3.05.2014

Let's do Europe: Toddler style!

So, before I hop into this post, here's some quick history for you. When we were first married in 2010, Jordan and I moved to Russia for a semester to teach English. We absolutely LOVED it. We traveled around Russia and went to several surrounding countries as well. We stayed in awesome cheap hostels with total strangers, ate weird street food, and carried all of our belongings on our backs. We got lost, laughed a lot, and learned a TON. It was amazing.

Now, fast forward to 2012. We were living in Rexburg, Idaho, attending school at BYU-I, when Jordan was offered an internship with a Human Rights group in Brussels, Belgium. We were SO excited to head off on another international adventure! But wait. This time was different. This time, we had a TODDLER.

So here's where I state the obvious: Traveling internationally with a toddler is one million times different than traveling without one.

But guess what? Even though it was a different, and oftentimes trickier, experience, WE LOVED IT. It was so incredible to be able to share our love for adventure and traveling with our one year old, and I would do it again in a heart beat.

So, in this spirit, I thought I would share some tips! For traveling in Europe with a toddler! So that when you get the opportunity to go, you don't let anything stop you.



PART I: WHAT TO BRING

In this section, I'm going to throw out all of your major toddler necessities for your trip. We'll talk about other stuff...like actually traveling around (on trains and buses and planes) with a toddler in Europe, toddler-friendly sights to hit, etc. But for now, here's the stuff you need to bring with you from home!

(this is not an all-inclusive list, by any means!! Just a few items that were super helpful to have)

1. A small, compact but DURABLE stroller.

...DURABLE being the key word! You're going to be taking this thing everywhere. Through airports, on trains, down metro station stairs, through cobblestone streets, on dirt roads, etc. etc. So make sure that it is easy to carry, easily collapsible, and very sturdy. Also, make sure the wheels have a little more "umph" to them then your average thin, plastic ones...so that then can handle a lot of mileage!

We brought this:
(make & model info, here!)

This bad boy worked perfect. We carted it all over Europe, and we still use it today... a year and a half later. It's awesome!

2. A stroller weather-shield 

I cannot stress this one enough...especially if you are going in the colder/ wetter/ winter months. We didn't have one of these, and it was one of the biggest mistakes of our trip.  When we were in Paris and London, it rained and rained and rained. Boston was bundled up, but he still got soaked. We spent A LOT of time worrying, changing outfits, re-bundling, etc... that we could have spent sightseeing if we would have thought ahead.

We even tried to buy one in Brussels, but they didn't have the right kind for our stroller make. So, moral of the story: GET A WEATHER-SHIELD (in advance!). We will next time, without a doubt!! You are going to be walking and walking and walking, sometimes from sun up 'til sun down. You want your baby to be warm and protected from the elements, and this little cover will help immensely.


3. A lightweight, portable bed.

Okay. Now as much as I love Pack 'n Plays, I'm talking about something completely different here. If you're going to be hopping on and off buses and trains, and trying to travel with minimal hassle, hefting a 25 lb bed around (on top of a wiggly toddler and several other bags) just isn't going to work. In America we get used to just hopping in our car, throwing everything in for our trip, and heading our on the road. But Europe is different. The majority of your travel will be done through public transportation, so you're going to reeeallllyyy want to pack lightly (since you'll be carrying your belongings everywhere.)

BUT. If you have ever been around a tired toddler, you know just how important consistency can be at bedtime. They want a bed that they know! Sleeping in a random hostel or on an apartment floor works great when you're a single traveler, but when you are traveling with a toddler...not so much. They want consistency...no matter if you're in Paris, Amsterdam, or Salt Lake City.
Same bed= better sleep for baby.

The lightweight bed that we bought for our trip was probably our best investment. It was a LIFE SAVER. We would usually get off a train fairly late a night in a new city, and by the time we got to our hotel, Boston was pooped. This bed was perfect because it literally popped out of the bag in three seconds, and it was ready to go.

This is what ours looked like:

(more info, here!)

It's called the KidCo PeaPod, and it was seriously amazing. The bed, blow-up mattress, and small air pump all compact into a small bag, which weighs about five pounds. TOTAL. (I know!) Jordan stuck it in his backpack right alongside our snacks and water bottles. Genius.

Disclaimer: This was recalled a while back, but we really never had any issues with ours (probably because Boston didn't start sleeping in it until he was one). In fact, he slept in it even when we got back to the States because he loved it so much. We transitioned him right from the PeaPod to a big boy bed, and it was great! But if the PeaPod freaks you out, here are some other options for lightweight travel beds:

For other travel bed options, click here!

4. Take 'n Toss plasticware

These things are the bomb. When you're traveling, period, you're going to need about a million snacks and sippy cups. But when you're traveling in Europe, it is ESPECIALLY important to be prepared. You won't always be able to swing by Kroger to grab a pack of crackers or jar of applesauce for your hungry toddler. You're going to be in unfamiliar places, with unfamiliar food... but your toddler will still want something he or she likes and recognizes!

These cups and bowls are genius, because you can stock them full of snacks before you travel anywhere, and they are super easy to rinse out. Or, you can just throw them away if you don't want the hassle! They're awesome.

