Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Getting ready to go abroad: how we planned our trip

The thought of bringing a one-year-old on a 20 day trip to Europe may be daunting to most. And it was to us as well. But we tried to think of every detail that would make our trip easier. (FYI: We planned this trip totally last minute--one week before my husband left for Navy Officer Training School/boot camp this summer.) I want to pass my new found wisdom on to those of you who have the urge to travel, but can't/don't want to leave your small one behind!  And for those without kids but who may be intimidated by traveling abroad, I hope some of my tips help you too!

I am going to do this in a series of posts, so its not too much and once!

HOW WE PLANNED OUR TRIP:
1. we searched and searched for a cruise that went to a few of the countries we wanted to visit. We figured a cruise would be an easy way to go abroad with a baby, since you can see many places, without having to change hotels and fly a lot. We simultaneously looked up flights to see how much it would cost to get over to venice to go on our cruise. We then booked our cruise (Norwegian) (booked through USAA). **We made sure we had a room big enough for a baby crib (and we splurged and got a balcony too--good move).
I had to put this picture because seriously?? seriously?? they look like they could pop! but uh, that is our balcony.

2.We then looked up tickets and decided to get to venice a day early so that we could get over our jet lag before boarding the cruise. GOOD IDEA. We also found that our ticket had a layover in paris on the way there AND back (AirFrance). Franc saw that the price of the ticket only went up slightly if we extended our layover for 10 days in paris, so we did it (you can also put in an extra stop and check the price of that). (once I saw how much our tickets were going to cost I decided we needed to STAY in Europe for longer so that we got our money's worth!)

3. THEN we had to decide what countries/cities we wanted to visit BESIDES paris, that were easy to get to FROM Paris. We initially thought about antwerp, amsterdam, marseilles, morocco (2 diff. locations) and london. In the end, after lots and lots of research on flights and trains, we decided that if we wanted to enjoy our time in the places we chose we should limit how many we visited (if you don't have kids with you, then definitely look into flights through ryanair, very cheap flights all over europe).

We chose to only go to London and to take a Eurostar train to get there. It was about $115 per ticket and about a 2 hour trip. We loved the train ride, it was soooo much better than a flight with olivia because she was free to move around the whole time.

4.Then we had to book our hotels. At this point we had about 2 days left before my husband was leaving and we needed to get everything finished soon! We decided to stick with one website, to make things easy and consistent AND because it turned out that we would get a free hotel stay for every 10 nights booked through them! worked perfectly since we had 11 days to book! We used hotels.com.


*these were our qualifications for hotels: 
a. needed to be $130 and under (we had so many days to book that we needed to keep it low!!)(except in expensive london--we did $150 there) and it needed to be 3 star or better.
b. needed to be big enough for a crib to fit comfortably (to judge this we could only read reviews, but hotels.com has a "reviews from people with kids/families" filter which helped)
c. needed to be VERY close to a metro, because we had a baby and didn't want any extra walking.
d. needed to be relatively close to the things we wanted to see, again b/c of the baby.
d. needed to have mostly good reviews, obviously not too dirty, etc though european hotels are known for being not too big and not too clean.

 PHEW!! By the end of that week I was exhausted from planning! Then next thing I did was to email some of my friends who had lived in Paris or London and ask for their recommendations on where to go and what to do! And of course I asked all you:) Those suggestions were so helpful in London!

next up: WHAT WE BROUGHT FOR THE BABY!!

7 comments:

{irene} said...

thanks for sharing this!!!what a fun trip! and girl...I'm still cracking up with the balcony picture....too funny.

*plum*tree*studio* said...

such great information!! i only wish we could travel to paris and london...some day! i'll have to keep this post tucked in my back pocket!

Alice said...

I didn't know you can book stuff like trips through USAA! Is it really worth it? i'll have to try that sometime.

Catherine and Brad Huber said...

Thanks for sharing this Katie! We want to go to Europe so badly, but the thought of leaving Isla for a long time eats at me. We left her for 9 days to go on a cruise and i was chomping at the bit til I could see her again. Its reassuring to know it is INDEED possible and FUN to travel with your little one to exotic locales!

lisa said...

this helps a lot! Maybe I can finally talk hubs into a honey moon! And I didn't know about USAA either. Awesome!

homemade grits said...

katie. that picture. HA! so glad you guys had an amazing time. can't wait to read more!

danje said...

i can't wait to hear about paris and athens and ephesus. hmmm ... i hope you got good advice that you can pass on. love these posts!