Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Traveling abroad with an infant/toddler


   My husband and I love traveling. We have always loved going to Europe as we prefer a city vacation vs a cruise or a beach vacation. Mainly we like to walk to major attractions even if we have to walk ten miles to get there. In the mean while we discover unpopular attractions, restaurants and hidden places where only the locals enjoy. We walk all day and love to eat local foods and people watch along the way.
     When our son was born, we were still determined to go on a European vacation at least once a year. In the fall of 2012, our son was only 11 months old when we took him to Paris and Bulgaria. He was not mobile at the time and it was super easy to get him places. It was doable even though Paris and Bulgaria are not the most kid friendly countries as far as transportation goes. We still got a great vacation out of it and didn't have any regrets. So yes, if you have a kid that is not walking yet, it is absolutely doable to go on a vacation abroad and actually enjoy it.

      In June, 2015 we decided to do another trip to France and take our now two year old boy with us. We thought it would be just as easy as the first time. I thought the biggest challenge would be the long flight since our son is very active. I was wrong about almost everything. He did really well with the flights but airports and the busy and loud city of Paris seemed overly stimulating for him. We had planned to stay in Paris for two weeks and our wild little guy took probably a whole week to get used to the time difference and this too contributed to his behavior. We even took him to Disney Land-Paris hoping that this would make him happy but he simply could not handle standing in line for all the rides. We went on total of three rides and the rest of the time we spent at the disney land play ground. 

 If you are wondering whether to take your toddler with you or not, as harsh as it might sound, I would recommend looking for another option unless you don't have one. I can honestly say that it was fun but most of the time it was very hard and we didn't get as much out of our EU vacation as we usually do. There are a few things to consider before you make a decision: 

- Does your toddler do well with noise (vacuum, cars, sirens, etc)?
- Does your toddler behave when he/she is around a lot of people? 
- Does your toddler like to go on long walks in the stroller and does your toddler mind being strapped? 
- Does your toddler do well with change of environment? 
- Can they sit still? 
- Does your child follow commands well?

If you answer NO to all of these questions, there is no doubt that you WILL have a hard time. Your stroller will be one of the best things for your trip. If your toddler can't handle the stroller it will be very difficult to do anything. 

We were able to do maybe one or two sight seeing and the rest of the time we spent in the area where we stayed.  If you absolutely have to take your toddler with you here are a few tips to make your vacation abroad much more pleasant:  

 Here are some recommendations if you are traveling with your child/children (3 months and older): 

1. Booking the flight. If you are doing a long international flight I personally would recommend a day trip. I have never done a night flight but I wouldn't take my chances and have a crazy toddler crying and screaming while everyone else is trying to sleep. But again that is my personal preference. Call the airline a few days in advance to assign you a bulk head and request a bassinet. I have used it and it is great. Your child gets too sleep comfortably and you get your hand and lap free. Usually the bassinets are free of charge. The size and weight requirements vary between the different airlines. Usually infants weighing up to 29 lbs but again this depends on the airline. So make sure you qualify. Children under 2 years old fly free unless you decide to book a seat for them. In that case you can have a car seat attached to the airplane seat. If you are traveling with a toddler you may request a kid's meal. 
Call the airline one more time, perhaps the day before and make sure that they have booked your seating and bassinet. Sometimes you have to call a few times to make sure they have it right. If you are flying with a few family members and for some reason you have not booked your seating together you may request that you sit next to each other by calling the airline. Double check on line and make sure they have seated you together. If not call again. Sometimes they can't make those changes for you, but you may request a seating together before you board. Usually they can make those changes there and then. 

2.Booking a hotel/apartment. If you are traveling with a toddler I would invest in the place you are staying at as you might be spending a lot of time there. The more the place offers the better. It is very important that you book a hotel/apartment by a park or a playground. Your child will be much happier and will make your experience abroad much better. Children just want to play. 

3. Going through customs. If you have a baby, you will most likely transport liquids. Formula, breast milk, and juice for infants or toddlers are permitted to be brought on board the aircraft so it's OK to bring with you. All you have to do is tell the TSA officer that you are traveling with a baby and you are caring milk. If you are taking a stroller with you, most airports demand that the stroller is folded in order to go through. If you are planning on walking long distances it is good to have a rain cover for your stroller.

4. The flight. If you have a really active toddler, I would recommend CARES Safety Restraint Belt. We used it for our little guy and it worked like a miracle. It gave him the feeling he is in a car seat so there was no question about being too wild during the flight. Obviously you can definitely unbuckle your child when the safety light is off so he/she can sleep comfortably. During take off is the most common time for kids to fall asleep due to the motion of the airplane. Have them drink something or suck on a pacifier as this will help their ears pop from the elevation pressure. International airlines provide a small pillow and a light blanket but most of the time it gets so cold that I would recommend bringing with you an extra blanket for your child. A small pillow is also nice to have in the stroller where your child may fall asleep sometimes during the trip so I would recommend taking a small pillow with you as well. 

5. Entertainment. If you are traveling with a non mobile child, probably you won't need much entertainment so I would recommend taking only a few things with you. I remember I took maybe 2-3 toys with me when my son was 11 months and he did great. If you are traveling with a toddler I highly recommend an iPad - (if your child is not into cartoons yet, she/he can play toddler games or try baby Einstein), it truly is the best investment I have ever made and it is totally worth it. It saved us big time. Stickers (easy and don't need much space). Play-Doh is messy but is a great way to kill time. Other than that play with whatever you have in hand. A bottle, a cup, a straw, a spoon, ice, a magazine, opening and closing the window shutters, buttons on the seat and screen, opening and closing the seat belt (when you don't have to have your seat belt on), waving HI to the a fellow passenger (hopefully you have plenty of those that like kids), small amounts of water, etc. You may bring a glow in the dark toys as that would be fun when the lights go off. Although I would not recommend glow in the dark sticks. They may brake and make a glow in the dark mess. Bring a few candies or something sweet in case of a melt down but I in no way recommend giving your child too much sugar. Sugar means energy, protein foods means sleepy, as your body takes time to process them. You may request milk during the flight, cold or warm. Lollipops, gummy candy, pretzels are great as they take time to eat, and you want to buy all the time you can. 

At the end something to remember, you will survive, you will get there. Other people have children too and most people will understand. Remember to have a little fun and know you are building memories you will laugh about later. I would love to hear your storries so don't hesitate to share. Have a great trip! :)



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