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Budget travel with a baby. No stroller. No rental cars. No checked baggage. Slightly crazy.

Budget travel with a baby. No stroller. No rental cars. No checked baggage. Slightly crazy.

Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 06:54 AM
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Budget travel with a baby. No stroller. No rental cars. No checked baggage. Slightly crazy.

My husband (30) and I (27) took our 5 month old baby to Europe in October. We were on a very tight budget. And maybe a little bit crazy. Here are some post-trip thoughts:

I spent hours and hours and hours of my life planning this trip (thank you fodorites). Some unexpected changes had to be made at the last minute, so our itinerary ended up as follows:

* 5 nights in Lucca, Italy (day trips to Pisa and Cinque Terre)
* 3 nights in Hall, Austria (daytrip to Innsbruck)
* 7 nights in Worms, Germany (needed to visit people there, day trip to Heidelberg)

Sounds simple enough, right? Yes, we'd be taking an infant. And no stroller. Or rental cars. But still, we're young. No big deal.

Then reality hit...

1 baby carried in a hotsling
2 budget-traveling parents
3 bags (backpack, small duffel, and diaper bag)
3 places of lodging over 15 nights
8 towns and cities visited
20 hours spent in airplanes over the course of 4 flights
20 hours spent on 12 different trains
23 hours spent waiting for trains and planes to depart
1100 pictures taken with our digital camera

And it was all worth it. It was an incredible trip. The baby loved it and so did we.

BUT...

We don't recommend this itinerary for those traveling with a baby! Here's what we learned.

1. Transportation connections with a baby in tow are the ultimate test of patience, agility, and strength. Minimize these as much as possible. Fly right into the city/town you'll be staying and try not to move much if you don't have to. We didn't do this (obviously). I think I lost about 5 pounds and felt as though I were running a marathon at times.

2. Sometimes you need a stroller, sometimes you don't. It depends on the trip and the baby. Our specific trip was made possible by the baby sling. There's no way we could've handled all of the train station stairs, village alleys, and cobbled streets with our cheap stroller.

3. Go on the trip before the baby starts eating solid foods and crawling. We did this. It will make your life SO much easier. I think 4-5 months old is such a great time to go. That is, if your baby likes to sleep anywhere but the crib, gets bored easily, and loves strangers (all applied in our case).

4. Be prepared to feed or change a diaper anytime, anywhere. That blowout will happen at the most inconvenient moment. Trust me.

5. Decide ahead of time that you will laugh about or at least instantly forget all of the mishaps and remember only the great times. Like when the Italians treat you and your baby like rockstars. Or when you get your two daily servings of gelato and don't feel a bit of guilt. Or when the scenery is so beautiful that even cool dads are content to just wander.

When planning this trip, I couldn't find a lot of information online about budget travel with a baby. So feel free to contact me through my blog if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!

More info on how I actually did the packing here: http://arewestillcool.blogspot.com/search/label/europe
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 07:12 AM
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Awesome! I'm encouraged. DH and I hope to welcome a little one soon and your experience is inspiring.

Please share more of your trip. Where did you lodge?
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 07:46 AM
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Yes, it can be done! I think that having the baby with us made the trip more fun than when it was just the two of us.

In Lucca, we stayed at Da Elisa for 50 eur/night - http://www.daelisa.com/ It was clean but very sparse and had shared bathrooms. It looks nicer on the website than it did in person, but we saved a lot of money this way. I am really glad we decided to stay within the walls of Lucca. If I had to do it over again, I would look for a place within the walls but closer to the train station. It was walkable, but keep in mind everything we were carrying!

In Hall, we stayed at Gasthof Badl for around 70 eur/night - http://www.badl.at/ It was so luxurious compared to the Da Elisa! Delicious buffet breakfast of fruits, meats, cheeses, and cereal. We got really lost trying to find this place from the train station. Again, it would have been nice if it were closer. But I would definitely stay here again in a heartbeat.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 10:55 AM
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Wow - that's an impressive circuit without a child in tow! My daughters both have young'uns, one 10 weeks, the older almost a year, and I have a hard time imagining them travelling with.

