Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Traveling Internationally with a 1 Year Old

We booked an international trip when our baby girl was less than two months old. She's 13 months now, and I'm writing this from Old Town Prague, as she naps quietly in the other room. It has been an amazing trip and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have some tips and suggestions that I'm going to share with you here, but the bottom line is: If you are considering something similar, do it!



Because we booked almost a year out, we had 12 months of people telling us we were nuts. Everyone, from friends, to coworkers, to our daughter's pediatrician asked things like "Are you sure you want to do that?" and "Are your tickets refundable?" Even when we explained that she was easy-going and we would be fine, more than one person countered with "Well, she won't remember it." True, but we will. And she will grow up with the narrative that she traveled to three different countries right after her first birthday. Beyond the photos, it becomes a part of her story. A part of who she is.

While we were confident in our decision at first, these comments did start to seep in, causing us to doubt ourselves and our plan. My husband even asked me "Are you sure you want to do this?" two days before departure. We were nervous and worried, right up until the plane took off, and there literally was no turning back.

But it couldn't have gone better. All of the things I worried about were not an issue. Jet lag and the time difference? She adjusted after the first night. Finding milk for her bottles? Available everywhere, including every hotel we stayed at, at all hours.

I'm writing to tell you that you can do it. And it's not that big of a deal. However your child behaves normally, at home, is how they will behave in a different country. You may need to take it easy on some days and not pack in too many things to do each day, but that just makes it more of a vacation. Go for it. Remember, they're only 10% of the plane fair while under two (internationally, free for domestic travel). Once they turn two, you're out another ticket.

Some things I packed have been a life-saver, while other things I brought with me, but did not need. Before we left, I searched for advice on what to pack for an international trip with a one-year old and really couldn't find anything beyond window clings, which are a choking hazard. She attempted to eat one after about 30 seconds of playing with it.

So here's my list of must haves and don't needs, in no particular order.

MUST HAVE

  • Baby carrier. As long as they are used to using one, this will be a life saver. Our little one would get tired of being pushed in the stroller when we were out all day, and the carrier offered her a nice change of scenery, especially in the outward facing option. I used the Ergo 360. This was also perfect for the train stations and train rides, so that she was secured and safe.
  • Food storage containers. Not too many. I brought along more than I
    needed. Depending on their age and quantity of food, two containers for fruit for the day, an insulated thermos for milk and an insulated container for left-overs to bring on day outings. We brought along freezer packs, but it was a hassle to ask the front desk to freeze them and ice melts. We also brought along an insulated container for the milk, but ice melts and we didn't use it beyond the first few days. I started bringing an empty, clean bottle with us once I realized I could get milk anywhere, at any time. We let the front desk know we would be emptying the minibar and kept everything in there. Leftovers from dinner work as a snack for the next day, or even breakfast. I shopped at a grocery store for fruit for her. Bring a plastic plate, and I used a butter knife from room service. Didn't bring any foil but that would be useful, as well as a few extra plastic bags. 
  • Backpacks. Just your regular JanSport variety, nothing too big or with metal frames. We traveled with two large suitcases, two backpacks and one diaper bag. My husband was able to pull the two suitcases, we each wore a backpack, and I pushed the stroller with the diaper bag on it. It would be impossible to have four rolling suitcases with the stroller. Also, when I was wearing her, we pushed all of the bags in the stroller.
  • Benadryl. Okay, this one sounds bad I know, but hear me out. All those people who thought we were crazy for traveling with a 1 year old? Well none of them had done it before. But my friend's sister, who happens to also be an ER pediatrician and mother of two, told us early on to take some benadryl to have on hand for the flight. She had traveled to Italy and other countries when her children were young and said it was a lifesaver. Do not do this without speaking to your child's pediatrician for approval and the correct dosing (we used 2.5ML for our 22 pound 13 month old). Also, if you're going to do this, it is best to try out at home once to make sure they don't have an allergic or paradoxical (read: hyper!) reaction. We did this at a time when my husband was planning to stay up late and could watch her. I have to say I felt super guilty even considering this, until I did get her doctor's blessing. On the 11 hour flight from Los Angeles to Zurich, she was asleep before dinner was served, and woke up after breakfast. She had a solid 10 hours. DISCLAIMER: There did happen to be 30 extra business class tickets, and she was able to have her own seat that reclined completely flat. This will not be the case on the way home, and this is where my baby carrier will come into play. 
  • Business class seats. If possible, do this. We are both in education and never could afford $5,000 seats (each!). But my husband is a mileage guy and knows that the best value on miles is when they are used for business seats instead of economy. You have to book a year out because they don't release many award mile seats for business, but it is so worth it.
  • Large stroller with inflatable tires. We love our BOB. I love how big it is,
    how much it can carry, how it absorbs shock and provides almost complete sun protection. It reclines flat so she can nap in it with no problem. But we almost did not bring it with us, because we thought it might be too big, too "American" for Europe. Best decision we've made. I do not know how we would get over cobblestones with an umbrella stroller, or even a stroller with larger wheels if they were plastic. We've even seen a man pushing one get caught on the trolley tracks while crossing the road! 
  • SPF blanket, sunscreen, hats and an umbrella. The SPF blanket was perfect to drape over her legs on days when she had on shorts and was being pushed in the stroller. I carried with me a loose-fitting pair of pants for her too since the best sun-protection is a physical barrier. The umbrella was great for when I was wearing her.
  • Children's Tylenol, children's Ibuprofen and a thermometer. Fortunately, we did not need to use any of these. But from my experience when we were in Oregon, they are good to have on hand should she spike a fever Over here, the grocery stores do not carry any OTC medication, not even for adults. They are sold at special pharmacies who have limited hours from what I can see. Our doctor also gave us antibiotics for her, because she had a bit of a cold before we left, but we never needed them. Our health insurance works here and the standard of care is just as high.
  • Purred fruit/veggie pouches and any favorite snacks. While I did not use the pre-packaged toddler meals, these were a great way to get in fruit and vegetables (she loves the kale, spinach and kiwi pure and also the blueberry and oat breakfast pouch) and worked if food was taking awhile after we ordered or if we were having a slower start to the day. In the future, I will focus on ones with veggies and grains, since fruit is readily accessible at the grocery store and easy to prepare, while vegetables need to be cooked. Buying fresh-baked bread and keeping it with is in the stroller while we were out was perfect. Her tummy is smaller and holds less, so she needs to eat more frequently than we do.
  • Dish soap, bottle brush, sponge. You can pick all this up at the store, but it was nice to have on hand for the first few nights. We flew into Zurich, and were all set to catch our connecting flight to Prague. But the flight was cancelled, and there were no more for that evening. By the time we got to the free hotel the airline booked for us, all the stores were closed. 
  • Multiple bottles. We brought 5, more than she uses in a day. I liked keeping a clean, dry one in the diaper bag just in case.
  • A backpack/leash. We brought one and did not use it because she still has that slow stagger of a walk that looks like she's going to do a face plant at any time. However, if she were a bit older and able to run or sprint, I would have used it in areas that are seemingly pedestrian, but there can be bikes or Segways. Be aware of your surroundings! Many pedestrian streets and even closed-off squares that seem traffic-free will have a restaurant delivery person on a moped zoom through. 
For example, below is a picture of our girl walking toward St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. Looks like it is a pedestrian area, right? But do you see those black poles? That is a narrow part where cars zoom by at 30 MPH. When in a new setting, stop and scope out the area for awhile before letting your little one explore, even if you're by their side. I never would have expected there to be cars, because for blocks walking up to this, there were none allowed.
About 12 feet from where there are cars.


