Seven Tips for Traveling to Europe with a Toddler

So you're thinking about taking your toddler to Europe. "Are you crazy?" is probably something you've heard a lot since telling your friends and family. Well, you're not crazy - far from it. Not only are you capable of traveling with a toddler, but you'll be a pro at it. Our daughter is three years old and she’s been to Europe three times; kids are resilient and will thrive when given the opportunity. Here are some of my tips for traveling with a toddler.

 
Holga photo of Museum Orsay
 

Here are some tips for the flights: 

Flight Time

Try to book a flight late enough so that it's bedtime when you're in the air. (However, on the way back, you don't want to do that. Step 2 is mostly for the way back.)

Bring Activities

Obviously - right? If you normally don't give your tot a lot of screen time, I suggest throwing that out the window while you're in the air. Make sure you download the tried and true favorites as well as some new shows and movies to help keep their attention. I also recommend bringing a brand new coloring book with their favorite characters on it. Along with some new stickers and some crayons and BOOM, you're set!

Bring Just Enough Plus 1

Pull-ups, diapers, and snacks… The normal amount is not enough. Bring slightly more than you think you’ll need on the flight. For example, our daughter only wears pull-ups at bedtime. She only uses one, but I brought three. I didn’t panic and pack an entire package in the carry-on. Excess stuff is just as stressful as not enough. Snacks. Yes, they feed you on flights. But toddlers are ALWAYS hungry. Bring a variety of the snacks you know they love. But keep in mind it doesn’t need to replace a meal (make sure you request the kids meal when you book your ticket). But it does need to hold them off until meal time.

Bedtime Routine

For the way there - establish the bedtime routine. Do you usually read a book at night? Bring that book! Bring their favorite blanket and stuffy/lovey. Using a paci? Bring the paci! It's important to do as much of the bedtime routine on the flight as possible. It'll help get their mindset right and ready to settle in for a long slumber!

 
Our daughter at Charles de Gualle in Paris after we landed.

Our daughter at Charles de Gualle in Paris after we landed.

 

You made it! For the first day, go to the hotel, relax for an hour or so, freshen up, then power through it. Try with all your might to stay out until at 8:00 pm local time. Everyone will feel so much better if you do. Here are some tips for when you're there. 

Bring the Stroller

Even if you don't normally use a stroller, bring it. Nothing like walking 25k steps and having to carry a 32lb (super cute) sack of potatoes! Plus, stroller naps are amazing. And you can lug all your ish on the back of it. Win-win. 

 
A little rain couldn’t keep us away from the playground in San Sebastian, Spain!

A little rain couldn’t keep us away from the playground in San Sebastian, Spain!

 

Kid Stuff 

Locate the parks, playgrounds, and carousels. Europe has TONS of them. In Paris, we ran across at least two playgrounds and a carousel every day. Find them and use them as bribes! Only slightly kidding here. But seriously. Utilize them. Every day on our last trip to France and Spain we asked our three year old what her favorite thing of the day was. Other than the one day we went to a fireworks show, she said it was the playground or carousel. Make them happy. You'll get good photo ops!

Plan Ahead

If there is something that you absolutely must see, buy tickers ahead of time or if it doesn't require tickets, determine what day exactly you'll make your way to see it. Time travels in warp speed on vacation. Don't miss the items on your bucket-list because you didn't plan ahead. With that said, plan for jet-lag. We stayed out late every night (kind of a half way between Central Time and Central European Time) and we didn't make it out of the hotel earlier than 10:00 am most days. So don't buy tickets that require you to be in line at 8:00 am. Be realistic, as well. We only got to spend about one hour at the Orsay (impressive for a three year old!), so I made sure we saw what we HAD to see, first (see where the planning comes in?). 

Bonus

Be flexible. This goes with the territory of having a toddler, but it needs to be said. Not everything will go according to plan. And that's ok. In fact, it's good. If you're open to completely shaking things up, you never know what you'll find. Like maybe the Eiffel Tower at night…

Eiffel Tower at night
 
We were not planning to stay out this late, but she was totally cool and we were open to the opportunity.

We were not planning to stay out this late, but she was totally cool and we were open to the opportunity.

 

Holga | Lomography film | Holland Photo Dev | Self Scan