Outside of our family trip to Hawaii last summer, where my parents were able to jump in as babysitters, our trip to Europe will be our first big trip with Sloan—and her first international trip. By the time you read this, we'll already be in Amsterdam, and I could not be more excited to see her soak up all the new-to-her culture, art, scenery, and foods. To be completely honest, I'm not the most experienced traveler, especially when it comes to traveling with kids, but we learned so much on our trip to Hawaii and from friends. Here are some of the strategies and tips we'll be employing to make our trip with Sloan as comfortable and enjoyable as it can possibly be:
Bring a Travel Stroller: Sloan hasn't used a stroller in a long time, but we plan on walking for miles and miles in Amsterdam and Florence. To avoid having the entire trip dictated, and limited, by her endurance and nap schedule, we'll be packing our travel stroller so we can push her along.
Bring Melatonin Gummies: Although I've heard kids adapt to jet-lag more easily than adults do, we're bringing some children's melatonin gummies from Zarbee's just in case she has trouble falling asleep the first few nights. (We gave her one a couple days ago, to make sure she didn't have a weird reaction, and it worked like a charm!)
Set Clothing Aside in the Weeks Leading Up: Similar to the way I set aside clothing I knew I wanted to pack, I started putting aside items for Sloan as early as a few months back. If I'd do an Old Navy run for her (where the majority of her clothes are from), I'd set aside some special, summery pieces for the trip, since anytime I send her to school in a new dress, it inevitably comes home with chalk and paint stains on it. By the time I packed for her, I had six brand-new dresses to add to her suitcase.
Pack Lollipops for the Plane: When Sloan was a toddler, we flew up North to visit my parents. Sloan was calm the entire flight, but as soon as we began our descent, she let out an ear-splitting scream and didn't stop. Her ears were popping and she had no way to un-pop them. I've never felt more helpless—my child was in pain, and everyone could hear her scream. A few minutes passed before a flight attendant came over with a lollipop that came from a mom a few rows back. As soon as Sloan began sucking on it, her ears naturally popped, and she was calm again. It was such an amazing moment, from one mom to another, that not only will I always be prepared with plenty of lollipops going forward, but I'll always have a few in case I'm able to pay the kindness forward.
Bring a Long-Sleeve Bathing Suit: The house we're renting in Italy has a pool, which I anticipate Sloan being in and out of all day (with supervision, of course). To save time, and not have to worry quite as much about SPF on her arms, I purchased the same rash guard she wore in Hawaii, in her new larger size. It has UPF 50 sun protection, and she loves the swan design. Win, win!
In Terms of Plane Entertainment... Years ago, our pediatrician told us everything goes out the door when you're traveling with kids. He encouraged us not to be too concerned about sugar and screentime: So long as everyone gets where they're going in one piece, nothing else matters. The nice thing about planes is that Sloan is thrilled any time she gets to watch movies and eat snacks. While I'll be in charge of giving her snacks (otherwise, she would plow through them all in 20 minutes, flat), she knows she's allowed to watch as many movies as she wants, which I anticipate her doing for a few hours before she passes out on the flight. In case she gets tired of movies, I've also packed a few surprises for her, including a new coloring book and colored pencils.
Pack Lunch Ahead of Time: Speaking of snacks and food, I'm planning on packing her lunch for the plane the same way I do for school. Once we make it through airport security, the last thing I want is a hungry kid and no viable options. This way, I can guarantee that at least she's taken care of (especially since she's going through what I hope is a short picky eating phase). I'm also packing plenty of extra snacks, like these Perfect Bars, which are packed with protein and fiber and can go for a week outside of refrigeration.
Bring Some Comforts of Home, Especially for Sleep: Because we don't want to disrupt Sloan's sleep routine too much, we're packing some key items from her bedtime routine. Ahead of the flight, we allowed her to select one of the seventeen "lovies" (stuffed animals) she sleeps with and a few bedtime story books (Leslie recently bought her this book, and it's her current favorite), which also made her feel like she was part of the packing process. We're also bringing her noise machine, which is the size of a discman, so that no matter where we are it'll at least sound like home to her.
Know Where the Nearest Hospital Is: After my friend Kelly's son was bitten by a viper in Tuscany, I've learned to take note ahead of the trip where the nearest hospital is—though the last thing I'd ever want is to have to use it!
Don't Forget Entertainment for Once You're There: The nice thing about the house we're renting, and the friends we're renting it with, is that there will be two other kids Sloan's age and three additional kids under ten. Though I anticipate her playing make-believe most of the time, I'm packing some dolls and fake money so she can use those to play as well.
Be Prepared with the Little Things: In addition to basics like her toothbrush and toothpaste, I'm also bringing Sloan's body wash. Kids have sensitive skin, and I'd hate for her to have a reaction to anything too fragranced while we're abroad. I'm also packing children's Motrin, children's Benadryl, and band-aids, which I'm never without—even when we're just a few blocks from home.
P.S., My friend Kelly is truly an expert when it comes to traveling with kids. You can find her tips here!