We had to change our way of travelling and adjust to the needs of our little one. People always say that you can keep travelling even after you became a parent. Yes, it’s true, you can … but it will not be the same! Our holidays now are less intense, we are visiting kids-friendly places where we can have realistic chances to relax and have a break. A bored, tired or frustrated toddler will not allow you to do so! We are travelling on regular basis from Belgium to Poland to visit my family. The first time we went to Poland when our daughter was 3 months old. We also managed to go twice for holidays in Europe: to Lisbon (at 6 months old) and Malaga (at 14 months). Both trips were very different because of the baby’s age, but also because we have learned a lot during the first trip.

What are our tips for the flight itself?

Take in consideration the time of the flight and if it will fit with yours baby daily routine. E.g. we don’t book flights with departures time before 10am or after 4pm (which limits our options considerably!).

We always travel with the buggy and baby carrier (we switch to the carrier while boarding the plane). Do note that even though you are allowed to take the carrier up to the plane, you are required to get a label for it before going through security from the check-in desk. In theory, you are allowed to take 1 small bag when you buy infant ticket (under age of 2) but we always had a small additional cotton bag with all the little one’s food and drinks, no one ever complained (in case there would be an issue, all things would comfortably fit in our luggage). In general, the less luggage you have the better. We have standard carry-on bags when traveling for a week (1 small backpack per person) and it’s really enough! Once you reach your destination, it’s time to find your buggy. Every airport have them in a different spot, usually together with oversized luggage but never next to the plane. This is why having a carrier can be extremely helpful as sometimes it’s a really long walk from the plane to the baggage reclaim. It’s also useful to have small blanket to cover the baby while boarding the plane, sometimes it’s very windy, and you never know how long you’ll have to queue outside to get into the plane.

Take enough water and snacks for your baby. According to TSA (Transportation Security Administration), there are no restrictions of liquids when you travel with kid under age of 12. Water is allowed in reasonable quantities. We usually have a 1 L bottle of water, an extra sippy cup already filled with water, soy milk in cardboard (250 mL), and 2-3 jars of baby food. As well some sandwiches, fruits and veggies. This might look like a lot, but it is good to have some extras in case of emergency (unexpected delays or flight cancellation). Keeping the water and food in a separate cotton bag, is convenient as you’ll need to show all baby liquids at the security. If your baby is still on breast or formula, it’s good to give the milk during takeoff and landing. Apparently, babies can’t pop their ears intentionally, but we can help them by encouraging them to swallow. Flight attendant will provide some hot water to make your formula upon request. If you are breastfeeding, a big scarf and special bra will be helpful to give you some privacy.

It also helps to have a new small toy for your baby, they will have a better mood and hopefully will be occupied with the new gift for quite some time :)

These are specific hints about the airports we’ve used so far:

  • Zaventem, Belgium - amazing playing area for kids next to the food corner (entrance next to the Starbucks). There is a microwave, high chairs, changing stations, big table for parents to sit, perfect place to wait for the flight! Going through securing was easy with the baby, all baby food and water was checked so better keep it in a separate bag for easy access.

  • Pyrzowice, Poland - we didn’t find any playing area for toddlers, there are changing rooms. Security here is inefficient and needlessly long. E.g. this is one of the few airports where they require shoes to be taken off and scanned. Expect long queues without a no priority line for families with kids.

  • Lisbon, Portugal - there is a single special land for security checks for elderly, people in wheelchair and parents with babies, but be aware that it could take even longer than going by regular line as all the “slower people” will be in the special queue! They discourage this because there are a few steps down to get to the regular security check, which shouldn’t be an issue when travelling with a buggy.

  • Eindhoven, The Netherlands - it’s the best airport for parents with babies when it comes to the security checks. The staff ensures parents with kids can move through security swiftly, and their modern scanners allow you to keep most things inside your backpacks/suitcases. They just check all baby food and water afterwards in the special machine. It is always for us very nice experience.

  • Malaga (AGP), Spain - There was enough space to comfortably sit at the airport but the playing area we found was very small and closed off for unknown reasons. Going through security was a pleasant experience.

What are the important criteria when looking for accommodation?

Airbnb is our favourite platform when travelling. When we went for you first trip to Lisbon, we thought that having an apartment in the city center will give us flexibility. We could come back to the apartment, it will be close to the shops and restaurants. BUT, we didn’t predict that houses in the old part of the city have paper thin walls. It was so laud that we couldn’t sleep and our baby had even more problems with sleep. It also happened few time around midnight and early morning that people were discarding glass bottles outside, waking up everyone in the neighborhood. Next time, we checked the reviews of the apartments carefully, looking for any clues about the noise level. Our apartment in Benalmadena was much better! It had bigger bedroom that even with extra travel cot had enough space to be comfortably used. This time we also stayed in quiet area next to the park (with animals and playground), the beach and bus stops (this time we also relied on public transportation). Dark curtains to make the apartment dark for our baby nap, was another useful feature of the apartment. A small kitchen for making breakfasts and snacks is always a must for us. A bigger shower helped us a lot when it comes to the evening baths, especially after playing on the beach.

Arrived at your destination? What to do next?

It always makes sense to search in advance for playgrounds in the areas that you are going to visit. Sometimes they can be really nice, perfect for a break with a toddler. Once babies start to walk, it becomes impossible to keep them long in their stroller, they need to run and explore :D It’s useful to have a small blanket or sport towel to use in the parks for a break. Even if your baby is very small, it’s good for them to have a break for tummy time or play with their toys.

As public toilets with changing stations are rare, having a changing mat is a must. The waterproof layer can also come in handy as an extra layer while sitting on grass. Keep in mind that even in some restaurants toilets can be very small and lack a changing station, in those cases you’ll also be happy you have your own mat with you.

In Lisbon, all tourists attractions had a separate line for families, so we didn’t have to wait much at all. Also in the shops, people were letting us ahead, even if we didn’t ask them for this and that was really nice.

We travel with both a buggy and baby carrier. It gives us the flexibility needed for visiting different kind of places. For example, it would not be possible to visits city center of Lisbon, Moorish Castle in Portugal or Calamorro Mountain in Spain with the buggy. On the other hand a buggy comes handy for long walks along the see or while visiting some sites like the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon (which is perfectly suited for a buggy). The easiest way to make a decision “buggy or carrier?” is to check the reviews on the trip advisor or on Google and look for any that describes how kids-friendly a particular tourist attraction is.