Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lessons Learned, the finalé

So, we’ve just returned from a 6+ week house swap in another country with a 3-year-old. What have we learned? Here is yet another rambling, in no particular order, stream of consciousness post that I hope will prove helpful to someone, somewhere.

Note: where possible, I’ve included links to businesses I mention (this will only be useful if you’re going to Paris or Rouen).

Try to swap with a family with other children. Our time was made much, much easier because the house we stayed in was stocked with games, books, puzzles, etc., and it didn’t matter that these things were in another language.

If it matters to you, make sure there’s a tub that works. It never occurred to me that that might be an issue, and it sure would have been easier for lots of reasons if a warm bath had been an option.

Double-check contact information given to you by you fellow swappers before you actually need to use it.

If you are someone used to having good, efficient equipment in the kitchen, be prepared to invest a little money when you get there to make your time easier. Purchasing some sharp knives and a decent peeler reduced the amount of swearing in our kitchen by at least 50%.

When doing laundry without a drier, skip the step of hanging everything outside in the cold for 2 days before you drape it over the radiators (see previous post here). Go directly to the radiators

Don’t assume that just because you’re a social butterfly yourself, there will be plenty of people to socialize with. Our time would have been even more fun if we’d been involved in something that got us more connected with others in our community. Or, bring friends, especially for your child if (s)he is an only.

If you have a good stroller and a stroller-aged child, bring them both! The sidewalks and roads can be much like off-roading, and the little, loaner umbrella stroller we had was useless. Or, if bringing one isn’t an option, find out where you can rent one once you arrive. Our rental, from Chez Florence, ran us about $100 for our entire trip and was almost as good as having our Bugaboo (actually better in some ways because it had a tray and a boot, plus a much larger basket which helped with grocery shopping).

Bring a nice, roomy tote with you for carrying your purchases. Most of the stores we shopped in charged for bags (as it should be, I might add). Since you’ll likely find yourself shopping for groceries, etc. almost daily, make it a bag you like (shameless plug: soon you can hop on over to my Etsy store and purchase a perfect one made by yours truly. So chic, so convenient!).

Books in english can be very expensive in other countries. Try to find a small shop and exchange those you brought for your next read. Even if they’re not a resale shop, they just might do it (ours did — and they gave our used books to the local hospital).

I’m sure there will be much more that I think of over time, but for now that’s all my jet-lagged brain can recall. Feel free to ask specific questions if you’ve got any.

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