Until a unicorn stork drops off quintuplets at my doorstep – or your doorstep (in which case most of the tips in this article go out the window), toss your “GAME OVER” t-shirt with a stick figure image adult hovering over a baby on a changing station aside (or in the Goodwill pile). Please – don’t let the fear of packing (FOP) leave you with FOMO.
Pack enough diapers and wipes to get you through to your destination.
Seriously – pack only enough diapers and wipes to get to your destination. And then.. buy diapers and wipes locally once you arrive.
Note: In some European countries (such as we experienced in Belgium/Netherlands) you cannot buy diapers at some of the big name local grocers such as Albert Heijn or Carrefour’s – you have to go to a Kruidvat store. Which is kind of like a Walgreens/CVS except that you can’t get anymore more than some basic vitamins, lotions, makeups, tampons, diapers/wipes, candy, and the like. It doesn’t have a pharmacy. You have to go to an actual Pharmacy (“Apotheek”) for something needed for i.e. sore throat as my husband did in Amsterdam. I’m sidetracking, but seriously – Europeans know at a minimum two languages and English is usually one of them. Just ask (or research beforehand via the greatest invention ever – GOOGLE MAPS) where the closest place to pick up diapers is.
Take a (comfortable) baby wearing carrier.
A lot of European cities specifically have cobblestone streets which make using a stroller next to impossible. Our Ergo 360 is perfect and protects the ol’ spine with the lumbar support that it provides. Not only is the carrier great for being out and about, but also for within the airport. If my husband and I are traveling together, we check a small (11lb) Zöe stroller in the off chance that we will use it. The Zöe lays almost completely flat for a small infant (& also sits upright), has amazing canopy coverage, and still has a little basket area to take your diapers, wine & beer bought at the local store (because wine & beer are way cheaper at a grocer <– BONUS TIP) back to wherever you’re staying. In all cucumber seriousness, this is THE perfect travel stroller in our opinion. But, back to the carrier.. Wear the baby in to the airport and all the way to security. TSA may make you take the baby out of the carrier and place the carrier through on the x-ray belt (this is where a second person becomes helpful to get baby back into carrier after clearing security). If I were traveling alone, I would probably utilize the stroller in the airport instead to avoid the rather irritating situation of trying to put the carrier back on with nowhere to lay the baby. I would still keep the carrier with me and gate check the stroller though. Regardless, I swear on my food bag (that goes on every single trip with me) that you will want that carrier where a stroller cannot go at some point along the trip. I would like to add that if you have a lap infant, some airlines will let you wear the baby in the carrier for takeoff and landing instead of utilizing the seat belt extender (which is not great in my opinion).
Pack light and plan to do laundry once while away.
I cannot stress how much it pays to PACK LIGHT. I actually think that the thought of packing for a baby is the part where most people forgo the idea of a trip as they turn into a frozen statue like they’ve just been touched by Elsa. Seriously – most people’s brains are on auto-freak right now, “BUT WHAT IF I need A-Z while I’m gone?!” The answer is YOU CAN BUY IT. Going with only what you need – (i.e. combos of basic baby outfits that can be mixed and matched based on whether or not you just need to swap out the onesie if a blowout happens, versus taking all of Baby Gap’s inventory + toys and bibs) is FAR easier than throwing your back out wrangling luggage on and off a train. Trust me. If you don’t pack light, please pack your eight extra arms that you’ll need to handle what you’re taking..
Chances are that by now that you know you’ll need some downtown with small ones in tow, so “downtime” is the perfect time to hang out at a laundry mat for a couple of hours and do a load of laundry. Oh, and folding your clothes kon-mari style (show now on Netflix if you have no idea what I’m talking about– yay!) is a must when packing them in the suitcase. Google how to fold this way if you do not already know.
Unless you’re renting a car, leave the car seat behind.
Check/research your destination country specific rules via the internet, but a lot of European countries don’t require car seats inside of taxis. And you definitely don’t need one on the greatest transportation hit of all time – the European train system. Phew – you can now have left at least one of your eight extra arms behind..
Do not be afraid.
I mean seriously – ricotta cheese totally freaked me out until I gave it a good try. You’ve got to try things for yourself to really know the answer and figure out how you feel about it. There are always people to ask and millions and millions of people traveling with babies who can empathize with you when your baby has a meltdown on the plane. Is a meltdown really worse if you’re in a long line of people at Target or in a small doctor’s office waiting room vs. on a plane? Carry on your confidence. Pack your patience. Go on that family trip. Then, tell me how easy it was to manage with only a 21” suitcase, a backpack, and those precious memories in tow.