Traveling With An Infant: A Month In Europe and Why We LOVE Airbnb!

Soooo, unless you have been living in a hole, or are new here (welcome!), you know that we recently returned from a nearly month-long trip through Europe with our 8 month, turned 9 month (now 10 month) old daughter. We traveled to 3 countries, 6 cities/towns, stayed in 5 Airbnb rentals, and 3 hotels. Whew! That kind of wears me out just thinking back through all that craziness, but in reality, it was not bad at all.
We have dragged Aubrey all over the world since she was born, so I contribute a lot of her ability to just roll with the punches of traveling to that simple fact. However, we have come up with a few things that can help streamline traveling with a baby. 
SCHEDULE

You guys know I preach trying to maintain some version of your everyday schedule while you’re on the road (or in the air).  I still maintain that line of thought if you are vacationing to somewhere like the beach, or the lake house, or anywhere where you are staying in one location the entire trip and not planning on doing lots of sightseeing and such. But if you, like us, are planning on trying to see all the sights, eat all the food, and do all the things – obviously nap time is going to be a bit different.
For our trip we still woke about the same time every day (per Aubrey’s automatic alarm clock), ate breakfast in, then put her down for her morning nap, during which the rest of us showered and got ready for the day. When she woke up she nursed, then we packed up her lunch and dinner, and hit the streets. 

Lunch was most often eaten on the go, and her afternoon nap generally consisted of about 10 minutes of sleep in the stroller. It was hardly enough of course, but it was long enough to give her a little reboot. We always made sure she had dinner around her normal time, which was pretty easy because we were always sitting down for a drink, or back at the apartment by that time. With the exception of the Eiffel Tower picnic, most days we would sightsee throughout the midmorning and early afternoon, stop for a drink, then have an early dinner somewhere. This allowed us to get back to the apartment and get Aubrey to bed not too much later than her normal bedtime of 7:00. We were usually more than happy to be in for the night by that point, but we did also take turns going out in the evenings, while the rest of the crew stayed back on baby duty.

SLEEPING & ACCOMMODATIONS

When we were booking accommodations we decided to test out Airbnb. Our first goal was to find places where everyone could stay so we could all be together. Now that the experience is over I would say without a doubt that was our smartest move. Aubrey is a high sleep needs baby for sure, so this is not necessarily true for other babies, but I knew going into the trip that she would need at least one good nap a day, and would need to get into bed at a decent hour most nights. She can handle a few late nights here and there, but if we wanted to enjoy the daytimes at all we needed to make sure she got enough rest. By us all staying in the same place it meant we were still able to hang out even though Aubrey was in bed or napping. It also meant that in a couple of places, Aubrey had her own room, meaning we all slept better (Aubrey does not sleep well when others are in the room. She wakes to every little rustle of the sheets or sniff of the nose.).

I contacted all of the the people we rented from prior to our arrival to let them know we would have a baby with us, and inquired about a baby cot (pack ‘n play). All but one place had one for us to use, and the one that didn’t had what they called a “baby mattress,” which ended up being a trifold futon-like mattress. For that scenario we pushed the mattress up against the bed and piled pillows around it to keep Aubrey from rolling into the floor. She still rolled into the floor a few times but slept ok for the most part.

Aubrey is not a big fan of pack ‘n plays, and traditionally has not slept well in them at all. I think we finally determined that she likes a better mattress than the thin, cardboard-esque baby cot one that comes with the set. We have started padding the mattress with a few extra blankets (or even a comforter in one house) so it feels more like an actual mattress and this has made all the difference. We also drape towels or sheets around the outside so Aubrey can’t see out (at least when she is laying down), and to help make her sleep space as dark as possible. One of the apartments had a baby cot that has built in side flaps, pure genius!

On the train Aubrey and I shared a couchette. And by sharing I mean I gave her the bed, and tried to grab a few minutes of sleep here and there on the other couchettes as we all took turns taking breaks up in the dining car. I used my phone for white noise, and she slept about 5.5 hours during that night.

