Part One: Braving Europe - Booking, Planning, Packing
How did we decide to do this?
My husband was on a deployment and my 4-month old daughter had just had a medical procedure called a MAG 3 Renal Scan where they had to put her under. My mom and step-dad had come into town to keep me from having a break down. It was around that time that I decided for certain that we would be going to Germany. We were going to take our daughter as an infant and I thought this would be the best time because she couldn’t walk yet and she would stay in her stroller or let us carry her around. I rode the wave of emotions of feeling lonely and scared about my personal life and self-soothed by purchasing tickets into Munich, Germany and out of Naples, Italy. I could do this with a baby, right? I had done a crazy Europe trip in college, so I could do it with her AND the help of my husband for sure…..right?!
Booking the Flight:
Nothing makes me more OCD than booking airline tickets. Per usual, I gravitate towards Delta because we have their credit card and I get bonus miles and stuff, BUT international tickets are not cheap. And to be honest, Delta is not the cheapest internationally most the time. I spent hours searching online for the best fare, the most realistic layover times, and the fewest layovers. At the end of the day, I realized that Delta’s tickets were actually right on par with other carriers AND we would be able to access the Sky Club on our layover in Atlanta. If you live near a metropolis like Washington DC, Atlanta, Las Angeles, etc you will find tickets MUCH cheaper. I live in the panhandle of Florida and I have to get a short flight to Atlanta and then fly from there. That extra leg adds a decent cost.**
Anyway, back to the flights. Once I booked the tickets, I went onto my Delta account and tried to add “infant in arms,” but I couldn’t! So, I called Delta and they told me that I would need to pay $160 in taxes for the baby to fly. At first, I was annoyed, but I killed this lady with kindness. I was extra nice to her and by the end of the conversation she had moved my husband’s and my seat to the bulk head (BEST economy seats on the plane) and put in a request for us to travel with the bassinet that Delta offers. Also, I told myself that $160 beats having to pay for a full-priced ticket ANY day of the week. Plus, if we had picked those seats through the Delta website, we would have had to pay $140 per person per leg to get them. My kindness saved us about $520 in upgrade fees. Delta sent Charletta’s infant-in-arms ticket via snail mail and it arrived about a week later.
Planning the Trip
Planning an international trip can be daunting. I spent days and weeks planning this trip. I looked up every must-see and “secrets” of all of our destinations. I was determined to see it all. I started by using a website that booked your hotels for you, but I kept getting frustrated with the way it would change my dates and hotels on me before I could book. I decided to go to TripAdvisor.
Reviews will tell you a lot about a place, so read them. I typed in my preferences at all of our locations (AC, Free Wi-Fi, a baby crib, good proximity to public transportation). I went through hundreds of hotels. Literally. Hundreds. And then I found Air B&B.
I realize I probably sound a bit spastic (because I am), but I like to weigh out every single outcome of our trip before it happens. I have been known to plan a week-long trip down to 30 minute intervals, just to be sure we saw everything worth seeing. So after comparing and thinking and thinking and thinking more about what we should do, here is what I came up with:
Munich (3 Nights), Innsbruck (1 Night), Venice (2 Nights), Florence (2 Nights), Rome (3 Nights), Sorrento (3 Nights)
Where we would stay:
Hotel in Munich: It made sense because it was our first stay over and I didn’t want to have to find someone with my cell phone in another language after not sleeping for over 24 hours.
Hotel in Innsbruck: We were only there for one night and I got a room for under 100 Euro – OH and the hotel was IN the train station, sooooo yea. It made the most sense.
Hotel in Venice: My mom and step-dad were meeting us in Venice and neither had ever traveled to Europe before. I knew they would arrive in Venice before us, so it made sense to book a hotel that they could check-in to and drop their bags before we arrived. This worked out perfectly. They were waiting for us in the hotel when we got there.
Air B&B in Florence, Rome, & Sorrento: I wanted a place that we could stay at with my parents, but have our own space for the baby to sleep well. All of our Air B&Bs had two sleeping areas, AC, Wi-Fi, and all of them were in amazing locations. (Directly next to the Ponte Vecchio, the coliseum and one street off the main drag in Sorrento). The cost of these was cheaper than purchasing two hotel rooms and we could socialize/drink wine and eat dinner together while the baby slept in the evenings.
For all of our city-to-city travel we road trains. While I would have loved to have purchased and planned out the tickets all in advance, it just wasn’t possible. We had to purchase our train tickets from Innsbruck to Venice the day before, the tickets from Florence to Rome the day we arrived in Florence, and our tickets from Naples to Sorrento directly before travel.
We knew we needed to be able to get around easily with our bags, be able to carry the bags upstairs (many places in Europe don’t have elevators), be able to hop on and off of trains easily, and be able to manage the baby safely. We decided to carry our backpacking backpacks plus a regular backpack that we would use for a diaper bag/sightseeing/day bag. At the end of our packing, we managed to fit two weeks worth of clothes into two back packing backpacks, one regular backpack, one carry on size roller bag, plus we brought our travel stroller. I was AMAZED at our skill. Especially since we had to account for winter in Germany and Spring-like weather in Italy….
We spent several evenings after the baby went to sleep packing the bags, taking them apart, re-packing. We had to make sure we had everything we absolutely needed. Two huge take aways from our experience with this: try to stay somewhere that has laundry so you can wash your clothes throughout the trip AND remember that you will be packing and unpacking those bags at every stop if you choose to do a nomadic trip like we did. It can get frustrating, but it’s worth it to do it right each time.
Overall, the stress of the planning/booking/packing was totally worth it. Our trip was absolutely amazing. Jimmy always tells me that it was truly “the trip of a lifetime” because we were able to see so many things and get to so many places in 15 days. I would (and will) do it again in a heart beat.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Braving Europe – Travel Days and Part Three: Braving Europe – The Experience
As always, we love your feedback, questions and additional tips! Please comment below or contact us!
Fly Brave. Travel Often. See everything.