Like many Club Bébé Voyage members, Elisabeth Ertas is a traveler by nature. With her recent trip to Croatia, Elisabeth learnt a lot about traveling with bébé and picked up many fantastic new tips. We think Croatia has deemed Elisabeth a bébé voyage pro. This last voyage taught her about overcoming the jet lag hurdle without ruining her vacation, bending the rules, the various hiccups and successes of the trip, and how much she loves her new travel stroller. Heck, after reading this, you might feel a lot better about your upcoming trip.
Your baby’s name:
Asya – 11 months (10 months during trip)
I’m adopted from Korea, but raised in the US. My husband is from Turkey.
Were you traveling with anyone?
My husband and I traveled together with the baby and we met his parents in Croatia, who travelled from Turkey.
Where did you travel to and from?
We flew from:
- Chicago, IL → Frankfurt, Germany (8 hour layover)
- Frankfurt, Germany → Dubrovnik, Croatia
- Dubrovnik, Croatia → Palo, Hungary (45 minute stopover)
- Palo, Hungry → Amsterdam, Netherlands (Overnight stay)
- Amsterdam, Netherlands → Chicago, IL
We drove from:
- Dubrovnik, Croatia to Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2 hour drive each way)
- Dubrovnik, Croatia to Perst and Kotor, Montenegro (2 hour drive each way)
What mode of transportation did you take?
Plane and rental car.
What airline did you fly and would you recommend them?
United and Croatia Airlines.
Croatia Airlines was really wonderful. They were very accommodating with the baby, especially with the 45 minute stopover in Hungary when we weren’t allowed to deplane. The flight attendant prepared the bathroom for me so I could change Asya, and then they let me hang out in the galley area while we waited for the plane to be serviced and passengers to arrive. Additionally, they moved people around to try to give us a free middle seat. They moved a lady with a cane twice, just to try to help us!
United, we always fly with baby. They are as good as can be for an American airline company. I only like them because they are the main Chicago airline and because I collect their miles with my credit card. I don’t have any loyalty there, just what’s easiest to get me home and free tickets every few years :-).
What was the most difficult part of the trip?
I would say that the travel piece was the most difficult, but overall the trip, including the travel piece went VERY smoothly, and we were super relaxed, stress-free and had a great vacation.
On the flight to Europe we had a 7 hour layover in Germany. While I was dreading that and worried, it actually went very smoothly. I had the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller that has a nice reclining seat, and I put my daughter in that with a blanket over the top and sides so it was dark, and she totally slept for almost 5 hours of the layover! (After not sleeping on the actual flight)
On the way back, we had a stopover in Hungary, which wasn’t horrible just slightly inconvenient. The bigger problem for us was Amsterdam. Originally, we had a hotel outside in the city, but my husband procrastinated and didn’t give himself enough time to get a visa to leave the secure area. So, we switched our hotel to the airport hotel for myself and Asya. We left my husband in the secure area, while we went to a hotel to get a good night rest. At the last minute, he found a hotel inside the secure area, so luckily he was comfortable too.
The tricky part was getting back into the terminal the next AM. I had taken the baby, but she was registered on my husband’s ticket, so she couldn’t get checked in until he was, but he was waiting to meet us once we got back in. They ended up having to switch the baby to me, so she could get a boarding pass, and pass through security.
I also had to carry everything including baby, stroller, bags, blankets, toys, food, myself through security. So, while it was totally manageable with my bijorn and stroller, I was still negotiating alone, even though we were technically flying together.
What was your greatest success during this trip?
Overcoming baby-jetlag without too much pain and non-sleep for ourselves as well as the baby!!! We learned from our first trip with her to Turkey when she was 4 months old, that she CANNOT go to sleep as soon as we arrive at destination, NO MATTER how tired she is!!! It’s a fake out! She will sleep until 1AM and then be WIDE AWAKE because no matter how tired she is, her body wants to be awake.
