In June 2017 we took a two week trip to France and Greece with our 6 month old baby boy. Before leaving on the trip we gleaned advice about traveling with babies from friends and from other bloggers in order to be as prepared as possible. Now, after completing several trips with our baby, we learned quite a bit about traveling as a family. We love passing along the knowledge we have gleaned – we hope you glean some knowledge from us and plan and amazing trip with your family!
Choose the Right Destination
We consider several things when we decide where to bring Coen. The first consideration we take is his health – he is not able to be fully vaccinated until he is one so at this time we are refraining from certain areas of the world until he is vaccinated.
The second thing we consider is our ‘must-see’ list and whether or not it is attainable with a baby. For instance, we knew that much of our trip to the Greek Isles would be spent relaxing by the beach and exploring little towns and if we did nothing else we knew we would still be so happy. In contrast, we wouldn’t have chosen a place like Morocco simply because the activities we would have to do (camel rides, desert visits, etc) would have probably been to much with a small baby and would have left us disappointed at the end of our trip. Choose a place where a more relaxed pace sounds lovely instead of disappointing!
When we talked to more experienced friends about travel with a baby, the general consensus seemed to be that we should begin the trip with a flexible mindset and have very low expectations as far as fitting in a lot of activities into our travel days.We thought of the trip as less of a list of tourist attractions to cross off and more of a sit back and enjoy a new city and culture – this mindset worked really well for us!
I would start by making a list of things that are ‘must-sees’ for you in whatever city you are traveling to and assign one per day. Then make a list of of ‘would-be-nice-to-sees’ and if baby takes a successful stroller nap or is exceptionally happy that day – add it to the schedule! This way seeing more than one thing per day is a nice surprise rather than an unmet expectation.
Pick the Right Place to Stay
Almost every night on our trip was spent in an AirBnb (and almost all of them had cribs available!!). In order to make time in our schedule for good naps, we tried to only eat out once or twice a day, so having a kitchen available was a life saver -especially with older babies! We also tried to choose places with great views and balconies in order to still feel like we weren’t missing anything when we had to dine in while the baby was sleeping! We loved opening a bottle of wine after putting the baby down for the night and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Read reviews of places before you book – some of them even advertise themselves as kid-friendly and offer cribs and baby gear! If possible, choose a central location – being able to walk to some of your favorite attractions is amazing! I would also recommend looking around the area via google maps to see if they have stores in walking distance – we ran out to get diapers at shops down the street in Europe on more than one occasion! Learn from our mistake and also check out the terrain – pushing strollers up a huge hill and tons of steps to get to our house in Greece was not ideal! Having a baby-friendly place to stay in a central location with great views made our trip!
Think Through Transportation
Getting around a new city with a baby is many people’s largest barrier to traveling as a family – it’s not that bad! We promise! It just takes some extra planning. We brought Coen’s car seat with us (it checks for free!) so that we could take taxis when needed, but hiring a car was usually our last resort because taking a taxi meant carrying around our car seat all day!
Public transportation in Europe is incredible so we took advantage of that whenever possible – it was so wonderful to load Coen in his stroller at our apartment, let him fall asleep on the walk to the metro and then enjoy our train ride around the city. Google maps in an incredible tool to help you plan your routes around new cities via walking, train and bus. Just think of your travel time as part of the adventure – or nap time if your little one naps well in a stroller!
It can be difficult to balance the need to pack lightly and the need to bring all of your essentials! I would recommend bringing along a small stash of medicine (Coen ended up getting a cold/fever on our trip so we were so happy we had some medicine and our Nose Frieda with us!) I wish I would have brought more medicine for the adults on the trip because we had to try to navigate foreign languages to buy me some when I got a cold as well! You know your baby and their specific needs best – if you are second guessing whether or not to bring something, I’d just err on the side of caution and bring it along!
Engage with People Around You
Navigating social interactions with others in public with a baby can be difficult in your own city, so the idea of doing it in another culture and language can be intimidating. My advice is to engage others. Other moms helped me figure out the elevators on the Paris metro via hand signals and my high-school French. Shopkeepers in Greece held my baby for a few minutes when he was fussy during dinner. Some women helped us play peek-a-boo to entertain the baby on the metro. Sure, you will come across the occasional eye roll or comment, but in general people all over the world love babies. They are a fast-pass into cultural interactions and meaningful conversation.
We have never had so many genuine interactions with other people when traveling then when we’ve had Coen along. It’s incredible to already have something in common with people all over the world – there are parents in every culture – and they all love to talk about their kids!
Jet lag with a baby is not my favorite part of international travel, but it isn’t bad enough to keep us from traveling! Coen woke up in the middle of the night laughing and ready to play the first few nights (not fun for mom and dad) but he gradually adjusted. He was probably less fazed by the time change then we were, and he napped so much during the day! He is a great stroller-snoozer (thank you city-living!) so he caught a lot of naps on the go.
We also brought our own crib sheets and his white noise machine with us so he had a little bit of home wherever we stayed. On days when we felt exhausted by the jet lag we put him down for naps at our apartments and took naps too! Coen napped all over the place while we were traveling – one of the more humorous places was on the bench at a restaurant in Santorini (pictured below). I will be honest, we did not get a ton of sleep while traveling, but it was absolutely worth it!
Travel with Others
I know this isn’t always an option, but when possible, travel with friends and family! It’s wonderful to have extra hands to help with the baby and you might even get to sneak away for a date or two! While we were in Greece we were fortunate to travel with our friends who also have a baby, so it made traveling at ‘baby pace’ even more fun!
Unfortunately, your babies will not remember the epic trips you took with them. That is why it is especially important to take photos! It will be so fun to look back one day, share the photos and tell them all about the adventures you went on. If getting great photos on a trip sounds stressful to you, hire a photographer! We did a session with a professional photographer in Paris and it was such a fun morning on our trip. We see photos as family heirlooms and the best souvenirs money can by. You can use Flytographer to find a photographer in just about any city in the world. If a photographer is out of your budget, we also cherish every iphone image and video we took. Please make sure to document your trip. You won’t regret it!
Laugh at Yourselves
There will inevitably be moments on the trip where things go off-script. The baby will melt down in a quiet museum, there will be a diaper situation on a crowded train, or you will run out of clean footie pajamas. That said, the most important thing you must take when traveling with a baby is a sense of humor. Be ready to laugh at yourselves and the ridiculous endeavor you have embarked on – traveling with a baby! These moments can either become the things that ruin a trip – or the best stories to tell later! It’s really your choice.
Have I convinced you to take the leap and travel with your babies? Have more questions? I plan on making this a series, so send them my way!
PS – Several of the photos were taken by our dear friend and travel companion, Jake Rutherford, who is also an incredible photographer. Thanks Jake! It’s so nice to have photos with all three of us in them!