Want to travel with a baby? If you are a parent who would love to get away–maybe you’ve dreamed of going to Europe…but you don’t have anyone to watch your child or maybe it just sounds too complicated to take a little one–here’s my advice. Don’t stay at home! Life is too short and when your kid is older, you may think of another excuse.
So I’ve put together some tips from The Great Escape Plan on how to travel Europe or any other destination with your kids even if they are under the age of five.
1. Flying with a kid– Use an airline that is kid friendly. Sure, any airline will let your little one board the plane when you’ve paid for it. But pick an airline that goes beyond expectations. We used British Airways and I must say we got more than expected. British Airways actually has cots for the little ones to sleep. You know the tray tables in front of your seat…well they actually have a baby cot that snaps into it for your child to sleep while you fly. When our baby girl woke up, she also got a Paddington Bear back-pack with crayons and an activity book. Did I mention, they actually have food for the baby. We got organic baby fruit pouches that Sophia loves. So before you purchase the flight check to see what your airline offers.
2. Sleeping– Once you arrive, where will your child sleep? We only stay at places that offer cribs or pack n plays for Sophia. The hotel website usually says if they offer one, if not… don’t be afraid to call or email them. Keeping your child comfy and out of your bed is important to everyone getting a good night sleep. You’d be surprised, but a lot of European apartment owners also offer cribs…so if you don’t want to stay at a hotel you can stay in an apartment. We like renting apartments because we can use the kitchen to make Sophia’s meals.
3. Sightseeing– Why go on a trip if you are bound to the hotel or apartment when you get there? Here’s how we carry our little one around on The Great Escape Plan. First, make sure you have a lightweight stroller. Even if you don’t have to carry your child, you don’t want to get stuck carrying a heavy stroller. We got the Babies r Us brand, which weighs only 14 pounds. The wheels are not all-terrain, however they have held up really well on the cobblestone roads of Europe. Also, the airlines will check the stroller in for free–a big reason to take it. However, if the stroller isn’t your thing and you’d rather carry your little one, I highly recommend an Ergo baby carrier. The carrier will allow you to carry your child on your back, front or even your side. Sophia is 15-months-old and still fits in the Ergo comfortably. In fact, she loves riding in it while Mommy and Daddy explore new places.
4. Diapers– What kind of diapers are used in Europe? I wasn’t sure what to expect when we left Tampa. So the cautious mommy that I am, I went out and bought a month supply of Pampers. Imagine how much room that took up in my suitcase. But I also didn’t want to get to Europe and use a generic brand I didn’t know anything about or that didn’t work for my baby. It was a big mistake because I soon realized Pampers diapers and wipes are everywhere. We even bought them in stores on the small remote islands we traveled to in Greece.
5. Restaurants– It’s often hard to go out to restaurants when you’re at home..so how will you do it traveling? I recommend a few things. Make sure your child has a comfy place to sit. Most restaurants offer high chairs in Europe and other Caribbean destinations we’ve visited, because locals usually take their kids along. However, if you find yourself at a swanky place that didn’t count on your little one being the third person in the reservation, here’s what you do. Take a portable booster seat with you. Most fold up into a compact case and have a handle to carry. We found ours while in Italy, but you can find lots of options on Amazon. First check the measurements to make sure it fits. The one we purchased–a child can start sitting in it at 12 months and will last for a few years.
6. Toys– As adults, we like to have things to do while traveling. Maybe, it’s reading our favorite magazine, book, or surfing the web on a mobile gadget. It’s a no brainer, kids also like to have something to do. We packed books and stuffed animals for Sophia and believe me she has played with them. I recommend packing the books in a carry-on piece of luggage. Airlines don’t weigh the small luggage you take on the plane and if you pack them in the luggage you check, you might end up paying for it, literally. Also, if your toys are on board the plane your child will have something do while flying. I also like to spread out Sophia’s toys on her bed when we get to a new place, because it’s something familiar for her to see.
7. Entertainment– I was one of those people who stared in dismay when I saw parents give their child a cell phone or iPad…until I became one. Maybe you don’t let your child watch a lot of TV, but bringing an iPad, cellphone or even portable DVD player is a good idea…believe me! We downloaded several episodes of Sophia’s favorite cartoon “Sid the Science Kid” and the $15 to buy them have saved us so many times. For example, if your kid finishes their meal first at the restaurant and decides it’s time to leave the high chair or booster, that’s when it’s time to watch the movie so mommy and daddy can eat. Just make sure you turn the volume on low so others around you won’t be disrupted. Sophia thinks twice about running around when she is entertained and sometimes we even get to squeeze in dessert.
8. Car seat– Just before we left for The Great Escape Plan, I went out and bought a very nice baby car seat for Sophia to use. Then we showed up at the airport and realized it was just too heavy to carry with all our luggage and we left it behind. Here’s the downside. Most taxis do not have car seats. If you don’t feel comfortable without your child being restrained like me, then it’s a problem. Here’s the upside, car rental places have them. We have rented a car along our journey and I also feel better about my driving than a stranger who is passing cars in non passing lanes and speeding like a maniac. Here’s another option. If you don’t have a lot to carry and want to take the car seat, most of the airlines usually allow them to fly for free. Just make sure to get a cover for it or it could get ruined in the cargo of the plane. They sell the covers at most baby stores.
9. Food– What will you feed your child while traveling? This was a big concern for me because at home we were making our own organic food for Sophia. If you are a parent who wants to make sure your kid isn’t ordering chicken nuggets and fries every time you sit down at a restaurant, here’s some advice. One of the first things we do when we arrive to a new destination is find a grocery store. I can’t begin to tell you how important it is. We buy breakfast items such as yogurt, which always fit in the small refrigerator in hotels and if we are in an apartment we buy eggs to cook. Also on the list is bread and sandwich meat. This is great for packing lunch for the day. If your child isn’t big enough to eat a sandwich, you can definitely find baby food at any supermarket. If we are eating dinner out, I try to find a restaurant with good healthy options. Do they have a side order of vegetables that you can get to go along with their meal?
10. Money– This can be the biggest factor of all when you choose to take your kids along. If you have a child under the age of two, then your money will go a little further when it comes to expenses. Thankfully, children under two who can sit on your lap, fly free domestically, and fly for a small fee internationally. It’s usually 10 percent of what you pay for your ticket. So if your ticket is $800, expect to pay about 80 bucks for your child for the taxes and fees. Most buses and public transportation also allow small children to board without buying a ticket. Also, when it comes to sightseeing, most places like museums also allow children under two in free. If your child is older than two, unfortunately you will probably have to pay for their ticket. I would recommend asking parents and grandparents to give money instead of gifts for their birthday or Christmas. Maybe, your child can also put together a fund raising piggy bank. Who will resist if they know they can help a child travel somewhere new.
Anyway, here are 10 reasons I say you shouldn’t stay home…strictly based on my travel experience with a 15-month-old who we’ve now taken to four countries in less than four months. I hope they will help you make memories that will last forever.