Reflections from a Mom – Taking an American Baby to Europe

You may also enjoy checking out my post from just a couple of days before the trip began, click here.

Europeans love babies!

  • At least, that is the impression I am walking away from after our month journey across England, Belgium, NetherlandsLuxembourg, and France with our 8-9 month old.
  • He was oggled at, cooed over, smiled at, and flirted with absolutely everywhere – and he loved it! We watched reserved British and French women fall over themselves to “googoo” with him, saw prim French waiters bring him little treats (at one point, we had two waiters, the manager, and a cook, all over at our table taking turns making him smile at them), and had more than one person help to distract him when he got a little fussy on trains.
  • We had three  different people tell us in broken English that he had made their day – that they had been having a bad day, then got smiled at by him, and felt better.
  • We had security guards at four major museums (Hermitage, Louvre, Orsay, Massena) go out of their way to help us skip queues and find elevators.
  • And, Zachary is on lots of phones and Facebook pages as we had dozens asking us to take his photo.
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Jody snapped this photo of me walking with Zachary in Monaco – then when we took a look at the photo, we noticed the group on the right of the photo all looking at Zachary. Too cute!

 

Europe isn’t built for babies – but you can make it work.

  • Outside of the UK, we found very few changing tables or high chairs. However, a reclined stroller, bathroom counters, and grass, all work great. A bathroom floor works in a pinch too. As far as a high chair, thank goodness we had our travel one with us.
  • Next, we had to negotiate a lot of stairs. There were many places with lifts/elevators or escalators, but just as many (like the Paris Metro) without either – so we got really good at negotiating stairs with the stroller, which Zachary seemed to always enjoy.
  • There are lots and lots of cobbles, and so you need a really good stroller. We are very glad we had our City Mini with us. The brands I saw in most use over there were: Maxi Cosi, Bugaboo, I’Coo, Peg Perego…and a few City Mini’s (by Baby Jogger) and Maclaren’s.
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Cobblestones and steep hills are a way of life!

 

Packing light is key.

  • We accomplished this trip with only two backpacks, a diaper bag, a stroller, and a travel cot, plus miscellaneous smaller bags when needed for extra purchases along the way.  It made life so much easier to negotiate a minimal amount of things!
  • Read how we did it and also our ultimate packing list.
  • Part of packing lightly is buying baby’s stuff along the way as diapers, wipes, formula and food take up lots of space.  Learn more about where and what we bought for Zachary while overseas.

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Redefine your expectations and overall itinerary.

  • It may look like we did a lot each day if you look at the blog posts for our trip, but the reality is that we took it pretty easy the whole month we were there.  We got up around 8 am local to get Zachary his first bottle around 8:30, had breakfast in the apartment while Zachary played, then got ready while he napped.  Then, we would usually feed him his second bottle just before leaving – meaning we usually left the vacation apartment around noon or 1:00 pm each day.  Then, we headed off to whatever we were going to do, usually lunch first (including solids for Zachary). The days were typically filled with walking around and seeing things, taking breaks every few hours at cafes or parks in time for bottles, letting Zachary nap in the stroller while we walked, and then having dinner before heading back to the apartment for the evening.  It was actually a relaxing month!
  • There were things that we typically would have fit into our itinerary that we simply elected not to do – such as visiting the Pont Du Guard in Provence or the EU Parliament in Brussels.  If it had just been us, or maybe with an older child, we would have gone, but with Zachary and factoring in his stroller, his bottle schedule, etc., it just didn’t make sense … and we were okay with that.
  • This trip was more about “being” in Europe with Zachary than “doing” things in Europe, if that makes sense. And it made for great memories!

Just say “no” to hotels and “yes” to apartments.

  • It is just a reality that hotel rooms across Europe are small, and many don’t have much of a bathroom counter to speak of. As we were thinking about fitting Zachary’s travel cot somewhere in the room, and washing bottles, and also needing to do laundry, we realized pretty quickly that apartments would be a better option. Surprisingly, they were easy to find. In some cities, like Brussels and Paris, we found “apartment hotels,” which are what they sound – a hotel with a reception desk and studios or one bedroom apartments with kitchenettes. In some places like Amsterdam or Nice, it was easier to go with corporate or vacation rentals.
  • In every location, we were THRILLED with our decision. We had more space, almost always had a laundry (or easy access to one), had basic supplies provided (dish soap, plates and cups, etc.), had small kitchens for Zachary’s stuff but also for making our own breakfast and bringing home leftovers, didn’t have a maid moving ours (or more importantly, Zachary’s) stuff around, and overall it made us feel like we lived there instead of being visitors. It was such a great way to travel and I am not sure I will ever go back to hotels in Europe again.
  • You are probably assuming that this option is too expensive.  However, our average nightly rate across our entire stay was only 100 euros!
  • Read more about HOW to find vacation rentals here.

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Train travel is the easiest way to get around Europe with a baby.

  • The train was far easier than either a car or airplanes. It minimizes the need for a carseat, puts to rest any need to rush there for check in and to get through security, and allowed us all to move around the coach at will. We opted for first class seats for any travel of more than 2 hours, which resulted in having enough space between us for Zachary to lie down. He also really enjoyed learning how to balance with the movement of the train, and we were able to easily walk him down the aisles when necessary and get hot water from the bar coach for warming up bottles. Also, you can arrive at the train station with just minutes to spare because as long as you are on your platform in time, you are good – no security lines, etc.
  • Airplanes may have been a little faster, although waiting for security may negate the time savings.
  • Click here for more lessons learned about using trains in Europe.
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Zachary loved having his own seat on most of the regional trains

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First class on the speed trains afforded plenty of room between us for Zachary to chill out!

 

One Response to “Reflections from a Mom – Taking an American Baby to Europe”

  1. [...] For this trip, it was imperative since we had a baby with us – read more about why in my “Reflections” post. There was a bit of a learning curve at first, but once we got the hang of it, we loved [...]

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