Traveling to Winter Europe with Baby
We returned to France last December with Louis, then 4.5 months old. Even though it was not Louis’ first flying experience – he was already in Bali last September while he was just 45 days old – but unlike last time, this was a long-haul flight from Jakarta to Paris, France.
We booked the flights a bit too late, so all the shorter-duration flights were no longer available (There isn’t even any direct flight from Jakarta to Paris). Our route was Jakarta – Jeddah – Paris, with a 4-hour transit in Jeddah on the departing trip, and Paris – Riyadh – Jakarta on the return trip, with a 2-hour transit in Riyadh.
The flight from Jakarta to Jeddah took about 10 hours, while the flight from Jeddah to Paris took about 7.5 hours.
How was it? Well, it was exhausting, to be honest. But Louis was behaving very nicely during the trip, and the fact that we had a baby in tow also made everything much easier.
Easier? How? Try this: with a baby, we always became everyone’s priority, everywhere, at all times. We were always allowed to bypass the line, board first while arriving the last, having each a handbag / rucksack, a luggage and a shopping bag; we were even allowed 3 liters of liquid on board (1.5 liters of Evian water and 1.5 liters of hot water inside an insulated thermal bottle – all for baby’s milk).
During the 10-hour flight from Jakarta to Jeddah, the airline used a big, two-story plane, which usually serves for the annual pilgrimage for Indonesian Hajjis. The plane wasn’t exactly a luxurious one, really – there wasn’t any in-flight entertainment and the service was just so-so, but there wasn’t a lot of people on the plane, so we could have quite a big space for ourselves.
We traveled together in family. Us three – Louis, his father and I, as well as my mother and aunt. It made everything easier because we took turn in taking care of him during the journey.
Upon taking off, we practiced the trick we also did on the flight from Jakarta to Bali in September: we fed him milk and it helped avoid the usual ear pain – Louis didn’t even cry, he calmly drank and then fell asleep peacefully.
Once on the sky, we requested a baby bassinet, but Louis was apparently too tall for his age – the bassinet was too tight for him. It didn’t stop him from sleeping tight for a couple of hours, though. Once he was awake, he played with the toys we brought from home: Sophie la Girafe, his favorite chewing toy, a soft book about an elephant, his Jungle Giraffe Rattle and the Blossom Farm mooing plush cow. The toys helped him not to get bored too fast. And each time he did get a bit bored, we just walked him along the plane corridors back and forth and he’d be happy again.
Upon reaching Paris, it was 6 AM in the morning. The weather in the middle of December was, as expected, chilly, about zero degree Celsius with quite strong early morning wind. Goodbye sleeveless onesies, simple cotton socks, t-shirts and shorts! Hello, jackets, cardigans, sweaters, knitted socks, scarf and bonnet!
Louis usually doesn’t like anything on his head and he’d try to take off hats, bonnets or whatever you put on him; but this time, he just let us wrap him inside warm winter outfits – he didn’t say anything, perhaps because the weather was so cold and the fact that the bonnet gave him warmth and comfort made him oblivious to the fact that the bonnet was there. He also didn’t protest about the scarf and the snowsuit. We put him inside his Aprica Karoon (bless Aprica, the stroller is so lightweight even though not so compact) and doubled the lining with another blanket.
If Paris was chilly, the weather in Louis’ dad’s hometown was even colder. It went down to -10 degree Celsius at night, and climbed up to 2-3 degree Celsius on daytime.
During the 3-week holiday, Louis mostly stayed indoor. Except for several times we went outside with him to go visit some places, mostly after we returned back to Paris.
Even when we stayed indoor, we would always put two layers of clothes on him. An inner long-sleeved onesie, a woolen / thick cotton pullover, baby trousers and thick cotton socks. Usually it was good if the baby only stayed inside, since we also had heater in the house.
And each time we brought him outside against the cold winter in its peak, we’d add an extra sweater, knitted scarf, gloves and bonnet plus his baby blue snowsuit. We always made sure his body was warm enough so he’d feel comfortable.
During the trip, we also gave him extra vitamins – as suggested by Louis’ pediatrician, the vitamin intakes would keep him fit and help increase his immune system. And thanks to this combination plus sufficient feedings, Louis stayed in good condition all the way through the holiday.
One thing that helped us very, very much was the fact that we didn’t lack of helping hands. It was the first time that most people of his paternal family saw Louis, and he was the first new baby after seven years (his youngest cousins were already seven years old) so everyone was keen to hold and feed him, play with him and take care of him.
