Probably the most memorable trip (especially to other young parents), was our first trip as a family of 3. We took a 3.5 month old Kaitlyn to Italy for a week, followed by a 1 week Mediterranean cruise. The trip was spearheaded by my mother, who thought nothing of traveling with an infant. Of course, as first-time parents, we had ALL the concerns in the world. Turns out, it was a really awesome trip to look back upon.
Travel: From California, we ended up with a 1-stop flight with a lay-over in Chicago. Door-to-door travel time was almost 17 hrs. I won’t even sugarcoat it in the least. The trip going there was really difficult on me. Mainly because Kaitlyn had never been a good napper as a baby. She would sleep in increments of less than 20 minutes at a time, and always wanted to be bounced. It could have been her acid reflux, but I had to baby wear her almost the entire time, and spent as much time as allowed on the plane walking and bouncing up and down the aisle. Luckily, she was a bit of a flirt and loved to interact with the flight attendants. We did not purchase her a seat, but we did bring her car seat with us and gate checked it along with the stroller. I felt much safer having the car seat on the taxi van ride to our hotel as well.
My how photo qualities look so bad so fast. 4 years ago and the pics look so old. haha. She slept a total of 1 hour on the 9hr leg of our flight.
On the taxi van & after finally arriving at the hotel, seemingly stuck in the baby carrier position.
Gear: Speaking of car seats and strollers, I researched what combo to bring for our trip endlessly. Venice is a city of canals, with tiny pathways and endless bridges. Many sites and people giving advice will have you think it’s easier to just baby wear the whole trip and skip a stroller. phish! I am SOOO glad we had a stroller. The baby was completely flipped upside down with the time change, and almost entirely SLEPT all day during our first week abroad. It was hot and humid enough without having a 10lb furnace attached to me all day. It was so good to have our trusty infant car seat with stroller, to have her sleep in while we were sightseeing. The stroller itself is important though. We had the UppaBaby Vista, which was wonderful to steer and use, but too heavy for all the ups and downs of the canal bridges. I bought a Snap ‘N Go stroller that was compatible specifically for the trip. It was super light weight, had a large storage basket, and cup holders. It worked perfectly for our needs. If baby/toddler is out of the infant car seat stage, I would opt for a lightweight travel/umbrella stroller with the ability to recline.
Down the Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge
Also as a FTM (first time mom), I had a lot of worries about the baby’s crib. We owned a travel crib and after reading many scary posts about terrible hotel cribs, we hauled our own. At our particular hotel in Venice, they already set up a super clean and nice pack and play, and with the cramped space of Venice hotels, we never even used our travel crib. It did get used on the second part of our trip though.
TIP: If you are concerned about hotel cribs, you can contact the hotel and ask them to email you a picture of their cribs. We have done trips with and without bringing our own crib, and I will say, I have been worried enough to purchase a pack-n-play when the hotel crib did not live up to my standards. Later on, I learned to just check with the hotel on their specific cribs to save time and money.
Of course I already mentioned the baby carrier and despite my complaints about the heat, we really couldn’t have done the trip without my baby carriers. At the time of having Kaitlyn, we were using the Baby K’tan and Ergo with an infant insert. By my second baby, I had fallen in love with the Solly Baby and still loving our Ergo (and added a new style as well).
In the Ergo w/infant insert (newer style models do not require inserts, I believe)
Venice: When people said the Italians LOVE babies, they were not kidding! Everywhere we went in Venice, Kaitlyn became a little star. Men, women, other children. The culture just embraces and adores children and babies. I felt very welcomed and safe. Especially as a FTM, I was a bit nervous about breastfeeding before our trip. I quickly became so comfortable finding a stone step, doorway, or bench to nurse.
A whole week in Venice, you ask? My family (whom we were cruising with), all parted ways to traipse through multiple cities in Europe, while we hunkered down in Venice. They were all as free as birds in my mind. Typically, J and I would have filled up our itinerary with days of seeing and doing as much as we could, but parenthood changes things, especially in matters of travel. I worried we’d be bored, but actually, the slow pace of the tiny city matched our pace very well. Kaitlyn’s schedule was so opposite of our time zone. While she would happily sleep all day, she was up ALL.NIGHT. And this is where I will state my advice on traveling with little ones (and will repeat over and over): have very low expectations. Traveling with littles ones is training and learning for both parents and kiddos. It WILL get better. It WILL get easier. But man oh man, the first 5 days of our trip were a blur and torture every night for me. J got to sleep at night. I got to stay up and entertain our bouncy, trounce, flouncy, pouncy, Tigger of a babe. I don’t think this is entirely normal though, as I had mentioned, Kaitlyn would only nap in minutes at a time. So I would spend 3 hours trying to get her to nap for 8-12 minutes.
Luckily, by the time we’d usually be up and ready to go out for “the day”, it would be late afternoon after the local’s siestas and great sunset viewing time. We could enjoy wonderful Italian dinners and walks at night, when the heat had simmered down.
Side Note: Sadly, we never did a gondola ride because I was concerned how many mosquitoes there were. If we go back now that the kids are older, I would for sure make that a must-do!
We also managed to do some day trips while in Italy.
Kaitlyn’s first train ride!
Overall, Venice was a wonderful first trip as a family. We set our own pace, gave ourselves time to get accustomed to traveling with a baby and really enjoyed the culture! I can’t wait to go back with both kids one day!