Baby's come with a lot of stuff at the best of times. So you can imagine that packing for a two month trip with our 4 month old presented a few challenges. Dave and I had many conversations about what to bring and what to leave behind prior to leaving. We read online blogs by families who had done similar trips and gathered the opinions of friends and family members with children. Our goal was to ensure we had everything we needed, but nothing more. Here’s what we decided on:
Baby Bjorn Travel Crib
This was absolutely essential. We needed to ensure Ayla had a comfortable place to sleep no matter where we were. I also liked the idea that she would have a consistent bed, despite the fact that we would be staying in several different locations. It doubles as a pack and play and is worth the extra cash. This crib comes with its own carrying case and, as our travels continued, we learned to take full advantage of this feature. When leaving each destination, we would add all of Ayla's sleeping essentials to the bag, making for an easy bedtime set-up when we arrived at our next accommodation (think: pj's, sleep sack, diaper, wipes, stuffy, etc.).
Baby Bjorn Carrier
This was an absolute must-have for us. Ayla loves being toted around on our chest. She can stretch out and see everything that’s going on around her. She spends more time in the carrier than in her stroller. We use it every single day. It’s also great if you’re visiting a city that isn’t overly stroller-friendly (think: lots of cobblestone).
Jolly Jumper with doorway clamp
For us, the jolly jumper was an absolute must. Aya is a very active baby and happiest when jumping. Sanity saviour for mom and dad! Shout out to my sister in law, Kim, for sourcing the door clamp version from Once Upon a Child for $20. It’s super light-weight and easy to pack.
Even if you don’t plan to rent a car, if you are taking a taxi from the airport, you need a safe way to transport your baby. If you do plan to rent a vehicle, it’s possible to rent a car seat through the rental company. Personally, we wanted the peace of mind knowing that we had a carseat that Ayla was comfortable in and met our own safety standards. We did, however, leave the base at home, opting to use the seat belt technique to secure it in the backseat.
Since we were planning on such a lengthy trip, we decide that taking our full size, Uppababy stroller was important. Ayla would be spending lots of time in it and we would also use it to carry things like groceries home from the store. However, with an older baby and/or a shorter trip, a more compact umbrella stroller may be more suitable (and easier to transport). Most airlines will give you the option to check your stroller at bag check, or take it with you to the gate. This is nice if you're well organized and have arrived with lots of time to spare before boarding. You can comfortably cruise the terminal and baby may even have a pre-flight nap.
Travel high chair
Kim also suggested that we purchase a travel high chair, as Ayla would be approaching the age when she would begin eating solids. This would be a nice way to include her in meal time and get her familiar with the idea of sitting at the table with us. In the end, we were so happy that this ended up on our packing list, as Ayla was clearly ready to explore solids several weeks before we were scheduled to return home. We found ourselves embarking on the journey of baby food a little sooner than anticipated! We ordered this one from Amazon and have been happy with it so far. It’s also great to bring along to restaurants that may not provide you with a high chair. The only downfall of these types of chairs is they are very difficult to clean on a daily basis. We ended up disassembling it every few days and throwing it in the washing machine. For this reason, I am excited to get home to our (very) inexpensive, plastic Ikea version!
White noise machine and baby monitor:
Ayla was used to sleeping with a white noise machine at home, so bringing it along was an easy decision. It would help recreate a familiar sleep environment, no matter where we were in the world. As it happened, our Airbnb in Valencia, although beautiful and in a great location, tended to be a bit noisy at night. There were restaurants and bars just below our apartment which drew a crowd in the evenings. We were happy to have the white noise machine drown this activity out and help Ayla have a peaceful slumber. Our monitor was a must-bring as well, since her room wasn't always in hearing distance of the common area where Dave and I would spend our evenings after she had gone to bed.
Lotions and potions
We chose to bring Ayla’s regular diaper creams with us, because we were comfortable with the ingredients and knew they worked. For day-to-day use, we like the brand, Earth Mama Angel Baby and for any signs of diaper rash, we’ve had excellent results with Matter Company's nappy ointment. Once in Valencia, we sourced out a great organic spot that had tons of awesome baby products and stocked up on a couple of things for the remainder of our trip. Still, creams and soaps were easy to pack and I have no regrets bringing along our favourites. We did, however, run out of our regular baby shampoo, but spotted Waleda, another trusted brand from home.
What do we wish we had brought?
The only item we truly missed in a few of our destinations was a baby bath. Ayla isn’t strong enough to consistently sit up on her own in the tub, making it difficult to hold her and bathe her simultaneously. We made do by one of us getting into the tub with her and acting as a human baby bath. Really not a big deal, and kind of a nice mother or father-daughter moment. That said, finding a very light, portable baby bath would be ideal if taking a long trip, possibly like this one. Otherwise, we would probably recommend just making do. Alternatively, you could purchase an inexpensive solution upon arrival that you don’t mind leaving behind.
What can you leave behind and purchase when you arrive?
This would really depend on where you are traveling to, but as we are hitting very well established European cities, here’s what’s on our list:
Diapers: bring enough to get you through your flights and the first day or two. Otherwise, they are easily accessible at the local grocery store or pharmacy.