My aunt (as pictured left) and mother also enjoyed promenades in Paris with Louis. He was never cranky – always happy, and he even learnt some new skills in France: rolling over left and right, making “brrrr” sounds and “read” books (more on the books on another post).
Since Louis was already quite big, we didn’t make much use of the carrier (The baby didn’t like it anyway, preferring the traditional batik cloth carrier rather than the modern carrier). Most often, we took him in his stroller, even though bringing a stroller in Paris could be a big challenge – not all metro stations are equipped with escalators / elevators – some stations are just so complicated with their endless stairs and corridors. Again, luckily, we were traveling together as a family, so we shared the tasks of carrying the baby, folding-opening-and-carrying the strollers up and down the stairs, carrying the baby bag, etc.
Overall, we had almost zero difficulty traveling with a baby and we really enjoyed France, even though it was cold and some days were rather rainy and windy.
Our next step would be learning to travel to a nearer destination, just the three of us – the baby, his father and I.
Some Tips for Traveling / Going on Holiday with a Baby
- During the flight, especially if it’s a long one, always prepare enough for the baby’s basic needs, from milk / food supply to diaper-changing tools as well as enough extra clothes.Most airlines allow extra hand / cabin luggage if you’re traveling with a baby – you’re even allowed to bring water or other liquids like milk if it’s for the little one! It’s better to bring a bit more rather than not enough – same goes for everything that your baby needs.You will never know if the baby will ask to be fed more / get multiple bowel movements / need to be changed clothes. You will feel so relieved if you know you have everything you need.
- Feed / give a pacifier to the baby when the plane takes off as well as when it lands. This is a very well proven theory. We did it all the time and Louis wasn’t even aware of the sudden pressure change in the air. Don’t overfeed the baby before the plane takes off so that just in time s/he will feel a little pang of hunger and ask to be fed.Pacifier works too, but feeding is the best solution for me so far.
- Don’t forget to bring some toys, books or musical widgets for your baby.These would help a LOT – some babies can get bored fast and just cry – having his favorite toys to play with, a book or a musical widget to occupy the baby with could be the answer, so the baby will stay calm on his waking hours during the flight.Keeping baby peaceful and calm without any loud crying incident during a flight is important; remember back in the days when you were childless and traveling on a plane and just wanted to sleep / read / do anything else but listening to some loud, endless wailing and anyway some babies were crying all the time and you thought how annoying it was?
Well, the same goes for other people on the plane, it’s just now that you’ve switched roles you might have completely forgotten about it. So, keeping your baby calm means respecting others too.
If toys / books / musical widgets still don’t help then try to walk around the plane, some movements along the corridor will do your baby some change and s/he’d calm down again.
- If you’re breastfeeding, bring all the breastfeeding equipments including pumps and some extra bottles. If you’re formula-feeding, bring enough supply of your baby’s usual formula milk, the one that goes well with him / her.Because you will always need to feed your baby, right? So, even though you can’t travel with your collection of breastmilk glass bottles neither can you haul the breastmilk refrigerator at home on your trip, at least a set of those glass bottles or some containers would be enough to store – you’d have to pump or breastfeed directly more often because you can’t store the milk like you usually do, but it’ll help too!As for bringing enough formula milk supply, well, we never know if buying a new kind of formula milk from your holiday destination would be OK for your baby, right? Some babies adjust well with changing formula milk just like that, but some don’t. Rather than risking to have a problem with baby’s digestive system, just bring the usual formula milk, enough to last during the holiday.
- Always ask for a baby bassinet, so that your baby can sleep in it and gets less fatigue.Sleeping in someone’s arms, even his / her own mommy’s, could be tiring for the baby as well as for you, and the bassinet will allow baby to sleep like s/he was sleeping in his/her own little crib. Most airlines do provide the bassinet – perhaps not the low-cost carriers or airlines operating on domestic trajectories, but most international airlines do have baby bassinets in stock for you. If you don’t know or unsure if they have baby bassinets, ask upon booking / confirming your booking. Make a special request. Send them an email. Almost all airlines do have a website and a customer service that you can contact online for this purpose, right? So make use of it.
- Bring a lightweight stroller that is also easy to fold and carry.Our Aprica Karoon only weighs 3.6 kg and that was the MAIN reason we bought it. It turned out being very helpful during our trip in France, since it was super light and super simple to fold back and forth, therefore easy to carry. Don’t forget the rain cover, too! Aprica Karoon, for instance, doesn’t have one. So we took the rain cover from our other stroller, the Sola one, luckily it fits the Karoon well.
