slowed down pace practically came to a stop once we were 10 minutes outside of the apartment. And the endless stream of questions from our three-year old would start: When are we going to get there? Can we stop walking? Can I ride on your shoulders? I’m tired. The park is too far. I want to go back to the apartment.
On our third day, we caught up with some friends for dinner at their apartment. Having young kids of their own they understood our challenge and our husbands promptly departed for the Monoprix to pick up the needed stroller.
As I helped my friend prepare dinner, I couldn’t help but notice a very, very small scooter sitting by the front door. I was curious because her son was two-years old – one year younger than our son. Surely that wasn’t his scooter, was it? Well it turns out that it was his scooter and that was what he used to get around Paris. A scooter. Not a stroller. My eyes widened a bit as I thought about what my dear friend just shared with me. I took a deep breath and an extra long drink of the glass of cabernet in my hand. Mon dieu!
The next day we traversed the city quickly and with ease with our son in the stroller. Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice all of the kids on scooters zipping down the sidewalks of Paris. What was this peculiar mode of travel? How is it possible that kids the same age and younger than my son are so skilled at navigating the crowded sidewalks with scooters?
The following week it was confirmed. We made our way to the south of France where we would meet up with another French family in Sanary-sur-Mer. Everyday our multigenerational group would set out on foot from their home to make our way to the beach; and, sure enough, both of their kids (ages 3 and 6) used their scooters to get there.
When did I miss the mom memo on scooters?
It turns out this is one of those cultural differences between France and the US – at least in comparison to the Midwest. Parents of kids in France understand and accept that their young children will be challenged to navigate the urban landscape. The scooter is a device that is introduced early to help make the experience navigating the city easy and fun for everyone in the family.
The following year we returned to Paris for our vacation and this time we were ready. This time we brought a scooter. I have to say that bringing the scooter was genius. GENIUS. We navigated the Parisian landscape without any issues and with a whimsy that we had not experienced the year before. And we had an even stronger cultural experience in the city and with our friends and their kids because of that scooter. To this day, our favorite memories of that trip center around the time we spent with our friends from navigating the sidewalks, parks, and canals of Paris. And you know what? We all felt a little more French for it.
Merci Paris. Je t’aime!
P.S. The use of the scooter didn’t start and stop with Paris. We have continued to use it when traveling to other urban settings over the years like Copenhagen, Malmo, LA, Chicago, and DC. We even use the scooter on a regular basis in our home city of Indianapolis.
Dorothy Hoffman is the creator of the travel blog, Squirts and Seniors. She is a Gen X-er who writes about traveling at home and abroad with her young son and aging parents.