(Find them at Wal-Mart, Target, or here!)

4. iPad/ Kindle/ Some kind of tablet

You guys. I can't even tell you how badly you will need this. Even if you are anti-television. Even if your toddler doesn't normally watch movies. Even if you're thinking right now, "Lady, you crazy. We won't need this." I PROMISE... you will. Because three things:

Number one: FOR THE PLANE RIDE. I'll get into the plane ride and how to deal with it later, but guys. A tablet is a huge huge help in keeping a toddler entertained in one place for 12 hours.

Number two: You're going to be spending the first few days of your trip in major jet-lag-ville... aka you will be waking up every night for a three-hour intermission when your confused toddler wants to play. Suddenly, you have flipped their schedule upside down, and there's going to be an adjustment period...fo shizzle. They're going to wake up at 1 am... and 3 am... and 5 am... and want to be up for the day, but you're going to want more sleep than that. Hence, the iPad. I'm pretty sure we watched "Horton Hears a Who" every night at three in the morning for our first two weeks in Belgium.

Number three: And then after the jet lag, you're going to be traveling. On trains, in taxis, on buses... and the tablet is awesome for keeping little guys busy when you're in tight quarters with complete strangers. Also, did I mention TIME KILLER?? Because yeah.

We didn't have an iPad at the time, but we brought our Kindle Fire, which worked perfect! Anything with a screen and games will do just fine.

5. Toddler medicine

In addition to any medicine that you might need as an adult, you're going to want to pack medicine that you think your toddler might need. Now, we knew we were going to be in Belgium for a few months, so we brought TONS of medicine...just in case. There is nothing worse than having a sick toddler...and not being able to read the labels on the medicine in a foreign country. BE PREPARED.  It never hurts!!

Here are some toddler medicines that you might bring:
  • Children's Benadryl
  • Infant Tylenol/ Advil
  • Teething tablets (molars!)
  • Eczema rash cream
  • Eye drops
  • Decongestant 
  • Cough medicine
  • Vick's Vapor Rub
  • Motrin
  • Diaper cream
  • Gripe water (tummy soothing medicine)
  • Anti-itch cream
  • band-aids
 And just FYI, you can find medicine in Europe. They have pharmacies everywhere and it is fairly inexpensive to get medicine if you need it. It is just MUCH more convenient if you already have what you need on hand (and you can read the labels)!

6. FOOD!

Everyone knows that toddlers can be pretty darn picky when it comes to eating (or maybe that's just my kids...ha!). When you first arrive, it is really nice to have food with you that you know your toddler will eat... at least until you get your bearings and find a grocery store. We were in Belgium for a while, so we packed A LOT of food! It's always surprising how fast it runs out, too. When you're exploring and trying new foods 24/7, sometimes it's nice to cook something that you recognize.

^^Our stash!^^
Here are some examples of toddler-friendly food items that we brought:
  • just add water muffin mixes
  • granola bars
  • trail mix
  • applesauce pouches
  • crackers, pretzels, goldfish
  • chocolate milk/ crystal light on-the-go packets
  • instant oatmeal packets
  • mac & cheese
  • easy sides: pasta and rice packets
  • instant potatoes
  • dry soup mixes
  • seasoning packets: taco seasoning, chili mix, ranch dressing packet, spaghetti packet, Alfredo packet, gravy mixes
We put most of the "snacky" foods in our carry-ons, and packed the rest in our suitcases. Remember to keep the airline regulations with liquids, though a lot of airlines will now let you take water bottles and juice if you have a baby or toddler. Just check ahead of time to make sure!

Also, find out if your "home base" in Europe where you will mostly be staying (when you're not traveling) will be equipped with an oven, pots and pans, a microwave, etc. That way you can plan accordingly, and not bring food that you won't be able to cook!

Lastly, another upside: when you eat all of your food, you open up a lot of room in your suitcase to bring back awesome souvenirs! 


And now...

Let's shift gears and talk about a couple things you don't need to worry about bringing:
  • Diapers & wipes. Bring enough on your carry-on for your flight, and for a couple of days. Don't stress about not being able to find them-- stores in Europe have diapers and wipes that work just like American ones (and around the same price)! Don't waste precious room in your suitcase. Just buy more when you get there.
  •  Baby food. Again, bring enough for the plane ride/ first day or so... but then buy the rest when you get there. Remember, they have babies in Europe, too! 


STAY TUNED!

Part II on traveling Europe with a toddler... coming soon!!

    5 comments:

    1. This is great! We were planning a trip to Europe when we found out I was expecting. Maybe we should reschedule :) Was Jordan's internship paid? Or did they help with relocation or housing expenses at all?

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    2. THANK YOU for writing this! We are taking Ellie to Europe next month and I'm trying to do as much research as I can beforehand. Love these tips!!! Any advice for the lovely, long plane ride?!?

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      1. Yes yes!! I have another post that is all but done, about this very thing! I will be posting it asap! It's all about traveling with toddlers in planes, trains, etc... hope it helps you guys!! How fun!! (I am jealous!)

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    3. What do you do if you have three toddlers? I guess we will probably not get to travel for many years!

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    4. Hi! Your link for the stroller just goes to the online store. What is the make and model? Thanks so much!

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