Thinking of traveling to Europe with a baby? I’m here to tell you that it absolutely can be done and can be an amazing experience as well! When my daughter Emilia was 11 months old, we decided to take her with us to explore France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Today I’m sharing all about our experience traveling to Europe with a baby along with my tips to make your trip a success.
Traveling with a baby can seem intimidating but by 11 months our daughter had already traveled by plane twice – once at 6 weeks to Vancouver, Canada and once at 6 months to Phoenix, Arizona. Both plane rides were overall pretty successful. So we thought a trip to Europe would be an achievable next step. At 11 months old, Emilia had only taken a few steps on her own and had to either crawl or hold our hand to get around. I’ve heard plane rides get progressively harder once babies can walk but start to get easier again once they begin talking. In general, I would say planning a trip when your baby is between 6-12 months is a great age to travel overseas for the first time.
Dealing with Jetlag with a Baby
I honestly never considered just how bad jet lag with a baby would be. My daughter is a great sleeper at home and is extremely consistent with her bedtime. Sure, I figured the first night would be a little rough and she might wake up a few times but I was not prepared for the nightmare ahead of us. Every night she went to bed at her usual bedtime but then would only sleep about an hour before proceeding to remain awake for the ENTIRE rest of the night.
Now if we were at home, we might have let her cry for a few minutes and she probably would have fallen right back asleep. But since we were in a hotel we were extremely conscious of waking other guests up when she cried. So we became stuck in an endless cycle of putting her down, her crying, us instantly going to grab her and then her wanting to have play time again. This went on for 5 nights of no sleep for neither my husband or myself. Finally on the 6th night of our vacation, she slept through the night.
My recommendations for dealing with jet lagged babies? Try to book a quiet home with no neighbours so you don’t have to worry about 3am meltdowns waking other guests. If you are visiting multiple cities on your trip, start with a city that has less things to do so you don’t have to worry about sticking to a tight schedule in order to see everything you want to visit. Lastly, consider slowly moving over to the new time zone before your trip by bumping your baby’s bedtime an hour each night to the new timezone.
Take advantage of city parks
Paris is actually a great city for traveling with an infant because there are so many beautiful parks scattered throughout out the city. Because Emilia was not yet walking we needed to find safe places to let her crawl around and stretch her legs. Parks were a great place to do that and every few hours, we threw down a blanket in a park and let her explore a little. When traveling Europe with a little one, I highly recommend choosing cities with lots of public green spaces to let your little one stretch their legs.
How to get around Europe with a Baby
For the sake of traveling light, we decided to leave our daughter’s carseat behind. While this meant we had one less thing to carry, it also meant our only option for getting around the city safely was by public transportation. Luckily, having traveled to Paris before, we were already very familiar with the subway system. Navigating the subways system with a stroller however was no joke. While there were quite a few stops that had accessible entry, but most did not. In order to fit through some of the turnstiles we either had to remove the back wheels of our stroller to fit through the entry or lift the stroller above our heads as we went through the turnstiles one at a time. Our go-to stroller at home is the UppaBaby Vista but we decided to purchase the Mountain Buggy Nano for our trip as second travel stroller. If traveling in Europe, I highly recommend a smaller stroller like the Nano. There is no way we would have been able to navigate the subway system or narrow walkways with our large UppaBaby.
Our Worst Moment Traveling with a Baby
On one of our final nights in Paris, we decided to take the subway to the Eiffel tower to watch the lights sparkle at night. Unfortunately, there ended up being some major delays with stations being closed for security reasons and we only caught the last few seconds of the light show on the tower. Since we had already traveled all the way to the 7th arrondissement we decided to go for a walk before heading back to our hotel. As we were walking a woman started speaking to me in french. I didn’t understand much of what she said until I heard her say “lait au bebe” as she pointed to my back. Suddenly I realized what was going on. I pulled my backpack off and realized an entire bottle of formula had leaked into my backpack filled with camera gear and was dripping down the back of my cashmere coat.
Why am I sharing this story? Well, when traveling with a baby things are bound to happen. You might miss seeing a sight because your baby needs a nap or your baby might pee through her diaper while you are purse shopping in a Chanel store (yes, this also happened to me in Paris). The point is that traveling with a baby is nothing like traveling as couple or traveling solo. It is much more difficult but also so much more rewarding. I love that I’ll be able to show my daughter photos of us in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral as she listened to the bells ring for the last time before it went up in flames that afternoon. Those special memories made together while traveling with your baby are the reason you aught to give traveling with your baby a chance!