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6 Weeks in western europe with a 15-16 month old

My wife and I just got back from an amazing 6 week, 13 stop trip with our daughter. We flew in to Shannon, Ireland with my father-in-law, rented a car and drove straight to the Cliffs of Moher before heading to Dingle for 3 nights for the beautiful views and pubs. Drove through picturesque West Ireland (being diverted by some sort of car race in Killarney) to tiny Bandon, Ireland for 2 nights of visiting the wonderful towns around there (Kinsale, Clonakilty). Then headed through Tipperary (Chasing my father-in-law's ancestors) and the Rock of Cashel on our way to Dublin for 3 nights of history, great food, and great strolling. We bid farewell to my father-in-law and a sunny, rainless Ireland and flew to Amsterdam for 3 nights to visit my wife's friend and newborn and visiting the zoo, Anne Frank's house, and going on a canal ride. Dodged cyclists and traffic rushing on foot for a mile with a stroller and all of our luggage to the train station (the tram wasn't heading to the station for whatever reason) to take the train to Paris for 4 nights where me met up with my wife's mom and sister for all the beauty, museums, and food Paris has to offer. Took the train to Avignon where we rented a car and stayed at the dreamy Boquet du Seguret for 5 nights while touring around Provence's markets, roman ruins, great food, great wine and great views. We dropped my in-laws off at the Monpellier airport before grabbing coffee in lovely Pézenas and getting lunch on the coast at the bautiful Le Maya Club in Torreilles Plage on the way to picturesque Collioure for 3 nights of relaxation, beaches, and sunset drinks. We stopped in Carcassone for castle views and cassoulet on our way to La Barthe-de-Neste and its lovely B&B Le Closier with its lovely owners and dog Lenny for some Tour-de-France siwtchbacks (in a car) up to the heights of the Pyrennes for two nights. We grabbed lunch in Bayonne on the way to the bountiful breakfasts and comfortable accommodations at Ferme Elhorga in Saint-Pée-sur-Nivell in the basque hills for 2 nights where we spent a rainy day (the only one of our entire trip) in St-Jean-de-Luz and drove a sleeping baby through the nearby Basque villages. We dropped the car off at the Biarritz airport and spent the next 3 nights watching surfers and soaking sun on the beaches of Biarritz before hopping on a nauseating, but thankfully short, bus to San Sebastian for 4 nights where we met up with my sister, her husband, and 8 year old daughter for Pinxtos, promenades, txakoli, and the beautiful La Concha beach whose tides seem to usher you out in the afternoon. We all took the relaxing train ride to Barcelona for the next 3 nights where we got lost in the old town, toured the Picasso museum, and enjoyed the transportation system which is marvelously stroller accessible. We bid hasta luego to my sister and her family as we spent the twilight of our vacation on the shores in Sitges for 3 nights enjoying the sand, sun, and paella, and the fantastic museu de Maricel and Museu del Cau Ferrat.

It was a wonderful break and great to spend so much of it with our family, but an extra big kudos for our little daughter for being extraordinarily cooperative and calm throughout even the few stressful times. I think the only thing we missed out on travelling with her were a few extra pubs in Ireland, a fancy dinner or two in Paris, and a few sites we drove past because she was asleep.

If interested in what we brought, we had a babyzen yoyo stroller, a cosco scenera next car seat (occassionally questionably rigged to the stroller), my backpack suitcase (a 15 year old ebags motherlode from my first trip to Europe), a packable duffle that we'd drape on the stroller handle, an Away roller carry-on, an Ebags bellcourt-convertible carry-all that would ride on top of the away roller, and my wife's fjallraven backpack. All packed with clothes we didn't wear because of unexpected warmth.

Happy Travels

Posted by
5 posts

Great itinerary and how awesome you could meet up with friends and family along the way.

Posted by
247 posts

This adventure is so packed with details that l want to experience, dine and relax at many of the places that you have mentioned. Thanks so much.

Posted by
190 posts

What an incredible, marvelous trip! You were so lucky to have accomplished so much especially with a small child. Your daughter is a champ!
How long did it take you to coordinate all the meetings with various relatives? I marvel at that, especially when I think of the times I lost my travel companions just in a museum! Haha!
Ohhh, I'm so envious!
Congrats on an awesome trip!

