Travelling Europe with a baby

Travelling Europe with a baby

Travelling overseas to a European destination with a baby can be a challenge for parents. However, family travels don't need to be restricted by age. Planning appropriately can compensate for the added trouble of travelling with a baby. This guide provides our top twelve of tips and considerations when planning a European vacation with a baby.

[1] Think carefully before choosing European travel destinations

In terms of your selected destinations, think about places that are known to be baby-friendly, for example, the South of France and Antibes. Also consider locations with a relaxed ambiance where it will be simpler to transport the stroller. Busy cities normally have more to see and do but using subways and buses with a baby every day can become stressful.

The Bernese Oberland in Switzerland, Salzburg, just about everywhere in Austria, and perhaps Amsterdam and the surrounding regions are a few other locations in Europe that are interesting and peaceful places to visit with your baby.

It could also be helpful to the same home base for at least the first 3 to 4 days of every vacation on which you take your new-born. This will provide everyone with enough time to acclimatize to the changed environment. From there, however, you have to learn to roll with the punches and stop stressing about following a precise timetable.

[2] Carefully consider what to pack

When you're traveling with a young child it's important to prepare well ahead of the time for everything you are going to need during the flight and on day-trips. For example, bring a small first aid kit, and always keep additional sleeping bags, wipes, diapers, and food on hand. Also make sure your phone is fully charged each day in case of an emergency.

A sturdy stroller that can be folded up is essential. You can stow your diaper bag and baby gear inside and take it wherever you go. It will also be useful to have it with you as you move through the airport, so keep it at hand until you arrive at the gate.

[3] Make the appropriate reservations and remember to ask for a baby-friendly room

Your life will be so much easier if your hotel is baby-friendly. For the additional space and to have a place to relax while the little one sleeps, a suite with a patio is a great option. Request a high chair and a crib in advance by getting in touch with the establishment.

When booking a rental car, make sure it has a baby seat, unless you plan to take your own baby seat with you on the trip.

[4] You may need a bassinet for the flight

It's probably a good idea to prepare ahead and reserve the seat in the front of the economy section if your baby is still quite young. This seat is frequently saved for families traveling with young children who might have to use the bassinet. In case you don't know, the latter is mounted to the wall immediately in front of the seat. Keep in mind, however, that if your baby is a little bit too big to be completely comfortable in the bassinet, he or she might only last for about an hour before the strap's discomfort causes them to wake up.

If you decide to use the bassinet, just make sure to contact your airline in advance so they can arrange this for you ahead of your departure.

[5] For long-haul trips, consider a night flight

One lesson you might have to learn when flying with a baby it's that it's better to book the flight during the night-time whenever possible. Without the little one having a decent sleep during that time, you might be stuck with an extremely agitated and overactive baby once you arrive on the other side.

It might not always be possible though. Many of the planes crossing the Atlantic in the opposite way take off in the morning (European time). If you are flying from the United States (particularly the Western part) and are unable to secure an overnight flight, try splitting up the flight the next time and change aircrafts on the U.S. east coast.

[6] When planning the trip, add a day or more to the itinerary

Have you ever arrived somewhere new and only then realized how awful you were feeling? On a day like that, even the rush of finally getting to the destination you've been longing for can't make up for your puffy face, oily hair, and general feeling of dehydration and jet lag confusion. Add to that a highly agitated baby, and you could have a tricky day ahead.

Pre-empt these types of situations by incorporating an extra day or two into your schedule when you arrive at your destination. Don't expect too much of the first few days. Instead, book a couple of nights at the same place at the start of your trip, just to allow everyone to find their feet. 

Spend the first couple of days just wandering around, enjoying the new continent, what is formally known as the Schengen Area. As you, the partner or spouse, and the baby start to relax, you can gradually expand your horizons. Perhaps begin exploring the surrounding area, cities and towns.

