I absolutely love traveling and I didn't want kids to be a reason we couldn't travel the world to see new places.
That said, here are some tips and tricks I learned while traveling to Italy with a 7 month old:
1. Be prepared for time change adjustments.
It took our daughter two nights to get it figured out. We were frustrated and confused when she started screaming at 3am the first night. It lasted about half an hour as we tried to figure out what was wrong (we were a bit groggy at the time). We finally figured out that it would have been a normal eating time for us back home and she was hungry. We gave her some snacks and she calmed down. Then we played with her for an hour...then somewhere around 4:30 or 5am, we all went back to sleep. The next night was similar. Be ready for a few nights of adjusting to a new timezone. Our daughters bedtime was quite late during our trip - this meant we could do a long day of touring and eat a late dinner. My advice? Don't worry about bedtimes when you're traveling abroad.
2. Get your baby comfortable sleeping anywhere.
Before you go, set up a pack n play in a random room in your house. Put them down for naps there - get them used to sleeping in new places so when you travel, it's not a big deal that they aren't in their own bed. Our daughter has slept on the floor, in pack n plays, in drawers, and in closets (with the door open). You can make a bed out of a blanket and use a few pillows as bumpers. If you are comfortable co-sleeping, go for it.
3. Bring a bag of Cheerios
(or Nature's Path Organic Whole O's
for the gluten-free). Yes, we flew to Italy with a ziplock full of Cheerios - why? Cheerios offer a distraction. We went out to dinner and would give our daughter Cheerios as we waited for our food. If we were on a tour and she was getting fussy, we brought out the Cheerios. Late night snack? Yup. Cheerios. They were a life saver (and we couldn't find any Cheerios in Italy)!
4. Wear your baby
. I have an Ergo Baby
and let me tell you, having your hands free and a napping baby is delightful when you're trekking across the Cinque Terre
. I actually learned how to nurse while walking when we were on a tour in Rome - it was a bit awkward at first, but then we got the hang of it and just kept at it for the rest of the trip. Also, the Ergo Baby has a pocket on the front - it was a great place to store passports and cheerios...for when you're waiting in that long immigrations line.
5. Bring a handful of small, but interesting toys
. We took about 6-8 toys. Stacking blocks, teeny board books, links (Links Rattle Developmental Toy)
, a ball (Baby Einstein Bendy Ball
), and a little stuffed animal development/teething toy that could be clipped onto the Ergo (Lamaze Play and Grow Mortimer the Moose Take Along Toy
6. Bring a good backpack
. I'm talking, one that's not hard on your back (something like this
). I highly recommend a backpack with a waist/hip strap - this will better distribute the weight so you don't have a big pull on your shoulders. Lots of little pockets are useful when you're traveling. Snacks, pacifier, phone, important documents, travel guide, etc can all be stored efficiently in a backpack like this. If you're going to Europe, chances are you will be walking around a lot. Backpacks are great for bringing along the daily essentials and we always had a little room in there for some souvenirs. We packed about 5 diapers in the bag, wipes, a changing pad, a spare onsie, snacks, travel high-chair, and a couple little toys.
7. Stock up on food for your little one before it's too late
. We visited Civita di Bagnoregio
in Italy and had planned to stay there for 2 nights. We were in need of food for our daughter, but got there late and as we should have known, there wasn't much there - no market to buy food! We did have dinner in our little bed and breakfast and we fed our daughter carrots, but morning came, and she was starving and since it was a Sunday morning in a dying city, there was NOTHING open and we went on a scavenger hunt for food (btw, B&B in Italy means you will get a packaged chocolate filled croissant - they were good, but not quite the breakfast we were needing for our 7 month old). We ended up wandering around the teeny town long enough to find a young lady who happened to have an apple in her sack lunch - she shared it with us (bless her heart!). We felt stupid for not planning ahead. We just didn't realize that finding food for a 7 month old would be so difficult. Oh, and the Cheerios we had packed? They were ruined when our top floor apartment in Rome sprung a leak in the roof and dumped rusty water all over the kitchen (and into the cheerio bag). Markets have weird hours in Italy (i.e. closed on Sunday, closed for siesta, etc), so when we found one that was open, we made sure to stock up so we weren't caught without food for our kid.
8. Bring a portable high-chair
. At the first place we stayed on our trip, they happened to have a high chair - but that was the ONLY place we ever saw one in Italy. Thankfully I had packed a travel high chair that fits on almost any chair (find it here: My Little Seat
). We've used this thing all over the place - and it packs up into a little pouch - toss it in your backpack.
9. Pack light
. I ended up wearing the same black tank top almost every single day of our trip (we did laundry once during our 3 weeks abroad). I packed way more than just that one tank top, but I hadn't thought about the logistics of breastfeeding on the go when I packed. I seriously over packed and my husband had to carry around that extra weight on my behalf. I should have packed fewer clothes for myself and planned on buying some clothes abroad if I needed more. I bought a dress at a flea market in Italy, and it's still the favorite in my closet. I wish I'd bought more clothes in Italy!
10. Bring a duffel bag packed with only diapers and snacks
. We took a light weight duffel bag and filled it with diapers, and snack bars from Costco. My husband wore a backpacking pack on his back and slung the duffel on his side as we traveled between towns (I wore the baby on my front and a backpack on my back). As we went about our travels, the duffel bag got lighter as we used things and we had room for souvenirs if we needed it. We only had to buy diapers once - at the end of our trip.
11. Take your cell phone
. Before you go, make sure to call your carrier to have them give you an unlock code (so you can use your phone on other mobile networks). If you have a phone that takes a SIM card, buy a prepaid SIM once you get to your destination. We had to use the phone a few times to confirm reservations, change check in times, or arrange lodging for the night - spending $20 on a prepaid SIM saved us loads on roaming charges.
12. Ask for either bulkhead or back row seats on the airplane
. The bulkhead row has more room on the floor where your feet go - we let our baby sit on a blanket on the floor and play with her toys when it was approved to have seat belts off. Some airplanes even have bassinets in the bulkhead isle. If you can't get bulkhead seats, sit towards the back of the plane. It's louder back there, so you're less likely to disturb others with your fussy/loud/crying/happy baby. There's also more room to walk around with your baby in the rear of the plane. And you'll be right by the bathrooms...so diaper changes are a breeze.Bonus Tip
: Don't freak out about everybody talking to you and your baby - even if you have no idea what they're saying. We barely saw any babies in Italy and when people saw ours they sort of treated us like celebrities. Everyone came over to talk to our baby. People even wanted to hold her. Rumor has it that women have entered the work force in Italy instead of having babies...and by the time they have a baby, they stay home and never go anywhere with their baby (no really, that's what a local told us). It was a mystery to us why we saw so few babies (or kids in general), but it was kind of fun being told how beautiful our baby was day in and day out. It was weird at first, but once we accepted that they love babies, we were happy to have the attention. I even had an older German-speaking man hollering to me as I was playing in the water with my daughter. I figured out by his hand motions that he wanted my picture. I picked up my girl and smiled as he excitedly snapped a few pics. He thanked me and off he went. Weird. But totally funny. I have NO idea what he was saying, but it was awesome (and confusing).
Do you have any tips for traveling with kids? Please share in the comments!