Our little dude is now over a year old, and despite the strict pandemic lockdown measures Germany had in place during the first half of his life he has traveled quite a bunch. He has been on over 20 trips, to 16 countries and 40+ cities. He’s been to zoos, infinity pools, and beaches. He’s traveled via roadtrip, trains, buses, boats, and planes. He’s been on food tours, wine tastings, Michelin starred restaurants. It has been fun but it has definitely had its imperfect moments. Keep reading for some of our lessons learned and travel tips for traveling around Europe with a baby.
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What to Bring & What Not to Bring
Travel Stroller – We have an amazing heavy duty Cybex stroller, but for our travels, we opted for a smaller, lighter travel stroller. Get one that has attachments that work with your carseat in case you end up traveling with it (which we don’t do often). I also recommend getting one that lays all the way back, for naptimes on the go, and one that has a big sunshade.
Baby Carrier – Our baby carriers get a lot of use on our trips. We usually use the carrier at the airport to carry the baby once we have to put the stroller away as we board the plane. Some airports don’t give you your stroller at the gate, and you have to pick it up at baggage claim, so it’s nice to have the carrier especially if it’s a big airport. We also use the carrier in cities with a lot of stairs, when we go on hikes, and on food tours.
Sound Machine – This one is a game changer! When I forget to bring the sound machine, Mac sleeps exponentially worse. He also falls asleep to a certain playlist that includes the Beatles and Bob Marley, so our portable speaker is a must as well.
Hatch Rest Mini – Small and easy to pack, can be adjusted via phone app
Sleep Sack/Swaddle – In addition to the sound machine, make sure to bring whatever else your baby uses regularly. Mac uses a sleep sack, and I can’t imagine leaving that at home. Sleeping in a new place is hard enough for the baby, so try to keep the same nighttime routine to help with the transition.
Bathing Essentials – There are travel baths and inflatable baby baths that you can buy on Amazon, but we usually just do a quick shower holding the baby. Bring your baby shampoo, lotion, skin cream, etc. Now that he has teeth, I also bring his little toothbrush and toothpaste.
Diapers – For short weekend trips, especially ones where we drive, I bring a pack of diapers and wipes. However, for longer trips, I pack enough diapers for the travel day and night, and then buy a pack of diapers when we get there.
Warm Weather Gear – If you’re going somewhere warm, make sure to bring a stroller fan!! This is huge because there is nothing worse than a cranky hot baby. Plus, you can borrow the fan every once in awhile (#momperk). Similarly, don’t forget the baby sunscreen! And a sunhat and/or baby sunglasses.
Or Cold Weather Gear – Oppositely, if you’re going somewhere cold don’t forget the snowsuit, snow boots, and beanie. We got ours with one day shipping on Amazon.de
Travel Monitor – I love our travel monitor. If we are in a small hotel room, I typically don’t bother bringing ours. However, if we are staying somewhere with a nice balcony or separate rooms, I pack the monitor. It’s nice to be able to sit outside without worrying whether or not we can hear Mac when he wakes up from his nap.
What You Can Potentially Leave Behind
Travel Crib – We usually try to find a hotel or AirBnb that has a crib or pack and play that we can use. If we are driving, we don’t mind taking the travel crib with us, but when flying or taking the train, it’s nice to have one less thing to carry. We message the AirBnb owners before booking to ask about a travel crib, and they have always been free for us. Hotels usually have a crib that you can use, sometimes for a small fee (usually ten Euros a night).
Car Seat – We haven’t needed a carseat in our European travels so far. If we rent a car, we rent a car seat as well, but usually we try to take public transportation around cities.
Traveling With a Baby by Train
Traveling by train is my favorite. In Europe, book your train as early as possible for cheaper fares. I definitely recommend paying to reserve your seats. When you book a baby you’ll get a seat for him too! It just makes it less stressful to know you have a seat instead of trying to find one on a busy train.
For short regional train rides, we keep Mac in the stroller and do a quick lift onto the train. We stay in the bike/wheelchair/baby buggy section (no seat reservation needed). On longer train rides, like the ICE train to Paris, we take him out of the stroller and carry him on, while the stroller is folded and ready to be placed on the luggage rack. The luggage racks on trains are in your specific carriage, so you carry your bags on with you. This is different from buses which have luggage storage under the bus, so you load your luggage underneath before you get onto the bus. Note: this is why we always recommend that you take a travel backpack instead of a suitcase when traveling by train or bus!
Traveling With a Baby by Plane
Mac has flown on plenty of planes so it is definitely doable! Babies can sit on your lap until they turn two years old, and they are either free or a small fee as lap babies. One perk of flying with a baby is that you usually get to skip the lines when going through security or customs in Europe. In America you don’t usually get this perk, so we never take it for granted over here.