FOOD & DIAPERS

Aubrey was still exclusively breastfeeding during our trip, but she was also firmly established on solids. And girlfriend LOVES to eat. I packed one tin of formula and one bottle for emergency situations, and I ordered a ton of food pouches from Amazon. Living in Turkey I think we have a little skewed view of the rest of Europe’s availability of basic necessities, like baby food. I ordered enough for her to have three meals a day, knowing I would also be cooking her eggs and buying yogurt along the way for breakfast (another reason Airbnb is really the ticket when you have littles traveling – Aubrey does not like having to wait for her breakfast!). I piled it all, along with a pack of diapers, a pack of wipes, and some toys into a duffle bag, with hopes it would empty and become an spare bag should we need one to get new purchases home. In retrospect, we were going to major cities, in popular countries, so there really was no need to haul over 20 pounds of baby food with us. But hindsight is 20/20 of course, and I at least knew I had things on hand in the case we couldn’t find what we needed, and I had food that I knew Aubrey would eat. We still ended up buying a few pouches and jars here and there, along with some snacky items for her to nibble on, and diapers and wipes as needed, but for the most part the pouches worked out great and made keeping her fed and happy while we were sightseeing a breeze.

CLOTHES

I’m trying to remember specifically now, but I think this was the breakdown of Aubrey’s suitcase. We packed 4 footie pajamas, 5 or so dresses, 5 or so rompers/playsuits, 2 pairs of pants, 4 or so tops, a cardigan, a denim jacket, a few headbands and a handful of sandals. I also packed a packable waterproof bib. My mom also came with a few new things.

If I had it to do over, I would have packed fewer dresses and playsuits, and included a pair of jeans, some socks, and at least a few long sleeve shirts. Having a washer at the rentals made it possible for us to get by with the same 3-4 outfits the entire trip, so we were majorly overpacked in that regard.

Towards the end of our Paris trip the weather cooled off significantly, and Edinburgh was even cooler. I ended up having to get Will to bring Aubrey warmer clothes from home, and searched clearance racks to find a few odds and ends to get us through the rest of the trip. Obviously this was kind of specific to the locations we visited, and may not be necessary if you know you are going to be in warm weather the entire time. However, babies do need a few more layers than adults, and while I did include some warm clothes, I didn’t really cover all the bases for the various temperatures we encountered.

TOYS & ENTERTAINMENT

Lucky for us, right about the time of our trip Aubrey was on the brink of crawling and pulling up, so working on those skills and eventually mastering them became one of her main sources of entertainment. Before we left I went to the base thrift store and picked up a few new-to-Aubrey toys for the trip. Then I packed a selection including a few rattle-type toys, a small teddy bear given to us by Turkish Airlines, a crinkly book, and her favorite red crab bath toy. During the trip we also picked up two small plush toys, a highland cow and Nessie. We have learned when traveling with Aubrey that she has a fond affection for straws, so we picked one or two of those up anytime we saw them. During our meals we kept her little hands full of bread or breadsticks to keep her busy. And during the flights and train rides, we rotated everything from puffs to chapstick to phones though her hands to try to keep her occupied. Another bonus was that we were constantly changing our surroundings, so there was essentially an endless amount of new things for her to explore.

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Car Seat – We rented car seats from the rental car companies. In Venice all they had available was a child seat, but we made it work for the day – and I may or may not have ended up having to hold Aubrey’s head up while she slept 🙂 
  • Electronics – We normally only pack 1-2 bases, and then just bring all the cords we need for our various electronics. For Aubrey’s white noise, we always need the iPad (or our phones) and our bluetooth speaker, so we pack both the bases and cords for those. For this trip we also had to pack adapters to fit the 220v European outlets.
  • Medicine – Luckily we didn’t need any medicine during this trip. I am not in the habit of having medicine on hand generally. I did bring my oils, and some coconut oil so I could handle things like diaper rash and bug bites. If we had needed anything more, there were plenty of pharmacies around.

In general, we tried to go with the flow. If Aubrey was maintaining a decent mood we would stretch her time out a little and squeeze in what we could. If she was over it, we would head back to the apartment to recover. A comfortable stroller and good snacks can go a long way. We aren’t germaphobes, and that made life much easier – I think they are kind of hard to avoid when you are traipsing through cities and tourist sites.

The number one thing to keep in mind – every city, whether you are in the US, Europe or China, is home to families just like yours. People live and function there every day. So while it is of course an amazing, new, exciting adventure to you, it is also full of people with children carrying on with their day-to-day. So pack smart and be prepared, but don’t sweat it too much. Unless you are backpacking in the wilderness, you will most likely be able to find at least a version of what you need, no matter what it is.

Happy Travels!

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