Part Two: Braving Europe – Travel Days

Travel Days

After we returned from our trip, we had many parents comment that we were “Brave” for taking our daughter with us.  We didn’t feel brave.  We felt like she belonged there with us and, to be honest, she made our trip better.  Yes, we had a few sleepless nights.  No, we didn’t get to stay out late boozing each night, but we had our little family and seeing her chubby cheeks every day in some of the most historic places in Europe was an unforgettable experience.

As I previously posted, our itinerary was as follows:

Munich, Germany – 3 days

Innsbruck, Austria – 1 day

Venice, Italy – 2 days

Florence, Italy – 3 days

Rome, Italy – 3 days

Sorrento/Amalfi Coast, Italy – 3 days

Fly home from Naples, Italy

Enjoying the train

Enjoying the train

 

With a very transient trip, I tried to plan out our travel days before we even left the United States.  What I found is that you can’t always book train tickets in advance for European travel and I also learned that there are many ways to book European train tickets and it all depends on what country/region you are traveling to/from.  I spent a lot of time researching the most effective, most comfortable, and cheapest way to get from city to city.  We knew we would be carrying all of our bags plus a stroller and our baby, so we needed to be ready to pack light and move efficiently.

Our daughter napping on the metro on our ride back from Dachau to Munich

Our daughter napping on the metro on our ride back from Dachau to Munich

We chose not to bring a car seat with us to Europe.  They are bulky and from previous trips to Europe, we knew that they weren’t necessary.  Our baby would fly in our laps and ride in trains/busses on our laps.  This not only saved us money on tickets and saved us from having to lug a car seat around, but it also worked out in our favor for napping while we traveled. 

So, what was the average travel day like for us?  Our two overseas travel days typically started a few days before we moved anywhere and our city-to-city travel started the night before we were scheduled to travel.

Overseas Travel Day:

Both of our overseas travel days went relatively smooth.  We called the airlines ahead to double check that we were still sitting in the bulk-head and still marked to receive the bassinet for our daughter.  We also triple checked this once we arrived at the airport by talking to the gate agents and reminding them that we still wanted the bassinet. 

Jimmy getting a chance to watch a movie while the baby slept

Jimmy getting a chance to watch a movie while the baby slept

In her Bassinet on our International Flight

In her Bassinet on our International Flight

On our trip from the United States to Germany we took advantage of the Delta Skyclub where we were able to get some free food/drinks and our daughter was able to take a quick nap.  The club was close to our gate, so we never felt rushed.  Since Delta allows families with small children to board first, we were able to get to our seats and get organized before the mad rush got on the plane.  We had plenty of space in the economy bulk head and our baby played at our feet until we got the signal to prepare for take-off.  Once we were in the air, they brought out the bassinet and we were able to get our daughter to sleep in it for about 1.5 hours before our meals came.  It was so nice to be hands free and be able to watch a movie and spend time with my husband. Admittedly after the meal, we struggled for 4 hours to get her to sleep, but eventually she did end up sleeping again toward the end of the flight. This was what we call a “rookie mistake” because we realized after that if we hadn’t tried to get her to sleep so much, she probably would have just slept on her own accord. The flight to Germany was approximately 9 hours.

You're actually required to close the top when the baby is in the bassinet.

You're actually required to close the top when the baby is in the bassinet.

On our travel day from Italy back to the United States, it was a bit longer and a bit more frantic.  We had to take a 1-hour bus ride from Sorrento to Naples, then a 3-hour flight from Naples to Paris, then a 10-hour flight from Paris to Atlanta and finally a 45-minute flight from Atlanta to Florida.  In both Paris and Atlanta, we had to RUN from one flight to the other.  I don’t mean a light jog either…. we were running.  I had our daughter in a baby carrier strapped to me with my purse and a carry on and my husband had the other carry on.  In Paris, he went straight to the gate to verify our seats/bassinet while I sat on floor near by changing our daughters diaper and getting her in her PJs for the long flight.  Again, we were able to board first since we had a baby and this gave us a decent amount of time to prep for the long flight. This flight went a lot smoother than our one to Germany and our baby slept in her bassinet a lot more and longer.  We never tried to get her to sleep, we just let her get super sleepy and made the transfer one she was out.  **As a side note: we flew through Paris the day after the terrorist attacks, so our flight was delayed over an hour on the ground in Paris for security reasons which caused us to have a close connection in Atlanta.