Posted by
75 posts

@Beth - I agree! It makes it take more time to get out the door sometimes and makes picking activities contentious occasionally, but there's nothing like recounting stories of the day and times past with friends and family over a glass of wine while the kiddos play.

@raymonelee - You're very welcome. It was my pleasure to recount.

@Carole - That's an interesting question. In some ways the various meetings are entirely what created the itinerary for us (and made it a little easier to plan instead of working from an entirely blank canvas. My father-in-law had been longing to go hunting for the stomping grounds of his ancestors in Ireland. Since it is so easy and (often cheapest) to fly to Ireland we knew that was going to be where we started the trip (with 40000 AMEX miles or so (converting to Avios with a 25% bonus) and a phone call with British airways, 3 one-ways and one round-trip ticket were only ~$150 out of pocket). We had taken my mom on a similar trip for her 70th and knew we wanted to go back to Dingle and knew I could handle renting a car and driving in Ireland on no sleep (and knew driving straight from the airport at 6am is the best way to see the Cliffs of Moher). After that we hunted relatives in County Cork and County Tipperary and we needed to revisit Dublin after a damp experience (double entendre intended) on our visit with my Mom. We knew we wanted to go on the trip in the Spring and since my father-in-law works at a church we needed to wait until after Easter for him to go, so that sort of settled that our trip would begin the end of April. He took the train up from Philadelphia to New York the day we left. We were able to find 3 comfortable airbnbs with enough space for all of us to coexist. We were afraid of staying at normal B&Bs with a jet-lagged baby for the sake of the other guests (and also couldn't stay at the Pax House in Dingle with a small child which I couldn't recommend more from my first trip there).

We also knew we wanted to see my wife's friend's family who had recently moved to Amsterdam and had a baby. Since we were leaving Ireland on a Friday (father-in-law needed to get back for a reunion), it seemed like a good idea to visit them next since it would be the weekend. They live on the south side of the Vondelpark (I don't know what the actual neighborhood is called, but we jokingly referred to it as the Upper East Side) so we knew we wanted to find a place in that neighborhood as well (and settled on an airbnb that used to be run as a normal B&B when we found hotels were too expensive in the area). Other than our reserving first thing in the morning tickets at Anne Frank (which allowed us to hurry our little one through without potential cries affecting the reflective experience for other visitors), our itinerary was planned by our friends who live there.

Paris with my wife's sister and mother was supposed to be a trip in March 2020 (I am having trouble remembering why we couldn't go on that trip), so that was also pre-picked and we were planning this trip a year in advance so it was easy to get them to reserve specific days off with that much notice. A little googling provided our destination in Seguret (reaffirmed by its inclusion in the RS book). We had to stay for 5 nights minimum, which made deciding how long we would stay there easy.

From there, my sister's daughter had school until the end of May, so we chose between heading north and the French riviera and Italy or south and Spain and ultimately chose south since Cannes and Monaco GP would be happening then. We had really wanted to go to San Sebastian, so we concocted an itinerary that would get us there and back to Barcelona for a direct flight home. My refunded Air France miles (from the untaken March 2020 Paris trip) were enough to pay for 3 one-ways to Bilbao (by way of amsterdam from atlanta) and Delta doesn't penalize for one-way cash tickets from Europe apparently, so my sister could buy tickets home.

Posted by
1780 posts

Sounds like a fabulous trip! You certainly hit the jackpot with your daughter. My oldest was the most flexible of mine but not as good as your daughter. But her brothers, forget it!

Posted by
2142 posts

A dream trip, thanks for sharing so many details. I chuckled at your comment you couldn’t remember why the Paris trip planned for 2020 didn’t happen!

Posted by
75 posts

@BethFL - Ha! I agree. We had also been sort of preparing for it by spending our weekends out the entire day with her taking various forms of transportation and wandering through parks, restaurants etc. We don't have a car, so it was great to find out she deals with that well too.

@Judy B - Thanks! Yes, truly a dream.