After returning from our second road trip in one month, Conor and I are getting ready for Catalina’s second trip abroad – she’s a globetrotting babe and she won’t even remember it – but we will! This trip to Europe will be so different from the last time. When we traveled to Paris, Florence, Rome, and London back in May, Lina was just starting to crawl. Now, we have a sweet girl who loves to run and climb everywhere! (Any advice for keeping a 15 month old entertained…or sleeping…on an overnight flight?)
As we prepare for two and a half weeks in Europe, I can’t help but make lists. What can I say, they’ve become a comfort for me. I’ve definitely been reviewing my list of what to put in my carry on. That’s not to say that we won’t be traveling spontaneously, we have a lot of wiggle room when we get over there. But I also know that so much of making travel smooth is answering key questions before you leave.
AND, when traveling with a baby, there are many questions you must ask yourself before you leave.
If you take no other advice from this post, please take this: plan an extra day. You never know what will happen when you travel. It could take longer to get from one place to another, you may miss your transportation, or your baby may simply need a nap instead of a cultural sight one day. Plan ahead by planning a day with no plans. You’ll have the freedom to spend a day relaxing, and you won’t feel as though you missed out on precious vacation time.
Are you driving or flying?
If you are driving, feel free to take advantage of a trunk full of gear. Bring whatever you think you may need. Consider the best time of day to drive. Does your little nugget sleep in the car? Maybe nap time is the perfect time to hit the road. Or does your little one prefer to read and play with toys? First thing in the morning might be for you. Are you a night owl? If so, maybe you’d prefer to drive through the night while your nugget dozes sweetly in the back.
If you’re flying, give yourself plenty of time at the airport! So much can eat into your hour at the airport – emergency bathroom stops, juggling bags through security, and, let’s be honest, a coffee run. Also, keep in mind that on most airlines, you get to check a bag, even for a lap baby. Additionally, you can check (2) items such as car seats, strollers, and pack n plays for free! If you are taking an overnight flight, request a bassinet! I’ve never been lucky enough to get one, but it never hurts to ask for one of these flight changing contraptions.
Are you staying at a hotel, a rental, or with family and friends?
If you’re staying at a hotel or a rental, check out their policy for providing cribs. We have had great experiences with hotels and AirBnB’s providing cribs or pack n plays, which lightens the load significantly when flying and frees up space in your car if driving. (And hey, ask family and friends if they have access to a crib or pack n play – you never know!)
No matter where you’re staying, consider your baby’s nightly routine. Does your baby take baths at night? Do you have a special bedtime book? Do you use a sound machine? (Lina uses a sound machine and it has been a lifesaver abroad! And even in the car, for that matter.) Try to keep bedtime as normal as possible – you’ll be setting yourself up to have a well-rested travel buddy.
Are you driving or renting a car when you arrive at your destination? Bring a car seat! On most airlines, you can check a carseat for free. Or check out the rental companies policy on car seats. Many provide them for a fee.
Are you doing a lot of walking or using public transportation when you arrive? You can check a stroller for free, as well. Strollers can be cumbersome and inconvenient when trying to maneuver down busy streets, into crowded subways, or down cobblestone roads. If your baby is younger, consider bringing a carrier.
Above all, remember it is a blast to explore new places with your little one! Sure, there are stressful moments. Sure, things won’t always go smoothly (you’ll end up with mystery stains on your favorite travel pants and you may miss a connecting flight). And sure, you are bound to get overwhelmed, but these memories are SO worth it! Life will never be the same, and that is definitely a good thing!