We have been to Europe more times than we can remember. From Paris to Budapest and countless places in between, we have learned a lot through our travels around Europe over the years. Before our first trip to Italy with our son, we felt like we knew everything there was to know about traveling to Europe.
When you have a child, though, your entire perspective changes! We quickly realized we had a lot to learn about traveling with a baby in Europe.
Bringing our baby with us to Italy was eye-opening in a lot of ways. We quickly saw each place that we visited in a new light, as we had a whole new set of things to consider.
From stroller accessibility to temperature control, our first trip to Europe with our son was filled with eye-opening experiences that we were able to learn from. This post is going to lay out some of the biggest lessons we’ve learned about traveling to Europe with a baby and traveling with a baby in Europe.
5. Later Dinners Often Conflict with Bed Time
When we arrived in Italy, our son was freshly six months old. We had just started getting him into a rhythm with nap times and bed times, and it finally looked like we were going to be getting some more sleep. We were putting him down for bed around 7:00pm every night, and he was finally starting not to fight it.
The only problem? Dinner in Italy (and many other European countries) tends to be much later than 7:00pm.
If it is just your family traveling, you can simply go for an early dinner, regardless of the cultural norm. Nobody is going to stop you from eating dinner at 5:00pm, and many restaurants (not all) will be open at that time. However, if you have local friends, colleagues, or other people that happen to be in the area, odds are you will be going out for much later dinners.
You Can’t Dine with the Locals and also Adhere to Bedtime
The social aspect of dining in many parts of Europe doesn’t really begin until well after your child goes to bed, meaning that you can either bring your baby along past their bedtime or you can miss out on the cultural experience. When traveling, though, don’t you want to have those cultural experiences? Isn’t that the point?
We opted to let our little man stay up later and sleep later in the morning. Simple fix.
As long as you are flexible with them, they can adapt very easily! On a similar note, when we are traveling we never try to keep our baby to a nap schedule.
We simply let him doze off when he is tired and wake up when he’s ready. He loves his stroller and gets to recharge while mom and dad keep exploring!
4. Don’t Expect to Find Changing Tables Everywhere
There are pros and cons to everywhere in the world. One pro of the United States is that it feels like there is a changing table in almost every public women’s bathroom.
While there is a movement to start adding more changing tables into the men’s bathrooms, too, the United States is undoubtedly already one of the world’s leaders in baby changing table availability.
Most of Europe, unfortunately, tends to fall behind in this aspect. At least in our experiences traveling around Europe with a child, changing tables are a lot less common.
Changing Tables Are Rare Outside of Major Museums and Attractions
While large museums and other big complexes will likely have a bathroom with a changing table in it, most restaurants and smaller businesses will not. If you go out to eat at a local mom and pop restaurant, for example, get ready to change your little one’s diaper on the floor.
To be fair, changing tables are kind of overrated anyway. You can change a diaper anywhere. Whether it is on a park bench, a restaurant floor, or a true changing table, changing diapers is quick and easy anyway.
While changing tables are nice, they really don’t enable you to do anything that you couldn’t do before. Just make sure to always have a changing pad in your diaper bag and you will be good to go.
3. Car Seats Are Not Mandatory in Some Countries
Our experiences with car seat laws while traveling internationally have been crazy. Some countries don’t require a car seat at all, some countries let small infants sit in frontward facing booster seats, and some countries have car seat laws that are very similar to the United States.
It really is a crapshoot, and your best bet is just to look up the laws before you leave for your trip.
We don’t take a carseat with us at all, because we know that we would not spend much time in a car. To us, hauling a car seat through the airport, on the flight, around public transportation, and into our accommodations sounds like way too much work for little reward.
We usually stick to public transportation when possible, and you don’t need a carseat on a metro or a bus.
Different Car Seat Laws Apply to Taxis, Vans, and Ubers
However, when we arrived in Europe, we started asking ourselves some questions about taxis, Ubers, and other forms of private transportation. We were going to be taking a large van at one point, and we were curious about what laws would apply in the van. What we found was that each place really just has its own laws, and they are all over the place.
In Italy, for example, you need a car seat in a private car, but you do not need one in a taxi, Uber, or any other hired driver service. While taking your infant along in a car ride without a car seat is inherently risky, the decision is left up to the parent in many places.
2. Air Conditioning Is a Lot Less Common in Europe
In the United States, air conditioning in hotels and Airbnbs almost feels like a basic amenity. It is found pretty much everywhere, and you usually don’t need to go out of your way to make sure that your accommodation has it.
Part of this is because the United States is so much newer of a country and doesn’t have many buildings from five centuries ago. Other parts of this are just cultural, as many other cultures just prefer to open the windows rather than pump the air conditioning.
Learn from our mistake and always triple check that your accommodation has A/C during summer months
No Air Conditioning Can Be Dangerous for Babies
Regardless of the reasoning, the fact stays the same: air conditioning is much less common in Europe than it is in the United States. While this can be uncomfortable for adults, it can be dangerous for babies. We accidentally booked a night in an Airbnb in Genoa, Italy in July that didn’t have air conditioning, and we learned our lesson really quickly.
Our normally calm and happy baby turned into a grouch because of the heat, and there was no way he was going to make it a second night in that place. We wound up having to pay a cancellation penalty and book in a hotel down the street instead.
My error? Assuming that the Airbnb would have air conditioning, because what Airbnb doesn’t have air conditioning? The price? A $50 cancellation fee plus the cost of the more expensive hotel.
1. Most European Countries Are Less Stroller Friendly
We live in a city, and we understand the challenges that city life can present when trying to get around with a baby. We have also lived in the suburbs, and we understand that there are inherently different challenges there. In Europe, though, both inside and outside of cities, we were appalled by how challenging it is to get around with a stroller!
Let me set some context. We know Europe, and we knew what to expect before our first trip to Europe with our infant son. We had a large, sturdy stroller at home already, but got our hands on a compact Babyzen Yoyo2 before our trip because we know how tight European streets can be.
This was a Godsend.
Our stroller at home weighs over 20 pounds without a baby in it. Our newer, smaller stroller weighs half of that. Importantly, it is still sturdy despite the portability.
European Cities Have Less Elevators and More Cobblestone Streets
It is often very hard to find elevators in Europe, and there are many places that simply aren’t handicap (or stroller) accessible. Further, many streets in Europe are made of cobblestones or other similar compositions that little stroller wheels can easily get stuck in.
Either using a baby carrier or having a strong, sturdy, stroller that is also light enough to easily carry up and down stairs is an absolute must when traveling around Europe with a baby, as you simply cannot rely on having elevators and ramps at every place that you stop to visit.
While the metro is Milan is one of the nicest systems in Italy, it is not fun carrying your baby in their stroller up and down flights of stairs every time you want to go somewhere!
Thanks for reading my post with 5 tips for traveling with a baby in Europe. Hopefully this post helps you to prepare for a few of the more challenging aspects about traveling to Europe with a baby.
While we had a couple of challenges, we would like to reiterate that there is nothing more rewarding than traveling with your children at any age, and these small hiccups were practically insignificant compared to the memories that we were able to make with our son on his first trip to Europe.
If you have any questions about traveling in Europe with a baby, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ve got you covered.