International Travel with a Baby
Okay y’all. I am finally sitting down to tell you alllll about what it was like traveling with a 10-month-old to Italy. The nitty gritty. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Here’s what I’ve been telling people when they ask how it went: “considering what we asked from him and the environment we were in, he did amazing. But, he was cutting molars the whole time, wanted to crawl on everything, and was exhausted. So, was it amazing? Yes. Was it challenging and exhausting? Yes. Would I do it again? Probably.”
I mean, it was tough. Keeping a 10-month-old happy while also traveling to and around a foreign country is no small feat.
I am splitting this post up into categories based on the locations we visited. Each location had a sort of “theme” to it, so I am giving tips and insight based on those themes. Let’s dive in!
We took two flights to get to Italy from San Francisco (which is a three hour drive from home, mind you). The first was a 10 hour flight to Amsterdam with a short layover and then a two hour flight to Rome. The 10 hour flight was the hardest. As I am sure you can imagine. We had two seats, but were praying no one would be sitting next to them. For their sake, obviously. I mean, who wants to be crammed next to a 10-month-old for 10 hours? NO ONE.
Luckily, we flew on the most amazing airline and they actually moved the person next to us so we could have the entire row. Well played, KLM. You’ve found a lifelong customer in me. The flight was a redeye so I was hoping he would sleep for most of the flight. Not so. He fell asleep and then there was awful turbulence and he woke up. For the next 4ish hours, it was a struggle to get him back to sleep and stay asleep We survived, but for about an hour, it was pretty rough. Think: screaming baby, dark plane, sleeping people. I was finally able to get him asleep and Joel and I watched a movie. So, during the flight we didn’t really get any sleep.
We then had an hour layover in Amsterdam, which passed quickly. The second flight was delayed an hour once we were IN THE PLANE. But, he slept that entire flight.
The flights back were a bit easier than the flights to get to Italy. So, that was a relief! However, 10 hours is a long time on a plane. He definitely napped on the flights (a total of 6 hours between the two flights), but that still leaves a lot of awake time.
We would let him crawl around the plane, feed him lots of snacks, go for laps around the plane, and since we had a full row, we would be able to entertain him with toys. We also made friends with the people around us, so that was always helpful. We would chat with them and Knox would win over their hearts with his smile.
Airplane and Airport Tips:
Depending on the age of your babe, bring lots of snacks and toys.
Fly an airline that helps families (KLM was amazing).
Make friends with the people around you.
Chill out and let them roam as much as they can in the airport and plane before take off.
Wear comfy clothes.
Have lots and lots of wipes.
If you are bringing a stroller, make sure it’s easy to fold down so it can go through security.
Make sure your carry ons are organized and you know where everything is.
Be prepared to not sleep.
Rome (lots of sight-seeing)
We had a limited amount of time in Rome, but we wanted to be able to hit most of the big stops. So, this meant, Knox would need to be held or in a stroller for most of the day. At this point, we were all still exhausted from traveling to Italy. I would say these were the hardest days of the trip. However, since he was so tired, he slept a lot on our first day of sight-seeing (a jam packed day). He isn’t really into taking stroller naps anymore, so he was in the ergo for most of the day. Italians LOVE babies, so we got a lot of special treatment because of that. We were able to skip some lines, we were treated kindly by waiters and waitresses, and offered help. This was such a blessing for the long days and lots of walking.
Tips for busy sight-seeing days
Be willing to take breaks
Wear lots of sunscreen
Have a stroller and a carrier
Have a blanket or something to use for diaper changes
Snacks, snacks, snacks
Bring lots of wipes
Have a plan for your route
Tuscany (rest days/day trips)
This was by far the best thing we could have done in our trip. This part of our trip was more low-key and Knox had more space to roam. There was also a pool at our place, so it made it possible for swimming and playing.
We rented a car to drive from Rome to Tuscany (Chianti), and it was very small. Too small. His carseat didn’t really fit in the car. So, next time, I would either make sure it was guaranteed we would get a bigger car, bring a smaller car seat, or only stay places that could be accessible by public transport. For us, that latter suggestion wouldn’t really work. We like to have more flexibility in our schedules (not bound by train or bus schedules), and also be able to go to places a little “off the beaten path,” so we will rent a car next time. We just need to find a different car seat option. Keep in mind: when you have bring a car seat, it has to go everywhere with you! We did some research about renting one from the car rental company, but it wasn’t guaranteed that it would be available, so we didn’t want to take the chance. All this to say: you have to weigh the options and decide what is best.
The best thing we learned from going to Tuscany is that we needed rest days. I wish we would have had more time to relax and take time for play/rest days. When traveling with a babe, I would suggest having more rest days in between the days where you travel from place to place. But, that would also mean taking a longer trip or seeing less places. Up to you :)
While residing in Tuscany, we made a day trip to Florence. This was actually another challenging day! You can read all about the hardships and road bumps we hit in this post. The reason it was challenging because we climbed the Duomo and Knox was tired and it just wasn’t the best situation. But, it was our only chance to climb it. So, best advice? Even if it’s a little challenging or hard on your baby, you sometimes have to do the hard thing. Because, we don’t regret climbing up those stairs with him.
Rest Day and Travel Day Tips:
Let your baby nap whenever and wherever
When taking day trips or traveling to a new city, check the public transportation schedules in advance
Have cash at all times for water and snacks
Use your baby to help you skip lines and get special treatment ;)
Pack light and compact
Have diapers and wipes and water easily accessible
Cinque Terre (+ travel days)
Something we didn’t think about or plan for was the days we would be traveling from one place to the next. It takes longer than you think it will, and even longer with a baby.
Throughout our trip, we had three big travel days. Next time, I would do it differently and probably have fewer big travel days, but we were eager to see as many places as possible. So, it’s a tough choice.
For these days, we would make sure we always had enough food and do our best to time the long travel stretches (4 hour drive or train ride) with his naps. It rarely worked this way, mainly because if we were in a new place (aka train), he was distracted by all the things to look at and didn’t want to nap.
Travel Day Tips (aka. Days with lots of trains or car rides)
Give yourself more time than you need
Snacks (always, snacks)
Share the responsibility: we had my parents with us, so we tag teamed a lot of caretaking.
If your baby is crawling, let them crawl whenever you can.
Bring extra clothes for everyone
Assign each person certain luggage to be responsible for.
Know that things will not go as planned, so be flexible.
Our child was very active, but not yet walking when we were gone, so I had to let him crawl in public places. Gross? Yes. But, I had to let him move and crawl at some point.
Always have snacks, diapers, and wipes. Always.
Have a good baby carrier that can be used for front and back carry.
Bring a small, compact stroller.
Make everything you need for the baby easily accessible and organized.
Ditch the schedule of naps and bedtime and just enjoy your time.
Stay at hotels vs. airbnbs because you are more likely to be able to get a crib and also have a bigger bed.
Naps: all of his naps were either in the car seat or Ergo.
If you’re going to Italy: Italians love babies, use it to your advantage :)
We packed all the diapers and wipes we needed, so we didn’t have to be stressed about buying them there.
We packed everything in a very organized way to make sure we both always knew where everything was.
If you don’t have access to laundry, make sure you bring enough clothes. We went through 2-3 outfits a day.
All in all, considering the fact that we were constantly on the move, Knox did amazing. I wish we had had more time for rest days and time for him to just have days to play and explore. We know what to do next time! If you’re planning an International trip, I hope these tips are helpful! If there is anything I didn’t cover, comment below and hopefully I will have an answer or advice!