It's no secret that the French and Americans don't always see eye to eye; but they both concur on one point. Both thought my husband and I were nuts to travel overseas this past spring with our two babies.
Nuts? What is a little 9-1/2 hour flight to France and a huge time change to little ones? Moms in our playgroups grew wide-eyed and when I told them we were taking our two small children -- 2 year old Teegan and 5 month old Maya -- on vacation to London and Paris.
Even French and English women stopped us many times on the streets, and remarked that they couldn't believe we were traveling with our babies. I didn't think it was odd at all. Well, maybe a little -- like when I began to pack and realized I had to somehow fit 150 diapers and a box of wipes into our luggage. But we did it; we took the plunge and had an awesome trip. And I've come away with a list of invaluable tips for anyone else brave enough to give it a try.
Here are some of my best tips for traveling abroad with babies:
Get a plane seat for each child.
Get your passports early.
Bring things for your toddler to do on the plane ride and in the hotel room.
If your budget can swing it, bring a portable DVD player or laptop that plays movies.
Bring lots of food for your little ones with you.
As for my daughter, I was nursing exclusively, so there was no need to carry extra food for her. If you are nursing, you might want to carry along a light blanket to throw over yourself while you are feeding your baby. My daughter ate everywhere -- in front of Buckingham palace, in the London Eye, at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and in the Louvre.
Leave the monster stroller at home and invest in a good, sturdy umbrella stroller.
Bringing individual umbrella strollers also saved us a lot of headaches when it came to public transportation. Everyone travels by underground subway in both London and Paris. This meant we had to climb up and down many flights of stairs with our little guys.
Because the strollers were so light, it was easy for my husband to carefully scoop up my son while in the stroller (think carrying new bride over the threshold position) and for me to do the same with my daughter. We got around very quickly this way. Another nice thing about the umbrella strollers was that we could just push them right onto the train in their stroller.
Pack light for yourself, but normally for your children.
My daughter was going through an especially drooly stage, so she needed many bibs. We were able to hand-wash these in the hotel bathroom. If you think you'll have time to do laundry, bring a sample-size portion of laundry detergent with you. Be forewarned: rumor had it that laundry cost about roughly $8 a load when we were there.
Pack enough diapers and wipes.
Make sightseeing fun.
Planning ahead will help make for an enjoyable trip overseas with your family. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong on your trip or how hard it will be to get around with your babies, think of it as a wonderful adventure that you are sharing with your children. My son still talks to all his playmates about the Eiffel Tower. Traveling abroad with little ones is nowhere near as daunting as it seems. In fact, we can't wait to do it again!