Earlier this month, we returned from a 12 day trip to Europe. We had gone to Paris with Caleb when he was 8 months old, but Paris was our only destination for 10 days on that trip, and he was just barely mobile. This time around, our itinerary was a little more complicated, it was winter, and there were two kids to deal with as opposed to just one. We survived and we made some great memories, but it definitely was not an easy trip.
While I admire families like The Bucket List Family, the reality is that we are not them and this is not our full time gig. Traveling with small kids is a lot of work. We made some beautiful memories, but it is NOT for the faint of heart.
We decided to take this trip because Eddie's cousin (who is Chloe's godmother) had a baby girl in September and we wanted to meet her. They live in Luxembourg. But we also figured if we were making the trip, then we were going to add a couple of stops while we were there.
We booked everything on this trip ourselves and did not use a travel agent. I checked fares for a few weeks until we found something we were comfortable with. (A tip: Use Google Flights or Skyscanner to help you find the best combinations out there. You can't book it on Google, but it will send you to the sites to book with the rates they find.)
For hotels, we had points with several of our credit cards, so we browsed their sites and booked what was most convenient for us and what fit in with our points value. We then booked our travel arrangements from one city to the next. We flew from London to Luxembourg and we took a train from Luxembourg to Paris (it was significantly cheaper and way less time consuming than sitting in an airport). We also booked a rental car for the days were staying in Luxembourg.
We did not book any tours or activities in advance because we weren't sure what the kids would be up for. We decided to take it day by day.
This was a winter trip, and we were expecting temperatures in the thirties, so we wanted to make sure we packed accordingly. However, because of the transfers and traveling to different cities, we wanted to keep our packing as minimalist as we possibly could. We didn't totally succeed, but we had very few pieces of clothing that didn't get worn on the trip. We ended up with three suitcases - one large one for Eddie & I, a medium one for Caleb and Chloe, and a small carry-on bag that we used to carry a change of clothes for each of us and prescription medications.
Fashion and perfectly curated looks were not a priority - I mean we all still looked put together, but my outfits were probably not the most stylish. I went for function, convenience, and being able to use pieces multiple times. I stuck to a color palette - in our case black, white, and grey, and threw a few more colorful pieces in for each person. We each had two pairs of shoes, but we all could probably have left one pair behind.
We packed plenty of light, thin layers that we could add or remove depending on the weather, and each of us had a puffer jacket. We made sure to have enough socks for layering, gloves, hats, and scarves.
For Chloe, I packed enough diapers to last us through the day of travel and two days after. I ended up stopping in a grocery store and picking up a small pack of diapers once during the trip (they had the exact brand of diapers we use for Chloe - Pampers Pure).
We packed all the medications we knew we would need on a regular basis, and all the regular emergency medications. Things I wish I had: the nebulizer and an extra bottle of Benadryl packed in one of the suitcases. They took our children's Benadryl at security in London Heathrow, and we couldn't get anymore while we were there.
Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Before this trip, Chloe has never been on a plane. I wasn't sure how she would do. All things considered, she did pretty well. We booked an 8 hour overnight flight from Miami to London (Virgin Atlantic) in the hopes that the kids would sleep. We arrived at the airport early, and we were able to get bulkhead seats and a toddler cot. Caleb slept about 2 hours at the start of the flight. Chloe didn't fall asleep until about 5 hours in. Once we were able to transfer her to the cot, it was much more pleasant.
From London, we flew to Luxembourg, but that was a very short flight. We flew British Airways. The security line at Heathrow is pretty insane and they are very particular about liquids. We had our Benadryl taken away here and there was NO getting around it with them.
Once we arrived in Luxembourg, we had a rental car waiting for us. We booked directly through their website (Sixt) and we rented car seats for this kids. We ended up with a BMW X3 and it was perfect for car seats, two strollers, and all our bags. Having a rental car was one of the nicest things we did on the trip. We were able to take multiple day trips, and being able to leave things in the car was nice. Plus, the kids are used to being in cars, so their behavior was usually much better in the car than in other settings.
We took a train from Luxembourg to Paris, and that was pretty fun, too. However, France's transit workers were on strike so our first train got cancelled. We were able to rebook, thankfully, but the train was PACKED when we got on it. I would definitely recommend "splurging" for the first class train - we were able to sit at a table and had large, cushioned, comfortable chairs; and have a game plan for getting bags, kids, strollers, etc. on and off the train.
Our final flight was from Paris to Miami. We flew Air France, which has to be one of the most family/kid-friendly airlines I've been on. As soon as they noticed that we had small children at the boarding gate, they ushered us to a separate line for families. We were able to board after the first and business class passengers, which is always helpful with small kids. As soon as we were in the air, the crew handed out kids activity kits, and for the meals and snacks, kids were always served first. Their meals were really kid friendly and appropriate, too.
What Did We Learn? SO MUCH.
If you're planning an international trip with small kids, I hope this helps you!
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