traveling abroad with littles…

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hello! i’ve complied a few thoughts on traveling abroad with little ones below if you are interested.  i know many of you are quite the experts here, but below are just a few things that worked well for us that i wanted to share. hopefully these tips can help someone else who is planning to travel abroad with a tiny one (or two!) in tow. it sure was exhausting at times and there were moments where i thought, gosh! we aren’t very smart, are we!, but it sure was fun. i can’t wait to share out photos and stories with the kids once they are older.
a few tips we learned:
1. stay flexible with your itinerary, pace yourself — since we were in italy for just two weeks, we wanted to pack in as much as possible. we spent 5 days in the south in sicily and the rest of our time up north (we covered rome, florence, cinque terre, parma & venice.) we kept the first week pretty low key (the first few days we just relaxed and adjusted to the time difference at the olive vineyard in sicily since we knew the second week would be a bit more hectic and busy.) this plan definitely helped the kids ease into the new time change, and helped us relax and feel like we were on vacation.  something else that really worked well for us was not planning everything down to a T. we didn’t book every hotel or tour in advance because we knew we’d need flexibility with the kids (this might be tricky though if you are traveling during a peak time when hotels and tours are booked far in advance.) for example, we had initially planned on spending a day and a night in verona after parma, but decided to cut that out last minute and head straight from parma to venice because samson was coming down with a cold and we were all feeling a bit exhausted by this point.  since we hadn’t booked our hotel in verona yet, this worked out great.
2. pack light (we traveled with just two carry-on sized backpacks) —  a few weeks before we left, josh mentioned one morning over breakfast that we should pack 2 carry on back packs for our 2 weeks in italy. no checked bags or rolling luggage. i laughed at him so hard.  it’s like he’d forgotten the amount of stuff i pack just to head to the playground with the kids in the afternoon.  but he was adamant we at least try. and so we tried, and to my surprise, it worked.  i honestly feel like this is the sole reason our trip went well.  because between catching a plane and a number of different trains every few days,  lugging two large suitcases plus our stroller and our kids would not have worked well.   we managed to fit everything we needed for 2 weeks abroad with two small children in two large backpacks by packing layers (it was warm in the south and colder up north), buying diapers and wipes when we got to italy, and making plans to wash clothing mid-trip at the hotel.  the only con to this plan was that we didn’t foresee the hefty price tag our hotel would charge us to do laundry mid-trip. in retrospect, i’d have stuck to this plan, but made time in our schedule to take our laundry to a local laundromat and do it ourselves.  i’m too embarrassed to ever tell anyone what we ended up paying at the hotel for our laundry.   (it’s like what jim gaffigan says, they must have washed everything in champagne.) UPDATE! i have added a bit at the bottom of the post about our carry ons!
3. take a stroller- and have your kids nap on the go — this will probably differ depending on your child, but since we are city dwellers, our little ones are used to napping on the go. up until the night before we left we were still debating if we should be bring our double stroller, buy two smaller umbrella strollers to use instead, or only bring baby carriers and no stroller at all (but can you imagine our poor backs?!) we were literally here in manhattan in a baby store the night before we left trying to decide which option was best.  we ended up deciding to take our stroller, and a baby carrier as a back up. i am really thankful we took our stroller because we ended up using it everywhere and always knew our kids were comfortable, warm and safe inside it. we brought a lock for our stroller and figured we would lock it up outside if we ever needed to but ended up only locking it up once in cinque terre where our tiny hotel room had 5 billion stairs to climb and a few times outside small restaurants where they had no room for strollers inside. *also, i couldn’t find a travel case that fit our double stroller but we have found that a few heavy duty black garbage bags can do the trick if you’re checking your stroller at the gate.
4. travel at off season for better prices and to avoid crowds of tourists — traveling is expensive. period. so we went during the off season (the first two weeks of november) and found better prices and less crowds. we never waited more than 30 or 40 minutes to get into a museum or a tour.  and for the most part, enjoyed weather that wasn’t too hot or too cold. (although venice flooded the day we left! that was quite the experience. i instagrammed a photo HERE and HERE while we were walking through the flooded streets trying to find a water taxi to take us to the airport.)
5. stay in the center of it all. splurge for a room with a view if you can — since traveling with little ones can bring a lot of unpredictability, we decided to find hotels that could act as home base throughout the day, if needed.  staying somewhere central is key. and since you might find yourself spending more time at the hotel due to the little ones’ schedules than you would if you were traveling alone, finding a nice space with a view doesn’t hurt either. one night in rome, it started raining hard around 5pm and both the kids were starting to get very restless. if it would have just been josh and me, we’d have stayed out until midnight exploring the city in the pouring rain. but with the kids, it was different.  we got out of the rain and back to the hotel quickly, ordered room service for dinner and stayed in for the night. our room had a beautiful balcony view of the city so we still felt like we were partaking of it, we had one of the best meals of our trip via room service, and the kids were happy as clams bouncing around our hotel space.  paying a little more (than we would have if it had just been the two of us) to stay at a hotel we liked that had a little extra space and that was closer to historic downtown helped us out a lot here.
we really enjoyed having the kids with us in italy.  i am so proud of them. they were such troopers.  it’s nice to spend time alone with josh, but i really loved traveling as a family and making these memories together. we can’t wait to doing more of it in the future!