- Pertaining to no. 1, always bring a set of spare clothes for YOU too.In fact, spare clothes practically for everyone who’s going to take care of the baby during the journey, because we do know that accidents happen more often now we have a cute little troublemaker with us, don’t we?
- Bring clothes fit for the destination you’re aiming for.If you’re going to a tropical country then perhaps the usual clothes we wear everyday in Indonesia would be sufficient. But if you’re traveling to a four-season country, always check what’s the current season in the country during your travel, and get to know a week’s weather forecast in advance.
- Pertaining to no. 8, if you know you’re going to go to a cold place / during winter time, do prepare the warm clothes suitable for the temperature.The fact is that you cannot buy snowsuit or proper bonnet / scarf / gloves in Jakarta. So perhaps, prior to your departure date, you could ask around for help – if one of your friends / acquaintances have some winter outfits that they can pass on, take them.My mother-in-law brought the snowsuit, and the matching set of bonnet / scarf / gloves from France to Jakarta two months before we left for holiday, and those winter outfits are proven very handy. Without them, baby wouldn’t even have left the house at all!
- Dress your baby COMFORTABLY.Enough for the weather change. Don’t overdress or underdress him / her – just make sure the baby feels comfortable.
- It’s important to keep your baby as fit as possible during the whole trip.Make sure your baby is in prime condition before traveling, don’t exhaust him / her too much prior to the departure date – even better, let him / her rest a few days at home without bringing him / her out at all so that on the departure date, the baby would have enough rest and be in good condition. Vitamin intakes could help too – consult your pediatrician for advice on this.
- Also, before traveling, always try to meet your pediatrician to ask for a list of medicines that may come in handy.I know some parents are against giving medicines to their babies so this is really up to you to decide whether you’d want a stock of standard baby medicines during your travels.I am OK with rational use of medicines with prior consultation with Louis’ pediatrician. And in our case, we didn’t even use any of the medicines last time in France, but we brought a complete set of standard medications, just in case the baby could get little woes, we know what to give him.
In our mini medication-box were: Tempra and Bye Bye Fever (for fever), Transpulmin (baby balsam), Sterimar (for stuffed nose), and some medications I can’t remember the name, consisting of Antihistamine (for cold, cough & flu as well as for allergies), anti-diarrhea and anti-constipation.
I usually text the pediatrician for suggestions, advices and confirmations / opinions before giving baby any medicines, anyway, and we always note what we give to the baby so that we’d keep track of things and we’d know exactly what, when, where and how if we need to consult further with the pediatrician.
- Always make your baby feel at home.Let him / her adjust to the new environment, but at the same time, try to keep some routines intact. For example if your baby usually sleeps after his / her bath or after a book at 8 PM, try to do the same on your holiday. This would help the baby cope better with the change around him / her and avoid him / her feeling uprooted.
- Prepare complete travel documents and baby’s papers. You always need to bring the complete travel documents as well as baby’s proper papers. With child-trafficking and kidnapping as well as passport-faking happening more and more often in the world, now most Western countries could require you to prove your kinship with the complete documents upon arriving at their immigration check in the airport.Seriously, this may sound exaggerated but extra checks actually do happen more and more often now in the European and North American airports now, so, better be prepared, right?
- Plan everything in advance; because you’re traveling with a baby. Yes, unlike it was on your honeymoon, you can’t just go and do whatever you want now. There’s a baby to consider. So if you’re traveling only with your partner / spouse, do check your options in advance.For example, if you want to go out on a date night with your partner, check first if the hotel you’re staying at has a baby-sitter service, or better, if you’re visiting family, friends or relatives, check with them if they know a reliable baby-sitter you can hire or if they could even help baby-sitting while you’re on your romantic night out.
Also, plan things to do / see / visit that can involve a baby.
- Relax, it’s a HOLIDAY. Don’t push yourself too much if some things just don’t go the way you want them to. Remember, it’s a holiday, so take your time, get enough rest, and chill! Don’t be stressed – stress is for usual work time activities, not for holidays!Take turn caring for baby with your partner / spouse and try to enjoy the holiday. Nobody is judging you – a happy mommy makes a happy baby, so your well-being during the trip is important, too! Only if you’re feeling good that you can, in turn, take good care during what might be your first trip with your partner / spouse and your little one!
OK, I think that’s already quite a list – hope that helps and don’t hesitate to share your traveling stories with your baby, too!
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