You story did remind me of meeting a 30-ish man at a cafe in Corniglia having breakfast and he'd brought his infant daughter in a sling to give his wife a break. I asked how travelling with infant had been, and he described how they'd walked everwhere carrying the baby on their extended vacation - including the CT trails! They'd chosen Corniglia as a base for several days after hearing that it would be quieter than the other towns, and what struck me was how locals and other multi-day visitors stopped to greet him and ask how the baby was doing, sleeping, etc. Too cool, and another resounding reason to, as Calvin Trillin so aptly put it, "hang around" in a town for an extended bit!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 12:06 PM
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lightpacker,
We took our 20 mo. old back in October to Paris and Sicily and would do it again in a heartbeat. I agree with most of your observations but with an older baby/toddler, our stroller was indispensible, if for no other reason then dumping our stuff in!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 01:20 PM
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Thanks for bringing back fond memories of from (achhhh!) 24 years ago, when my husband and I did something similar with a 6 month old son! Main objective was to introduce my Grandfather to his first great-grandchild. No stroller, LOTS of good vibes from all we crossed paths with.

~Liz
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 03:38 PM
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Glad I could bring back some memories! I'm not sure how I feel about another transatlantic flight now that he's older. How do you do it once the baby is walking and really antsy?
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 04:36 PM
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We didn't manage another overseas trip until our son was 5, and he was always pretty mellow, so can't really offer any advice. Don't recall any problems then, either. It always seemed easier to interact with locals when we had a young child with us, though.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 04:39 PM
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I was terrified by the thought of the flight with our toddler daughter but she did really well. We flew overnight from Chicago to Paris and she slept the whole way-we had the 3 middle seats and she was in the middle. We lucked our that our flight wasn't full so my DH went a few rows back and she actually was laid out for the whole flight-we had to wake her up to land. On the 9 hr flight home, she was up every minute but was content standing in the middle seat and we visited the flight attendants in the galley quite a bit. The flight crew was great-plied her with snacks the whole time. We invested in a portable DVD player for the flight but she wasn't really interested in it-I was glad we had it anyway though.

Travelling with a toddler was a definate adjustment from our other "solo" trips but we enjoyed every minute of it (well, maybe except the whole first night when she was wide awake trying to adjust to the time change). But we're really lucky that she's used to travelling so she did great-that being said we didn't go into one museum and hit every merry-go-round in Paris but boy did we get a great Christmas card with her on the merry-go-round and the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the background.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2008, 05:23 PM
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That's great. Completely agree with the diaper change anywhere anytime. I didn't find a changing table or a bathroom big enough to fit in with our 8 month old anywhere in Rome over a 2 week period. The stroller came in handy then - as a changing table!

Our daughter was eating baby food at the time and that was a hassle since we didn't bring 2 weeks worth and she didn't love the italian stuff. We just gave her a lot of formula and yogurt. Next trip she'll be eating regular food so that should be easier.
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 07:05 AM
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Swalter--yes, the first night was definitely the low point of the trip. We were exhausted from the long day of flights and the baby just couldn't go to sleep so he was crying. My husband bounced him in the sling all night, saying, "This is a nightmare!" We wondered if we had made a huge mistake. Luckily, everything got much better after that.

Sally--2 weeks in Rome with no changing tables! That is impressive. I didn't see any in Italy either, but we were in small towns so it was easy to find uncrowded areas to change him. I was always worried about offending people if they saw me changing him somewhere outside. I really hope we didn't bother anyone. I haven't seen many people talking online about what is the proper etiquette for changing a baby if there aren't facilities in the bathroom.

On one of the longer train trips, I used my phrase book to talk to a young Italian woman about the lack of Italian babies that I had seen out in public and on trains. Her opinion (I think) was that the mothers are protective of their babies, so they don't take them traveling outside of the home very often. Much different from the US, where I see people carrying week-old babies around every time I go to Target. Maybe there are some Italians on this board who would agree or disagree?

I did notice that the locals we met even seemed protective of our baby! When we asked for directions, they would say "that way is the shortest" and then look at the baby and say "but I don't want you going that way, you should take this way instead (safer)." It was cool and we were thankful!
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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Amen to the lack of changing tables-the only one I found was in the public restroom at the Eiffel Tower-thankfully our daughter is old enough to stand and have her diaper changed and her "messes" are much more predictable and less messy now that she eats real food.