have you traveled abroad with little ones before? do you have any tips or advice you want to share with us? also, HERE is a post from earlier in the year about flying with little ones.

***UPDATE! after posting this, i received so many questions regarding how we packed for 2 weeks abroad with little ones with just two 2 carry on sized backpacks. i went back through my images and tried to find a photo of our back packs. i could only find this iphone shot below.  josh did a lot of research on luggage before we left and we ended up deciding to invest in some tom bihn backpacks. we wore our heavier, more bulkier clothing items when traveling (coats, sweaters, hat, etc) and brought roughly 3 outfits each with one pair of shoes (i only brought my boots). i packed the kids a bit more clothing (about 6 outfits) since they are more prone to spills/blow outs/you know… but little baby clothes are so tiny. they took up little space to begin with.  i talk about what we did regarding diapers/laundry up top in my initial thoughts. we did not travel with car seats or a packnplay. we kept the kids in the hotel beds with us and since they are both under 2, had them as “lap infants” on the plane.  :)naomibackpack

  1. Zoë

    I don't think non-parents would ever realize that the floor/ground its easily the safest and most convenient place to change a diaper. I certainly wouldn't have thought that before I had my baby gal. Trunk of the car, on the floor of a fancy wedding hall bathroom (with our own clean change mat)….and you don't care what any onlookers think cuz you just need to do what needs to be done for the Little one!

  2. Seriously Samson takes the best photos! That smile…..

  3. neen

    we travel to Spain one to two times a year, our flights we book are anywhere from 11 to 16 hours on the airplane depending on layovers (we are on the west coast)…
    a few things that have helped, are:
    paying a little extra for no layovers if possible (though we book way in advance for better prices), or finding a trip with as few layovers as possible.. that way there is less running through airports with little ones trying to make flight… also we have found it helpful, that if we do have to have a layover, to make sure we get one flight with a lot of time and another with just a few hours… for example, we fly from L.A. to Switzerland, which is about 11 hours and then have a one hour layover and then, a two hour flight to Madrid… this helps so that the little one is in the same environment most the flight and can get more solid uninterrupted sleep… we never stop in Atlanta or NY, because it breaks up the trip too much and gives less sleeping hours in one solid block (i realize this isn't necessary advice for you being in NY but maybe it will help another reader)…
    the other tip is to go through customs in Europe if you have layovers, even if you are headed back to the U.S… we never book our layovers in the U.S. because their costumes are A LOT stricter and as a result take a lot longer and if you have 1 hour to make your flight, going through customs and then running through the airport with little ones is that much harder… not likely to make your flight… sounds like common sense mentioning it, but surprisingly a lot of people i talk to don't realize this…
    also, my oldest who is two now is not cuddly and will not go to sleep in our arms, which has been hard on long flights that go into bed time and so i have found it helpful to call ahead to insure we have the bulk head seats… that way we have extra leg room and i take a few blankets and the pillow they give you for the flight and lay it down into a little bed for her to fall asleep on the floor… if the turbulence isn't bad, I've found they haven't given me a problem with her being there…
    another thing is for sure bring a portable changing station, another thing that seems like common sense but people forget about… target sells good ones for trips…
    we have family in Spain so we just bought a stroller there and keep it… but later regretted it because it was cheap and those cobble streets are rough… we will likely take our double next trip as we have a little man added to the family this summer, so thanks for the trash bag tip…
    naps on the go is a good tip… and a mellow first few days… thanks for your tips! it's always fun to hear about others baby experiences going abroad…

  4. loooooooovveeeellllyyyyy!!

  5. Elena

    Hi Naomi,
    Can you please share with me what font you use for the pictures and how you draw the arrows?

    Many thanks!

  6. you and your hasband are so brave people!!! next summer i will travel as well with my baby, he will be 1,5 year and iam afraid of it already, but your post has helped me a lot:) kisses!

