About two weeks ago, we took our first overseas trip with Shiloh to France! (See my France blog post here). I remember when Michael and I went to Italy shortly after we got married, seeing babies there and thinking “these parents are crazy! how in the world do you travel to Italy with a baby?!” Fast forward 4 years and here we are – those crazy people traveling to France with a baby haha. For a brief moment, we thought about going to France sans-baby and leaving her with grandparents. But, I wasn’t ready to be that far away from her for that long (we were gone 5 nights. and breastfeeding makes that difficult as well!). We knew it would be challenging, but both Michael and I were also excited to experience France with our baby girl. Looking back – it was a lot of work but I wouldn’t have changed the trip for ANYTHING. I am so glad we brought her! So today I want to share a few tips we learned for traveling internationally with a baby!
[BTW – I have done other, more detailed blog posts on traveling with a baby. So make sure to check that out here. Today’s post I’m going to specifically focus on international travel].
Airport / Flight
First I’ll talk about the actual flight / airport situation itself. My number 1 tip for traveling internationally with a baby is request / pay for a bulkhead seat! On international flights, if you have a bulkhead, the flight attendant can bring a bassinet that hooks onto the wall and it is CLUTCH. This saved us on both our flight to France and the flight coming home. On the flight TO France, Shiloh probably slept for 5hrs straight in that thing (because we were flying over night), and she took great naps in it coming home from France as well. You should also bring a nursing / carseat cover with you that you can cover the bassinet with, so your baby will sleep better / not wake up with the lights. We also brought our portable sound machine with us, but I don’t think that’s totally necessary because the plane has white noise all on its own. But, you can bring it if you want to be extra prepared! In addition to sleeping, the bassinet also came in handy just for Shiloh to have her own seat! She sat up in that thing as well and played with her toys, or just had some room to spread out.
What to bring on the flight
In addition to the nursing / carseat cover and portable sound machine, there are a few other must-haves for an international flight with a baby. When Shiloh was awake on the plane, we read books to her (she loves brown bear, brown bear), I nursed her, played with other toys (she loves this baby einstein toy and this teething toy), or we just walked her around on the plane. She loves just looking at all the people! I gotta say, this was one of those times that breastfeeding was super convenient. Anytime she was fussy I could put her on the boob (under my nursing cover) and it calmed her almost instantly ha. We also brought lots of snacks which was helpful. Shiloh LOVES bamba (we buy ours from Trader Joe’s), or the Plum teething wafers . I also bought a pack of colorful sticky notes because a few moms told me that entertained their babies on the plane, but we ended up not needing them!
We also kept our ergo baby carrier with us on the plane. All babies are different, but Shiloh tends to fall asleep in this pretty easily when I wear her facing in.
In addition to those things…we brought all of your other normal baby travel items as well – diapers, wipes, change of clothes for her, sanitizing wipes to wipe everything on the plane down, etc.
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We ALWAYS travel with our doona stroller because it’s a stroller and carseat all in one. We typically have this with us all through the airport – through security etc, because we gate check it. So, it’s convenient because we don’t have to carry Shiloh, we just wheel her through the airpot in the doona. However, for international travel, we didn’t want to have to worry about keeping up with the stroller and getting it at our gate when we had a short layover. SO, we checked the doona stroller with our luggage. I just wore our baby carrier through the airpot so I could be hands free. If you are traveling internationally and have a short layover between flights, I recommend checking your stroller with your luggage so you don’t have to get it at the gate.
What to pack
Like I mentioned above, we bring our doona stroller on every trip we go on because it’s a carseat and a stroller in one. I can’t recommend this enough if you travel a lot with your baby! We’d be strolling the streets of Paris with our doona, and then get an uber and collapse it down into a carseat for the uber ride. (You don’t need a base either for the carseat. You can just strap it in with the seatbelt).
On normal trips within the states, when we are staying at a hotel…we never travel with a crib because the hotel will almost always provide a crib in our room. In France, we were staying in a lot of apartments though (and some of the hotels there aren’t as ‘baby friendly’ as hotels here!), so we brought our travel crib with us, and checked it with our luggage. We LOVE this travel crib. It’s extremely lightweight, folds up really small, and is super easy to put together. If you’re traveling internationally with a baby, I highly recommend bringing this travel crib with you, because you really don’t know what your hotels or apartments can provide!
I also suggest traveling with a tote that could work as your “everyday” bag as you explore the city, and also double as a diaper bag. I LOVED having my Louis Vuitton tote with me, because it went with all of my outfits but was also big enough to carry Shiloh’s stuff in when we were out and about.
