As I’ve discussed during a previous blog post (here) Germany has some AMAZING parental benefits, one of them being parental leave. I am taking 12 months off with 60% paid parental leave, and Andrew is taking 2 months off parental leave.
For Andrew’s first month of parental leave, we flew home to the US for Charlotte to meet friends and family.
And for Andrews second month off - we decided to do a 23 day road trip through Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia & Austria.
Yes, a 23 day road trip with a 3 month old.
You have no idea how many times people told us “you are so BRAVE for traveling with an infant!”, and I am here to tell you… this was the BEST time to travel with a baby!
We traveled with Charlotte when she was 12 weeks to 16 weeks old. Which little did we know, was Charlottes sweet spot of being super cute and personable, but also still young enough to not get distracted when sleeping (and also sleeping through the night!). Because now that she is 18 months old, she is becoming a bit more fussy and waking through the night (hello 4 month sleep regression!)
Obviously traveling with a baby will never be as easy as traveling before having one, but that should never stop you from continuing to travel and experiencing the world!
PROS FOR TRAVELING WITH A BABY:
THEY SLEEP EVERYWHERE
Charlotte was constantly asleep. In the car seat, in the ergo carrier, in the stroller, in my arms at dinner. When they are that young, they don’t get distracted as easily and love to sleep! In fact, she honestly slept through most of the road trip.
2. AMAZING EXPERIENCES FOR THE LITTLE ONE
I know, she wont remember any of the places on this trip. BUT, at this age one of the best things for her is to listen to people talk, and to watch peoples expressions.
Every day while we were site seeing, hanging out by the pool, cooking dinner… Charlotte would be watching and listening to our conversations, watching us intently.
AND with the amount of friendly people constantly stopping us to get a glimpse of Charlotte, she was definitely seeing more than if it were just me back at home in nuremberg!
3. YOU MAKE SO MANY NEW FRIENDS
Because of Charlotte, we struck up so many wonderful and RANDOM conversations everywhere we went! Whether it was people we sat next to at dinner, waiting in line for gelato, or just getting stopped randomly on the street… we talked to people we would have never had a conversation with if it wasn’t for Charlotte! (but you do need to beware of the random/friendly people asking if they can hold your baby.. that happened to us a few times!)
4. YOU GET TREATED LIKE ROYALTY
Our first day in Florence we wanted to see Michelangelo’s David. After some morning play time with Charlotte at our airbnb, we stopped to get an espresso then walked over to the Galleria dell’Accademia. Not realizing that 11am was probably the most busy time to wait in line! The line was about 2 hours long, and when we walked up to the front to ask which line to wait in, the guy pulled back the rope and whispered “no no, you can just come through”. All because we had a little baby!
The next day when we went to the Uffizi, Andrew and I looked at each other and said “should we try it again??”. And sure enough! We were ushered right in past the line!
5. YOU ARE THE FOOD
Since Charlotte was only 3 months, and not eating solids yet, she was on a strictly breast milk diet. AKA her food was ready and waiting for her WHENEVER she wanted it. That made our lives so much easier! And we would plan our meals around when she was hungry. That way when we noticed she was getting fussy/hungry, we would find our lunch spot, i’d feed her as soon as we sat down, and then we’d order our drinks/meals after she finished and she was content and happy.
Just be sure to bring some sort of a swaddle/cover up for you. Each country is different on how they perceive public breast feeding, but it was always easy enough to tie the long swaddle around me so Charlotte could eat in peace.
CONS FOR TRAVELING WITH A BABY:
TRAVEL WILL BE MUCH SLOWER
Whenever we had a google maps estimating for driving, we always added at least 1 hour. That includes time to stop and feed / change / get some fresh air. We also felt it was good for Charlotte to be out of the car seat about every 2ish hours, so we’d make sure we’d take her out and let her “stretch her legs”.
2. DINING OUT CAN BECOME TRICKY
During the few days of the road trip, Charlotte decided her new fussy time was around 7pm, aka dinner time. We tried a few different options, eat earlier (aka 6pm dinner - early bird special!). Wear her in the ergo, have her fall asleep then eat over her head. Or even stand while eating, that was fun!
And then there is the fun memory of us eating dinner outside in Florence on a warm night, and while I am holding her I hear that oh-so-familiar sound. I look down to see that the beautiful Janie & Jack onsie was completely ruined! Everyone sitting at the tables around us was smiling and laughing, they thought it was adorable!
3. PLANS WILL CHANGE ACCORDING TO THEIR SCHEDULE
If she needed to take a longer nap but we wanted to get out and explore the city… Charlottes needs always came first. Or if they are having a fussy day but you wanted to check out a museum, don’t force it because it will most likely backfire while you are in the middle of a quiet museum.
And in the case of this picture… they BOTH needed an extra nap. ;)
4. THEY WILL NOT ALWAYS BE 100% HAPPY
They will cry, and it will most likely happen in public where you get a bit embarrassed. But thats just life with a baby! The fellow parents will give a nod of understanding because they’ve all been there.
This literally happened to us one night we were down in the hotel lobby/bar area. We were hanging out on the couches after dinner, Charlotte was happy as a clam, giggling away. Then all of a sudden… she started wailing. We had no idea what happened! I jumped up with her, ran to the elevator while Andrew collected our things on the couch. We were so embarrassed at the thought that the cries would disturb peoples night, but honestly… I don’t think anyone noticed!
These are just some of our personal experiences of traveling with our little 3 month old through Europe. But as i’ve been learning, every baby is completely different.
And I think the biggest take away is, the road trip will be whatever you make of it: If you try to force timelines / activities, you will be stressed. If you are relaxed, enjoy the experience and expect that some of your plans may shift, then you will have a great time!
If you have any pros or cons to add on from your own personal experience, please share in the comments below!