  7. PS: we never wrapped up our Bugaboo to check it in, we just put rain covers on the seats and took it apart so we had three pieces (two seats, stroller base).

  8. This is amazing, we are in the planning stages for our first baby (the Mr already has a 7 year old and she is the light of my life) and the thought of traveling with two little ones fills me with panic, your post makes it seem so accessible and fun. I am actually looking forward to it now!!
    Can you please do a post on what you packed in the back packs? I am desperate to know because I can sometimes pack light for myself but I always pack way too many clothes for Ella (dressing kids is way too much fun!!) Please, please, please!!
    Thank you so much again, I am inspired xxx

  9. Clau!

    Thanks for this post, it makes me think we can travel anywhere as family ;)

  10. I am not sure if someone commented on the travel bag for the Donkey yet but my friend also has it and she uses the travel bag of the Stokke Xplory! She says everything fits in just fine and perfectly.
    Maybe this will help for your future trips!?

  11. Shannon

    Maybe I'm just the fastidious sort, but I think it's beyond gross to change your baby's diaper in public, particularly on a train station floor. Nobody needs to smell the contents of the diaper, nor do they want to see your kid's private parts.

    Yuck, yuck, yuck, and rude to your fellow travelers.

  12. Ooh that last comment by Shannon makes me upset! I don't comment often but as a new mama I feel sensitive to rude statements said by people who clearly have never been in a situation such as needing to change a baby's diaper in a public place. You gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to your kids! It's not easy being "that mom" in a situation like that but it's a sacrifice we make for our children's well being!

  13. I want to see, item by item, what you packed!

  14. I agree with all your comments on traveling abroad with kids. We went to Amsterdam and Paris in April with my (then) 20 month old son from NJ. 8 hour flight and trains to Paris. We always had him nap in the stroller (can't be stuck in hotels for hours during the day) and we did a ton of parks to tire him out during the day. We also bought all diapers and wipes in Amsterdam once we got there.

    I found both cities to be very stroller and kid-friendly. In both cities they would welcome Ben to each restaurant and give him a nice high chair and kids milks, etc. I loved traveling to Europe with a toddler and we hope to get back next year, especially Paris which is now my favorite city! :) Your trip looked amazing.

  15. Erica

    I'd love to see what you actually packed. I'm a chronic over-packer and can't even imagine 2 weeks with just a backpack! And I don't have any kids! Your tips for that would be much appreciated!

  16. Shannon

    krista lia, you can't figure out how to take your child to a more private location to change a diaper?

    People don't want to see your baby's junk. And they don't want to smell the contents of a soiled diaper. And there are perverted people out there who are aroused by the sight of a naked child, so why entice them? God forbid if someone took a picture while you're blithely changing your baby for everyone to see.

    It's only in the last five years or so that I've seen parents change their children's diapers in public – let alone post a picture of it onto a very popular blog. So clearly earlier generations of parents figured out how to "do what they gotta do" without waving their kids' genitals around and creating a sanitation issue. Changing your kid in private is about their well-being…changing your kid in public is about your own desire to not be inconvenienced,

  17. Lisa

    You and your family are so cute. I think you are a fantasic mum. In a few years I would love to have my own little family which is so lovely like yours <3

  18. you guys are so awesome to travel as a whole family. no better way to become closer than experience amazing new places and get through some stressful situations like being in a new country away from home but together!

  19. couldn't agree more with shannon

  20. What a great bunch of tips! I don't have any little ones yet, but I'm really hoping that when I do I can refer back to your blog for tips and support x

  21. kelsey

    Your advice is awesome! I am so impressed that you fit everything in two carry on bags… what did you pack? That is incredible!

  22. Kimberly

    ohmyword two backpacks! You guys are amazing!

  23. Rachel

    I would LOVE to know what you settled on to pack in TWO BACKPACKS (like everyone else :P) Could you possibly do a post on it?!

    And gorgeous photos as always, Naomi. Your blog is definitely a frequent read(:

  24. Seconding everyone else's comments about how and what exactly you packed in those backpacks. Maybe what you loved having, what you didn't need and what you wish you would have brought! It would be so helpful! Thanks!

  25. Jill

    I am speechless! … Two back-packs and still such style. It's in your blood, you can't help it! :) My husband & I backpacked before we had kiddos and I was in t-shirts and headbands. Ha. I love your darling family.

  26. We haven't had kids yet, but my parents spent 8 weeks in Scotland (and traveled to England a few times with us) when I was 9 and my sister was 2. Admittedly, we were much older than E and S, and they had me to keep tabs on my sis.

