Being East Coast based, my wife and I love visiting Europe. Before we had kids, thanks to miles and points earned through credit card rewards, we managed to hit up Europe two or three times a year. Once we had kids, we still earned plenty of miles and points and thus had the means to still visit Europe. But we had to ask: should we consider taking an infant to Europe?
Well we ended up answering that question with a resounding yes! I’d say we’ve taken three infant trips to Europe between our two kids (really, the classification of infant/toddler/preschooler is so fluid it’s tough to nail down a category). We took my daughter to Italy at six months, Germany at 18 months, and my son to Scotland at the age of one. We enjoyed all three of those trips immensely, and the kids did too. Here’s why I think you can confidently take your infant to Europe. And, as I’m on record saying, whether they remember the trip or not is mostly irrelevant.
Flights to Europe are as inexpensive as ever
High costs present a very legitimate reason to avoid Europe for families. Traveling with a baby definitely challenges your family, so if the trip costs too much it might not be worth it. But five years ago, $1000 round trip to Europe over the summer would have been a fair price. Doing a search right this instant, I see that I could get a ticket to London for $763 round trip.
But you can score lower priced plane tickets to Europe this summer. I like to follow sites like The Flight Deal and Airfarewatchdog on Twitter, and they both have alerted me to round trip flights to Europe this summer for $400! I’d highly suggest following them or setting up flight alerts, you can learn how to do the latter here and here.
Basically, since tourism and the Euro are both down, airlines are putting flights to Europe on sale more and more. Right now for summer 2017 I think a “fair” price to pay to go to Europe is around $600, though you can get cheaper flights if you put in more effort. And remember, you can take your baby on your lap for only 10% of your ticket price, so a family of 3 could fly to Europe for $1260. Compare that to 2012 and you can see why there’s no better time to go than the present.
And if you’re not traveling during peak times, you can find deals much more readily. Just as I typed this paragraph, this hit my Twitter feed:
— airfarewatchdog (@airfarewatchdog) April 7, 2017
The dollar is strong
When we honeymooned in Europe in 2009, one Euro cost us approximately $1.50. As of this writing, 1 Euro costs $1.06! Prices haven’t gone up enough to keep up with that decrease so you’re getting more for your dollar right now. Vacationing on another continent will never be cheap (well, South America isn’t too bad). Still, with the strong dollar you can get a lot more bang for your buck in Europe right now. Combine the strong dollar with, say, a $400 plane ticket, and Europe basically costs the same as a higher end domestic vacation!
Many European countries and their people love babies
In my personal experience, Europe loves babies. Our kids have been to Italy, Germany, and the UK. Locals treated us incredibly well and had tons of positive interactions with our kids. Obviously this is anectodal, but I find Europeans to be friendlier and more positive towards my kids than I find people in America. Your mileage may vary, of course. But I can’t remember a single dirty look or glare in the two months we’ve spent in Europe when our children were infants (spread across several years).
Europe often feels more baby friendly
So cobblestone roads wreck strollers, so that’s one knock against Europe (I’m looking at you, Rome!). Other than that, I’ve found Europe to be incredibly baby friendly. For starters, Europe seems to have an abundance of changing rooms for babies. I’ve found at least a changing pad in almost every establishment we’ve visited. It looks like most bathrooms have a separate trash for dirty diapers (nappies!), probably due to different hygiene standards.
Secondly, dovetailing with loving babies, places we’ve visited have always been incredibly accommodating to our infants. I’ve visited more local restaurants in the States lacking high chairs than I have in Europe. So between the high chairs and changing rooms, it turns out I stress out a lot less going out to eat while in Europe.
Europe moves at a slower pace, great for infant travel
My favorite reason to take infants to Europe has to be the slow pace of life. Babies nap – take a siesta in Spain! Relax and take your time eating a long meal in Italy. Take a long stroll through a park in any city in Europe. Europeans, unlike Americans (or, me at least), don’t rush from place to place trying to maximize everything. In general they like to take things slowly, so you can feel less pressure to do everything with your infant. Instead, just take your time and enjoy the moment – you’ll have an amazing trip with your baby.