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  • Writer's pictureRoch

How To Do A Self-Care City Day Trip ABROAD...With An Under 5!

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

I know. This seems like an oxymoron. And maybe it is. Can you really do self-care and take yourself away to foreign lands with a toddler in tow and truly get a break? This month I am travelling to three (that's right three) countries. Eek! As I put my nerves to the test I'll share with you the best ways to travel at the tail end of a pandemic.

Get excited

Holiday booked. Hurrah! This is the real self care part of a city break. I don't know about you but the anticipation of a holiday is often just as good as the holiday itself! The excitement levels go up towards the end of toddlerhood when you can actually share your excitement with Littles who grow in their understanding of what it means to travel abroad. I show pictures of the location in advance and discuss it, or talk about things the country is known for like canals and boats in Amsterdam to get my Little in the mood.

International travel during a pandemic. Ugh.

One word, no four , bit of a nightmare. I don’t know about other people's experiences but travelling with a toddler and a pram solo is definitely not the same as travelling to London. The pre-admin felt like a whole day trip in itself. There were tons of forms to fill (I will add a little European checklist below shortly), but I actually forgot one of the forms on the return journey and had a freak out as they demanded I fill it in before leaving. It was an online form and my phone died at check-in from walking the streets all day. Also travelling without a partner meant that I had to have forms, and signatures which we did (but after presenting security with a thousand forms to show him Little was mine, he said I'll let you off this time but we need a signed passport copy from the Father! Flip sake). I hear that you don't always get stopped but if you do, be prepared- especially in Amsterdam! The actual physical travelling wasn’t too bad at all. Exactly the same as UK if you choose a child-friendly spot.

Be safe guys

Probably one of your first thoughts if doing a solo trip, but preparing for the worst while expecting the best is always a good idea. I went for multi Europe insurance to cover all my travel and I was particularly concerned about a positive lateral flow that could wipe out my plans in an instant. Research your trip location if you haven't been before, and arrive in the daytime with enough room for time to find your hotel. My phone would not connect to a network for the first time EVER (thanks EE). I had no wifi outside of the station and no access to maps at 5pm, one hour before dark, and I was freaking out a bit internally.

Choose a swanky hotel for some day trips

My one day trip to Amsterdam had a stayover, so it was technically two days. Amsterdam travel time from London on Eurostar is just under four hours and there is no way you can see anything if you try and squeeze sights in on the same day from dawn til dusk and return home. I chose a slightly more expensive train that landed in the very late afternoon and we just went straight to our hotel. Good idea because it was a lush one! It gave me a chance to really rest before a full day. Travelling alone is full-on so to have that R&R experience in a nice hotel was wonderful. The Park Inn by Radisson in Amsterdam City West was colourful, insta friendly and basically, a light show and funfair masquerading as a hotel. Can you imagine how that went down with Little? The beauty of booking a really nice hotel is I didn't get FOMO by going straight there and felt I could orient myself and maximise the experience and enjoy all the facilities available.

Choose parent and child-friendly countries

Goes without saying if you want to make your life easier. A lot of Metropolitan Western European countries are child friendly. I knew Amsterdam was a great place to start because of the relaxed nature of people and their ability to NOT throw a hissy fit at speaking English. So all of that weight was off my shoulders when it just needed to be on deciding if I could smell Little SpACEr’s nappy and where I could change it. It was really about logistics, using my phone, navigating lifts and asking questions if I needed it.

Take the Eurostar (if you can)

If you are like me and the thought of boarding a plane a child under five brings you out in hives then you might want to take this mode of transport. It’s great because you can bring in a liquid, your food, loads of luggage. The normal seats are big enough and the staff hands-off so you can relax. Also if your child is under 4 like mine, they travel FREE on your lap. Wohooo. The only downside is getting on and off the train which s a nightmare with its huge gap, two-step entry and narrow doorway (really?). On return little sleeping I was able to keep him in his profile until we hit the euro start tunnel, maybe because it was a bit joggy. The rules seem to change with staff on whether you can keep the baby in the buggy asleep, whether the buggy needs to fold, whether they get searched or the pram just swabbed. Which is annoying.

Choosing a mix of attractions

So how you do a city is probably personal. Every time I day trip in London I mix it up, so when on a city break I always try and book a cruise or a bus tour first, so I can see the city and more of where I want to go. It’s a great introduction. And I am a geek for the facts and usually spot things that aren’t even in the guide to go and find. Went on the Lovers Cruise which kicked off from around Amsterdam Central station and lasted an hour. My favourite thing was always going to be the canals and a cruise is a perfect way to get you into the heart of it and feeling like you’re in a movie. They don’t call it The Venice of The North for nothing. Google, tourist map reading and walking is always another great way. We lucked out on and Eurostar offers for our boat trip and transportation.

Get a map.

Actually download it. Literally have a printed map. In Amsterdam, I spent most of my trip trying to look at screenshots with 2 % battery. Don’t be me. Activate roaming with your network beforehand and in case they fluf up bring or buy a printed tourise map of the city that signposts the key location. Some hiccup on my EE network meant that it didn’t automatically choose a network and I was panick-messaging back home to call them and troubleshoot. Don't spend your day looking for charge points like me. What do you want to be doing on an eight-hour day trip? Mentally searching for Starbucks after every single thing you see? I don't think so.

Food on the go

Bring a packed lunch. Not only for budget reasons but in case you have a fussy eater. Luckily for me my day trip experiences had me well equipped for snacks and lunch on the go. This was easy for me. The answer is to just overpack snacks which you can do on train travel. Be careful and get suitable containers so you don’t have a leaky fiasco on your hands and bring plenty of wipes! If you need to bring milk and the temperature is cool enough, just bring the bottle and you can refill. Personally my little loves milk so I have to locate a supermarket while abroad.

Cramming it in.

No difference from my normal day trip. I can’t afford to pay £100+ (which was cheap) for a return trip and hotel just to go to one museum at a café. This is very likely because often museums take a lot of time. So I skipped that. I picked out some locations and things I really wanted to definitely do and see, then worked out the proximity between them and just went for it.

I also had to consider parks and energy burners, so Little didn’t get bored in long stretches in the buggy, so I made it 50-50. One thing definitely for him, and one thing for me (all things we sould both enjoy). Balance is important for me to make this tripabout self care and exploration, especially as I hadn’t come to see something specific. Park check. Gallery check. Mural check. Freestanding public art. Check. Super touristy. Check. Boat Check. Very kiddy thing check. Variety is the spice of life.

There you go.

Just some of the things that I think are the most important if you’re planning a European day trip solo or otherwise.

I'll share what we actually got up to in Amsterdam and Paris, in another blog so you can decide if it's worth a trip!

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