Traveling to Europe with a baby: best idea ever or terrible life choice? This post is about my month long adventure with a 7 month old in Europe. The good, the bad and the diaper blowouts.
My husband was lucky enough to get a substantial amount of paternity leave so we decided even before our son was born that we would spend one of those months in Europe. It felt like a now or never scenario as we might never get this chance again. So we decided to take our 7 month old on a Central European adventure.
International travel with a baby is no small feat. Was it worth it? My answer after a few weeks of recovery is yes, but oh man was it hard at times. I’ve composed a list below of everything I learned through this process with the hope that it will inspire you to take your own European adventure with baby in tow.
- Select your travel time with care – If you only have enough PTO for a week in Europe do not, I repeat, do not take your baby with you. Consider the fact that it takes your baby a day to recover from each hour of time difference. We spent our trip in Prague, Vienna and Budapest, which was a 6 hour time difference from US Eastern Time, so 6 days. Now imagine flying back to the US on the 7th day and spending another 6 days adjusting them back. Sounds like an elaborate form of torture right? In my opinion, anything less than 2 weeks for a trip to Europe with a baby is a no go. On the other hand, don’t go for too long. We ended up feeling like 4 weeks was far too much time as we were all exhausted and would have been fine heading home at the 2 week mark.
- Pack strategically – Packing well is key for these trips. I’m the OCD mom who created a Google spreadsheet packing list to check off. I’d highly recommend doing this as otherwise you are going to forget key items. For all my careful planning, I found that we still ended up over packing. However, we were not missing anything which I felt was a win. Be smart about what you choose to bring. Don’t bring items you will easily be able to buy there. We had no issues finding diapers, wipes, baby food and nursing pads on our trip. If your baby is formula fed, we saw plenty of options for this as well. This baby travel tub and clip on stroller fan were especially useful.
- Don’t take an infant car seat – With careful planning ahead of time, we had no need of this. We either booked trains or shuttle services that provide infant car seats. Keep in mind, Europeans are very laissez-faire about the whole car seat thing. For instance, I booked CK Shuttles from Vienna to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic and reserved an infant seat. The driver then proceeded to inform us that he’d given our car seat to another driver. Couldn’t we just hold the baby for the 4 hour drive? We ended up doing it, but regretted it for both the safety issues and fact that our baby then would not sleep the entire ride. My advice is to check and double check with the shuttle service you’ve booked that they are actually going to provide a car seat.
- Don’t take a Pack n Play – Instead book Air BNBs or hotels that provide infant cribs. We had great luck with this the entire trip, except when we had to book a hotel on the fly. In this instance there were no cribs available, but they sent up a ginormous laundry hamper instead for our baby to sleep in. Sounds really weird, but it worked exactly the same as a crib and our little bug slept great.
- Do take a good quality travel stroller such as this one – Europe is all about the beautiful cobblestone streets and your stroller is going to take a beating. Buy an umbrella stroller but make sure it’s a good quality one or it will get destroyed. We loved our Summer Infant 3D Lite stroller. It’s reasonably priced at under $80 and the recline feature was key to allowing our son to nap on the go.
- If traveling by train, try to book Business Class – I’m not suggesting this to be snobbish. In fact, you can get really good deals on business class tickets if you book far enough in advance. The reason I recommend business class, is that your baby travels free, but gets an assigned seat. There are typically only 6 seats in each cabin on European trains and we ended up being by ourselves every single time. Each cabin has a door and privacy curtain. We could block out noise for naps and I could breastfeed without prying eyes. It really was worth the extra money to us. However, if you’re on a budget, you’ll get by fine in second class. Just make sure you pay the extra money to reserve a seat or you could be standing the entire train ride. No bueno with a wiggly baby.
- Pack waaaaay more diapers than you think you need for the day – Also pack several clothing changes for both the baby and you. We had several travel days where our son had multiple massive blowouts all over the stroller, all over my shirt, etc. Better to have more than you need than not enough.
- Get over your fear of taking a stroller on escalators – When in Europe, act as the Europeans do and learn how to place your stroller on escalators. I know, I know, it’s not allowed in the US. However, you need to get over it because there are no elevators. Plus you don’t want to keep hauling the stroller with baby up long flights of stairs out of the metro stations. There are a lot of stairs in Europe. It sucks.
- Adjust your expectations of sightseeing – You will not be able to see every single thing you want to. I realize before baby you could do anything and everything you wanted on your trips. Unfortunately, unless you like to punish yourself, this is no longer a good idea. Baby will need naps, down time, feeding, etc. There are only so many viable hours in a day so adjust accordingly.
- Bring a picnic blanket – We brought our favorite picnic blanket and were so glad we did. Europe has a plethora of parks and with a blanket you have a beautiful spot to let baby get out of the stroller and wiggle. Our baby got to practice his crawling and we got to relax, drink some wine and enjoy the lovely scenery.
So there you have it. My tips and tricks for traveling to Europe with an infant. I hope you find this post helpful and please comment below with your own experiences traveling abroad with a baby!
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