My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Portugal with our seven month old daughter. We have gone on backpacking adventures all over the world, and were determined that having children was not going to keep us from continuing to travel.
I chose Portugal because we had enough points to fly to somewhere in Europe from Canada and since I am currently off work on maternity leave we wanted to go somewhere that would be relatively inexpensive once we arrived. We wanted some relaxation time and some time to explore the country. Portugal seemed to meet all these criteria.
I was thrilled to find out that the Portuguese love children and our daughter had a steady stream of women and even men stopping to pay her some attention. The little old ladies would cluck their tongues and rhyme off beautiful sounding sentences in Portuguese. One woman stopped to talk to us while we were waiting for a tram in Lisbon. She didn’t speak any English, and we didn’t speak Portuguese but we signed our way through a conversation. She insisted on giving us a euro which we believe she was telling us was for our little girl’s piggy bank. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Our tram driver also kept clucking and smiling at her to the point that we started to worry that he wasn’t really watching the road.
I think many of our friends and family thought we were crazy to plan such a trip with such a small child, but I can now say that it is very possible and even quite enjoyable although it does require an adjustment to your usual travel style and some extra planning to ensure your child’s comfort. Here is my list of do’s and don’ts for traveling in Europe with an infant:
- Do book all accommodation ahead and ensure that they can provide a baby bed or cot that is in good condition. This saves you from having to drag one around with you.
- Do plan your flights during times that your baby would normally sleep. As long as your baby is not a light sleeper, he or she will probably still sleep on the airplane if it is during their normal sleeping hours.
- Do take several different types of carriers so that your baby doesn’t get bored of always being in their stroller (pram). We took a stroller, a backpack carrier and a sling carrier.
- Do take a stroller that is small in width but has good wheels. Many European brands meet these criteria because the sidewalks (if any) are narrow and the streets are often cobbled.
- Do rent your carseat with your rental car when possible. If your baby is under 1 year old or 22 pounds make sure they can provide an infant seat that is rear facing. If you are not planning to rent a car and feel you will need to take taxis to get around, you will have to take your own seat.
- Do book rooms that have kitchen facilities or at minimum a small fridge and kettle for heating and storing baby food.
- Do take a bar of sunlight soap to hand wash facecloths, bibs and receiving blankets. Pack enough of each for 2 days and always have one set drying while you are using the other set.
- Do take travel size bottles of Purell (or similar water-free hand sanitizer), baby shampoo, diaper creams. If you run out, you can purchase more there and refill your mini-sizes for travelling.
- Do bring enough diapers for the first 2 days. This will get you through the plane ride and give you enough time to find some once you arrive. If you use cloth diapers, you will need to bring all your supplies.
- Do prepare for rain. Bring a rain shield for your stroller and rain jacket for yourself. Your baby will not enjoy being trapped in a hotel room all day and neither will you. You can still go out and enjoy the sights, some food and indoor activities if you have the proper gear.
1. Don’t worry about finding baby food. All pharmacies carry baby food jars and cereal as did the major supermarkets. Fresh fruit and vegetables were also readily available and even small stores carried baby cereal.
2. Don’t take too many toys. Babies can amuse themselves with just about anything you find along the way. Take just a few toys and books that you know are their favorites and keep your luggage light. If you have a baby that loves to bounce, a jolly jumper that you can hang in a doorway also packs up quite well.
3. Don’t plan as many activities as you usually would. When travelling with babies, cut your travel plans at least in half. When you factor in the extra time to feed, diaper and allow your baby to nap, you probably won’t be able to keep the same pace as you normally would. Plan lots of time to relax and take it slow. If you are expecting this, you won’t be disappointed while travelling.
I hope that other families will use these tips to have safe and happy travels with their children. I think that it was a wonderful experience, even for our baby that was only 7 months old. She was always engaged, laughing and interested in all of her new surroundings and although she won’t remember the trip, I hope she’ll enjoy looking at the pictures when she is older!
© Lisa Woodill and Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Woodill and Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug with appropriate and specific direction to the original content