Thursday, May 23, 2013

Jet Lagged and Possibly Cured: More tales from Italy with a 3-Year Old

Apparently jet lag is latent in my daughter. She was fine yesterday, but this morning we got up at 3:30 and just didn't get back to sleep. On the other hand for the first time in 3 years, I haven't taken my sleep medication to sleep for an entire night last night AND the night before. This is HUGE. Lets also not forget all the time changes and sleep disruptions of international travel and I think it's fair to say I'm on the upside of my PPD recovery (praise God)!

Some tips on traveling to Europe with a kid:
  1. Bring the stroller. I wavered on this. Before our trip, I read about how hard it is to maneuver them on cobblestone streets, how your stroller won't make it on narrow sidewalks and in crowds and up and down lots of steps. BUT, unless your child is too big for a stroller, bring it. I never once regretted it and many times said, "thank god we brought the stroller!" We got a fancy MacLaren Volo that easily collapses and folds out. I don't necessarily think it was necessary to get a new tiny stroller. You could have a giant BOB stroller and it would be better than none. The stroller allowed us to walk quickly (a must in Europe), our daughter to nap while we did grownup things, and provided a place to play/watch movies/play games for her when she wasn't interested in what we were doing. We folded it up and walked with it a fair amount but that wasn't strictly necessary. Two people can easily pick up a stroller to go up and down a few steps and you can plan around steps in most cases. Europe is generally very accessible and is conscientious of disabled access to buildings which makes having a stroller very doable. Just don't expect to use it for storage because you will have to pack it up once and awhile.
  2. Bring your mobile babysitter: a tablet, gaming system, or smartphone. For our parents the TV was a babysitter at home. In our world, the mobile phone is your portable babysitter. Games, movies, and hours of entertainment kept our daughter engaged in a pinch. It was mostly a last resort, but I never regretted it. It's a good idea to bring light, engaging toys with you too. We brought wiki sticks (bendaroos). Know your child and find the lightest toy that entertains them for long periods of time.
  3. Take the tours. At Pompeii and in the Vatican museum we did the tours. At the Palentine hill we didn't. With a kid you only have so many resources you can focus on a place with rich history. You cannot read the pamphlet, listen to an audio tour, push a stroller, and attend to the needs of yourself and your child while sightseeing. A tour makes it so much easier and is worth the money. Otherwise you sort of lose the value of the time and money you spend at a place.
  4. It's the kids' vacation too! Learn about the places you will visit in advance. Make it a big deal. Read books, look at pictures, and talk about it. Buy souvenirs for the kids if they ask. Set a limit of a certain number of items or amount of money, but allow some room for them to buy something they love and want within reason.
  5. Bribery. Find parks, ice cream, or some other reward for them when you can. Use it to encourage good behavior thought the day.
  6. Buy giant bottles of water at a grocery store and fill them up. It's (much) cheaper than on the go and you always have it on hand to help you and your kid(s) stay hydrated and healthy.
  7. Have picnics when you can. It's cheaper and you don't have to find food when the kids are hungry.
  8. Pack carry-ons only. This is vital if you plan to travel to more than one place. DH and I both carried a backpack and he carried/rolled our 2 small bags while I pushed AJ in the stroller. Any bigger of bags and it would have been hard to make it onto crowded trains with narrow aisles. 
  9. Plan to take it slow. Assume that it will be too much to do more than 1 big thing (2+ hours) or 2 small things (1-2 hours each) in one day. Plan for the worst and prioritize, especially for the first 1-2 jet lagged days. Avoid having a set plan for each day. We had a list of priorities. As in, while we were in Rome we wanted to see the Coliseum, the Vatican, and the Spanish Steps. We didn't specify what day we would do which, but left it open so we could choose what we wanted to do on that day or the day before. If you have time to do more, then that's great. It's VERY easy to add items to the itinerary. It's much harder to try to cut things down, especially when you already have paid or have timed tickets or people waiting for you (even without kids!).
Ok, this is enough for my jet-lagged brain today. More coming soon!


Anna 5:48 PM  

great tips Hannah! Thanks for sharing!