DON'T NEED

  • Packaged toddler meals. I bought a ton of Gerber meals, which she never eats at home. I was worried about not having food for her, and thought these would be perfect. I've thrown most of them out. Bring a few of their favorites to get you through the airplane ride and first night, but beyond that, you won't need them.
  • Too many clothes. We will have been gone a total of 3 weeks, and made it until day 11 without needing to do laundry. I was out of clothes but she still was not.
  • Too many toys. Bring a few of their favorites. At her age, 13 months, everything is a toy. She has had fun: clicking together the ketchup and mayonnaise mini jars from room-service; taking all of her barrettes and sample packages of diaper-rash cream out of a zip lock bag and putting them back in; playing with the hotel-room phone and remote; putting things in the trash can; taking things out of the trash can; walking around with a towel on her head and being invisible; getting tickled. Plus, you'll want to buy toys as souvenirs. 
  • Diapers. Well, you obviously need some, but depending on where you're going, they may be cheaper than back home. I brought a ton because I was worried about the quality and brand, but so far, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic have all had the Pampers 12 hour diapers that I use.
  • Any childproofing, unless you're really into that sort of thing. I don't really use any back home, so I didn't bring any on this trip. At home, we moved all of our cleaners into the garage, up high, and have one of those child-proof doorknob covers on the interior garage door. I have one latch securing my cupboard with photos and cards, but that's it. We have a coffee table with rounded corners at home, so when we were upgraded to an executive room at the Marriott with a small living room and *gasp* square corners I was a bit worried. But it's been a non-issue. We're always right there with her, and as it turns out, kids don't go around looking for sharp corners to head-butt.

Thanks for reading! If you've traveled internationally with a child of any age and have any tips or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section below for other readers, and myself! We have another trip booked in December, this time to Italy.

UPDATE- We survived the flight home, a short one to Heathrow and a 10 1/2 hour one from Heathrow to LA. Because the flight was during the day, we did not use any Benadryl on her, so she was awake for most of it, with a 2 hour nap and a 2 hour sleep that would have turned into sleeping through the night, but we landed. She cried for 5 minutes twice, but that was it! I broke my self-imposed "No TV under 3" rule and tried to get her to watch Finding Nemo, which she did for about 15 minutes at a time.

When we landed, it was 5pm LA time, which is 2am in Prague. It was evident that she was really tired and she almost fell asleep again on the car ride home, but she still wasn't fussy at all. Just like my Mom was, she is easy-going and happy all of the time. 

After weeks of getting excited by every dog we passed, she was so happy to finally see her dog and squealed with excitement when Trevi greeted us as we walked in. By greeted, I mean ran around like a maniac and hopped up and down while simultaneously running in circles. She rifled through her toy box, pulled out her favorite doll and then settled down with me and a bottle in bed.

Four hours later, she was awake, thrown off by the fact it was now the middle of the day in Prague. After an hour of babbling, she was back out for another four. All in all, it was so much easier than we ever expected.

No comments:

Post a Comment