Europe with infants and toddlers: Getting there
Traveling by car used to be our go-to mode of transportation. We didn’t have to worry about fitting all the kids’ stuff into the car. When we got here, driving our Explorer felt like driving a Mack truck. When our toddler started potty training, bathroom stops on the autobahn seemed even fewer and farther between. This made us consider the train option – no parking worries and no stopping for bathroom breaks.
When we were Stateside, train travel wasn’t something we considered. I took Amtrak eons ago from Washington D.C. to Hartford, CT while in college. I didn’t have a vehicle and airfare was out of my budget, so I didn’t have many options. It was a longer trip, but it was a new experience. When I lived in Connecticut, I took the train into New York City on many occasions to avoid expensive, and often inconvenient, parking in the concrete jungle.
Taking the train in Germany was a little more intimidating because of the language barrier. However, the USO Discover Kaiserslautern team and the Deutsche Bahn (DB) orientation class helped us overcome that hurdle. The instructor showed us how to navigate the system (local vs. express trains), read the information boards, find schedules and purchase tickets. Now that we have our bearing’s, the majority of our travel is by train – for overnight and daytrips to cities at least an hour away.
For some trips, taking the train is not realistic – too many transfers, you need a vehicle to reach the local attractions (e.g. travel to Bavaria), or it takes up most of your vacation. If the train is out and you don’t want to drive, Ryanair has excellent flight deals. They fly in and out of smaller airports near major cities. Because of the low cost, it is not uncommon for people to take daytrips to cities like London. That would be fantastic … if not for these two little humans that call me Momma. Can it be done? Yes! However, I’m not willing to take on that challenge. The good news is even for longer trips, their deals are hard to beat! They also fly to cities such as Barcelona, Pisa, and Dublin. Passengers are allowed one 10-kilogram bag and a small bag at no additional charge. Your toddler’s paid seat entitles them to the same (too bad they can’t carry those bags). Passengers traveling with children 8 days to 23 months in their lap are allowed an extra carry-on bag at no charge. Checked bags are extra and the cost is based on weight. If you’re having trouble trimming down your luggage to reduce costs, read our article on packing.
Departure time can be tricky, but it can make a world of difference! Your toddler probably has a sleep schedule and it’s less frequent than your infant’s. If you’re driving, leaving about an hour before your toddler’s naptime. By any other means of transportation … “forgetaboutit!” Our toddler gets extremely excited when she sees trains and buses, so when we take one, it’s almost an overwhelming experience. A nap is probably not going to happen. We like to catch a 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. ride. By
the time we reach our destination, it’s time for lunch, check-in (if staying overnight) and a nap. Great timing! If you’re just going for a daytrip, make sure your carrier and/or stroller will work for naptime.
Cruises are another fantastic option for traveling to different destinations while letting someone else do the driving. We have not been on a cruise with our children … yet! Stars and Stripes Europe writer Courtney Woodruff wrote an excellent piece on the subject. Her children are older than ours; however, excluding their ability to attend the kids’ camps, all the other benefits hold true.
If there are any additional suggestions or topics you would like to see included, email us at contentteam[at]stripes[dot]com with the subject “Two under two."