[7] Consider renting a car

As with any destination, renting a car in Europe is a matter of personal preference. Renting a car. however, gives you more flexibility and freedom when you are traveling for a long period of time, Even though taking the train across Europe is genuinely enjoyable and something that all of us should experience at least once, using a rather terrible budget airline is occasionally unavoidable and often a rite of passage for new parents.

Renting a car in Europe is a good option when traveling with a young child. Access to a rental car will give you more flexibility to plan your schedule as you please, and enable visits to places that would otherwise be difficult to get to via public transport.

[8] Bring a Sleep Pod or reserve a two-bedroom apartment

During a long trip, sharing the same room with a baby might not be suitable for everyone. The pack-'n-play would definitely have to go in the closet or bathroom, and once the baby has gone to bed at night, you'd still have to sneak around. To me, that feels like the complete opposite of a vacation.

While you might not get to eat out very often when traveling with a baby, having a 2-bedroom home will allow you to put the young one to sleep in his or her own room at roughly 7 o'clock at night. That will leave you with the rest of the evening free to enjoy Netflix, take-out pizza, and wine. Plus, you wouldn't have to worry about waking up the baby, so you will still be able to enjoy a good night's sleep.

[9] Be prepared for a lack of baby changing tables

Every part of the world has its own advantages and disadvantages. The fact that it sometimes seems as if there is a change table in practically every public restroom for women in the US is one of that country's advantages. The United States is undeniably ahead of most European countries in terms of the availability of baby changing tables. There is also a trend of these diaper changing tables being placed in men's bathrooms as well for ease of access by fathers.

Unfortunately, the biggest part of Europe still lags behind in this area. Traveling with a baby in Europe, changing tables are genuinely not abundant. Most restaurants and small local businesses do not have bathrooms with changing tables. In case you plan to dine out at that lovely mom-and-pop restaurant around the corner, prepare yourself to change the baby's diaper on the establishment's floor or outside if lighting and privacy permit.

[10] Do not assume every establishment will be air-conditioned

Due to the age of many of the buildings in European city centres, there is significantly less access to air-conditioned establishments than the US. Adults may find this uncomfortable and babies probably find it even more so. When planning your day-to-day activities, consider taking breaks or stopping by at places with conditioning. You can search the Google Maps app for 'air-conditioned' or 'air-conditioning' and see results in other people's reviews of nearby places that provide needed respite from the summer heat.

[11] Requesting and looking for seating with your baby

As perhaps every other parent reading is already aware, bench seating at a café or restaurant can provide parents and the baby instant relief from the tensions of travelling and sight-seeing.

If your baby has reached the stage in life where he or she is completely content with a little bit of room to move around in and a few toys, one of you could sit next to her on the bench and act as a type of guardrail by raising one leg. This is an excellent way to allow them a bit of wiggle space in such a small area.

When planning to go to a restaurant, always strive to make a reservation, and do it at a time when your baby is normally not too hungry.

Try to avoid those time slots when restaurants in the area typically get busy. For instance, book dinner reservations for about half an hour after the restaurant has opened in the evening. This normally ensures that the restaurant is less crowded and helps with getting more prompt service.

[12] Don't forget to check visa requirements if you need an ETIAS or a Schengen Visa

If you don't hold an EU passport and currently travel to Europe without needing a visa, travel requirements are changing in 2025. The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is launching and is a mandatory authorisation for travellers visiting Europe with passports issued by countries such as the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia and dozens more. An ETIAS will also be required for all eligible travellers, regardless of age. However, babies or minors aged under eighteen will be able to apply for ETIAS for free without paying the €7 government fee.

If you currently travel to Europe with a Schengen Visa, you will not be affected by ETIAS and will continually need to apply for a Schengen Visa when entering Europe.

One other requirement to remember is that as part of entering a European country with a baby, parents or guardians may be requested to provide evidence a relationship, such as a written permission from a parent or legal guardian. Specific requirements may vary for each EU member country. A full list of the latest guidelines and requirements can be found on the European Union website.

You can learn more about ETIAS by reading about the ETIAS requirements.