View Full Version : Need advice: Last minute trip to Europe with 3-year old!

03-19-2005, 10:39 PM
Looking for help/advice on travelling (totally last minute) to Brussels & Paris with my 3 year old. Can't imagine how it all works, though I've seen some tips on entertaining kids during the flight, etc. I'm more concerned about how it all works once you get there: wondering how people cope with jet lag in kids (while also coping with it yourself!), whether or not the hotel rooms have room for a roll-away bed, what to do with my son when there, how to deal with all the walking required, etc. (He's out of a stroller, though we're thinking of bringing an umbrella stroller, but he's really much too big) We are not visiting family or anything so will need to stay in hotels, travel by train, eat in restaurants, etc. Desperately need advice!

Thanks in advance!

04-06-2005, 09:13 PM
Just back from Europe and I am going to figure that, since 10 people have read this but nobody has replied, maybe others are interested in hearing tips/how things went. I did get some help from two wonderful women who I emailed directly prior to leaving and am very grateful for their insights, so I'll post mine here. All in all, it went as smoothly as we could really have hoped. I was encouraged constantly by just seeing the number of postings of other people asking for help, thinking that if others could do it, so could we. Still, we did not visit/stay with any family, which is a little different/harder. So, here are some thoughts/experiences.

My thoughts:
1. We flew (about 11 hours each way, non-stop) in business class. If you can do it, it would be worth it in miles/upgrades/whatever. I saw those in coach. Yikes. Our row in business class had an amazing amount of space. There is no way your little one can kick the seat in front, and you could've easily changed a baby on the floor with room to spare.
2. Jet lag worked out OK. My son is a good sleeper and we did get him to sleep about 5 hours on the way there, during what was his usual bedtime. (He generally sleeps about 10 1/2 hours a night) He was fine when we got to Europe and for most of the trip, though the return has definitely been more difficult. But who cares about what happens when you get back--you just need to survive the trip!
3. I liked our afternoon flight, at least for the trip there. The timing works out so that you can get your child to sleep for a few hours during what would normally be night for them, and when you get to Europe you don't have such a long day to get through before they can go to bed again.
4. DVD PLAYER. The thing is, you either have to be in business class where you have laptop power at your seat, and then you need to get the power adapter, or you will need to buy an extended life battery to make use of it in coach. Also, be sure to have a European power adapter so that you can plug it in in your hotel room and re-charge, and also use it in the hotel if you'd like.
5. Power adapters: United wanted me to go to Brookstone and pay $120 for something called a "Igo" adapter or something like that. Instead, I found on the internet that you can buy, on several sites, a "universal" adapter for about $10 which then plugs into your car cigarette lighter power adapter and makes you compatible to the airplane seat power. But you need to have the cigarette lighter adapter. It worked for us and cost me about $20, with express shipping.
6. Meals: Definitely would try to stay somewhere where breakfast is included. We were in nice, business-oriented hotels as I was partially on business, and WOW are the prices OUTRAGEOUS! In Brussels we stayed at a Sheraton and paid, seriously, about $40 per person (25 euros) for a buffet breakfast, plus tips. In Paris our breakfast was included, but had we paid for it, they were actually charging about $50 per person (35 euros)for the same thing. A nice, standard, full buffet: runny eggs, greasy bacon, toast/bread/yogurt etc. Get an included breakfast, or stay at a bed and breakfast!

Gotta go give the jet lagged kid a bath, so I'll add more later!

