Travellers are adventurous people who expect to adapt to their surrounds and live life to the fullest. If it is your first, or fiftieth, time travelling with babies you may find some of the differences between North America and Europe frustrating. I present this list not as reasons you should not travel to Europe with babies, rather as a reference for what you can expect and overcome with a little forethought and planning.
Space is limited and baggage fees can add up fast if you don’t familiarize yourself with what is included with you ticket. With babies you need more baggage so check with the airline and plan ahead. Car seats will not be accepted on budget airlines as they are too wide for the seats. Some airlines will check car seats for free others will not. Check with the airline. We use CARES harnesses for our toddlers. They are approved and recommended by the FAA and most budget airlines including both Ryanair and Easyjet.
Car rental companies may not have child seat rentals available. If the car rental company does have seats available, standards are different in Europe and they may not meet North American standards. Don’t be shocked, just accept that they are safe enough for the locals and move on. Also note that you cannot reserve car seats, they are always treated as a preference, much like GPS units. In terms of vehicle choice, they are smaller i.e. no minivans. We always make a reservation online then pop into the office the day prior to try and ensure there will not be any issues wen we are looking to pick up the vehicle.
If you have visited Europe before you know, and if you haven’t you are probably aware, that hotel rooms are smaller than in North America. When it was you and your partner a tiny, budget room, was great, but putting babies in those small rooms as well can be challenging. The space gets much smaller with a crib in there and if you don’t have a separate bedroom, where do the adults go and what do they do when the baby is asleep only a couple feet away? This is a big reason why we choose Airbnb for more and more of our accommodations while travelling.
As parents we hate to admit it, but we often turn to technology in last ditch efforts to keep the babies quiet. Whether it is cartoons or games, babies love screens too but if they think it is coming and the Wi-Fi is crummy, things are about to get worse. Public Wi-Fi in Europe is much worse than in North America so be prepared if it fails at that moment you are most frustrated. I am starting to believe this is why gelato was invented.
Restaurants in Europe will no doubt be the most frustrating thing you encounter if you cannot remove your preconceptions. Continental Europeans eat later than North Americans, and the further South you travel, the later they eat. Finding a restaurant that is open when your babies want dinner, that is not a chain restaurant or take way, can be challenging. Restaurants in Europe in general, may not have a children’s menu and if they do it will not always have an expansive number of choices. Those choices, by the way, will reflect local taste and not necessarily burgers, chicken fingers, and pizza. High chairs are also an obstacle because they may not offer them and if they do they may not be what you are suspecting; often times they do not even have straps or waist belt.
There are easy solutions for all these problems as long as you prepare for it. If you have any comments, experiences, or solutions to share, leave it in the comments below.
Safe and happy travels.