Last summer we hightailed it to the Alps with our two and a half year old daughter because, well, why not? We’d already traveled around the US with her, and were overdue on getting her passport stamped – you know, that proud symbol for all the other indescribable takeaways from traveling.
There were people who told us we were crazy. People who told us we were awesome. And people who probably told us one thing and thought the other. But we were living our happiness, so off we went. After our month in Europe, we were not just ready to sign on for another trip abroad, we were ready to sign up for traveling even longer the next time around.
Whether you’re thinking about taking your first family trip or your 100th, here are some of our lessons learned as we head into more travels abroad:
01. Flying. Fear not.
This was the part of our trip that made me most nervous. I was worried my daughter would hate it and with that, 250+ people would hate us. She’d flown before but didn’t remember, so it was anyone’s guess as to how it would go. Our experience is probably best summed up with this scene: hours into our flight there’s my daughter, airplane dinner and glass of milch (milk) in hand, headphones on watching Handy Mandy on the seatback in front of her. She turns to me and says, “Mom, aren’t you going to watch something?” Okay, I got it. She’s good. We’re good. Flying, check.
02. Ditch the baby gear.
Go light. Your back will thank you later. We went without a car seat (opted for one with our rental car), without a stroller, without a portable crib and without any number of other travel “conveniences” made for families with kids. We limited ourselves to a toddler carrier, a single pack of diapers and some toys. It was all we needed.
03. Home stays are made for families with kids.
We chose home stays for the kitchen. It was great for our budget and for our daughter to have home-cooked meals. We had some of the best picnics from things we prepared at our “home” and some of the best outdoor dining from our very own porches. We also then had a separate living room while our daughter slept. Home stays all the way.
04. Base yourself for more extended periods of time.
We were so glad to not check in and out more than a few times over our month stay. Changing accommodations takes a full day. It’s just like a travel day. We picked a few base areas and made day trips from there or just relaxed like we lived there year round. The longer we stayed, the more it felt like a home away from home. Just one of the many joys of slow travel that we’re totally sold on, especially with kids.
05. Rainy days are the unexpected devil. Prepare for those.
Oh, rain. Good for the earth. Tough for the traveling toddler. A passing rain storm gone in an afternoon? No problem. 48 hours of rain? Well, now we’ve run out of rainy day games for the past 40 hours. Sometimes there is no work around there, especially since most indoor child activities seem to be geared toward a slightly older crowd. But I’d have done some more planning to know what our local options are if the weather goes south. Especially when we’re not near a city.
Oh, okay. I’m throwing in another.
05 1/2. Go without an itinerary. Low expectations. High happiness.
So on the heels of planning for rain, I actually planned for and expected very little from our travel days. This was great. With pre-trip research, I noted about 5-10 things in each base area we might want to do – some free, some not, some quick outings, some all day excursions. But we had no set itinerary. Each day we decided what we wanted to do. We went with the flow of how we felt or ahem, the weather. With a flexible schedule and low expectations for how things turn out, happiness can be remarkably easy to come by. So are unexpected surprises that packed schedules can’t allow for.
So let them call you crazy. Let everyone else miss out on all the fun. And go have a great time traveling abroad with your toddler. It truly is amazing and may end up looking a little something like this.