Driving in Germany, Austria, and Czech Republic with a Baby

Let me preface this with a mention that I didn’t do any of the driving.  I am grateful for a husband that loves to travel and likes driving too.  We flew from the US to Germany and started our road trip from Frankfurt.  This was the first time for both of us in these three countries and neither of us speak German.  If you are anything like us, you will not ever let language intimidate you from visiting a country.

I’d like to give a few tips to those that plan to take on such an adventure, especially if you have kids in tow.  Always give yourself an additional hour, just in case of construction or other delays and stops you may have along route.

On our drive from Vienna to Prague, there was no shoulder to pull over on the highway and there was a great distance, approx. 70 kilometers, from one rest stop to the next.  Our baby needed to feed and we needed to take that in consideration every time we got in the car for a long drive.  To add to this, there was a ton of construction and more tractor trailer trucks than I have ever seen.  These truckers like to tailgate and will not care that you have a baby on board.

Driving from Vienna to Prague with a Baby

  • Leave Vienna by 1pm or 2pm and give yourself 5-6 hours driving time. Consider the time of year and arrive before sunset.  When we arrived in CR, the first sights we saw were prostitutes on the roadside looking for clients.  I was not at ease at the sight of this and did not want to have any reason to have to pull over for anything, including a crying baby. Fortunately, our little one slept until we reached our hotel in Prague.
  • Have baby’s music and milk ready or whatever your baby needs to relax.
  • Have your own snacks ready and choose something that isn’t loud. We ate bananas and plums.
  • Make sure you have a sunshield or guard so baby doesn’t have the light shining in their face.
  • Pack the car perfectly, so that you don’t have to stop to shift anything.

Traveling Through Europe with an Infant: Ditch the Train and Rent a Car

Before setting off on our European adventures with our 6 month old, I wondered which is easier…travel by train or to rent a car. I read a few blogs and it was a pretty even split on what people thought. After much consideration, we decided to rent a car for the following reasons:

  • We could adjust our schedule as necessary. Babies will have their emotions and it doesn’t matter what time it is. We didn’t want to be tied down to a train schedule.
  • We had a lot of stuff. Many forums will tell you to rent equipment, like strollers and cribs. We prefer to have our daughter’s own equipment with us because we know she likes what she has and as we adjust to time difference and the changing of hotel rooms every few days, at least her bed could remain consistent.
  • A stop anytime or anywhere would be easy.
  • My husband loves driving and in Germany he could get his NASCAR speed rush. He was very careful with baby on board.
  • Freedom. We didn’t have to worry about anyone else in our space when baby cried.
  • Attractions outside of the touristic zones were more accessible by car.
  • It was easier to design our trip.
  • The price was lower than buying train tickets for 2 people.

Whatever you decide, let it be right for you. If you get tired easily from long distance driving, the train may be best for you. You need a lot of patience to drive in countries that are foreign to you because you have to figure out the signs, tolerate the style of driving, and be more aware and alert. Finding parking will also be a bit of a challenge, but it is possible. The most important thing is to be very patient every step of the way and help each other.

Traveling with a Baby

We did it!! We traveled from Dallas to Munich with our 6 month old baby girl.  The journey was about 18 hours. In most cases, the trip is not this long, but we flew into Frankfurt and then drove to Munich.  We also had a two hour delay at Frankfurt airport while waiting for our rental car.

Speaking of rental cars, if you are visiting from North America, it’s likely best to stick with American companies like Hertz and Budget.  We went with Europcar and it was disorganized and they didn’t have enough cars.   Although we had booked on Expedia and already paid for our rental, we ended up spending an addition $360USD. The car we wanted was not available and they ended up selling us a better car along with insurance. I think it was their trick. Let me also note that we spent more than an hour in the line.  By the time we went through the rigamarole of securing a vehicle, we just wanted to get out and start our trip.

Our baby girl did so well.  She was a bit fussy at times in flight and after the flight, but we managed to relax her by playing with a toy or showing and talking to her about the things around us.  She also breast fed quite a bit and we gave her a bottle a couple of times. She doesn’t care for pacifiers, but if your little one does, definitely have that ready.  I kept everything that I needed for my baby within reach.  If you are traveling with a spouse or companion, have them sit next to you, so they can help as much as possible. It’s better than relying on a stranger to help.  Even for short flights, you may need the help to grab something from your bag that is stored under the seat in front of you.

Here are the things I had in my backpack for the baby:

  1. two teethers
  2. three face towels
  3. gum massager
  4. twelve diapers and portable change pad
  5. baby wipes
  6. diaper cream
  7. breast feeding cover
  8. three rattles
  9. baby’s mirror
  10. tiny baby stuffed animal that plays music
  11. 18 oz of breast milk in a small cooler bag with ice pack
  12. four breast pads
  13. ear muffs/noise canceler
  14. one muslin blanket
  15. one set of extra clothes for baby
  16. Wet One wipes

I like to make sure that my baby is warm and covered.  I dressed her in a long sleeved onesie and a pair of pants.  She wore socks with a pair of Robeez, which I got for a really good price at DSW.

