The first time you travel with children really feels like travelling for the first time all together. Suddenly you are questioning everything you have known about travelling before. Where do I go? How do I get there? Where do I stay? What do I pack? What documents do I need? What do I do when I am there? Even the most seasoned and spontaneous traveller and minimalist packer (me) suddenly acts like they are moving house, not going on a quick weekend trip to see the grandparents. But the first trip for new parents besides going to see family to show off the little bubba, is usually a city trip. Having done my fair share of travelling I do not claim to be an expert but will share some of my tips here that work for my family. Perhaps I can make your first excursion less daunting
Where to go: if you ask me, I think there is no such a thing as a child friendly or unfriendly city. Consider what city suits you and your style. I have found that either the infrastructure is child friendly or the people. Question is: Do you need changing tables, worry about cleanliness or want to be able to buy a certain type of organic baby milk? Or is it more important to you that the environment and culture is inviting for your baby/ children. I personally tend to favour the latter. I am willing to sacrifice changing table access etc for warm-hearted southern people that are all just dying to take my baby. I remember a particularly lovely dinner in Istanbul where the table next to us with three elderly couples spent the entire evening cooing over our baby (back then only one). Handing off your bubba to total strangers and no child friendly infrastructure sound like a nightmare to you? Then perhaps Northern European cities are more your speed. Ultimately your little one will be comfortable when you are. It might not remember the Eiffel Tower but feel and reflect back when you are happy.
What to pack: luggage quantity seems to explode when having children. The rule apparently is: the smaller the person, the bigger the suitcase. First consider buying all things like pampers, wipes and food at your destination. Take plenty of spare clothes but consider having a colour code so everything goes with everything and you can layer according to the weather. Will you be able to wash at your destination? Great! You don’t have to pack that much. Toys are really not needed except for the journey to get there. Babies and children will see a lot there and if you need a toy after all a nice souvenir is a good idea too.
Which bigger items to pack: Travel bed, travel stroller, normal stroller, baby car seat? This is a difficult one and highly dependent on where you go. Personally I would avoid taking any of these if I can. So consider your destination, beach towns or cobblestone streets will render your travel stroller with those tiny wheels useless. For me the carrier is always the preferred option over the stroller. But on some trips I like taking the stroller with the car seat on top. If you are taking Taxis at any point this is preferable because I have found that no matter where I am most do not have a safe seat option for babies. If you are staying in a hotel they pretty much always have cribs available, you might consider the travel bed for an AirBnB though. My personal secret tip here: my children have always spent their first months sleeping in a Moses basket. We take this everywhere when travelling and it has been miraculous. They always felt super safe and slept well (or at least the same) just like at home
Where to stay: the most important thing is location. Consider little boutique hotels near where you are going to explore. Having the sights, nice cafés and shops within walking distance becomes more important when carrying or pushing a baby. For longer stays which I would highly recommend with children, consider an Airbnb. Having a home away from home makes everything a little easier and flexible. You can make the food your children are used to at any time , heat up baby bottles or perhaps go to another room when the baby is fussing at night without waking up your partner or other children.
What to do: Have a loose daily schedule. It helps to have meals at roughly the same time and a loose plan for before and after lunch. Your little one will have a very full day so don’t overpack activities. My advice would be to do a half day adult programme and half a day for the children. Find parks and playgrounds. Spend some time there, the children will be grateful and it is actually a really good way to get experience how the locals live. If your darling is still very small give them a break by going for a quiet walk in the stroller or even better with the carrier or spend some tummy time in the hotel room alone with them. Also if you want to go for fancy restaurants, plan lunches not dinners. Sorry to break the news, buzzy it restaurants and bars may not be your scene for the moment. Early dinner at the hotel or AirBnB have always been easier for us. And then mum and dad can put the children to sleep and the baby phone to use and have a sneaky drink.
Altogether the most important thing is: take your time or better even adjust your attitude: you may have noticed, when you have a baby getting out of the house takes about ten times longer than before. This will not change when you are travelling. So whatever plans you make, don’t plan too much, account for a lot of buffer time and don’t be surprised or upset if you have to change your plan completely. A museum trip can be a ten minute race or a five hour session…
I hope this little list has helped you a little bit. It is by all means all comprehensive and might not work for everyone, but hopefully nothing stands in the way for that next big city trip. Travelling with children is very different but no less fun. It certainly forces you to slow down and explore different aspects. Perhaps you will see your favourite city in a new, different light that you have never seen before.
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