Friends ask me all the time how we travel with small children. I must admit it is not easy, but very rewarding. We have raised our children to be well behaved, as well behaved as young children can be that is! That makes a world of difference when you travel.
Before Malina’s first trip to Europe we bought her a mini-dvd player. That item was one of the best purchases I have ever made. We loaded her up with tons of of DVDs and made sure that the player had a long battery life (12 hours) and was charged before the trip.
Toys: In the past I have made sure there were plenty of toys available for the plane trip, and diapers, and changes of clothes. It is amazing how many spills small children make. If you are on an airplane for more than 5 hours you better be prepared.
Snacks: Always have food for kids. And you need many choices! They get bored and need variety. Don’t forget to pack some adult snacks as well to help you get through the long voyage too!
Packing luggage: I am the worst at packing clothes. I have always packed too much stuff. Through the years I have learned to pack less and less though. I like to use one of the small suitcases for the kids and pack almost everything for the two of them in this suitcase. In addition I travel with a diaper bag which also has an extra change of clothes. My kids love to take turns pulling their suitcase so that makes things easier.
Car seats: Car seats are a must in the U.S.A. I have found from my personal experiences in Europe that this is not always the case. When we drive to the beach in Italy, which is approximately 4 hours from Bologna I make sure those car seats are in their proper place. Taxi drivers sometimes preferred to have small children strapped in with the parent which has worked for us. You can always say that you want to use your car seat and quickly hook up as well. Now on our next trip to Europe both of my kids will be big enough for booster seats! Yes.. I can’t wait.
Strollers: Strollers are a must with all the walking that you do in Europe. I prefer to bring an umbrella stroller and preferably take it on the plane. Some airlines will fight you on this, but most of the time we avoid checking it in with baggage and have never paid an extra baggage fee. We did have a big argument in Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris) last trip about baggage fees for the strollers and car seats, but after a long heated discussion in French the supervisor finally agreed to add the extra items for free. If you child is old enough you can buy a cheap stroller abroad for roughly 20 Euro and avoid the extra item until you arrive to your final destination.
Once your children are happy, you can be happy too, although you may not relax much on the plane trip. Matteo was 2 years old last time we travelled abroad and slept on the plane ride to Europe for two hours I believe. It made for a very long trip, but I kept him occupied and took power naps while he played on my lap. When we arrived to Florence I had so much adrenaline that after a shower and some food I was ready to go for the rest of the day until I night time when I could have a nice long sleep to catch up on the missed hours of sleep.