From the second my husband and I started talking about having kids, there was one promise we made to each other: We will still travel. Not only is it something Sean and I both enjoy, but we want to instill a love of travel, adventure, and exploring cultures in our kids. I’m happy to say that we just returned from our first international trip with our ten-month-old son, Ethan. We took advantage of a free plane ticket (hello lap baby) and spent 12 days in Spain. I hope I can encourage you to take the leap with your little one with a few of my takeaways...
Don’t overthink it
To borrow from Nike, Just Do It. We booked our tickets without overthinking it and just figured things out as they came. I asked for advice from fellow moms before we went and got some great tips for the plane (a few helpful tips included: bring the boppy to make plane sleep more comfy for everyone; pack one diaper per every hour of flight; bring something new-to-baby to keep them interested/entertained; pack a change of clothes for you and baby in your carry on). Everything else just kind of fell into place.
We went into the trip telling ourselves it would be a different type of trip (no longer a vacation, but a trip). We would live like the locals and only do as much sightseeing as we could handle. This meant visiting the local parks, wandering the streets, and making many trips to the local markets. We managed to see the big tourist destinations we’d hoped to, and we had wonderful, unplanned experiences and meals in between.
Get an apartment
Airbnb helped us achieve the “live like the locals” goal. Using the “family” filter, we found apartments equipped with pack-n-plays and high chairs. While Ethan napped, we were able to enjoy the living room with the balcony doors open, listening to the hustle and bustle of the streets below while reading, relaxing, or planning our next outing. It was also great to have a fridge and kitchen to make dinner and pack food for Ethan when we were out and about all day.
As a stay-at-home mom, I tend to be pretty Type-A when it comes to Ethan’s schedule. I make sure to be home for his two naps and we stick to a very regular routine. I told myself that while in Spain, it would be fine if we couldn’t be at the apartment for a nap and that Ethan could sleep in the carrier. It took extra reminders from my husband to actually get me to loosen up on these things and I’m so glad I did. Ethan always got at least one nap at the apartment (sometimes two), and otherwise, we had the carrier and he just snuggled up with us and came along as we continued to explore. Also, in Spain, kids don’t go to bed until at least 9 p.m. (the sun is still out!!). I also gradually let go of the idea that Ethan’s schedule would look the same as it did at home, with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime. He adjusted to the local time, going to bed around 9 p.m. and waking up around 8 a.m., which worked out great because NOTHING in Spain is open before 8am. By the time we got up, fed, and dressed, it was 10 a.m. and the city was also starting to wake up.
Go where you know someone (if you can)
We were lucky enough to visit a good friend of mine in Barcelona. This deepened our “live like a local” experience once again. Our first night, they came over to our Airbnb with food and cooked an amazing Catalan meal. Another night, I got to go to yoga with my friend while Sean stayed with Ethan. And on our last day, after having a decadent lunch together, our friends babysat Ethan so Sean and I could enjoy some adult time. We’re already planning our next international trip to Columbia where my childhood friend is living for the next three years with her family.