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Why We Traveled Overseas With Our One-Year-Old (and Would Do it Again)

“You’re going to Europe and taking the kid with you? …Why?”

“You guys are, like, crazy!”

“She won’t remember a trip until she’s older.”

These are some of the reactions we got when we said we were going to Europe and bringing our one-year-old with us. I have to say, I understand where each of them was coming from. For many people, major travel is put on hold once kids arrive – you’ll get to that once they’re grown and out of the house, right? I can say from experience that it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. In fact, family travel to faraway destinations seems to be getting more and more popular. We’re coming up on one year since taking our first big family trip, so I thought I’d share just a little wisdom and a few tips.

To start, my husband and I first traveled abroad together in 2012. We visited London and Paris for a few days each, and we’ve gone back to different spots in Europe every year since, save for when I was pregnant. Throughout those nine months, we told each other we wouldn’t stop taking a yearly trip just because we had a baby. Traveling is our “thing” in life, it’s what we love to do, so no way were we going to let that go!

Once our daughter, Adeline, was here and got close to turning one, we started planning the vacation she’d eventually turn 13 months old on. We decided to go to London and Paris again, for a couple different reasons. One was that we absolutely love both cities, and knew there was still plenty to see and do that we didn’t cover the last time. Plus, to see it all through the eyes of a toddler? So neat! Another reason was that being somewhat familiar with these places made us a little more comfortable about being so far from home with our baby.

Without a doubt, though, we had our apprehensions about bringing her with us on such a big trip. The nervousness was mostly about the flight, as my biggest fear as a parent is being that family on an airplane – you know, the one with a screaming baby. However, I did a lot of research prior to our departure – looking up tips and tricks on flying with babies – and thankfully, the flights went pretty well. I was surprised and oh-so-relieved to find that most passengers and airline employees were so generous and helpful.

This time around in each city was pretty different, in such a great way. There were less museums, and more parks and playgrounds. Less full-day excursions that leave you exhausted, and more midday naps in between all the fun. It’s important to remember that children are everywhere, so options for them are, too! It seemed like every day in London, we’d come across a beautiful park and playground. It was so fun to take a break from sightseeing, push Adeline in a swing and see local little ones and parents in their element. We were happy to find all the same options in Paris, and then some.

We knew good and well a one-year-old wouldn’t remember a trip like this, but to us, that’s not really the point. The way I see it, each and every experience a toddler takes in just adds to their development and personality. Every place, every face, every voice, every sound they take in makes a contribution. Our daughter just turned two years old and is pretty darn friendly, social, and adaptable. Is that because she’s done some traveling? Who knows? It sure hasn’t hurt, though. Below, you’ll find some general tips that may be helpful for traveling internationally with a tot:

Fly through the night – I have a feeling flying overnight made all the difference in the world. Adeline slept maybe only a total of four hours, but it was better than none at all. Also, having Frozen downloaded on our iPad really came in handy (we sort of kicked the screen time worries to the curb).
New books and wrapped toys – Bringing a couple of never-before-seen books and some inexpensive toys wrapped up in pretty paper bought us some time, too. It was something new and exciting for her to see, if even for just a little while.
Hold off on diapers – Bring enough diapers and wipes to get you to your destination, then buy more once you arrive. This will save space in luggage! Babies are everywhere, so diapers are too.
Snacks, snacks, snacks – Whatever you do, pack plenty of snacks for the flight. We brought along the organic puréed food pouches, puffs, all that good stuff. This is yet another way to keep them occupied! Also, you’ll likely find similar options in foreign countries (for the duration of your trip and for on the way back).
Hotel vs. apartment rental – After renting places through Airbnb and VRBO on this trip, I don’t think we’ll ever stay in another hotel abroad. Having a separate room for Adeline to sleep in was great. We could close the door to the bedroom and hang out in the living area while she napped.

Was traveling with a one-year-old tougher than simply going as a couple? Of course. It required a lot more planning – it’s amazing the things you have to consider once you have a baby in tow! Can we find a London apartment that already has a Pack-n-Play? Yes! Does this old Parisian building have an elevator? NO (that was fun). But, was it all worth it? Abso-freaking-lutely. We made memories to last a lifetime, from our daughter taking her first steps in London, to having a family picnic under the Eiffel Tower. These are moments I’ll never forget. 

So, the point of this post is simply to say, It can be done! If you have the means (hello, credit card miles), desire and the know-how to make it happen, go for it. Currently, we’re brainstorming another trip later this year. With a now two-year-old in tow, I’m sure it’ll be another fun (and somewhat crazy) adventure.

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