It’s just over a week since our amazing trip to France and Portugal. Do I miss the sights, sounds and overall feel of European life? Yes. Do I miss struggling with an overtired baby while navigating through unfamiliar surroundings? No. But I certainly learned a lot from this trip and wanted to help any of you who might be planning an international trip with a baby. I’ll certainly be changing a few things for our next big trip!
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
During our long haul flights, squirrelly babe slept 90% of the time (hallelujah!). For our short 1.5hr mid Europe hops however, he fussed and screamed throughout. The difference? Those short flights were midday when all he wanted to do was crawl around and play, whereas our long flights were overnight when he was ready to tuck in for the big snooze. If available, book a red eye flight.
First few days
Between jet lag and irregular napping, squirrelly babe was so sleep deprived that the circles under his eyes had turned an angry red. I couldn’t in good conscious take him out, so our second day in Paris was used up on sleep – we didn’t leave the apartment until 4pm! My tip from experience – when on a multi city trip, tack on a few extra days at the first location to allow for sleep in days.
Planning your days
I had a fantastic day plan set out that left our evenings open to accommodate babe. It wasn’t too demanding (way less than I would have done on my own) yet still hit everything we wanted to do. But since everything takes longer with a baby we only got to half the items. So to save yourself disappointment, plan your days modestly, then cut it in half.
AT THE AIRPORT
Stroller vs. Carrier
‘Should I bring a stroller or carrier?” – Both. I liked having the stroller to hold extra stuff and give Squirrelly babe a place to sit when I needed to relax. But you will need extra time to scout out elevators, wait for your stroller to come from gate check, etc. However, the stroller protocol differed with almost every flight we took. Some allowed us to take our stroller right to the plane whereas others made us check it with our baggage. So we also stashed a wrap which was perfect for those stroller-less time or when babe needed extra cuddles during long waits.
The amazing thing about travelling with a baby is that it’s an automatic VIP pass through long security/customs lines, cause nobody wants a crying baby when zigzagging through those ropes. The only place we weren’t waved through was waiting for the bus to change terminals at Heathrow.
But what about liquids?
If it’s for babe then no problem. I had full baby bottles of water and 128ml packs of food that, with a little extra security checks, went through no problem. If it’s for baby they’re quite understanding.
Give yourself at least 2 hours for layovers. Ours ranged from 4-6 hours. Long yes, but the time went by quickly. To save your sanity, find the family/kids area. Heathrow has two, a small one at gate A7 at Terminal 5 and an amazing, multi roomed section (including a nursing area, a changing room, a quiet room, a coffee machine, and incredible staff) at Terminal 3. We spent several hours here and squirrelly babe never got bored.
Dealing with jet lag
Jet lag sucks generally, but especially so with a baby. We made the mistake of trying to get him back to sleep, struggling for hours with bouncing and shushing and rocking through constant tears (both his and ours). Toward the end I figured it out – let them play and explore, then redo bedtime routine. Even if it’s just an hour of playtime, I found letting him expel that energy, then resetting his clock with bedtime routine worked wonders at getting him back to sleep. Yes, it sucks to have to do that in the middle of the night, but there’s no magic cure for jet lag.
Food is tough, especially under one year when there are still restrictions. Squirrelly babe has never eaten so much bread (including croissant….ahem) in his life as he did while traveling through Paris and Lisbon. Be lenient. Know that it is temporary and they will get their fully balanced meals again. Also squishy packs of food are a life saver so bring as many of those as you can. Our favourite is Love Child Organics as they also have savoury meals in the squeeze pouches which I didn’t see with any other company here or abroad.
Another tough one. Squirrelly babe was never a fan of stroller naps, and this was partly why he had those terrible red circles under his eyes those first few days. So in Lisbon we never left the house until 11am so he could get at least one good nap. While doing this every day may not be an option, be prepared to take an extra day here or there to stay in until after a morning nap to let them recharge.
Calming a fussy baby
I was really happy that squirrelly babe weaned off the soother so young, until we stood in a jam packed train, him screaming and fussing while the kid beside him sucked happily (and quietly) away. If your baby uses a soother, use it to its fullest potential. Otherwise rely as best you can on small toys, whatever objects you have on hand (I’m surprised none of our sunglasses broke) and lots of little snacks to keep those fingers and mouth busy.
Of course these are my tips from my travels with my baby, so it could be completely different for you. But the biggest take away I can give you is to be lenient with yourself. It won’t be the same as at home, so don’t stress about keeping your home routine because it just wont happen. Enjoy your trip and the incredible memories you’ll make.