So, this trip we prepared ourselves better. We knew the 1st night would be less sleep, but our goal was to get her assimilated to full night sleep with no wake ups AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! Here’s what we did. She slept a few hours on the flight and we let her sleep through most of the layover, but once she was up for the 2nd flight, we kept her awake. We arrived in Croatia around 5PM and kept her awake while shopping for provisions and checking into hotel. I finally let her sleep at 11PM. Her grandparents arrived at 12AM, and she woke up at 1AM. We played for for 2 more hours and then she went right to sleep for the whole night. Every night afterwards, we kept her awake until ~10:00PM and she would then sleep the entire night through until 9AM when we would forcibly to wake her up. She stuck to a ~3 hour nap schedule every day. 2 hours for 1 nap, 1 hour for the 2nd. It fluctuated whether it would be morning or afternoon, and we actively woke her within those time frames to make sure she was getting the schedule.
We also planned our driving times around her naps, so she could use the 2 hour drives to sleep in the car, and not be annoying to her grandparents by yelling and crying :-).
Upon arriving at home, I was the only one who seemed to suffer from Jetlag. I think baby was so tired from the vacation, she fell right into her sleep through the night pattern. It’s been a month since we returned and she’s still going strong on 8PM – 8:30AM!
What is the best tip you have for fellow traveling parents?
Just to be flexible. I spent a lot of time planning, thinking through my approaches, revising my approaches, preparing materials etc. I also have some strict positions on the type of food she intakes and her cleanliness. I had to let a lot of that go. I looked away when she licked the airplane window, or gently distracted her with a toy while she rolled around and licked the floor in the airport. I gave her fresh fruit and vegetables as much as possible from the airport marts, but throwing my rules about salt and sugar to the wind, I gave her chicken that had salted marinade on it etc. I also totally supported my husband when he pulled out the cell phone and brought up her Turkish music videos on YouTube, while we had dinner at restaurants in public with his parents and other strangers, so everyone could enjoy their meal in peace and QUIET. 🙂
It was totally fine, she was totally manageable, and we had a better time because we weren’t wrapped up in small details that we couldn’t have control over anyway. We luckily didn’t get sick while on vacation, but I was prepared for it when the colds struck our household upon arrival in the US.
What is your favorite travel app/ item/ accessory?
I actually love all of our items because anything we bring is ESSENTIAL and plays a very important role in maintaining the chaos that is our daughter. 🙂
But I would say that I LOVE our stroller. I think it’s the greatest thing because it folds so small it fits in the overhead bin so we don’t have to wait in line…
And as much as I hate it (it’s ugly and we look silly carrying it on our back but…), I love our car seat bag. It has totally protected our car seat, because I refuse to travel without her car seat, even if it’s only “optional” in some countries (Turkey! ;-))! Anyway, it’s protected her seat from damage AND I’ve packed so many extra overflow items, like bags of extra diapers, clothes that don’t fit after buying too many gifts, etc. It’s essentially a free 3rd bag to me, which we take FULL advantage of!
Anything else we should know?
So, this has been our tactic about the baby since she was born, as I was not interested in co-sleeping, and my husband was definitely against it! But our biggest requirement when we travel is that she have her own room. We have sacrificed this requirement a number of times, but for this trip, we made a special effort to ensure that she had her own room. We ended up putting her crib in the bathroom. It was the perfect solution. It was nice and dark, the door closed, and we could have our own room and not have to worry about waking her when we went to bed.
Once in awhile, Asya will wake in the middle of the night, cry out, look around, sit up, and then lay down and go back to sleep. If she sees us, even sleeping, it is GAME OVER. She knows she’s not alone and wants our attention, so she will moan until she’s woken up enough, and then cry, and typically by then I’m about to go crazy, so I just put us all out of misery and get her from bed.
Anyway, we totally believe this trip was so successful because she had her own “bedroom” space. For us, that works like a charm! It will be an absolute requirement for all our trips moving forward.
Wishing you all the best, safe and stress-free travels!!
Has Elisabeth’s inspired you to book that vacation you thought you couldn’t go on? Do it! And join Club Bébé Voyage, our community of parents who travel with their babies based around the globe for travel tips and destination finds!