"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Traveling with Baby, Part 1

After close to a year of non-stop traveling abroad with Penelope in tow I feel like I have now moved to expert status when it comes to traveling with a baby.
We left our home in North Carolina for Europe when Penelope was a mere 3 1/2 months old, and now she is over one year. (My how time flies when you're having fun!) During that time we have been going, going, going from one place to the next. We've hit a few dozen places within Germany as well as several surrounding countries, not to mention the local places we venture to on a regular basis. As Penelope has grown some things about traveling have gotten much easier and it has been more enjoyable to see her interact with and take in the new people and sights around her. But for the most part, traveling with a toddler has become more difficult. We've had to become more flexible with our expectations and even get super creative at times.
Here are a few things I have learned along the way...

#1 You need a good set of wheels.

Here is Penelope at St. Albans when she was almost 4 months riding high in my favorite traveling companion, the Britax Vigour stroller. This thing has gone with me for hundreds of miles of traveling over cobblestone streets, gravel paths, grassy hills, flights of stairs, steep curbs, on and off buses and trains, you name it. And it hasn't failed me yet!
When she was a newborn we removed the seat and attached the Britax infant carseat to the frame, but Penelope had to make the switch to the big girl seat when we moved overseas. Look how tiny she looked in it back then!

Until Penelope was about 6 months I had the seat turned so she was facing me, but since then I have had her facing out so that she can see the world--this definitely helps in the entertainment department. Dogs, birds and other people are much more interesting to look at than the same ole mommy face.

The seat easily reclines so that Penelope can nap on the go. A sun shade or even blanket thrown across keeps her out of the sun, free from distractions, and warmer if it's a cold or windy day. 
I always keep a small travel umbrella tucked into the deep pocket behind the seat and a plastic rain cover in the basket below for wet situations. These have saved us on numerous occasions, like here at the Dachau concentration camp when it starting raining and then sleeting while we were taking a tour. Brr! It's a bit difficult to make out in this picture, but I also always have this huge carabiner clipped onto the handle of the stroller. I use it to clip on random bags of things we tend to accumulate while traveling.
And no need to worry when the cafe or restaurant doesn't have a high chair. Just pull it right up to the table and you have an instant baby seat! (So maybe some of the finer eating establishments would frown upon this, but we wouldn't know because you wouldn't find us in one of those nowadays.)
Here are some other reasons this stroller has worked for me during our travels:

--The big inflatable rear tires make it super sturdy for all sorts of terrain (I even figured out how to go up and down stairs if I angle them just the right way when I'm by myself and no helpful stranger is in sight), and the front swivel wheels make it easy to steer.

--The big basket underneath holds a large diaper bag filled with all of the essential travel items (I think I've tested the weight limit more than once, but it's still holding strong).

--The canvas fabric zips off so it's easy to clean (why is it that strollers attract all sorts of food and dirt when you're traveling?).

--The handle adjusts to different height positions, and you can fold it all the way up or down when you need to fit into tight spaces (like city buses packed full of smelly people).

I know most people prefer an umbrella stroller when they travel because it's small, lightweight, and folds up easily, but I do not. We rarely travel by car when in Europe, so it doesn't matter that this stroller isn't very compact when it folds up. It easily rolls onto trains and buses, and we just check it at the gate when we fly. Umbrella strollers aren't durable enough for our kind of traveling (or cobblestone friendly for that matter), don't always lean back to make for easier napping on the go, and don't offer the storage space my stroller does.

On the other hand, I've also learned...

#2 You need a good back up method

I'm talking baby carriers here, because when a stroller isn't allowed in a museum or castle, or not feasible on a hiking trail or steep cobblestone streets, and when your own arms won't cut it, you need an infant carrier, or wrap, or sling or some type of carrying contraption.
My hands-down favorite is the Ergo carrier. It is way easier on your back than anything else I've enountered (ahem, Baby Bjorn) and it can be used until your child is at least 40 pounds. I have no problem carrying Penelope around in it all day while touring, and she is well over 20 pounds now. I switch off wearing her on my front and on my back to give her and me a little variety (cause I'm fun like that).
Even now she falls asleep in it pretty well when she's snuggled against my chest. There is a cover that I can snap over her to support her head and keep her out of the sun (or rain in this case) when she is sleeping.
Up until Penelope was four or five months I used the Moby Wrap when we were traveling because she was too small for the Ergo. It took me a little while to figure out how to wrap it around us so we were both comfortable (it's basically an extremely long piece of fabric), but we quickly grew to love it. It rolls up to a little compact bundle so it's easy to throw in your travel bag. 
With the Moby wrap she could also face out, but this was never as comfortable on my back as when she was facing in.
Some other helpful uses for infant carriers while traveling:

--I always put her in one when we are flying to go through airport security so I can just walk on through and have my hands free.

--When traveling by coach bus or airplane and she couldn't have her stroller to sleep in, I would put her in a carrier and she had an easier time falling asleep. As she's gotten more mobile and had more difficulty being confined to a bus or airplane seat, I found that if I put her in the Ergo a little bit before we got on the bus or plane and then kept her in it while sitting and traveling she got used to being confined like that and didn't have as much of an urge to get down.
--The Moby wrap was really useful when I needed to be more discrete about nursing her on a plane, train, bus or busy public place. You can use all those fabric folds to hide behind.

And, when all else fails, a ride on dad's shoulders always lifts the spirits. (Except in certain art museums.)

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