04-07-2005, 01:36 PM
7. Stroller debate: Well, we opted not to bring a stroller, and we survived. The caveats: a) My son never uses one at home anymore, as he is really too big, and never sleeps in it or anything like that. b) My husband did end up carrying him quite a bit. Still, as others have pointed out, the Paris metro is a horrible place to have to deal with a stroller, and I can't imagine having done it. It's not just getting down the stairs and through the turnstiles and onto the train; it's the 2 other connections you always take to get anywhere you are going, which requires any number of sets of additional stairs to get to the next train. It was brutal. A stroller would've been awful. Also, Brussels is filled with cobblestone streets and tiny-to-non-existant sidewalks that would've made a joke of our little Combi Ultra Savvy. So, do what you have to. I did see people (in Brussels) with strollers, and I always wondered how they were managing. But apparently they did. If you are travelling alone and can't/won't be able to carry your child, you'll need the stroller.
8. Good advice I received and used: bring a sippy cup or two. Europeans apparently feel it is appropriate to give a toddler an actual glass filled with whatever you ordered. Also, learn the word for 'straw' in whatever language you need to use--I can't tell you how helpful that was!
9. Restaurant meals, particularly dinner, were difficult, as kids menus were rare, foods are different, meals are expensive, milk is almost impossible to find, the process seems to take forever compared to here in the U.S., and by the end of the day your little one is wiped out. For these reasons I say:
a) Find a place that includes breakfast (It'll save you valuable time and lots of money)
b) Try to do picnic lunches whenever you can (Also saves time and money and keeps you all sane)
c) Learn how to ask for a glass of COLD milk, and a straw, (unless you want it hot, as in, for your coffee!) at restaurants. We couldn't believe how difficult it was to find milk in restaurants. Still, even if it wasn't on the menu, often when we asked for it we could get it. But they always asked if we wanted it hot or cold, they never knew how to ring it up at the end, (it was usually more expensive than juice or soda!) and if you aren't careful, it might come with foam, like a cappucino! Apparently Europeans never give their kids milk outside the home. I don't know. Cow shortage or something.
10. Flight toys for toddlers: The DVD player was key. Other things I bought and liked for various amounts of entertainment value and portability:
a) Portable, compact magnet playboards from Toys-R-Us. (About 5"x8" size) Came in Clifford, Trucks, Thomas, and various girl-themed things I never looked at! Some of the magnets are really small, but I didn't worry about it if they got lost.
b) Portable Aqua Doodle papers with water pen. Not the big mat, but portable cartoon-themed papers. Also found them at Toys-R-Us.
c) Portable small etch-a-sketch/magna doodle board.
11. I found an awesome book, called "Around Paris with Kids" that was a Fodor's publication. It was super small and organized as a 'top 68' list, filled with great ideas and information about kid-friendly activities in Paris, and fun for kids to look at as it has flip-art...you know, flip the pages and the Eiffel Tower does a somersault! My son loved it and we loved it. I wish there was a comparable publication for every major European (and U.S., for that matter) city. I also saw a book called "Paris for Families" that was more like a large guidebook and looked good, but I didn't buy it. I found both of these at a small travel store. When I've tried to find good European family-travel type books at Barnes and Noble in the past, I've been really unsuccessful. The only thing I've ever seen was "Italy with Kids", and there didn't seem to be other titles in the series.

Well, that's all for now. I hope this is helpful to others in the same situation I was in!

Good luck to all!


04-07-2005, 05:13 PM
Thanks for all your info! We are taking DS to Prague this summer so it will be quite helpful.

07-18-2005, 03:57 AM

Thank you for taking time to summarize your travel experience in Europe. We will have to spend a day or two Amsterdam before we arrive to Kiev, Ukraine this fall. The first flight would be around 11 hours as well and I am worried about DS handling jet lag. Hopefully he will adjust as well as your DS. Not sure if I'll be so lucky. Good advice on in-flight entertainment and adapters.

07-18-2005, 05:39 PM
Just back from Prague on Friday and things went great. Flights (10 hours)and jet lag were my biggest worries, too, but I needn't have worried so much. We did use our DVD player, though we were in cheap seats so only as long as the battery lasted. We watched some movies on the in-flight list, and our airline also had video games on the seatback screens. Who knew a 3 year old could play Centipede for that long! The flight home we carried far less entertainment options, we just didn't use as many as we'd thought. We walked a lot of laps of the plane and the flight attendants were great with him. He got a treat every lap through the galley we took.

Jet lag has definitely been harder for us coming home, too. Even for the adults! You could tell he was a bit confused the first day or so there. He could see the daylight and know he was "supposed" to be up, but he sure could feel it was night, too. He was excited to be there and I think that helped him keep going. We have had several days of 4am wake ups after getting home, but today was a bit later so I think it is working itself out.

Let me know if you have more specific questions!

05-03-2006, 06:40 AM
Thanks for the tips Debra. We're leaving this afternoon for France so it's nice to get a refresher. We stayed with family the whole time last October but this trip we're visiting Nice so we're staying at a hotel for part of the trip.