'I took my toddler to Europe. Here are 5 things I need you to know before you do the same.'

There are many things that happen when your kids turn two. The ones that hurt the most are tantrums and the full whack in airfares.

Yep, once kids hit the two-year mark, airlines charge the full fare rather than paying just the taxes and fees for infants who sit on their parents' laps. Realising our days of 'cheap' travel were numbered, my husband and I ambitiously decided to cram in as many European holidays as possible before our daughter hit that milestone age.

As Aussies living in Dubai, the trek to Europe was a lot more tolerable than it is from Down Under, as was the time difference of a few hours. From visiting key locations from the Sound of Music in Salzburg to wandering the expansive grounds of the Chateau de Versailles and wine tasting in Burgundy and Georgia, my toddler had visited four European countries before she could talk.

But nothing prepared us for the unexpected challenges of taking a toddler to Europe — like cobblestone stroller obstacle courses, hitting three different playgrounds before lunchtime, and endless gelato bribes.

Here's everything I found out the hard way (so that you can go in prepared).

Be prepared for kids and restaurants.

Where's a mini pizza or kiddie schnitty and chips when you need one? 

Unless you're at Maccas or another fast food joint, Europeans don't really do kids' menus, especially in France. The European dining culture encourages kids to eat the same food as adults rather than being served separate, simplified dishes — meaning kids eat off the regular menu like adults.

Needless to say, our toddler's diet was heavy on carbs with pasta, chips and bread. Most nights we would order room service from the hotels (which, thankfully, had a kids' menu). For lunch, we would opt for more cheap and cheerful places where asking for some plain pasta wouldn't be frowned upon. Snacks had to be on hand constantly in case our meals out didn't go according to plan.


Oh, and along with eating off the adult menu, apparently European kids can also hold themselves at the dinner table without a bit of screen time. While it was usually the last resort to enjoy a few minutes of adult conversation and eat our meal in peace, we did receive a lot of looks over bringing out the iPad in restaurants. 

You've been warned.

Don't bank on lifts or ramps.

With historic centres, cobblestone streets and stairs, I found there was a distinct lack of lifts and ramps available, especially when it came to metro and train stations.

Only in Moscow did I spot steel ramps for wheelchairs and wide prams, which were placed on top of stairs. Of course, my trusty Babyzen YOYO stroller was too narrow for the ramps, so my husband graciously carried our pram (and 12kg toddler strapped in it) up and down the stairs.

Word to the wise: go extra light on the stroller and all the accompanying baby gear.

Pack light on the accessories where you can. Image: Supplied.


You can drink in public places.

In Vienna, we hit the jackpot when we spotted a coffee and wine cart right BESIDE the playground. No one batted an eyelid as you pushed your kid on the swing with one hand while holding a chilled glass of Riesling in the other. Why doesn't that exist everywhere?

Then there was the hotel in the vineyards of the Kakheti region in Georgia, whose staff (and patrons) weren't shocked in the slightest when we ordered wine and asked for it to be served to us in the kids' playroom.

Make use of the welcome kits.

Certain hotels are cleverly winning parents over with what matters most: entertained kids. From a welcome kit with a mini clown performance, balloons, snacks and colouring kit at SO/ St Petersburg, to a bubble bath set and special kids' towel at the Sofitel Lyon Bellecour in France, small thoughtful touches go a long way when you need a moment's silence.

If you don't want to chance it, check in with the hotel before you book to see what they can provide to keep the kiddos entertained while you recover from the flight (or have one of those glasses of wine we spoke about earlier...).

Forget about blackout blinds.

Did they just... not make it over there? Or is it because I've become so obsessed with my kids' sleep that I am acutely aware that certain hotels seem not to care for blackout blinds? 


Perhaps it's a reaction to all the long miserable winter months...? Whatever the reason, portable blackout blinds are a must if you're travelling in Europe during the summer. A discovery I made far too late, but at least I got cute pics of my toddler in the Red Square, completely alone.

A shot with no one else around? Unheard of! Image: Supplied.

While holidays with toddlers are rarely smooth sailing, a glass of wine at the end of the day helps forget the bumps in the road. Bonus points if my kid is kept busy while I sip my vino.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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