You are right about the Italians being more protective of their babies though. One of my early trips was with a friend whose relatives live in Naples. We were travelling by car to the Amalfi Coast, in August, so it was blistering hot. They had a 9 mo. old at the time and wouldn't open the windows b/c the truck fumes might poison him and wouldn't turn on the AC in the car b/c he would get a chill. I'm not saying all Italian parents are like that but if that is an illustration of a few, they are definately more protective about taking babies out. (Not to mention it was the most naueseating car ride of my life! I kept thinking the poor little guy was going to sweat to death b/4 a truck fume got him but oh well!)
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 08:31 AM
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Another reason you don't see many babies:

I believe I've heard that the birth-rate is so low in Italy that the government is concerned.

~Liz
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 09:45 AM
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I am another believer in the stroller. True, you need a good one (not a cheap umbrella) but I had chubby chunks for babies and my enjoyment of a vacation is seriously limited if I had to carry them in a backpack or sling all day. About two hours is my max, and even then I start getting cranky.
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 05:09 PM
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I can't speak to Italians traveling with their babies but we sure saw lots of babies out and about in Rome. Maybe they were all locals (lucky ducks!).

Our daughter at the time was too heavy to fit into most carriers so that is definitely one benefit to going when the baby is smaller. I have to say that I liked having the stroller because it always gave the baby a comfortable place to sit and nap. but we weren't traveling between cities so that made it easier.
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 05:18 PM
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One other thing that I found greatly helpful on our trip was staying in a home like setting. We were lucky to be staying with bil/sil in Sicily and it made all the difference in the world for an active toddler-we spent 4 nights in a hotel on this trip-one in a suite, not bad and 3 in "regular" hotel rooms and she was like a caged animals those nights. A suite/apartment type setting will be essential for further trips for awhile for all of our sakes!
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Old Jan 4th, 2008, 07:18 PM
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I loved your post. It brought back memories about this past summer, where we spent 3 months living in Dublin with our then 6-month old, and traveled much across the country.

I quickly learned:

1. That you can change your baby pretty much anywhere, since changing tables don't exist! The best time was when I had to change him - very dirty diaper at that - IN BETWEEN train cars on an old rundown train we were switched to, when the first one unexpectedly broke down. We were swaying and it was muddy and ancient, but we got the job done! He never even cried.

2. You can squeeze a travel cot (pack-n-play) into the tiniest area of your B&B's room.

3. Bathing a baby is difficult when there is only an electric shower, but it can be done. Not to say it is a pleasant experience, mind you.

4. You can carry a baby anywhere in the carrier! On a raft bouncing on the sea towards the Blaskets (note, this was NOT anticipated and I probably would not repeat LOL) or across a rope bridge above the ocean!

The memories
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Old Jan 5th, 2008, 07:10 AM
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jumper--I remember reading some of your posts when I was planning my trip--how fun! I visited Dublin once and loved it. I was there for legitimate business reasons, but it was like a pilgrimage for me as a huge u2 fan. (Yes, I was one of those ridiculous people hoping to see Bono walk by...) Great diaper changing and baby carrier stories! I did most of the diaper changes on my lap because he was so small and squirmy. The worst one I did was also on a train...Me sitting on the closed toilet in a tiny swaying bathroom while changing a really messy one on my lap.

I think the long train trips with a baby are an adventure...It seemed like we were either in a completely packed compartment with 5 strangers (with me walking the narrow aisles, trying not to fall, whenever the baby was unhappy), or we were in a nice compartment on our own but paranoid that strangers would join us at every stop. We performed a "this baby is out of control and diapers are everywhere" comedy routine so that anyone walking by our glass door would change their mind about joining us. It worked like a charm until a blind man with a cane joined us in our compartment (I'm serious). Then it was back to walking the aisles whenever the baby started crying. Maybe I care too much about making strangers hear my crying baby...
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Old Mar 6th, 2008, 10:55 AM
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I love your post! My husband and I are expecting and we're also planning another European tour for April next year - at which point, our baby will be 9 mos. I'm already planning and he isn't even here yet! lol Your post gave me the confidence and boost I needed to continue doing this and not give up! Thanks!
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Old Mar 6th, 2008, 06:37 PM
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Glad I could help! Our son is 9 months old now, so I would say bring lots of cheerios!
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