We are by no means experts on this (makes me laugh out loud even typing that!) but we have been traveling nearly every week since we moved to Croatia 8 months ago. John Shea was then under two and Gracie was still a newborn. It feels crazy sometimes, but it can be done, and it can be a lot of fun! These may be obvious tips, but we had to learn these lessons through trial and error:) Hopefully this will be helpful to read for any families planning upcoming trips…
1. The most important lesson we’ve learned is a good attitude. Mine and Cam’s that is! We usually pray together as a family just before heading out and this is one of the things we always ask for. If one of us is failing in the attitude department, we all suffer from it and the trip (at least that portion) is not fun or enjoyable for anyone. Our kids feel our attitudes and totally effect theirs. We have to keep each other accountable and give each other breaks to regroup when one of us is feeling tired or frustrated. (Because traveling with toddlers and babies can be both of those!) Communicating helps us the most- we also have an inside joke to break some heated moments. Getting to travel as a family is an amazing gift that not everyone can afford to do. It helps to remind yourself of that before and during the trip! Figure out what it is that helps you keep a good attitude and a thankful heart and stick with it.
2. Car travel. We’ve found in Europe that long train travel is often no cheaper than driving. Gas prices are astronomical here but multiple train tickets to get from country to country aren’t cheap either. Driving allows the freedom to travel at the times of day that work best for your kids. As ours are so little, we still pack a lot of stuff for them, which makes it ten times easier with a car! We almost always bring a pack-n-play and a stroller with us (this is the one we use the most), John Shea loves being in a backpack on Cam and I still like to wear Grace in the ergo in towns along the coast that have lots of stairs and cobblestones. We just had some friends visit us from Germany with three kids (hi, Barnetts!) ages 8, 7 and 4 and we were amazed at how lightly they packed, so this must get easier as time goes on.
3. Utilize nap time and bed time. Our babies still thrive on their schedules so this has been pretty crucial for us. There are a lot of winding roads in Croatia and this part of Europe so we do most of our road trips at night to let the kids sleep and try to keep John Shea from getting car sick. You may want to do some google map research to see if you’ll be on a fairly straight highway or on curvy roads. We’ve also found 3 – 4 hours is the max our kids can handle on the road per day, so we break up long trips.
4. Thinking through the right accommodation for your family. Our kids do best at a hotel or apartment/house rental in a quiet area with an outdoor space to run around and recharge. This is ideal for an “off day” to take a break from site seeing/being in the car to just enjoy where we’re staying. For example, we stayed on this olive farm just outside of Florence and were able to let John Shea roam and play while we peacefully enjoyed being in Tuscany. It was a beautiful win-win! Likewise, we split this cute house rental with our good friends just outside of Bled, Slovenia in a tiny village surrounded by fields. The best situations we’ve had have been in accommodation separated into two rooms or a living area so the babes can sleep in their own space, though that’s not always an option in our budget. If your family thrives being in a city and walking everywhere, research and find the place that works for your needs and budget. Tripadviser and Booking.com are my go-to sites for research as well as blogs. Frank About Croatia and Chasing the Donkey are two great resources if you’re coming to Croatia. I’ve yet to use Airbnb but have used Homeaway multiple times in Croatia and Slovenia and have really liked it. I usually spend hours before our trips researching the best accommodation options and it’s payed off every time!
5. Think about some food options. Put snacks in your suitcase and carry-on! Look or ask for the nearest grocery store so when you arrive you can pick up some essentials. We try to pack for pb&j’s or something similar to help keep costs down and just in case we can’t find a place to eat or the kids need to crash early. I also try to research a few good options to eat out. The best have been anywhere that has an outdoor terrace where John Shea can roam and that open early so we can get in and out before it gets crowded. (And of course has good food!) Most cafes and restaurants in Croatia offer wi-fi if you need to play a show for a wiggly little one and give yourself a chance to sit and eat.
Lastly, let go of and lower your expectations of what your trip is going to look like and just have fun!! It is such a gift. This is probably the most obvious, but so easy to forget during meltdown moments.
Do you have any tips for traveling with babies?? I’d love to hear yours!