Other than that…the rest of our packing list for Shiloh is similar to what we pack for her on any other trips. We made sure to bring her sleep sack, sound machine and anything else she uses at home for bedtime. I brought travel sizes of her body wash / lotion, along with other essentials like toys, diapers, wipes, a few pouches, etc!
The actual trip / Being overseas
I was really worried about how Shiloh would do with the time change / jet lag. This is where I’m sure every baby is different but she handled it like a freakin champ! She slept pretty well on the flight over to France (thanks to the bassinet), and once we landed in Paris, we went to the hotel right away and she had a good nap there in the morning. After that, she honestly adapted to the time change better than Michael and I did. I think on our first night, she woke up in the middle of the night one time…but went back to sleep pretty easily.
Most of you guys know we did Moms on Call with Shiloh, so when we are at home, she’s on a very consistent schedule that we rarely stray from! When we were in Paris, I knew we had so much to do and see that we would not be sticking with a schedule, and that’s okay. If you’re like me and pretty schedule-obsessed, tell yourself that you can get back on schedule when you get home…and just enjoy your trip. We did try and make sure Shiloh could still get one good nap in a day (in her crib, where we were staying)…but other than that, we kind of went from thing to thing exploring the city with her! Feeding when we were out and about, letting her try our food at restaurants. She was definitely not on a schedule while we were in France, but as long as she still got one good nap in a day, she did really well! When we were out and about exploring, we brought the nursing cover and would put that over the doona when it was “naptime”. She fell asleep in there once or twice, so sometimes we did “naps on the go”.
For dinners out, we just tried to eat earlier dinners with her! This is where the time change might work in your favor. It may have technically been 730pm in France, but back home it was still 1:30 in the afternoon. So Shiloh was able to stay up later than she typically does at home and she did great with that. Still though, we tried to eat earlier dinners so we could get her to bed!
Also, I will add, we brought my mom with me to France which was SO nice. There were several times where she stayed back at the apartment with Shiloh while Shiloh napped, or just to play with her in the room, while Michael and I went and explored the city. My mom also stayed back in the room two nights with Shiloh while Michael and I enjoyed nice dinners out. So, Shiloh was a freakin champ going from thing to thing and seeing all the sights with us. But, having my mom there was insanely nice so Shiloh could also still get in good naps and have lots of play time with her Pippa!
Baby in France
I was so impressed with how friendly and nice everyone was to us in France, since we were traveling with a baby! People went out of their way to help us both in France, and at the airport in Paris! I will say though…Europe apartments / hotels are typically much smaller than what we are used to in the states. The elevators are even tiny haha. One of the apartments we stayed at, we were on the 6th floor and Shiloh’s car seat / stroller wouldn’t even fit in the elevator, so Michael had to carry it up and down 6 flights of stairs anytime we were coming or going. The rooms were also so small, so finding space to set up her crib was a challenge.
All that to say, I’d recommend really looking into the hotel where you are staying beforehand. Make sure there is enough space for all of your baby gear! We did stay in one hotel in Paris at the end of our trip that was SO nice + perfect for baby. The most baby-friendly place we stayed by far. It’s called Le Mattisia. The location wasn’t necessarily the BEST but well worth it because of how spacious and accommodating they were!
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, we are SO glad that we brought Shiloh to France with us. The memories (and photos!) of having our baby girl in France with us will be something we have forever. If you are wanting to book an international trip and take your baby but you feel nervous or intimidated…let me tell you: YOU CAN DO IT! It’s 100% possible and will be an amazing adventure! Just know going into it…it will be a different kind of trip. Michael and I love going to dinner pretty late after a long day of exploring, ordering a bottle of wine with dinner and sitting there for hours on trips. We are both high energy people and like to “go go go” on these types of trips. Traveling with Shiloh looks very different than when we travel alone. It was a lot of work, a lot of just “going with the flow” instead of having everything planned out, earlier dinners, and “deep breath” moments when we both were frustrated with lugging around all the baby things. Just want you to have accurate expectations beforehand!
Once we got home, it took Shiloh maybe a day to adjust back to the time change. (Again, she adjusted better than Michael and I did haha). She seemed pretty tired for a day or two but bounced right back after that, and then we got back on our normal schedule!
Have you traveled overseas with your baby before? If so, please share any tips & tricks you have in the comments below! Thanks for reading!