This spring, my husband and I took our two-year-old to Europe (Paris and Amsterdam) for two weeks. Reflecting on the trip, here are some of the biggest takeaways and tips that made the trip easier for our family. [Note: I looked for blogs specifically about travel with a toddler and wasn't able to find much. While there are amazing blogs for families and older kiddos, I wasn't able to find any that reflected our situation, so I'm sharing some tips from our time abroad.]
1. SLOW DOWN. I'm eager to make the most of every trip and create a packed schedule where every. minute. is. booked. Prior to having a child, I would have filled our itinerary with museums, galleries, and sights. For this trip, we planned very little (one highlight a day) -- and it was the perfect blend of relaxation mixed with some great sightseeing. In Paris, we spend nearly every day at the playground in Jardin du Luxembourg (Incidentally, I found this blog after we returned). Note for Americans: It might sound odd, but you have to pay for entrance to this gated playground. It's worth it.
2. PLAN. My husband and I are fans of Rick Steves and have used his guides and packing lists for years. Here's his current book on Paris. We echo the recommendations in the book about getting a good stroller. We had a cheap umbrella stroller that we could have packed, but made the investment in a Mclaren stroller for this trip. I was so please we did for a few reasons: 1) You can carry it over-shoulder to free up your hands; 2) You can push it with one hand, which makes things a bit easier in the airport and on crowded streets (if you'd like to drink a cup of coffee while walking -- a far less popular habit in Europe than in the US); 3) The under-seat storage was perfect for stowing rain coats and other things we'd normally carry in a day pack.
3. GIVE YOUR KIDDO HIS/HER OWN SPACE. At home, our child has his own room. We opted to stay in smaller flats and studios and instead brought a magic "tent" along for him to have his own space to sleep. It was super helpful at nap time and overnight for him to have a dedicated space, especially while everyone was dealing with jetlag. The KidCo Peapod infant-5 years travel bed will come with us on future trips in and out of the country.
4. READ ABOUT PLACES IN ADVANCE. We read Madeline to our son for weeks before the trip, noting some of the places in the book that we would be seeing. He was so excited when he saw the familiar sight of the Eiffel Tower in real life!
5. DO LAUNDRY. My husband and I prefer to pack light and do laundry when we travel. We've been known to fill every surface of our bathroom with drying clothes. On this trip, we packed a travel clothesline and the fantastically portable Woolite Travel Laundry Soap. One tip: study up on using the foreign washing machine (or ask your hosts how to use the machine if you're staying at an Airbnb).
6. BE PATIENT. No one is at their best when you're in a different place, with a different language and jetlagged. Be patient with your spouse, your child(ren) and yourself. Chances are, everyone is getting too little sleep...including you. My husband's short advice: "Whatever happens, stay married."
7. SPLURGE ON THE TAXI. When getting from the train station to your accommodations, I typically love the mystery and detective work required to navigate to a new place. My husband recommended we take a taxi from the train station to our VRBO and it might have been one of the best decisions of the trip. Instead of meandering (we weren't using international cell service) around with a 2-year-old and luggage in tow, we were easily placed in front of the door! It was worth the few extra Euros.
These are just a few that come to mind for us. Have you traveled abroad with a toddler -- what would you add to our list? What toddler travel blogs were helpful for you? Please add your thoughts via comments below.
Note: This blog post contains affiliate links in support of the aforementioned 2-year-old's college fund.