Traveling Abroad with Your Baby.
So much planning. So much research. SO MUCH PREP. I worked hard to get the three of us to Europe (Madrid and Rome, Parts 1, 2, & 3) in one piece, with the necessary gear, and no more! I did some things really well. I did some things terribly. Some things just worked themselves out easily and some things were completely unexpected. In other words, it was a typical trip with a baby. I learned along the way and I wanted to share a few things we did that proved to be super helpful!
1. Purchased and packed our own Travel Crib.
I purchased this BABYBJORN Travel Crib for Everett to sleep in while we were abroad. Traveling with our Pack'n'play seemed kind of like a nightmare (too heavy/bulky, especially with all the other luggage and stroller), and this travel crib had the best reviews for the price. I like that it only weighs 13 lbs, can fit in a large suitcase, and was something that he was comfortable in no matter where he was sleeping. Since we opted for staying in Airbnb's instead of hotels (more on that below), there wasn't a guarantee that a decent crib would be provided in each location. I bought this a few weeks prior to our trip and started napping him during the day time in this crib, in his bedroom. I really think this helped him feel more comfortable in it once we were in the unfamiliar locations. And it's proved to be an awesome purchase! Ridiculously easy to set up and use, and I just used one of my regular crib sheets instead of purchasing the one they recommend for the crib. I know that we will use this for years to come! In fact, at the time of writing this, my son is napping in this crib in a condo in Florida. Soundly sleeping, I shall add. :)
2. Chose to stay in an Airbnb flat instead of a hotel.
It was important to me that we stay in an Airbnb apartment, especially after traveling with Everett a good bit, and realizing that his naps are what makes the world go round on vacation! When the three of us are all sharing one hotel room, sleeping can be difficult. And since the baby goes down at night around 7pm, usually Stevie and I have to whisper the rest of the night and, you know, not watch TV. I wanted to have a bit more space and the ability to put the baby down for the evening, and then at least share a glass of wine and talk about our day together. We chose to stay in apartments during our trek throughout Madrid and Rome (and during our mega Eurotrip a few years ago!) and it proved to be the best choice for our family. Bonus if you stay in a place with a balcony! We have previously used Airbnb in Spain, Italy, Germany and France, and almost all our experiences have been extremely positive. The site has an accountability system built into it, so we have an incentive to be good tenants while the landlords have incentives to be fair, honest, and quick to respond to any request. I would recommend it to anyone!
3. Went with a Travel Highchair situation.
I went back and forth on this one, especially after doing a good bit of research and learning that Madrid and Rome, in particular, aren't very child-friendly in restaurants. Meaning, they probably wouldn't ever have high chairs available. Since I knew we would be eating out for most meals (hello! You don't go to Italy to cook!), so I knew we would need something we could take with us from place to place. I purchased a few different travel solutions on Amazon, test drove them prior to the trip, and finally landed on BRICA Fold N' Go Travel Booster Seat. It worked out beautifully! It hooks on to almost any kind of chair, and it was a sturdy option where there wasn't a high chair available. It also folds up so it's super easy and light to travel with. We threw it in the bottom of our stroller and used it when we needed to, though we ended up using it mostly in the Airbnb. When we ate out and about, we purposely chose outdoor restaurants whenever possible, that way we could just scoot the stroller up to the table and he could join us for the meal that way.
4. Brought our Stroller and Baby Carrier.
We decided to bring both our UPPAbaby Vista Stroller and ERGObaby Carrier for the trip, and boy, I am glad we did. Being able to wear the baby in the carrier (on the plane and out and about) was so SO helpful, especially when he was fussy and just wanted to be close to us. But if we had worn him the entire trip, that would have been a challenge. He weighs 20 lbs! So taking our stroller out with us was a GODSEND - he napped in it everyday while we were on the go and we could load it down with our gear for the day. Snacks, sunscreen, light jacket, water bottles, the works! So yes, we were like a traveling bus, but let's be real - that's just life with a baby. We travel heavier these days, but we still travel!
5. Packed in Cubes.
I won't claim to be a packing expert. I've gotten pretty good at packing for myself and Stevie, because I use these eBags Packing Cubes. They make a world of difference by limiting the amount that you need to bring but also making it possible to bring a lot in a compact way. I can seriously pack for a week-long vacation in a book bag by using these. And I previously traveled all over Europe for a month using just these cubes. They are a lifesaver. BUT. I am still an over-packer when it comes to baby gear. I don't want to find myself without something that could buy my son twenty minutes of happiness, so I tend to include everything and the kitchen sink just to ensure his comfort (and therefore, our comfort). However, this leads to lots and lots of stuff. I mean, just look at what I've listed above! And add in clothes, extra clothes, baby food, toys, books, TEETHING GEAR, and goodness, that's not even the half of it. I think I need to invest in another set of packing cubes just for this little guy...
6. Added in a Timing Buffer.
It was really helpful to budget extra travel time for everything under the sun. We gave ourselves an unscheduled day in each location just to adjust to the new time zone and nap off the jetlag. It might seems strange to do that on your first day in a new country, but it actually helped the rest of the trip to be completely enjoyable. Naps! We took them too! And it was absolutely wonderful.
7. Knew the Airlines' Policies.
This is one that still makes my blood boil. We called our airline (who shall remain nameless because I don't like to badmouth) multiple times in advance of our flights, to ensure that we reserved the baby bassinet for such a long trip. We were reassured each time that yes, of course, you have the baby bassinet. When we arrived at the airport gate, we were told that they had given the bassinet seats away to another family. The gate agent verified that we had put in the first request, but none of that mattered, despite what the customer service assistant had assured us on the phone. Whoever gets to the gate first and asks to be placed in the seats compatible with a bassinet will get them. So we did a lot of pre-planning for nothing. I think it's a crappy policy, but now I know better. RACE THROUGH THE AIRPORT. BUMP ALL THE OTHER MOTHERS OUT OF LINE. GET TO THE GATE FIRST AND YOU GET YOURS. Or, you know, whatever the classier version of that scenario might be. Do that.
8. Adjusted Our Expectations.
After several domestic trips to family's homes and weekend getaway spots, we realized that this Eurotrip was going to look nothing like our last one. Gone were the days of getting up early and staying out late, drinking in every tour, museum, and site (along with the wine!) We purposely went at a very slow pace. But you know what? We still did everything we wanted to do. This trip was SO MUCH FUN. Exploring these cities with Everett along for the ride gave us more insight into the richness of life with a baby. Having the the "attitude is everything!"-approach really made the difference. We had such an awesome trip and I am already planning our next overseas extravaganza! I'm feeling a UK/Scotland/Ireland excursion. However, my husband shushes me whenever I mention it. Too soon? I guess it's too soon.
I think I covered everything! Hope these help! Leave me a message in the comments section if you have any questions or travel tips to add to this list!