Emily Morrice, of Our Nest In The City, has an impressive travel resume. She’s taken her first two kids to 4 different countries and multiple cities, often with extensive stays. After I read her experience I was so impressed that I thought she would be the perfect choice to give us a host of great general tips to get this series started.
Read on for her tips!
Hey there Roasted readers, I’m Emily and I blog at Our Nest In The City. I’m a Montreal mama of three kids ages four and under and I have perpetual wanderlust. Thankfully, my husband also suffers from the travel bug and our littles are learning quickly, so I’m not alone. Over the years we’ve had many opportunities to travel as a family for work and play. Along the way, I’ve picked up some wisdom along with my passport stamps.
Early on, we decided that we wanted to include our children in many of our travels and now we are accustomed to it. I say ‘many’ because as any parent knows, time away with your partner is precious and something we highly suggest!
We started travelling with our children right from the beginning and now we are accustomed to it. We thoroughly enjoy being abroad together as a family and we’re huge fans of traveling with young children. In many ways, it’s most convenient when they are very young. This brings me to my first tip – start young! Why?
Children under age two fly for FREE.
Did you catch that? Free! One year both of our children fell into this glorious category so we spent three weeks of my husband’s paternity leave in France flying both our children for free. This summer our third child turns two. You can be we’re saving every penny to make a family vacation happen while she’s still free to fly.
Bonus tip: On top of free flights, airports are often extremely family friendly with designated play areas and family bathrooms. Remember to check beforehand about any play areas in the airport, as they aren’t always well signed. Families also board before Business Class!
Obvious, but think of the implications abroad! Accommodations can be pricey but little children can squeeze in much more easily than teenagers or adults. In Denmark, we had two children sharing a twin bed and our baby slept in a cot in the hallway. Our shoe-box apartment in Manhattan’s Upper West Side where we stayed for two months due to my husband’s job? Not very spacious, but two pack-and-plays fit nicely in the walk in closet. Sometimes it’s like playing Tetris, but with little ones you can make it work!
Bonus Tip: Getting around the European cobblestone streets of France? It was no problem with each of us wearing a baby carrier.
Life is flexible… for now
Eventually we’ll be planning family vacations around school schedules and a host of extracurricular activities, but with young children life is still blissfully simple. We have enjoyed taking advantage of this time where none of our three children are yet in school and our family calendar is more open.
Perhaps I’ve won you over to consider traveling with your little ones?
Here are a few more tips to make your travels run smoothly:
As a rule, we avoid hotels. Renting an apartment or home is oddly more affordable, while also giving you more space and autonomy. Win-Win! Our kids go to bed at 7pm and in a hotel where does that leave us, but drinking wine on the floor of the closet. Which can be fun! But in your own rental space you can tuck in the kids and have a kitchen, living area, and bedroom to yourselves! You just don’t get the daily room tidy and mint on your pillow, but I’m okay with that.
Airbnb is our favourite service to rent spaces. We’ve used it to find apartments and homes for our family in Montreal, Ottawa, New York, France, Italy, Sweden Denmark and Holland. Most of the time, the hosts on Airbnb can accommodate your family above and beyond. We have had highchairs and cribs provided at no extra cost. Plus, you get to live like a local instead of wearing the tourist badge.
Tip: If you need baby gear upon arrival and your hosts are unable to provide it check out baby gear rental companies (like this one) which can provide everything from strollers to exercausers.
If you are leasing an apartment or house one of the most notable benefits is being able to cook your own meals. To save money, we do this a lot abroad. I’ve blogged on the topic of fine dining with children, completely inspired by our adventures in France. We’ll often eat out for lunch and then cook a nice meal once the kids are asleep for the night (something we actually do all the time at home, too!). Having your own kitchen is huge with children because you can make comfort foods for them to help with transition and guarantee they’re eating healthy (which is hard to do on the road!).
Let’s be perfectly honest, flying over seas with my three children is not my favourite.
My tips to surviving international flights:
-Book nighttime flights in the hope that there will be a little sleep.
-Kids each get to pack a backpack with their special toys, activities, and, of course, their lovies.
-Dress them in pyjamas for the flight so they’re comfortable.
-I douse them with lavender essential oil and, hello, Gravol!
My husband thought of a genius reminder during a particularly difficult moment during one flight, “one hard day for three weeks in Europe? Good trade off”. We repeated that mantra every 20 minutes. You can insert the duration and location of your holiday, it’s all about perspective!
There is one thing that I feel quite passionately about regarding plane travel with small children. Please, do not excessively apologise for your children. I’ve heard of moms passing out goody bags and apology notes to people seated near her and her baby and I just can’t get behind that. If one of our children were extremely loud or disturbed a passenger in a particular way, I would apologise sincerely but if my baby is crying or I need you to move so I can take my toddler to the bathroom, that’s called humanity. I’ll never forget a flight where the baby behind us was screaming her heart out probably due to a popped eardrum at take off. A grown man across the aisle was having a straight up tantrum over the noise. The mother was apologizing profusely to him, while clearly stressing out herself. I made sure to say to her, loudly enough for him to hear, “you have no reason to apologise. That man is being inconsiderate and rude. You and your daughter have every bit the right to be on this plane as he does. I hope your daughter is alright, but I completely understand the noise as any compassionate person should”.
Most tourist destinations or cultural events in Europe are free to children, so we always do those. Public transit is also free for children, so take advantage there. We are always on a tight budget when we’re traveling, so we focus around free activities and choose one big splurge. This often ends up being the zoo since you can make a whole day of it and we never visit the zoo here in Montreal.
Depending on where you’re going, baby necessities like diapers or formula will probably will be much more expensive than in Canada, so make sure you pack those along. As for groceries, stick with what you know if there is a language barrier. Fresh fruits and vegetables need no explanation; whereas pre-made foods can be confusing and you might miss ingredients you don’t want your children having (caffeine, etc).
Family trips to Europe used to be for the elite, but these days a family on a budget can make it work if you’re smart. My husband is a credit-card points guru and has figured out how to amass enough points for us to fly free nearly every year (check out his how-to on his blog.) But even if you’re paying full price for your trip, remember the free flights for babies/toddlers and discounted flights for older children. If you minimize eating out, you’re spending no more than your typical grocery bill in Canada. If you rent an apartment rather than staying in a hotel you’re saving lots of cash while adding more freedom and space.
And going to Europe IS the activity. Don’t feel like you need to pay extra for every touristy thing (though most are free for children). Public museums, gardens, architecture and observing culture are the benefits of visiting a new country that costs nothing.
Bon Voyage, babies!
Thank you Emily – you’ve officially kicked off my wanderlust!
For more of Emily, check out her blog. She talks about her life, her three kids, and her positive parenting tips. She has a beautiful and modern sense of design, which is forever inspirational. Not to mention her EXTENSIVE travel with little ones… talk about impressive!
Check back here next Monday for more of this series!