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If you’re planning a trip to the South of France, Provence, or anywhere along the Cote d’Azur, this toddler travel guide is for you. I just spent three weeks in the South of France with my toddler in tow with my husband, and we had such a memorable vacation.

Last year, we took our toddler to Paris and then the Alsace Christmas markets, and the summer before lived in Bordeaux for 6 weeks with her. As a French American, I’m accustomed to traveling with our little one in France for extended periods. So I have a lot to share after many lessons learned.

Toddler travel in France is not always the most straightforward so when we planned our return trip back for this year, I strategized even more. After all the research, I found that the South of France is quite popular for family travel — and for good reason. Warm temperatures, great beaches, and lots to see make it super easy for families.

The South of France along the French Riviera and up north into Provence is such a popular vacation spot already. So many places are used to welcoming families of all ages — found it contrary to say, Bordeaux. I found myself way more at ease here in the South of France with my toddler than ever before. It was laidback, high chairs more easily found, and just really pleasant for a vacation.

There is so much to consider when planning your trip with your toddler to the South of France, so I’m giving all the insight here in this guide. I hope this guide helps plan your family trip!

Short on Time? Here Are My Top Tips for Visiting the South of France with Toddlers:

  1. Bring a Travel Car Seat and Baby Car Mirror
  2. Bring a Compact, Foldable Stroller
  3. Book your rental car on Discover Cars for the best rates (I book with Alamo, Sixt, or Hertz)

Your Ultimate Guide to the South of France With Toddlers


Helpful Blog Posts Before Reading

I have a variety of travel planning resources for toddler travel which will be helpful in addition to this. I would recommend reading these posts:


Let’s Get Oriented

Where is the South of France?

Technically speaking, the South of France is an entire region that spans from the Languedoc through Provence and down the Cote d’Azur. It’s a large area but most people think of Provence and the French Riviera. For this guide, I am specifically looking at the regions of Provence and the Nice coastline.


The Best Time to Visit the South of France With a Toddler

If you’re looking for beach weather with the most swimmable water, then June through September will be the best months. However, the summer months come as the busiest. So if you’re not fussed about the warmest waters, I’d look at months like April, May, September, and October for fewer crowds.

This part of France, especially the coastline, is known for sunny skies almost year-round so keep that in consideration. In the Provence region, you will get cooler weather in the other months with a proper winter.


Getting Around the South of France With a Toddler

In the South of France

If you’re planning on visiting Nice and the nearby coastline with your toddler, this is one region you could consider skipping a car. When you pick somewhere near the train line or a bus stop like in Nice or Villefranche-Sur-Mer, you could utilize this. My only note is that you will be limited to public transport schedules which may not be as flexible for your little one’s schedule.

So depending on how much exploring or how many days you have, I would consider renting a car for a portion of it. This will give you more flexibility for visiting hilltop villages and not burdened with a transport schedule — just know that summer months may be busy and challenging for parking but manageable. We always use Discover Cars for the best rental car rates in Europe.

What We Did: We based ourselves in Villefranche-sur-Mer for 10 days. For the first 5 days, we used public buses and trains (SO easy) to see closer things. Then rented a car via Discover Cars for the other destinations that were further away like Menton and St Paul-de-Vence.

In Provence

Renting a car is a must for visiting Provence. The schedules here are very challenging and to visit most of the main sites that you’ll likely want to visit will require a car. You could see a single destination like Aix-en-Provence or Avignon, but from there would be limited.

What We Did: We based ourselves in Goult and rented a car via Discover Cars for the entirety of the week.

Rental Car Tips in South of France

We always book our car with a reputable company on Discover Cars. I prefer Alamo, Sixt, or Hertz. Get the car that will fit all of your luggage. The “SUVs” are much smaller in Europe so we usually opt for a mid-size SUV and we always take automatic, and gas (don’t get an electric one). I always bring our travel car seat and baby car mirror to Europe, the issue is that technically our US-made car seats don’t meet European law, so take that for what it’s worth. I’d personally rather be safe than sorry with a used car seat from an agency that doesn’t fit my child.

For parking, there are parking lots in every village and they are noted with a large “P” sign in blue. You can’t miss them, and you can use a card or cash to pay at most. Most parking in the region is paid as a heads-up.


Getting to the South of France

Getting to Provence from Paris

If you’re already in Paris and are going to Provence, the quickest option would be to take the direct train to Avignon and access from there. It’s the fastest option in terms of total transport time and ease.

