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Last summer, we left Belgium with lots of package and a little doubts. If it really was a good idea to choose a road trip as our first family vacation? The people we spoke about it weren’t particularly convinced. AndI have to admit, with a 4 month old baby, it was quite a challenge to both explore new areas in an active way as well as maintain the routines and structure we built up at home. But in the end, I’m really happy we dared to do it. In this blog post, I share our travel story and I also give some tips for those who want to plan a road trip with a baby themselves.

Family picture in the Swiss Alps

On a family adventure in the Swiss Alps

Durign the first week of our holiday, we’ve stayed in an authentic mountain chalet in the Pays d’Enhaut, a relatively unknown region in the Swiss canton of Vaud. It is sometimes thought that when you travel with a baby, you shouldn’t go to destinations such as Switzerland and Austria, as hiking in the mountains is a temporary no-go. But I guess I can reassure all the mountain lovers out there. There are many hiking trails in the Alps that are perfectly suitable for families with a baby carrier or even a stroller. In my previous blog post, you can read more about our hike to the Ramaclé waterfall in Chateau d’Oex. To reach the waterfall, we had to cross the oldest suspension bridge in French-speaking Switzerland.

The highlight of our Swiss vacation, however, was the panoramic train journey to Lake Geneva. And I think I might say our baby boy agreed with that. He was like babbling and smiling to the other passengers the whole time. Click here to get some more information about the Golden Pass train.

Besides hiking and taking train trips, there is a lot more to do in Switzerland with a baby. You can stroll through quaint little towns and learn more about the cheese making tradition, for example. We’ve made a day trip to Gruyères, where we visited one of the most famous cheese factories in the world (La maison du Gruyère), as well as a medieval castle perched high up in the old town.

Having fun at an Italian lake

Our first week of travel was quite busy. We went out exploring every single day in Switzerland, with lots of sightseeing and hiking. A lot may have changed since I became a mother, but the urge to discover new places is still very much alive. At the same time, I’ve realized that I’m living a bit too fast, though. I should pull the brake a little more often, to enjoy family time in a more relaxed way. That’s why we decided to focus on some fun, effortless activities during the second part of our holiday.

Having fun with the baby in the swimming pool

We headed to northern Italy, where we stayed in a holiday apartment near Lago di Mergozzo. Sipping from an Aperol Spritz at the lakeside and having fun in the swimming pool, that’s all we need from time to time, right? If you’re searching for even more Italian charm, you can go to Lake Maggiore, which is only a few kilometers driving from Mergozzo.

Spending a charming weekend in Alsace to end our trip with

We thought it would be a nice idea to split up the return journey and to spend our last days of holiday in Alsace, France. A few years ago, Anthony and I travelled to Colmar, also known as ‘little Venice’. This time, we went to Riquewihr. A picturesque town, with colorful half-timbered houses and charming shops. A little bit of kitsch perhaps, but let’s be honest, who can resist those gingerbread hearts and way-too-early Christmas decorations. We stayed in the Best Western Hotel & Spa Le Schoenenbourg, within walking distance of the old city center. The perfect location to explore the city and to take a walk through the Alsace vineyards.

The charming town of Riquewihr
Walking through the Alsace vineyards together with the baby

Some tips for travelling with your baby (+ our bloopers)

Planning the journey

First things first: if you’re planning to travel abroad with your baby, make sure to request a Kids-ID in time. In Belgium, it takes about 3 weeks to get the ID. And yes, a picture is also for babies required. We thought a quick stop at the photographer would be enough to get a good shot, but our little boy decided differently. It tooks us (3!) visits. Go to the photographer when you’re baby is not too tired or hungry and, if possible, take a bottle of milk with you.

Think carefully about the type of accommodation you want so stay in. In a holiday home or holiday apartment, you generally have all the facilities you need and you have a little more space and freedom than in a hotel room, of course.

Try to keep your suitcases organized, as this will simplify things significantly. A suggestion is to prepare separate bags for each destination, so you don’t have to load and unload your car every time you go to another location.

If you’re a bottle-feeding parent, it’s a good idea to take enough supplies of the formula milk your baby is used to as you might not find it abroad. There are lots of varieties and brands, so the range of food is very different in each country. I clearly failed in calculating our needs, so we had to start a search for formula milk in the last few days of our travel, which turned out to be more complicated than what we had expected.

On the move

Make sure to take frequent breaks when driving long distances. On our first day of travel, we drove about 800 kilometers, with short stops every 2 to 3 hours. With the baby changing mat on the back seat and a 12V baby bottle warmer for car use, our stops were pretty short overall. Of course, it’s important to breathe some fresh air from time to time.

As a mother or father (depending on who is driving), consider sitting in the back of the car, next to your baby. In that way, you can easily give a pacifier or toy to your baby when he is starting to get fussy.

At location

Things might not always turn out the way you’ve planned. You have to be flexible in the plans you make, despite the high level of organization it takes to travel with a baby. So, don’t stick to your travel plans too rigidly, I would say. It’s very important to follow your baby’s rhythm.

Also take enough time for (un)packing your bags, checking-out etc., so you don’t have to rush. In Alsace, we were struggling with folding the portable baby bed 10 minutes before check-out. And then, on top of it, the baby turned out to have a leaked poop diaper. Shit happens, I guess. Make sure to always have some extra clothes in your hand luggage, so you can quickly change if necessary.

In summer, babies should wear breathable, lightweight clothes such as coton or linen. It’s not recommended to apply sunscreen to babies. More important is to keep them out of direct sunlight. Put your baby a hat on and use a parasol when you go out with the stroller. Keep in mind that at higher altitudes, it might be a lot colder than at sea level. The solution? Different layers of clothing!

It is generally advised to not take a baby higher up in the mountains than 2000 meters. It’s possible to go higher, but than the baby must have been acclimatized for a few days at an altitude of at least 1000 meters.

Our favorite items on the packing list

Baby monitor (sound/video)

Joolz Day, compact stroller with matching parasol

12V baby bottle warmer for car use

Anti-UV tent with mosquito net, suitable as playmat and as pool

Baby formula dispensers, perfect to take with you while travelling around

Isabel

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