    We did a house exchange, which came with cars, and a car seat. You and Josh are in a great spot in NYC, anyone would want to swap houses with you and there are specific web sites just for that if you decide to travel again.

  27. analaila

    oh my! i cant even imagine traveling for 2 weeks with only 2 carry on bags!!! how the heck did you managed that!? we traveled abroad last summer i didnt take the stroller but we did bring a lot of suitcases…

  28. Lilly

    Did your kids sleep with you during the trip? We are traveling in a couple of weeks with our 2 year old (who doesn't like to sleep with us), and i fear he's getting too big for his pack and play. Any ideas?

  29. rachel!

    wow! thanks for the tips. can you talk more about how you packed everything into TWO backpacks?? i just can't get over it.

  30. mary

    This is a very helpful post. Two questions, though, did you bring car seats or just decide that they were unnecessary because you trained it around, mostly. Also, what about cribs?

  31. Fiorella

    These pictures are AMAZING! I am about to go on a trip through South America and I need camera recommendations. Any tips on which one to get? what did you use for your trip? Thanks!

  32. BPremo

    I have loved seeing your trip!

    I am so impressed how lightly you packed! I was wondering what you did about where your kids slept at the hotels. (sorry if that is so in your business!)

    I just always feel like a crazy lady schlepping around a pack n' play – even when we visit people and it coincides with a nap.

  33. Great post—we are planning a 2-week trip to Spain this summer. I want to pack light as well (GULP!) and think we will go with an umbrella stroller and carrier, but what did you do about a car seat? We tend to always bring it with us domestically, but this will be our first big travel experience with our 1-year old.

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  36. Sarah

    The Tom Bihn luggages look nice, but I’d strongly suggest the Patagonia Black Hole 60L duffle with backpack straps. Cheaper than the Toms, plus it’s waterproof and a crazy durable fabric, and pretty stylish. We usually travel with our backpacking packs, but digging down deep to find something specific isn’t as handy as reaching in a U-shaped zipper to easily sort through everything. I spoiled my hubs with one, so here’s to hoping he spoils me back with the purple one! ;)

  37. Karen

    This is great! Thanks for sharing your memories from Italy.

    We never had to travel abroad with littles, our kids were older, but we did much traveling in the US when our kids were little, and I always seemed to overpack.

    One tip about doing laundry overseas. It is extremely rare to see any tip of laundromat, even in Europe! We spent a week in Malta, and paid a hefty price for using the hotel’s laundry service! So when we travel these days, we take some laundry detergent with us and do laundry in the bathroom sink. Many European hotels have laundry racks to hang laundry to dry, so that is never a problem. Depending on the weather, clothes can be dry be the next morning, even if you have to dry them indoors. Our last trip was to Bulgaria, and we brought enough for a week, re-wearing things like jeans and sweaters, only had to wash some underthings for the dear hubby, since it was warm and sweat is an issue.

    My pastor and his wife were in China recently in order to meet their daughter they were adopting. Our pastor’s wife did their laundry in the bathtub in their hotel room!

    Keep up the great posts and photos! :)

  38. Karen

    One more comment from me – about changing diapers in public. :) In most Europe it is not as strange to see very young children, either totally unclothed at the beach, or even taking care of their needs in public! In Italy it may be common to just change a baby anywhere, giving no though to the privacy and sanitary issues we think of in America.
    If you ever saw the inside of bathrooms in most train stations and any public bathrooms, at least in Eastern Europe, you wouldn’t want to do your business in there, never mind changing your baby in there!

    I was concerned more about the safety issue of the closeness of the trains in the background, but maybe the angle of the photo makes it look closer than it really is. :)

    I don’t know how Italian grandmothers would react, but a Ukrainian babushka would scold you for having your baby laying on the concrete, even with padding underneath. Their thinking is – he might catch cold!

    Glad your family trip went so well, Naomi, even with very young children!

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  40. Wendy

    Lovely post, so jealous about your trip to Italy :-) We’re thinking about coming over to NY in April next year (from Australia) for a couple of weeks and I’m wondering if anyone can recommend a good place to stay with an 8 month old. We’ll likely bring the portacot (PnP) since she doesn’t like sleeping with us. I’ve been looking at apartments and hotels, but there is so much variety and all quite $$, so any recommendations would be fabulous!

  41. Mira

    Planning a trip to Italy in July was very happy to come across this article. My friend is getting married in Parma but I want to explore cities around there not sure where to go really any advice?

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