Getting to Nice Area from Paris

If you’re going further south, I would consider flying into Nice Airport. The airport is easy to navigate and about 40 minutes drive to Villefranche-Sur-Mer or 25 minutes to Nice. You could consider taking trains, but there would be a switch in Avignon, and would total almost 8+ hours versus a 1-hour flight from Paris.

What We Did: We flew into Nice Airport from Newark, USA. We spent our time there first, road-tripped to Provence, and then spent 2 nights in Cassis before flying out of Marseille for our next stop.


Where to Get Supplies for Your Toddler

If you need to get things like diapers and wipes, the best place to do so is the pharmacy. You’ll find bigger stores like Monoprix, Carrefour, and Lidl will have more non-brand options for diapers but not the same quality. You can find diapers and pull-ups up to size 6 here. Pharmacies are the best options I have personally found.

If you need things like food and snacks, there are markets everywhere! If your toddler is a snacker, it will be challenging to find recognizable snacks like Annie’s bunnies, for instance, so I’d consider packing some in the suitcase. We do things like fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, and cheese as our snacks in France. Bio c’Bon is my favorite natural/bio store in France.


Must-Have Gear for Toddler Travel in the South of France

Compact, Foldable Stroller

One that folds down (most restaurants will ask you to do this) is SO helpful. We use the Cybex Libelle, but would easily have taken the Babyzen YOYO as another option. It’s so helpful in tighter spaces and narrow streets.

Lightweight Car Seat, Baby Car Mirror, and Car Seat Bag

We always bring our car seat and baby car mirror, this is our go-to. We have also checked it before with this car seat airplane bag, and it’s convenient to have if you’re planning to check it.

Travel Noise Machine

One of the best purchases was this travel-size Hatch noise machine. We had been towing around the larger size one and recently got this and works just as well.

Portable Changing Pad

Changing rooms are so tough to find, I don’t know why. I’d recommend bringing a portable changing pad and doing it discreetly in a park.

Backpack Diaper Bag

Super helpful for keeping everything organized for daily use, this Caraa diaper bag is our favorite.

Set of Travel Toys

We hit the age where travel toys go a long way, so I added a few to my collection like this magnetic puzzle set, this travel playdough set, and these magnetic building blocks.

Other Things I Never Forget


Helpful Tips to Know Before You Arrive

My Number 1 Tip: Change Your Schedule For Later

If you have any hopes of dining out, you will need a likely much later sleep schedule than at home. Lunch doesn’t start until noon and dinner opens at 7 pm at the earliest at the majority of places. We shifted our schedule to 2 hours later so we could enjoy dining. We did an 11 pm bedtime and a 9 am wake up, with a 2-4 pm nap. It seems insanely late (by 2 hours) but it meant we could do both lunch and dinner out if we wanted.

Pre-Book Museums and Reserve Restaurants

Guide to the South of France with Toddlers
traditional aioli dish in South of France

This region is highly visited and the summer months are no joke. Anything that can be booked, should be booked. It’s super helpful and will get you a long way while traveling in this region.

Don’t Arrive in a Rush at Restaurants

Food service is slow, keep this in mind. I’d bring a snack, and a toy, and plan to wait for food. Some restaurants had fast service and others were painfully long which meant my toddler went for a walk while waiting for food.

How We Navigate Meals

Every toddler is different so let’s preface that now, and often different day to day. We start with practice at home — our goal has always been longer meal times at the table, seated in a high chair. We do some meals out in chairs since high chairs aren’t always available, and this was super helpful for this trip. But in general, we can sit for about 1-1.5 hours at a restaurant with her (keep in mind we eat out a lot for my work).

So if it’s a longer meal, I usually send her out with Dad for a walk before the food arrives if I know it’s going to be slow. If it’s a quicker meal, I’ll pull out a coloring book or something else. We do around 1-2 meals out a day when traveling, but always either one big meal at home like lunch or dinner. It means we don’t get to eat out everywhere but that’s just part of this age.

High Chairs Are Available but Not Always

A “chaise haute” is often found at restaurants but only 2-3 per. So when making a reservation, reserve one of these too. I’d suggest doing some practice meals not in a high chair at home and out at restaurants.

There Are Parks Everywhere

Guide to the South of France with Toddlers
Particularly amazing park in Nice, France

There are several gated parks to enjoy across the entire region. Simply Google Map search for a park and you’ll see a “parc de jeux” for kids. They are often separated by age so mind the signs.


