Last month my husband, Beck, and I took a trip to Europe. The main reason Beck came was because my parents are temporarily living in France and haven’t seen him since he was a newborn, so we wanted to allow them the joy of seeing their grandson. Honestly, I’m not sure we would have otherwise. Not that the trip wasn’t amazing, but having a toddler with you definitely doesn’t lend itself to a relaxing time.
That being said, if you’re in the scenario where you will be traveling with a toddler (I don’t want to discourage it) — here are some helpful things I learned along the way.
Rent an Apartment
Hotel rooms are small and overpriced. With an apartment you usually get at least two separate rooms (a bedroom and living space) so you can sleep apart from the toddler and there’s a kitchen so you can keep the milk cold in the fridge. We booked all the places we stayed through Airbnb and made sure they came with a crib too.
Allow Yourself Plenty of Time
Hiccups will occur. Tantrums will happen. Inconvenient naps will be taken. Plan extra time for each activity and be flexible for stroller and nap breaks if needed. I highly suggest planning a few down days in the middle of the trip as well. You’ll all enjoy it better.
Reserve an Airplane Row with Bassinet
We called ahead of time to reserve a row with a bassinet, assuming Beck would actually sleep in it. Although he didn’t, the row is at the front so there is a lot more feet space to spread out and for playing. We were lucky not to have a row mate too.
Always Be Equipped with a Snack
Because it doesn’t matter whether you’re at an ancient castle or not, when your toddler is hungry they’ll want a snack. We brought stuff Beck was familiar with from home and bought a few things at a grocery store in France as well.
Reserve a Compartment on the Train
We didn’t realize how squirmy and ornery Beck would get on the trains and didn’t reserve a compartment ahead of time. Let’s just say the other passengers didn’t appreciate the crying too much. Luckily we found an empty compartment where he was free to scoot around and be loud. Life saver.
Bring a Reliable Stroller and Backpack
We have a great all-terrain stroller but didn’t want to bring it due to the size. So beforehand we purchased a well reviewed, Maclaren umbrella stroller. It was worth the price, completely reliable on the uneven terrain and it stowed away perfectly. You’ll also want to bring a backpack for the areas that aren’t stroller friendly, like the Colosseum for example.
Scout Out Child Friendly Areas Ahead of Time
I think I went into this trip with the wrong attitude which was, “This is an adult vacation, Beck is just our travel buddy.” I focused on what we wanted to do and then found that we didn’t know where child friendly areas were nearby. And that’s a problem when your kid wants to scoot around the plaza in front of the Louvre. Joy Cho just took a trip to Paris and had a much better attitude about the trip being family friendly and shared her great tips right here. I wish I would have known about the trampoline area in the park!
High Chairs & Meal Time
We found that most restaurants (Paris and Rome especially) didn’t open until 7:00 or later for dinner and that they weren’t equipped with high chairs. When they did have high chairs, they didn’t have safety straps so Beck would just want to climb out. We tried to feed him in the stroller but he was so tired of it at this point that meal times were difficult. My tip would be to bring with you a compact portable seat that connects to the edge of a table and to change your eating schedule so the late meal time works better.