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.
After arriving in Valencia and collecting our bags, we hopped in a cab and drove the 15 minutes to our Airbnb. We unpacked the essentials and hit the streets to explore our new neighbourhood before bed. We tried to get familiar with our surroundings and grabbed a quick bite to eat while Ayla snoozed in her stroller. We came back home and played with her for a bit. Travel with a baby was already beginning to show its true colours and we caught a glimpse of what our time here would be like--relaxed, low stress, and dictated by a 4 month old’s schedule. If you are planning a similar adventure, this is something you need to understand and be comfortable with before committing. As long as you’re onboard with that kind of lifestyle, the experience can be an amazing one, though perhaps in a different way than previous trips.
We attempted to put Ayla down at 9pm that night, two hours past her usual bedtime. We were six hours ahead, but figured with her early wake, she might do ok with this. Exhausted from minimal sleep ourselves, we also hit the pillow. However, proving not to be on Spain time quite yet, she woke after two hours. We all got up, played for a bit (one with more enthusiasm than the other two) and tried again. This time, everyone slept until 11am the following day.
The transition to a new time zone was not as painful as expected. My number one tip would be to maintain the same schedule you followed at home, best you can. Since we woke at 11am (4 hours later than usual), we simply moved Ayla’s nap schedule back a bit to accommodate. One of her naps was done on the go, as we explored, and she was in bed by 9pm by night two. This slowly inched its way back to a regular bedtime of 7pm by day four.
Even though we were in a new space, we worked to mimic Ayla’s bedtime routine to that at home: bare bum time, bath, bottle, story, nursing, bed. This lead to a seamless transition as she learned to sleep in her new surroundings. We brought along the Baby Bjorn travel crib, as it was fairly easy to pack and includes a proper sleeping mattress. This was important, as most Airbnb’s that we rented did not have a crib available. I packed her own sheets and made sure I had introduced a stuffy at night time several weeks before we left so she associated it with sleep, no matter where we were (pro tip: get two of the same so one can easily be thrown in the wash when needed). We chose this one.
Another tip I have when traveling with a baby is to mix up your days. Of course, you want to experience the city you are visiting, so I encourage you to have full days out and allow your baby to sleep on the go. However, we realized right away that it was important for Ayla to have quieter days with naps in her own bed. So, many of our days were organized with activities scheduled during her awake times. We were sure to be home in time for nap and ready to go as soon as she woke. This ensured we didn’t end up with an overtired baby---something that can quickly put a damper on your day, no matter what your plans are--and maximized our time together. Something we also quickly realized was that the warm weather could make napping in the stroller uncomfortable. So naps on the go also had to correspond with comfortable outdoor temperatures.
One of the reasons for scheduling this trip when we did was that Ayla was strictly breastfeeding. This eliminated any considerations needed to ensure the right foods for her were available, no matter where we were. So, if you are ever considering a similar travel experience, if possible, I encourage you to go when your baby is nursing. Although it is 100% possible to go if they are formula fed or already eating solids, this is the simplest route with fewest considerations needed.
Stay tuned for our list of baby gear "must-haves" when travelling, as well as items we think you can leave at home and/or purchase upon arrival!
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)