Pushing my rented stroller through the Siena city center.
As I mentioned in my post last week, we just got back from our first R&R. For my non-Foriegn Service readers, that’s the standard vacation we get once or twice per post – so long as we return to our stateside home or a designated city in the nearest “fully developed” country. Our family went to Italy, and we had one amazing and truly restful experience.
While I’m no travel writer (if you love those, check out my friend Jamie’s High Heeled Traveler blog!), I have enjoyed sharing my travel success stories since we returned. Will you be globe-trotting with young ones for the first time soon? Or maybe getting a visit from your favorite niece or nephew (I have 6!)? Here are my top new (to me) recommendations based on our Italian experience. If you’re particularly interested in traveling to Rome with kids, see tips #4 and #5.
A car seat is a cumbersome necessity in the best of daily family life: in travel situations it has caused countless arguments and backaches.
Freedom! Someone on TrailingHouses mentioned the RideSafer Travel Vest, and I was intrigued. It was a shock to see how much more comfortable L was, and to be liberated from lugging that plastic monstrosity around felt like a vacation in itself. When not in use, the vest fits in a travel bag that I could toss in my purse or M’s messenger bag. Above, RideSafer2 Travel Vest, $159 at saferide4kids.com
The tagline of this company SafetyTat reads “just in case” and that is exactly what their ingenious products are for. This little waterproof sticker and its accompanying permanent marker kept the smile on my face while L chased pigeons on the piazza. I could fit our family name, an emergency number, and the words “U.S. EMBASSY” on there, so if he got lost any adult could help him find us quickly.
L has never ever never been a co-sleeper. Since infancy he has needed his own setup to get a good night’s rest, and there are no exceptions for hotel rooms (or airbnb apartments with the perfect location but maybe one less bedroom than we wanted). This inflatable mattress and sleeping bag combo was a hit with him, and we never had to worry along our travels about where/how to get him to sleep in safety and comfort.
The only thing that kept this from being a full 5 star product was the fact that the plastic creaked against the hard floors underneath, whenever he moved around during the night. By the time we got up to Tuscany I had learned to put a blanket or towel beneath.
I purchased The Shrunks Tuckaire Outdoor Travel Bed for $149 on Amazon.com. It comes with the foot pump and travel bag shown above, which all fit easily and lightly into my suitcase. There’s an indoor version available too, but I figured it might get more use in the future, so why not get the more versatile version.
Next, here are a few tips I’d like to share with those traveling to Rome with kids:
Rent a stroller! As mentioned above, M and I are basically allergic to lugging crap through airports. I had a good experience last year renting some baby equipment in Texas, and we haven’t looked back since. The Babyriders company operates out of Rome and were easy to work with.
L enjoying a nap in our rental stroller during the Papal Audience we attended (next to his Nonno!)
They dropped the stroller off at our Trestevere apartment about 20 minutes after we arrived, then picked it up at the hotel out in Fiumicino after we left. For about 77€, we had a stroller on hand all 11 days, and didn’t have to lift a finger to get it. Besides strollers, BabyRiders rents car seats, cots, food processors, back carriers and booster seats.
Be advised, Rome is not a stroller-friendly city. My beloved Uppababy Vista would have been easier to push over the cobbles than their “Light City” grade of stroller, but besides lugging it to Italy we would have struggled with folding it up for taxi rides, and in many ways been less mobile.
Grown-up evenings are still possible! You probably already know that most CLO offices keep a list of child care providers for the benefit of their embassy community. Well, it’s easy to get your hands on that word doc or the latest embassy newsletter classifieds before you travel! Several weeks out from our trip, I emailed the CLO Rome office looking for childcare options, and she did just that.
We were able to find an AMAZING babysitter who lived right in the neighborhood where we stayed. She was an American expat herself, with excellent references and close ties to the Embassy Rome community (be sure to give yourself plenty of time to check references and ensure that the provider has been vetted by RSO if necessary). L got the benefit of a good night’s rest along with some extra attention, we enjoyed Rome after dark, and had a fresh-faced happy boy in the morning. Win!
I’d like to think that our enjoyable experience traveling with a toddler was in part due to my thoughtful preparations for our family. All you experienced travelers out there, what tips do you have to share?