Playing on the floor of the plane during our ground delay in Paris

Playing on the floor of the plane during our ground delay in Paris

City to City Travel Days:

As a prep for our travel days from one city to another, we would unpack and repack our bags the night before we left and set out what we needed for the next morning.  This turned out to be a great strategy and allowed us to have our dirty/clean laundry separated, weather appropriate clothes easily accessible and made the actual travel easier.  We would also reorganize and prep our backpack to be sure we had enough diapers/wipes and other baby necessities.

Our baby and all of our bags (parents and ours) in an Italian train station

Our baby and all of our bags (parents and ours) in an Italian train station

We traveled by train for all of our major travel.  For all of our trips (except one) we had our tickets purchased in advance either before we left the states or we purchased our departure ticket the day we arrived in the city so that we knew we had seats together.  Since we met my parents in Venice and they traveled with us from there through the end of the trip, we always tried to get 4 seats together, so we could have the table in the middle for snacks and passing the baby around easily.  Also, it made it more convenient to store our bags overhead and under our seats if we didn’t have share the space with strangers.

We had two days of travel problems the entire trip.  The first was our train ride from Munich to Innsbruck.  I bought our first class tickets before we left the US, so we knew we had to be at the train station early in the morning, BUT I didn’t print the actual tickets in advance and for this trip in particular, there was NO place at the train station to print them.  Yep.  We spent about 2 hours running from one ticket counter to another and to the Information stand to try and get help, but no one could help us.  We ended up having to buy another two coach tickets (couldn’t get first class anymore), which put us out a decent amount of money.  After accidentally boarding a train that almost took us to Salzburg and after running (again, we were RUNNING) across the Munich train station about 10 times we FINALLY got on the right train.

Sleeping in her Stroller on a train ride from Venice to Florence

Sleeping in her Stroller on a train ride from Venice to Florence

The second “problem day” was not nearly as dramatic as the first.  Some would even say, it wasn’t a problem, but I am a planner and it caused me a lot of stress.  We took Trenitalia from Rome to Naples. Once we arrived, we needed to buy tickets for and board the Circumvensia train to get us from Naples to Pompeii, then from Pompeii to Sorrento.  Once we got off of Trenitalia, I started hunting for the Circumvensia counter (mind you I have my parents, husband, baby and luggage in tow).  We first waited in the wrong line for tickets, then I lead us astray outside the station and across the street to the metro entrance, and then I finally realized...the Circumvensia is in the basement of the regular train station.  So, we went back and found the right counter and were able to purchase our tickets with ease and board without issue. We did make our pit stop at Pompeii and we did make it to Sorrento before dark, so in the end, it all worked out.

Lessons Learned/Tips for European Travel Days:

Practicing her Italian on a train from Austria to Italy

Practicing her Italian on a train from Austria to Italy

  • You only really need Sperry’s as shoes in Europe.  Don’t kid yourself by bringing more than that.
  • Your baby can nap in their carrier even if you are sprinting through a train station.  She did this more than once.
  • Attempting to speak the native language first will get you way more help than speaking English to start a conversation
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help and use the Information booths
  • Have a plan, but be willing to change the plan on the fly.  If you miss a train, you may have to change.
  • Trains board quickly in Europe, so don’t lollygag.  Be at the platform and ready to get on as soon as the other passengers have gotten off. 
  • On a long flight, don’t be set on your baby sleeping. They may cry very loudly for 4 hours while you struggle to make them sleep...yes, we did that.  (Sorry other passengers)
  • Take a morning train so that you can use the rest of the day to sight see at the next location.
  • Enjoy it all.  The views from the trains are SPECTACULAR.  Eat the food, drink the drinks, speak the language and just absorb every single second.
She got her own seat on our trip from Germany to Austria

She got her own seat on our trip from Germany to Austria

As always, we love your feedback, questions and additional tips!  Please comment below or contact us!

Fly Brave.  Travel Often.  See everything.

 -Tavia