Europe with a one year old! Family Travel Tips

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We had always wanted to go to Greece (one of our must see bucket list destinations) so we decided it would be a great experience to enjoy with the newest member of our family.  When I searched for flights, there was a flight on points that had us flying into Athens Greece and out of London England so we figured why not experience another destination for the same number of points!  Of course we wanted to be safe and ensure she had all of her necessary shots so we booked the flight for the day after her 1yr old shots.  I guess you have to actually turn 1 to get the shots, not a day earlier.

At Ella’s 1yr old check-up to get the needed shots, our doctor heard a slight heart murmur.  We couldn’t believe it as we were set to fly out the very next day!  After a discussion with our doctor and some deliberation about the risks, we decided to go on our trip anyways.

Travelling with a baby takes a bit more planning – especially going to a foreign country where I wasn’t quite sure what they would have available should we need medicine, diapers or other baby supplies.  It wasn’t like we were going to a third world country for our first trip with Ella but I still brought as much as I could just in case.

Here is the list:

1. Inflatable bath tub – we found that the large tub was too slippery for Ella so having a smaller tub really helped with the baths and saved us having to climb in with her for the bath.  There are lots of different types out there but we just got a fairly inexpensive Safety 1st one and it did the trick.  Once she outgrew her infant tub, we used this at home as well so it was a great purchase for the little we paid for the tub.

2. Extra soothers/pacifiers – we were told that if she “sucked” on something during lift off on the plane that it really helped to release the pressure in her ears.  Plus having a soother really helped calm her so we didn’t want to risk being without one.  I put the extras in different pockets in my carry on back pack so I wouldn’t open a pocket for something and have it accidentally fall out.  Plus when you are on the plane and it happens to fall on the ground, the water in the bathroom is not an option to wash it with so clean back-ups are a life saver!

3. Extra diapers – although you can probably purchase some type of diapers while away, I didn’t want to risk it especially not wanting to waste time trying to figure out where to buy them.  My general rule of thumb is 1 extra diaper than the maximum you would normally use daily for every day that you are away.

4. Bottles, formula and dish soap – we packed mainly powdered formula since that would be lighter but had a few instant cans just in case we couldn’t get bottled water.  2 bottles and a small bottle of dish soap ensured I always had a clean bottle to use.  By this time, we were down to one bottle per day so the extra was just in case.

5. 1 box of baby cereal, baby food in squeezable tetra packs and 3 baby spoons – although we started giving Ella some of our food with her meals, having the fail safe baby food and cereal made sure that she would never go hungry if she didn’t want or like the food that we were eating.

6. Reclining umbrella stroller – we have the Peg Perego Plinko Mini.  The full recline option and lightness of the stroller is a necessity.  Ella was still napping for a good part of the day so we wanted to ensure this didn’t stop us from sight seeing while still ensuring she was comfortable while she slept.  Also as the stroller will go everywhere with you and sometimes you’ll need to fold it up and carry it up the stairs or escalator, through security checks and then when it’s gate checked at the plane, the lightest possible and easiest to fold up is key.

Buckingham Palace                                                                             Ruins in Athens

Buckingham PalaceAthens


Mykonos (steps from a scene in Borne Identity)             Outdoor restaurant in Mykonos

MykonosOutdoor restaurant - Mykonos

A few travel tips:

1. Book seats with one seat in between the both of you.  This trick was passed along to me by my sister in law.  As Ella was under 2yrs old, we did not have to purchase a ticket for her which was great but she had to sit on our lap for the entire trip.  If you are lucky, the flight won’t be fully booked and even if a single passenger is booked in the seat in between you, most likely he/she will request to move to another empty seat since most people wouldn’t want to sit beside a 1yr old!  Worse case scenario, the flight is full and you can ask to switch with the person in between you and you end up with the same situation you would have been in before.  At least this way there is a chance you will get an extra seat which in our case we lucked out on two of the three flights.  Also with Ella crawling everywhere and starting to try to walk with assistance having some extra space is definitely nice for a 7hr flight.  The extra seat in between is great to allow them to sleep on their own instead of having them sleep on you for hours.  Having your little one sleep on you makes it a challenge to eat when the meals are served and going to the washroom is almost impossible unless you want to wake them up!  Given the length of the flight all the way to Europe, having them sleep for a good part of the flight is the best thing that can happen.

2. Look for the family line when going through airport security.  These lines will normally cut your time going through security at least in half.  In some cases you walk right through.  There was one airport that didn’t have a family line but the agent actually came and took us out of the line and escorted us to the front of the line – nice!

3. Ensure each parent is clear on their roles.  To avoid confusion and to make things as stress free as possible, we each had specific responsibilities.  I was responsible for Ella, a carry on back pack, the stroller, passports and tickets (ensure you have a purse that goes over your body with multiple pockets so each item can have it’s own pocket so other things don’t drop out).  My husband was responsible for the luggage and both cameras.

4. Have an agreed upon meeting point if you get separated.  We use public transportation when we’re abroad (especially since their systems are great over there) and there is always a risk of getting separated.  If that ever happens, we agreed to meet at the final destination instead of getting off at the next stop in hopes that the other person was thinking the same thing.

5. Ensure each person has some money in the country’s currency.  This seems obvious but again, just in case you get separated, you would never want to feel stranded without any money.  And unlike in North America, bank machines are not at every street corner and depending on where you there is a chance they won’t take credit.

6. Call ahead to book a crib or playpen for the room.  The hotels in Europe can be small so booking a hotel that has a crib or playpen that you can use is much better than trying to all sleep in one bed.  King beds might not be available due to the size of the rooms over there so having something for the baby to sleep in makes your sleep much more restful.

7. Book a room with a balcony or attached patio where possible.  After a long day of sight seeing and with Ella asleep, it was nice to bring back a bottle of wine, some snacks and in some cases a cigar for my husband and enjoy the evening on the patio with a wonderful view while she slept soundly inside.

And last but not least, relax and enjoy the experience.  If you plan ahead, it can be a very enjoyable, stress-free vacation.  In addition we didn’t have to feel like we were missing out with having a child and although Ella won’t remember the trip, exposing her to so many new sights, sounds and experiences I am sure can only be positive to her brain development at such a young age.

Feel free to share your experiences or any other travel tips you may have below and share this post with anyone who might find some of this useful.  Happy travelling!

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  5. Some great tips – I love the sneaky book seats with one in-between you – that’s brilliant!! Great that you got to enjoy Europe and see a bit of our London town!

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