After traveling with our baby for a month, I wanted to write a quick little note about what I learned. By quick, I totally mean the most long winded post I’ve done so far.
First of all, don’t expect the trip to be perfect. We should first remember that, even without a baby, travel can be stressful. If you know me, you've likely heard the story of my honeymoon. Our flight was delayed which made our entire trip a series of weird transportation, late night 60 Euro taxi rides, and way too many days of sleeping until 4 pm. And we only had a five day honeymoon because Ben didn’t have very much vacation built up yet. So, knowing that trips can go completely wrong, the first mistake you can make is thinking traveling with a baby will go differently. Once you accept that anything can happen, that Murphy’s law is the only constant, you can rest easy.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some things I learned on my month long excursion through Europe with my 9 going on 10 month old.
Not every night will be a good night to go out to eat. And for that matter, not every place is a good place to eat out with a baby. I also want to say that you should figure out liquor laws before trying to eat out. In Scotland, we couldn’t go to dinner after 8 pm which was a problem because we stayed out late every night catching the last pink hues of the sun setting over Edinburgh. Their liquor laws require restaurants that serve alcohol to refuse entrance to children under the age of 12 after 8 pm and under 16 at 9 pm. We only found this out after being refused by he hotel restaurant two nights in a row with no real explanation and finally being told by the extremely nice owner of a Lebanese restaurant we ended up getting take away from. In England and Ireland, nobody actually told us not to take Sofie out late, but our room service menu asked that kids be at dinner before 6:30 PM. If you choose to take your baby out later be prepared for some hard stares from other guests or at least… that was our experience.
We never saw babies out at restaurants in Paris. Maybe we weren’t looking hard enough? But we ended up ordering in every night. Sofie also needed to stretch her legs after long days of stroller bound site seeing, so it was better that she could run around the room. I say run. It was more like crawl. We had the best luck out at dinner in Nice. There were lots of kids everywhere, and somehow, Sofie was content hanging out in her stroller, eating pizza, prawns, and gnocci.
To bring a stroller or not?
A Philosophical question. But not really. I won’t lie to you (said in my best Nessa Jenkins voice), there are pros and cons. For this portion of my post, I am going to use bullet points in a pros and cons type of list as I find it wildly appropriate.
Pro: You can have a fairly versatile seat for a baby. I used ours as a:
1) Stroller. Obviously
2) Changing table
3) On the go crib for naps
4) A highchair when there wasn’t one… even in our hotel room or AirBnb
Con: Stairs. Need I say more? But if your stroller is light weight, it’s not awful to carry up and down stairs. I say this knowing that I was not the one carrying said stroller with said baby up and down stairs all over Monaco. Thanks, Ben!
Pro: Useful for storage of snacks, change of clothes for the baby, water, the actual baby when she gets heavy and unruly, souvenirs, film, camera(s), jackets, umbrellas… the list is growing even still.
Con: Cobblestone. Again. Need I say more?
We got a Silver Cross Jet just before leaving for Dublin off of a recommendation from another photographer I follow on Instagram, and it was a magnificent investment.
I really don’t know what to say here except not to expect any sort of normalcy with sleep. Sofie slept all over the place and refused to sleep in the places we expected her to sleep, she would take 3 hour long naps in the car or in her stroller, but refused to sleep in the cot at night. She would sleep in the cot in some hotels, and then cry in the car instead. She would sleep on us, but not alone or sleep alone but not on us. At some point, we just went with it. I really think that if we’d have tried to hold onto a schedule, we would have been miserable. Instead, we decided to go with Sofie’s flow, and enjoy vacation. And on that note, jet lag coming back was insanely harder than usual. But it was so fun. I’ve never had so much fun waking up randomly at 3:30 in the morning. We would fall asleep super early, wake up, watch some fun shows or a goofy movie until we fell back asleep, cuddle the Softser and go back to bed until 5:30 or 6 am. We got up then and would go for family walks before the sunrise, we were super productive and exhausted. I loved it.
Here are some actual tips about sleep though.
1) Unless you want to co-sleep (which we did end up co-sleeping sometimes anyways), make sure that the hotels or rentals you stay in have a cot.
2) There might be some nights that you just have to let baby cry it out just a little.
3) there might be some nights where you just give in and let her sleep with you because you’re worried that the walls are thin, and the other guests are getting annoyed, and what if the hotel kicks you out? But yeah.
4) Be patient. It’s a new place for baby, and they might not feel comfortable with new smells, sounds, sights.
Things I’m glad we did besides buy the stroller:
1) We bought fruit and baby protein bars whenever we’d get to a new city so Sofie could snack on something healthy.
2) We packed a small amount of diapers and then bought some when we got to Ireland or whatever new city. It saved so much space and weight!
3) Found places to do laundry!
4) Had an international phone plan. Ben got a phone with Google Fi so it was amazing having maps and the ability to keep in contact with people we were meeting up with.
5) Took Sofie’s car seat. You can rent car seats with rental cars, but having something that was familiar to Sofie was worth the hassle of carrying it around when we weren’t using it.
6) Packed for all kinds of weather. We had this idea that, traveling in October, we’d be dealing with cold weather and only a little warm for the four days we were in Nice. Turns out, we were basically following a warm front around from Bath all the way through Switzerland. So when we got to Paris, it was probably 80 degrees. No Joke. And it didn’t really cool down for us until we backtracked to Amsterdam where it was in the 40s. Luckily we had clothes we could layer or not layer.
So, are you still with me after this extremely long, longer than my normal posts, post?
I hope it’s helpful to someone. I can honestly say, without a doubt, that this was a beautiful experience. Seeing the way Sofie experienced the different cultures, colors, sounds, and smells of the different places we went, seeing her interact with so many different people with her little outgoing personality (that was before she got shy and realized that some people are strangers) was more heartwarming than I could have imagined. I love getting away with my family, love being in beautiful places and knowing that Sofie is going to have the travel bug. Or maybe she won’t, but at least I will know that she got a taste of the world beyond Washington.
I loved how the hotels would leave little shampoos for Sofie, and the hotel in Dublin even put a baby robe and slippers in the room for her. I might have died over the excessive amount of cuteness.
If anyone ever asks me if I’d travel with my babe again, I’d say 100% yes. I mean I traveled with her literally 2 1/2 weeks after getting back from Europe. And yes, to my parents house, and yes the flight is shorter, and… okay I’m getting sidetracked. The point is, I still had to fly with her, and even though she’s becoming a wiggly, independent, babbling Sofaloaf, it’s still the best thing to fly with my baby girl. So yes. One hundred Million Thousand gazillion times yes. I’d take her back to Europe. I’d take her back right now If I could. This was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. And if anyone asks… yes I’d recommend it. Traveling with your baby is like a babymoon, but for after pregnancy, where you get to bond with your family on a level that you don’t get at home.