Before You Fly
When flying with a small infant, you can request a bassinet on the plane. Call the airlines to reserve the bassinet when you book your tickets. Most airplanes only have a limited number of bassinets per plane, so confirm whether or not the bassinets are first come first serve. On my first flight back to the US with Mac, multiple families had reserved bassinets, but the plane only had two, so the families that got to the airport first were the ones who were able to use the bassinet. We were not one of them – but we survived without a bassinet! On the way back, I was able to get a bassinet, but he only slept in it for about an hour. It was useful to be able to store toys/bottles in there though.
At check-in at the airport, make sure you get a tag for your stroller and put it on your stroller bag. I also recommend checking your bags. We never checked bags pre-baby, but now it’s one less thing to worry about so we go ahead and pay for a checked bag.
When going through security, take out baby foods/liquids. I always buy a few pre-made baby formula bottles to take onto the plane, so we don’t have to worry about mixing up a bottle. Germany friends: I always get the HiPP ones from Rossman. You’ll also have to fold up the stroller and put in onto the conveyer belt when going through security. We keep Mac in the stroller while we load our bags and accessories into the bins, and then take him out, put the stroller on the conveyor belt, and then walk through the security detector. This is why having a lightweight, one-hand-fold stroller is helpful.
Getting onto the Airplane
Once we get to the gate, we fold the stroller back up, put it in the bag, and drop it off where the attendant tells us to. In Europe, a lot of the flights don’t have jet bridges and you have to walk to your airplane. This is where using a baby carrier is helpful! We carry Mac to the plane via carrier, and carry the stroller in the stroller bag, so we don’t have to take him old, fold up the stroller, etc. while walking to the airplane.
On the Plane
I’m sure you’ve already heard this tip: during take off and landing, feed the baby to prevent his/her ears from popping. This also puts Mac to sleep every time. You can bring formula and stop by any coffee shop in the airport to ask for warm water to fill the bottle, or bring one of those premade formula bottles. For us now, honestly we just fill up an empty bottle with water and Mac will drink that and fall asleep.
Other airplane tips:
- Dress the kiddo in layers because you can never predict if you’ll have a hot or freezing airplane ride.
- If you have a thrower, put toys on pacifier clips so they don’t hit the floor and you aren’t constantly trying to disinfect dirty toys (I’m not a germaphobe with Mac but airplane floors do freak me out) // Stretchable toy and pacifier straps
- When you have a newborn, you don’t have to worry about entertaining it because it will (hopefully) sleep or eat for the majority of the flight. Once they’re more awake, it’s harder to entertain them in such a confined space. We use this busy board on car rides and flights. On longer, across the ocean flights, we bring lots of snacks, take a lot of walks down the aisle, and turn on Cars for him to watch in silence. He doesn’t wear headphones but seeing Cars on the TV entertains him enough.
When traveling via plane or train, we don’t bring our carseat. If we can’t walk to our hotel/Airbnb from the airport or train station, we reserve a taxi ahead of time. I’ve always been able to google and reserve a taxi + a carseat online. Once we drop off our bags, we walk or take public transportation everywhere. Google maps is so helpful when navigating the metro or trams. One thing to note is that to get to some metro lines, you have to go up and down stairs, so having a lightweight stroller is key!
Other Travel Tips
Hotel vs. AirBnb – We have stayed in both, and each have their pros and cons. Hotels are nice because you can ask for extra towels, you have someone at reception in case you need anything, and sometimes they have a restaurant or bar attached. We have found that kinder hotels (aimed at families with small kids) are wonderful and provide everything you need for the baby, including cribs and bottle warmers. AirBnbs are nice because you usually have a kitchen and can cook for the baby/toddler, use the fridge and microwave, etc. In Europe, it’s hit or miss on which one is better priced and in better locations, so we always do a quick search for both.
Feeding on the Go – We did baby led weaning with Mac, so now he eats whatever we are eating which makes it easier for us. However, he still will only drink his milk warm, so for us we either need a kettle (for formula) or a bottle warmer/microwave and fridge. Once we get to our destination, we usually stop at a store to get milk, bananas or berries, bread and diapers. I like to pack a new sponge to use because hotels usually don’t have one, and AirBnbs might not have a clean one.
Eating Out With A Baby – Like traveling, going out to eat takes practice. Our first few restaurant experiences were a bit stressful. However, at some point we were able to get Mac to sleep during dinner and that was amazing! Now that he’s eating though, he sits in a high chair and loves being part of our meals. I’ll do a blog post on eating out with a baby soon.
Ultimately, just like anything fun with babies, practice makes perfect. Our first few trips with Mac were a little rough, but soon enough he got the hang of going with the flow. We have become more chill when planning our trips, and don’t try to pack in too much in a day. It’s also important to be able to pivot plans, because you never know when a meltdown will happen. But, if it does happen, figure out Plan B, get the kid a snack, and maybe find a playground. Remember, they might be having a meltdown…but at least you’re in Europe! I know I’m definitely missing some key tips so let me know if you have any questions!