Our tips for traveling to Europe with a 1 and 4 year old

We did a lot of planning for our trip trying to make it as successful as we could. Here are the things we found important for our family, cause I know other families read this and might get some ideas:

  • Book apartments with washing machines and kitchens. Let me say it again. Book apartments with washing machines and kitchens. We used homeaway.com for this trip and got an apartment in both cities, this made a huge difference with the kids. Paris is known for having hotel rooms the size of the bed and this way we got a lot more space. We also then had room to eat dinner, because at the end of the day small kids are just done and can’t handle the super-stimulating environment of a restaurant and actually eat enough, or ours can’t anyway. This way we got takeout for dinner, grabbed pastries at breakfast and added home cooked eggs and store bought fruit. I cooked a few times. We also could refrigerate easy snacks like yogurt and cheese to have on hand. These places all also had free wifi, perfect for facetiming with the grandparents. We also did laundry almost every day because…
  • Pack really light, four outfits per person plus one pair of pajamas. This meant we could travel the public transportation systems (and airports) while carrying and pushing both girls with a single stroller and a carrier and still have enough hands for the luggage. We took one hiking backpack, one carry-on suitcase and two regular sized backpacks and that’s it. We were mobile, we were minimal, and we had enough. I did end up buying the girls each and outfit as well in Paris for fun. It was a great time of year for this lighter travel too as we just needed pants plus t-shirts and fleece coats for when it got chillier. We just planned to buy things if we happened to need them, like we ran out of deodorant so we just bought some local stuff. I was surprised by how much stuff we didn’t even need to refill. Almost everything can be bought there, we weren’t going on safari.
  • Keep the entertainment small. Most parents learn quickly to bring some toys along with them to keep the kids entertained. I had packed the regular drawing supplies, plus some new stickers, and wikki stix (big hit with Josie). Our other big entertainment device was the iPad, but not for TV. We got a whole library of scanned books from our neighbor and so the iPad was like carrying around 20 different books (all new thankfully as they weren’t ours). We did lots of reading on trains and at night. It also served as a backup for all my photographs in case anything would have happened to my camera or memory cards. We also played counting games with sugar packets, made up our own stories and the cook-ware in both apartments became toys as well. In Paris we also bought a funky travel ball which is a cloth covering that goes over a balloon that you blow up, so it can be popped for packing and just needs a new balloon to re-inflate.
  • Book car service at the beginning and end of the trip. Traveling with small kids is hard and just physically tired because you can’t rest if they won’t. So we took it easier on ourselves by booking cars in Paris from the airport (at the end of the long long trip) and in Amsterdam to the airport (because it was crazy early). Things we might not have done pre-kids, but we decided to respect our limits so that we’d have energy for times like the plane ride when you just have to dig deep and deal with it.
  • Accept that the trip is going to be very different than traveling before kids. Our last trips to Europe were packed with many cities, train trips and multiple tourist activities per day. Last time we spent 12 days, we saw twice as many cities and took three times as many trains. We went slower this time, did an adult-oriented thing in the morning generally while Celia napped, and then tried to be outside and do things the whole family could mostly enjoy with a few kid-special activities too. Good thing we all like to eat and try new foods! Kids are loud and need to move, museums were limited to an hour. So we didn’t see the Louve, we’ve been there before and hopefully we’ll be back again. We saw some smaller places instead and we got to see the wonder and joy of Paris through a small child. I think we also probably got a lot more sleep.

All in all we got a lot of great family time. Enough adult-mental-stimulation time. Lots of exercise and tons of memories and photographs. I’ll keep writing more about the details too… but I wanted to pull this information out separately.

One Response to “Our tips for traveling to Europe with a 1 and 4 year old”

  1. wing Says:

    Wow, I’m impressed that you guys did this! Thanks for the advice.

    We’re finally gearing up for Camille’s first plane trip. But it should be easy compared to your trip since we’re staying with a friend who has a 1-year-old. 😛

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