How We Went to Europe for Seven Weeks With a Baby and No Jobs
When our daughter was nine months old my husband's contract at work ended. Instead of panicking like logic people, we decided that the break from work would be the perfect time to travel.
We were craving adventure and decided to go to Europe. Originally I was thinking a 3 week trip and then my husband threw me a curveball by saying that if we went we should go for long enough that it wouldn't feel like we were on the clock and the trip was ending right away. He proposed going for 2 months. I was initially a bit unsure about travelling that long, especially with such a young child, but agreed.
He was right. It was an incredible trip. The longer trip meant that we weren't in a rush and could savour our time. We had already paid for our airfare and adding on extra nights was less expensive than feeling like we had to do another trip soon to see the places we had missed.
We were travelling with a 9 month old though and had to be realistic about how much we could move around. It wouldn't be very fun to be hopping around to a different city every couple of nights with her in tow. Plus we had to realize that it may take more time to do the things we wanted to do when were pushing around a stroller and I was still nursing.
We got a good deal on a round trip to Paris so we decided to visit France, England, and Belgium.
Our tips for travelling on a budget:
-We rented out our condo at home to some acquaintances. This allowed us to put that money towards our trip.
-We used points on our Visa card to pay for part of our travel expenses
-We didn't stay in a single hotel. We stayed only in Airbnbs. Not only were they cheaper than hotels, they also had laundry and kitchens. That way we could wash our clothes and eat many of our meals at the apartment instead of eating out. ***Tip: Airbnbs in North America often seem to be the same price or more than hotels but in Europe they seem to be cheaper. This is anecdotal but it has been our experience.
-We didn't eat at that many restaurants. In France we would often grab fresh cheese, bread, and meat at the grocery store and have a picnic on the go.
-We were careful about how much we travelled around by train. Train tips can add up surprisingly quickly.
-We stayed with friends a couple of times.
-We walked a lot and occasionally took the metro. We didn't really used taxis and we didn't rent a car.
-We did a lot of sightseeing that was free or at least affordable. Exploring parks and museums kept our costs down. Smaller towns in France and Belgium had museums that were not that expensive to visit. We also did a few walking tours where guides were working for tips.
How we made the day to day work:
-We brought our Bob stroller (no this is not an ad and I am in no way affiliated with them). This stroller made our trip possible. It navigates any terrain, fully reclines, has a sunshade, and has storage space underneath. When our daughter was ready to nap, we reclined the stroller and she was happily shaded and comfortable. We could tuck snacks, drinks, and a DSLR camera in the bottom. When going to and from Airbnbs we would use the stroller to push our backpacks. I would then carry our daughter in the baby carrier on my chest and wear the diaper bag (backpack) on my back.
-We brought a blanket to sit on everywhere we went. It was summer time (but still often not very warm!) so we were outdoors a lot. We had a picnic blanket in the bottom of the stroller so we could stop at any park for our daughter to have a break from the stroller or to nurse her. We could use it to sit and have a drink or eat a meal.
-We would eat breakfast at the Airbnb and then head out for the day. We would have water on hand and sometimes snacks. We would often have a rough plan of what area we wanted to go to our what museum or site we hoped to go to but we didn't have the day set in stone.
-While out we would sometimes grab coffee. Other times we would get a picnic lunch at the grocery store (usually including wine or beer). Once in awhile we would get a meal out but with a baby and travelling on a budget we usually did this strategically and would research where to go first on Trip Advisor.
-We would usually come back for a bit to our flat in the afternoon and take a break and then head back out in the evening. Sometimes we stayed out later. Other times we would come back, feed our daughter dinner, bath her and put her to bed. We would then make dinner together and relax for the evening by listening to a podcast together, watching a show, or reading. We strategically stayed in apartments that had a second bedroom or at the very least, were not studio apartments. That way, we could put our daughter to bed and not have to sit quietly for the evening.
What I loved about the trip:
-Because we had so much time, we could really explore each place and not feel rushed
-All of the time together as a family
-There is a lot more street life and street entertainment in European cities. In London for example, we would sit out near the Thames and listen to musicians and watch street performers on our picnic blanket with a drink in hand. It was an inexpensive way to enjoy the afternoons/evenings.
-The museums. We got really into art on this trip. I love the quality of work in museums in Europe. Often they were extremely affordable (sometimes even by donation) to visit.
-The flea markets and thrift stores. No surprise here! We both loved walking through flea markets in Paris and Nice. In Belgium we found a whole street of the city lined with beautiful antique shops where we spent the day looking at old things. It was amazing.
-Getting in some warm weather in Nice, France. After a lot of cold and gray days we finally got some heat and sunshine in Nice and it was amazing. We loved exploring the coast here and going to the beach.
If you are thinking about travelling with a baby and unsure about it, do it! We loved our time in Europe and for both my husband and I we said it was a highlight of the last decade for us. I love looking back at our photos and remembering all of the places we visited. One day we will head back with all three of our kids.