I received so many DMs during our traveling about the airplane ride, sleeping, time change, etc so I knew I had to blog our experience. Let me tell you- it's NOT easy! Like I knew that going into it but it was really tough. As hard as it might be, I'm glad we did it for so many reasons and benefits: it exposes them to other cultures and lifestyles, introduces new languages and dialects to their developing brains, teaches them to be more adaptable with routine and naps, and even though they might not remember anything, you'll have the cutest photos of them and they'll think you're the coolest. Zach and I both grew up traveling internationally all the time, in fact, he used to live in Japan and I pretty much lived in Brazil and Peru and we even owned a house in Lima at one point! Our plan is to do the same for our family, even if it's expensive and challenging!
AFFORDING TRAVEL: We tend to travel during off season times according to the country. For example- Europe doesn't have spring break like we do and no one goes out there to vacation during that time, (thank you Mexico) so we like to take advantage during times like these. Since Zach only gets time off when school's out, this can get tricky at times but we've been to Europe before during spring break and it's pretty slow, compared to the summer. Tickets for us two and a small lap infant fee turned out to be around $1,400 roundtrip so YEAH, we jumped on that real quick. Once we've booked tickets, we looked at AirBnbs to stay at instead of hotels. This might seem like a no brainer with AirBnb being so trendy but seriously guys, it's SO much more affordable! We booked full houses to ourselves to have more room for all of us and kitchen access to cook breakfast and lunch at home so we're not spending money every time we're out. I packed us a ton of snacks on our way there as well and we also took our favorite thing to get us through traveling: a Brita water bottle! I can't tell you how much water we drink and how important it is when you travel. Water is so expensive in other countries (wine is cheaper than water in Europe!) so being able to refill your bottle anywhere and have it taste clean is amazing. When we do eat out in public, it's financially better to eat in those small hole in the wall places that look super sketchy, but I promise: it's so much cheaper AND the food is better. In Italy, the restaurants that say "ristorante" are more expensive to eat at since they're off the main roads and attract more tourists but if you go in between the neighborhoods, you'll find more restaurants with locals which can feel intimidating but almost everyone speaks English so you'll be fine! If you chose AirBnb for lodging, you can also ask your hosts for budget friendly + yummy food recommendations!
*tip* make an effort to learn a few phrases to respect their culture. There's nothing more annoying than a tourist expecting others to speak their language when they chose to travel to another country in the first place!
WHAT TO PACK: Besides packing snacks, we packed our normal vitamins/probiotics to keep us healthy while we were out. My body is really sensitive to new locations so this was important for me to pack. We also brought tylenol (adult and kids), cough syrup, melatonin (for adults, I do not recommend for babies, you'll see why down below), and tea tree oil (helps treat skin issues and bug bites). Bring any meds you feel comfortable using for baby and yourself so you can stay strong! For clothes, we kept our outfits pretty minimal since our AirBnbs came with a washer and dryer, which was super helpful since Hendrix gets himself COVERED with food every time he eats. We calculated how many diapers he goes through a day plus how long we would be gone for plus a few extra ones and packed those. We thought, worst case, we'd have to buy more in Italy but we did really good and even came back with extra! Lastly, we packed our stroller and a baby carrier. I debated taking our stroller because I was terrified something would happen to it and we would be left stroller-less but I'm sooo glad we did! We had it at the airport, up until we boarded the plane and then we were able to pick it up immediately after our flight. It was a pain getting through the train stations and up and down all the stairs since Italy is so old but he was able to sleep in it for a few hours everyday while we were out. The carrier we brought along was Happy Baby which we LOVED. It gave him a break from being in the stroller and he was able to nap in it as well. The carrier did NOT hurt my back which was so nice and Zach was able to wear it as well.
*tip* if you choose to bring any type of medicine, drugs, vitamins, oils, etc. make sure you consistently use them so that your bodies are already used to them rather than trying something new and not reacting well to it
SLEEP: Okay so sleep is different for EVERYONE and every baby so whatever I say or have done may not work for you. The best advice I can give is don't expect much, have a pep talk with your spouse ahead of time so you guys don't kill each other from lack of sleep, and again, don't EXPECT much. This will be more of our personal experience than "tips" since every family does things differently. Our flight was at 6pm for 13 hours (layover in Turkey, another 2 hour flight to Rome) so we had hoped Hendrix would fall asleep like he normally does for bedtime. I recommend leaving for a night flight with a little one which sounds AWFUL but they will want to sleep instead of being wide awake and needing to be entertained. We ordered a bassinet for our flight that connects to the wall but he refused to sleep in it so he slept as much as he could comfortably on us but woke up in between sleep cycles which was rough, but we got through it. The flight attendants were super accommodating and helpful which made it easier for us. We landed in Rome around midnight which was perfect because Hendrix was soooo tired that by the time we got to our AirBnb, he passed out immediately. We brought as many sleep aids that we could to make it feel like "home" which were an iPad for white noise, asking for a pack n play through our AirBnb hosts since he sleeps better on his own than with us, and sticking to some routine by bathing him before bed. We woke up the next morning (EASTER!) and grabbed breakfast and went to the Colosseum and Forum which I highly recommend with a baby for nap time because he took a 3 hour nap in the stroller while we enjoyed our tour ;) The next night was a little rough because he still wasn't adjusted to the time change so he was WIDE awake from 12-3am, just wanting to play and hang out! He eventually fell asleep and we took the train to travel to the coast, Sorrento. By this night, he had adjusted, YAY! We slept so well that night, however, our 4th night was horrible. I highly highly highly suggest NOT giving them melatonin or drugging them. They will adjust naturally without making them feel groggy. One of our nights there, we gave him all natural melatonin and it made him react very skid-dish and dysphoric. He was awake from 12-6am. I'm not JOKING. We tried giving him milk, feeding him, rocking him, everything that normally works but he would randomly spazz out and cried hard, it was soooo sad.
*tip* I take melatonin every night because I'm an extremely light sleeper but there hasn't been sufficient research on melatonin for babies/kids except those with autism, where their doctors approve. Don't drug your kids, folks.
We are so thankful we choose to do this for our family! It is obviously stressful at times but worth it, in our opinion. Coming back from our trip, I noticed he's much more flexible and easy going which I fully believe is because the trip taught him to adapt. Another thing we are thankful for is how baby friendly Italy is! He got attention everywhere we went from women, men, teenagers, older folks, etc. It was so beautiful to feel their hospitality and experience how polite people were when they saw us struggling with him. I hope this inspires you families to get out there and see the world with your little ones! For my next blog post, I'll be giving a summary of baby friendly things we did!