Taylor and I had the crazy notion to take our 11 month old to Europe, specifically Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. We did it (in the heat wave) and just got back from an 11 day adventure. Was it as exhausting as predicted? Yes. And every minute was worth it.
We have always enjoyed the experience of traveling to new places together, and we were overdue for a trip between my pregnancy and learning how to navigate life as parents. But to go on a romantic getaway, just the two of us?? Nah, we couldn’t fathom being apart from Bennett more than a couple of days! With bringing him along we figured it would get us out of our comfort zone to conquer more trips in the future! And boy did it. We’re already thinking of where to go next.
Typically the Type A planner and to-do list fanatic, I went into the trip with minimal plans, no expectations, and the frank assumption that we will be at a much slower pace with sightseeing and doing things on the fly. I was able to research some tips online but honestly could not find many helpful hints about bringing a baby. Here are some of my personal recommendations if you want to bring your little one along to become a world traveler!
Book Airbnb places with a crib/pack ‘n’ play and a highchair. I was surprised to find so many great options with both of these. Also book places with a washing machine to pack the least amount of outfits and of course a refrigerator for leftovers, foods that baby may typically have, and to keep a teether cold if need be. We did laundry one time at each place we stayed, which saved us a lot of room in the suitcases!
*Pro Tip: Bring a few individual gel detergent pods wrapped in a sealed plastic bag, just in case they leak. I didn’t realize the Airbnbs with washers did not always provide this, and we had to end up purchasing a whole container of detergent we didn’t have room to bring back.
Take advantage of the free checked stroller at the gate but DO buy a cheap stroller bag on Amazon (ours was $12) to limit how much it gets beat up on the plane ride. I would strongly encourage a stroller with big wheels to get you over the cobblestone roads many European cities have. It will be much more comfortable for your little one! Also have a stroller that reclines back (a lot) for napping on the go, and a portable sound machine is a must. This kept Bennett asleep through walking tours, museum visits, and some mom and dad relaxation at a beer garden. A clip on fan for the stroller is a must as well if you plan to go during warm months. Bring extra batteries or be prepared to buy them. To keep Bennett cool we left the fan on most of the day and had to replace our AA batteries twice.
We decided to opt out of bringing a car seat since we planned to use all public transportation. We did bring our wearable Lille carrier for shorter walks but only ended up using it once. Each day we pretty much packed up for the entire day until returning to the apartment after 8pm, so the stroller was necessary.
Diapers/Clothes for Baby
We somehow crammed more than enough diapers and wipes into our suitcases. If we didn’t have room we knew we could buy them anywhere, but wanted to avoid running into that situation. We packed a swimsuit and one swimmer diaper just in case, nighttime diapers, a few outfits, two sets of PJs, one pair of socks if the plane was cool, bandana bibs for messy drool/eating, and one sleep sack.
*Side Note: We wanted to be good tourists and go to the historic thermal baths in Budapest. I read on several websites that kids were not allowed at all in the pools, almost leading me to leave Bennett’s swimsuit at home and pray he naps while we take a dip. Come to find out, we trekked to the Széchenyi Medicinal Bath anyway and they had no problem with him in the outdoor bath. He had a blast in the lazy river current and we all had some R & R on our last day. Don’t believe everything you read online, folks! Except this info I am sharing with you. This is all true.
Take advantage of the free diaper bag carry on for your little one (in addition to your carry on and personal item). We successfully checked NO bags except the stroller checked at the gate, so we had several big carry on bags.
*Food for Thought: especially if going solo with your little one, think about only taking a big backpack for your personal luggage instead of a rolling suitcase. You will NOT be able to roll luggage while also pushing a stroller!
Pack a few QUIET toys your baby loves and leave the rattles at home to help your fellow passengers out. Pack snacks (see “eating” below), put your baby in a nighttime diaper even if it’s during the day in case he/she zonks out for a while, and bring any medications your baby may need.
As a Registered Dietitian this was my biggest concern. What can I get through TSA?! Not to mention we’ve had a history of trying to put weight on our borderline preemie boy who has the super metabolism of daddy. Luckily, they allow more than 3 oz of formula/breastmilk, bottled water for formula, baby food/pouches, and other food for your baby. I watched some videos on the TSA website. They always inspect it, but it’s allowed. I brought as many pouches as we could fit, teething crackers, yogurt and fruit with an ice pack for the plane rides there, and formula. Although I am still nursing as well I left my pump at home (hallelujah) and planned to breastfeed throughout the day as needed.
Definitely bring a small container with a tight fitting lid (see below). I highly suggest packing a daily probiotic with a plastic dropper you can squeeze directly into your baby’s mouth (not a glass dropper you have to mix into bottles or food). Just as adults, your baby’s schedule and eating habits are altered, so their bowels may be off as well. The new foods could cause gas, indigestion, or they may not get as many fluids on vacation as usual. A probiotic is also is an immunity booster for the many germs they could get in transport.
I admit, all day long in the back of my mind (and verbalized to Taylor more than once…or 100 times) I was stressed about Bennett eating and drinking enough. He refused some of his usual bottles and pouches I know he likes at times, and he would gobble up some of our meat and potatoes one day and spit out the same foods the next day. Looking back, I wish I had realized it is natural for his eating habits to be different as ours were in this strange environment and on an unusual timetable. And babies are good at listening to their bodies. He was never hangry or dehydrated or fussy. He was fine.
The important thing is constantly offering snacks and meals and liquids for hydration. The baby can choose what they want and how much. We walked to a market at least once in each city and stocked up on more normal foods Bennett typically eats, which really helped him feel at home. This included things like plain skyr or Greek yogurt, soft fruits, eggs, breads, and oatmeal. Every day we would leave for the day with easy non-perishable foods such as room temperature pouches, bananas, mandarin orange cups, and dry oats in a little tupperware container (and would add hot water at a restaurant). I occasionally would scoop out some yogurt or pack some leftover beans/rice/meat/ vegetables and bring our ice pack along if I thought he would eat it in the next 2-3 hours.
*Pro Tip: I highly suggest asking restaurants if they have high chairs before you choose. A few times we were starving and desperate and we held Bennett while we ate. Let me tell you, when you’ve been walking and moving and hot all day, this is not good for your temper, digestion, or the glass dishes on the table.
To Get the Wiggles Out
We made it a priority to visit a park each day to let Bennett move around and get worn out since he spent so long cooped up in the stroller. Each city had such beautiful, clean parks around almost every corner, and Taylor and I enjoyed relaxing there pretending we were locals. We found every city to be super baby friendly and found little play areas for kids in many museums and cafes too. Brilliant!
All of that being said, if you want to take your baby to Europe, don’t let anxiety hold you back. Just do it. You’ve got at least two people cheering you on!
By Caroline Pope, MS, RD, LDN, Co-Owner of Chain Effect