This is a guest post by Zoe Petit of The Petit Guide, a family travel planner and guide based out of Paris, France. Zoe moved to Paris from Texas over a decade ago and now raises her two adorable children in the 18eme! Check out her great travel advice at https://www.zoepetit.com/guide /
Out of everything I miss (and there is a lot right now!) – leaving the house without a mask, going to a friend’s place for coffee or dinner, the casual way people used to interact – travel is definitely at the top of the list! I long for the carefree days of hopping on a plane or train without stressing about permission slips, masks and germs*!
Over the summer, travel restrictions were lifted in Europe, and after months in a tiny city apartment, my family craved fresh air and nature. Our summer plans initially included an epic vacation in Africa… we held out hope until a few months before departure when it became clear CoVid-19 was not going away anytime soon. After a short mourning period, we jumped into action – what trip would get us out of the city, without much risk of losing money to cancelations or spreading germs?
After much debate – we settled on a circuit between France and Switzerland, exclusively by train. This seemed like both the safest health wise (unless you can travel by car), and the least risky financially.
Our decision was largely based on the fact that the rail system set up very favorable policies for any cancellations, and changed their policies to allow for last minute ticket modifications with no penalties. This means that if ticket holders need to cancel due to any reason whatsoever, vouchers or reimbursement are provided. They also implemented a strict health protocol, including masks for all employees and travelers over 6 years of age, spaced out seating, and amped up cleaning.
Here are my tried and true tips for traveling by train during the pandemic (phew, that was a lot of alliteration!):
- Make sure you keep an eye on the website in the days before departure – cancellations are more common these days, and you don’t want to show up at the station to a bad surprise!
- Bring a pack of antibacterial wipes to clean armrests and trays – this may become a new must for all my tripsJ
- Be prepared! You want to make sure you have enough to occupy kids so that they don’t feel the urge to go wandering much. Normally, I always make a little travel pack of surprises for the kids to help us have the best trip possible – a new sticker or activity book for each kiddo, markers (washable. Always!), and other small toys (sometimes I hide away small toys at the top of a cabinet, and stick them in the pack – the kids are so excited to see their forgotten toys!). Thoughtful planning for a travel pack seems even more crucial these days!
- Pack plenty of snacks, water, and a meal if necessary – One of the sanitary measures implemented by the railways has been to eliminate the cafés on trains. We came prepared with sandwiches, a couple fun desserts from a bakery, and a couple fun snacks that I knew would lift moods if sitting still was getting tough on the kids.
- If things get dire – head over to the aforementioned snack car on the train. As the food service is closed, it will likely be empty, and your kids can get some energy out.
Voila, voila, there you have it! Depending on circumstances, your area’s restrictions, and your personal feelings, travel, especially by train, is possible these days… just be prepared for more logistics and jumping through hoops. That brings me to my number one tip, which is be flexible! This is always a must for a successful trip with kids, and it is especially important these days. Should circumstances change, or your train be cancelled, try to keep your chin up and plan for another time. They say that the most pleasure from vacation is actually derived during the planning stages – worst case, you will get to daydream about travel, and once things get back to normal, you will have a trip all lined up!
*The feeling is accentuated right now with France under its second nationwide lockdown. Restrictions include limiting citizens’ outings to a mere kilometer from home! Never have I spent such long periods of time in the same area, walking the same blocks again and again.
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