Where to Stay For Families

In The Nice Area

Guide to the South of France with Toddlers
Our Airbnb view in Villefranche-sur-Mer

Two choices we considered for visiting the Cote d’Azur were Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer. Nice was interesting as it afforded more dining and larger city amenities, but it came with more crowds. We ended up with Villefranche-sur-Mer for a more charming “village” experience — and I couldn’t have been more happy. We had direct access to the train line that takes you all up/down the coast, a great bus system, and a walkable area (once in town). The beach was also incredible there and you could see a lot from the town.

When picking accommodation in Villefranche-Sur-Mer, consider that you cannot take a car into the center of the village. So I looked for an apartment just outside of the village knowing we would have a rental car at some point. We still had to park in one of the paid lots about a five-minute walk away but much more convenient than in town. I would not book something above the village, while there are views, the walk down and back are up super steep.

Some Accommodations to Consider

In the Provence Region

Picking a home in Provence greatly depends on which area you want to visit, I personally love the Luberon which is the most central. This is where all the amazing hilltop villages like Gordes and Menerbes are, you’re close to Avignon and Aix as well. The most central location we found was the sleepy village of Goult — and it was amazing. We had our farmers on Thursdays, we were 10 minutes to 5 villages, and close to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We rented a large home with a pool (a must in the summer) with our family and had the best time.

Some Accommodations to Consider

Travel Tip For Booking: While Airbnb is popular, VRBO often has the same listings at a better rate and better cancellation. Many Provence and Nice area rentals have strict cancellation policies and we found better luck with VRBO.


Highlights of Provence

Exploring the Villages

One of my favorite activities was going to explore a village on foot. Our daughter loved running around in the pedestrian areas where she could roam freely. Some of our favorite villages for this were Goult, Roussillon, and Menerbes. One of the more challenging ones was Lacoste and Gordes as the inner part is quite steep and can be slippery on the stones. I would recommend wearing really good shoes for your toddler on the slippery stones of the villages.

Hiking the Ochre Trail

Depending on the age, the Ochre Trail in Rousillon is so fun for littles to go “hiking.” Just remember to wear shoes/clothes that can get stained by the clay dirt. You could also wear them in a backpack to do this as well. Either way, so lovely to get out in nature for an hour.

Farmer’s Markets

All over Provence are weekly markets to enjoy. We did a few and it was a big hit to buy fruit, olives, and pastries and snack our way through. Some of the best were Goult and Lourmarin.

Pool Time

I cannot stress the perk of having a pool when in Provence. The summers can be stifling hot so keep this in mind and a simple pool afternoon is just lovely. I’d look to find a place that has access to one.

Head to The Beach

While we did spend 2 nights in Cassis on our way out, you could easily day trip down to Cassis from Provence (one-hour drive). There are a handful of beaches in the port and the village is wonderful to visit.


Highlights of Nice Region

Beach Time in Cote d’Azur

Guide to the South of France with Toddlers
Beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer

The beaches are some of the best things to do while visiting the South of France. My favorite was the main one in Villefranche-sur-Mer, where tiny stones lead to the refreshing waters. Some other wonderful toddler-friendly beaches include Plage Paloma, the main beach in Menton, and the main beach in Nice. Keep in mind most beaches are rock or stone, so water shoes may be helpful.

Exploring the Villages

Again, lots of little great villages to explore throughout the region. Some good ones to consider are Villefranche-sur-Mer, St-Paul-de-Vence, Eze, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and Beaulieu-sur-Mer. All of these have a pedestrian area which is great with a stroller (except Eze) or walking freely.

Jardin Exotique in Eze

Not every kid is comfortable with steps, so I want to preface that the Jardin Exotique has hundreds of steps. But, we found to our surprise, that our daughter LOVED getting to go up and down the steep stairs (with our assistance) through the gardens. I’d arrive later in the afternoon closer to closing for cooler weather and fewer crowds.

A Day in Menton

One of our favorite day trips was out to Menton to enjoy the village and the beach. The town is so vibrant, there are dozens of restaurants, carousels, and lots of free space to roam.

A Day in Nice

Guide to the South of France with Toddlers

Nice had a lot to offer as the largest city on the coastline and we loved exploring. The historic city center, the main market, and the beach were lovely. We also found the most incredible park there in the Promenade du Paillon. It had lots of interactive spaces, a splash pad, and more.

A Visit to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

Another fun experience was getting to visit the villa and gardens at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. There are so many free spaces to roam, that some assistance may be required around the water wedges and stairs. Nonetheless, such a great time here. There is also a water fountain show that happens every 20 minutes or so with music and water in the main fountain area.


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Ultimate Guide to the South of France with Toddlers

PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!

These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.

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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

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Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

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Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.

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My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are:


Xx,
Jessica

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