Wipes: these are also available at the grocery store and we found a brand we were happy with at the local organic health food store. We did, however, make sure we brought a couple of packs from home to get us by for a few days.
What do we wish we had left at home?
Travel Bassinet: One of the things we were a little concerned about was Ayla sleeping on our overnight flight. She slept well in her crib at home and we weren’t sure if she would sleep on us on the plane (or if we wanted her on us the whole time!). We didn’t purchase a seat for her (not necessary for children under two), and thought a bassinet would offer us a bit of insurance should she want to lie down. We had the bulkhead seats, which provided a bit of additional leg room and some space to put the folding bed. In the end, there wasn’t a lot of room for the bassinet at our feet, comfortably. Plus, as mentioned in my previous post, she fell asleep on me during takeoff and I was too nervous to make the transfer in fear that she would wake up. Of course, we had other flights booked, but none with the extra space for a baby bed. Ayla was also rolling around in her crib at night, so it didn’t work as a full-time sleeping solution throughout our trip. In the end, although it would have been hard to anticipate earlier, we didn’t need the bassinet. That said, it was inexpensive and very lightweight. So if this is something you could see yourself using, it’s a fairly low-risk purchase.
So, there are our baby packing essentials. I hope this list of must-haves comes in handy when planning your next big family adventure!
Valencia will be our longest stay in one city. We really wanted to find a place where we could settle down and live like the locals. We spent many nights pouring over books and travel blogs, before finally deciding that Valencia was the perfect spot. As the third largest city in Spain, it was not only beautiful, but less touristy than Madrid or Barcelona. It was less expensive than a prolonged stay in Italy or France, but offered culture, comfort and warm days by the ocean. So, knowing little more than that about the city, we rolled the dice and booked our stay.
We would be flying overnight from Toronto to Valencia with a four hour layover in London, Gatwick. We made it through check in and security with a happy baby. Goal one: achieved. Next on the list was to put Ayla in the stroller and walk around the airport until she fell asleep, as it was her usual bedtime. No such luck there. I quickly become accustomed to things not going as planned. Looking back, it was probably best that I learned this lesson so early in our travels. Maybe it was because we were on such an exciting adventure. Maybe it was because I knew I had Dave by my side to tackle the parenting tasks as a team, but I quickly became far more relaxed in my ways (i.e. I took the type A personality traits down a few notches, to everyone’s relief, I’m sure).
We booked the bulkhead seats, with the plan to place a small travel bassinet at our feet in which Ayla could sleep during the flight. However, during take off, she had to be in my arms. She, of course, fell asleep before the plane left the tarmac and I didn’t have the confidence to make the transfer without waking her. So, there she slept for seven straight hours. This wasn’t the most comfortable for mom, but I was just happy not having to apologize to the passengers around us for a crying baby in the middle of the night.
We made it to London at 4am Toronto time. Ayla woke when it was time to get off of the plane, but we lulled her back to sleep with a walk in the stroller a couple of hours later. Things couldn’t have been going smoother, and Dave and I were breathing a pretty big sigh of relief. The next flight was only a couple of hours, and Ayla slept for about half of it. She was happy to cruise the aisles in my arms the rest of the time. I was exhausted from my own lack of sleep, but more than happy to oblige if it meant a happy baby.
What do you say when your husband suggests taking leave from work, renting out your home, and moving somewhere else in the world for a couple of months to join you on maternity leave? I admit, when Dave posed this idea, I thought it was a bit of a pipe dream. I responded with muted excitement over the prospect, but figured it was too good to be true. It was, most likely, not something we could pull off.
Fast forward two months, and I, of course, am writing to you from beautiful Valencia, Spain.
If I have learned anything in the last decade, it is to never underestimate my husband’s ambition. He has big dreams and will do anything to make them happen. I’m just the lucky one who gets to go along for the ride. We are both ambitious in our own rights, but his crazy dreaming paired with my practical sensibility make for a great team in so many ways. Traveling together is no exception.
Unlike our past travels, this trip would be different in a few ways: first and foremost, we would be bringing along our four month old daughter, Ayla. I can’t tell you the number of sleepless nights I had about this. So many worries that were quickly forgotten, beginning when she slept for seven straight hours on the flight over. Time change included, it was all downhill from there. Ayla has proven to be a very chill travel buddy, and super resilient in all ways imaginable.
Secondly, we planned to be away for two months, a far cry from a simple week’s vacation. Two months as an adult is one thing. Leaving with a four month old baby and returning with a six month old is something completely different. There were many things to consider, including clothing sizes, developmental changes, and the introduction of solid foods. Despite these considerations, among others, we decided this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Before we knew it, flights were booked and AirBnbs confirmed. We were headed to Europe for two months to live as a family of three!
First stop: Valencia, Spain.
Next, find out how we managed Ayla's jet lag and encouraged her to become a pint-sized travel bug, all while maintaining a schedule abroad.
p.s. we're vlogging this journey! Check out The Mundy Family on YouTube and subscribe (Yes, I am now a blogger and vlogger--exhausting social media as my creative outlets)