CB! Family Vacation Advisor and new mom Mandy Cecchetto has wasted no time turning her baby girl into a seasoned traveler! She and her husband have already taken their daughter on several overseas trips, most recently for a monthlong stay in Italy and Germany. We caught up with her to get her road-tested tips for a successful visit to Europe with a tiny one in tow. Thanks for sharing, Mandy — this kind of firsthand insight is priceless!
You recently traveled internationally with your little one for the third time. Tell us where you were headed and what the travel entailed.
We traveled internationally with our baby daughter, Alaria, at 3 months, 6 months and most recently at 9 months. Our recent trip was overseas to Italy and Germany. During our monthlong European adventure, we started with the Italian Lakes Region, the Tuscan countryside and coast and the Eternal City of Rome. During our stay in Italy, we rented a vehicle for Tuscany and used transfers in the busy cities like Rome. Afterward, we flew from Italy to Germany and moved around by trains and transfers.
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How did your baby do? What were some of the successes and some of the challenges?
Our baby was a great traveler — she absolutely loved being in a new environment! She was fascinated by the sounds, sights and new faces, and she was constantly stimulated from all the beautiful wonders that Italy has to offer. She was easily amused by the birds in the main piazzas, the street performers and the charming waiters who would make her giggle while we enjoyed our delicious meals.
I was, of course, a bit nervous to take her for a monthlong vacation in Europe, but in all honesty, it was amazing, and also easier with a baby since she doesn’t walk yet. While she took cat naps in the stroller, my husband and I relaxed with a glass of wine and some amazing Italian food overlooking Lake Como and the stunning views of the Alps in the background. One of the best parts of traveling with a baby is the royal treatment: priority lines at the airport, jumping the queue at the car rental office and people’s willingness to help you.
One of the challenges we encountered with her was jet lag and her schedule being off. But don’t stress about routine, as babies are very resilient! Moving around with a little one also has its challenges because you have so much stuff for the baby. One way to help with this is to have a single home base so you can truly unpack and unwind. In addition, we adjusted the pace of the trip to accommodate having our little one in tow. Changing the pace of our trip actually made for a more relaxing vacation as we truly enjoyed la dolce vita! Our pace was much slower than what we usually do; at most, we would have one activity or sight scheduled per day. We certainly didn’t try to tackle sights like the Vatican and did not commit ourselves to jam-packed touring days. Instead, we soaked up the atmosphere, sat in the piazzas and visited local markets.
What, if anything, surprised you?
All the attention our baby received from the locals was a pleasant surprise. Italians absolutely love children and even strangers were very eager to help us!
The hospitality at the hotels was amazing; the Ciao Bambino properties we stayed at were so accommodating with kids. The waiters would literally entertain Alaria so that we could enjoy our meal. The baby crib was always set up upon arrival; the high chair was ready for us during breakfast; pureed baby food options were available; and our rooms were always conveniently located near the main building (and oftentimes on the ground floor). The staff really went above and beyond to help us and make our stay as enjoyable as possible.
We were also surprised at how kid-friendly and inclusive the environment was at our accommodations, for children of all ages. It was great to see and meet so many other families while at our hotels and traveling around.
What are your top tips for parents traveling with a little one?
• A good stroller that is easily collapsible is key. You can toss all your baby stuff and diaper bag under the stroller and take it with you everywhere! Make sure to keep it with you at the airport right until you get to the gate; this will come in handy as you walk through the airport.
• Book the right accommodations and a room suitable for a baby. A suite with a terrace is ideal for the extra space and to have a spot to hang out while the baby sleeps. Having a baby-friendly hotel will make your life so much easier. Contact the properties in advance to ask for a crib and high chair. If you aren’t bringing your own car seat, make sure you rent one.
• Pack wisely! When you have a little one, it’s necessary to plan in advance for what you’ll need on the flight, day trips, etc. Bring a small medical kit, and always have extra sleepers, food, diapers/wipes and a charged cell phone.
• You need to be well-prepared and have a plan, but don’t have too much structure. I recommend planning a domestic mini vacation before going on a long-haul overseas trip. Use the first few days of any trip with a baby to relax, and have the same home base for at least four nights. Don’t worry about a strict schedule — roll with the punches.
What was the best day/moment of the trip and why?
This is a tough one because every day was so unique and special. The one day that stands out the most for me was in the Tuscan countryside. It was a relaxing day with our baby in the beautiful rolling hills, where our views looked like they were from a postcard. There were so many other children and babies around.
Even though our baby won’t remember these trips, we certainly will remember and will share all of these incredible stories with her. It’s been said that travel changes you. It has changed us in a good way, making us better people, better global citizens and definitely better parents. Our baby is more resilient and able to adapt to changes due to our travels, and we have created a lifetime of memories with her that we will cherish forever. I’m so happy that we traveled with Alaria and we will continue to travel the world with her, as it is so rewarding.
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Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of Mandy Cecchetto.
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Can’t wait to go back to Italy!!