The moment we got on the plane, my husband wiped down the seats and the tray tables with Wet Ones wipes.  It’s no joke, the airplanes are thilfy. As frequent travelers we have gotten used to wiping down everything, including the seat belts and arm rests.

I hate using the restroom inflight, but there are moments that it cannot be avoided and with a baby, you will have to change a diaper at least once. On a previous trip from Dallas to Vancouver, I only had to change the diaper once.  From Dallas to Frankfurt, I had to change my baby 3 times.  Thank God, it was always wet and not dirty!  Fortunately, the change table in flight was actually well kept.

Let me share a few musts before you decided to embark on this trip.  You must have the following to make it successful:

  1. Patience
  2. Patience
  3. More Patience

If you lack this, you will drive yourself and your spouse/companion crazy.  Your baby can also sense your nerves. The more calm and relaxed you are about everything, the better the experience will be for you and everyone around you.

When your baby gets a little fussy, breast feed or give a bottle and if that doesn’t work pick him/her up and go for a walk.  Talk you your baby with love and joy! Give a toy, read to him/her. Don’t worry about the people sitting around you.  They will appreciate what you are going through and may even offer to help or give you tips.  Be open, but remember you know your baby best.  Do what you know will help relax your baby.  Keep yourself hydrated, but if you don’t have anyone to help you with the baby, you might want to reconsider drinking too many liquids.

Lastly and perhaps most important, you are going to need to wear your baby.  We got the Ergo 360 and love it!  Going through security was easy without a stroller.  We checked our stroller and car seat for free and we fit a few other essentials in the stroller bag too!  Our little girl loves being in the carrier, facing outward, so that she can view what we see too.

As for the car ride to Munich, our baby slept most of the way.  We stopped a couple of times to breastfeed and give comfort.

Do you have experience with traveling with a baby? I’d love to hear about it. If you have any specific questions, let me know that too. I’ll offer some suggestions.

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons To Love Madrid

Madrid is magnificent.  I visited during this past Christmas break and absolutely loved the charm the city has to offer and I can see myself visiting again.  Madrid has something for everyone from art and culture to tapas to beautiful parks.  Depending how you choose to spend your time in the historical city, you will find yourself losing sense of the time and before you know it the day is gone.  Have no worries, things take on another fun vibe right through the night.  You can check out live music, flamenco shows, and eat until like 2 a.m. I tend to be one that turns in pretty early, so the latest I was out was about 12:30 a.m., but I heard that you can easily attend a flamenco show as late as 4 am within the local scene.

I want to give you my 5 top reasons to love Madrid and this is why I will find myself visiting again in the future.

  1. Madrid is a metropolitan city!  There is excitement the moment you enter the city and if you don’t speak Spanish, have no worries….most people speak English too.
  2. The architecture is gorgeous and no matter where you are, you find yourself surrounded by history.
  3. It is a walk-able city with and excellent metro system, which includes a route to and from the airport for 5 Euros.
  4. There is an incredible charm in this city, with its perfectly manicured parks.  I took a walk through the most popular, Buen Retiro.  This park, which belonged to the Spanish Monarchy until the late 19th century, is also known as El Retiro Park and apparently a trip to Madrid is not complete without a visit here.
  5. Spanish fashion is hot!  I remember when I first visited Spain in 2007 and bought my favorite pair of jeans from Mango.  A few years later Mango started opening stores across North America. If you want to refresh your wardrobe this is the place to do it

This article is not complete without a mention of churros and chocolate. I loved the energy in this cute busy little cafe called Los Nuevos Alpes. It is across from the Mercado Market on Calle Mayor, 54, 28013 Madrid, Spain.

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El Retiro Park
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Christmas in Madrid
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The Royal Palace. If you are a member of EU, you can visit for free between 4-6PM.
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That’s my husband dipping the churros in the hot chocolate.

 

Greece be with You

Go and explore the ancient history in Athens.  Four days is enough to get a good taste of everything from culture to history to food and entertainment and you can do it all on foot if you’re staying in a central location.  There are about 4 main attractions that you must do. We bought a self guided tour package of 7 archaeological sites, which of course included the Acropolis and The Parthenon.

Let me give you a few tips for your visit.  The people are friendly and everyone will invite you to dine with them as you walk by their restaurant.  Even as you walk by stores, you will be invited in.  Sellers on the streets will ask you to buy their products too.  Everyone is either super friendly or hungry for your business. I say it’s a combination.

Wondering where to stay? Choose an area close to Monastiraki. We stayed in Psirri, which is a little quirky and right beside the popular and more trendy area Plaka.  I like Psirri because it was less touristy and I felt more like a local when I went into the little restaurants and bars.  One thing that was an eye-sore for me was all the vandalism or graffiti on the buildings.  There are also a ton of random cats that roam around. You can be at the nicest cafe eating on the patio and a cat rolls up to chill along side you.  That drove me crazy.  If you love cats, maybe this won’t bother you, but remember they are stray.

 

 

 

 

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