Travel through Europe and Turkey over a three month period with a travelling party of a 30-something husband and wife and a 15 month-old toddler.
Starting assumptions – First, in 2010 when we found out we were moving to Morocco we decided with no thought, facts or research that we would spend 3 months driving through Europe during summer break. It sounded good and why not? Two years later that was our frame of reference when we started actually planning for this trip with a little one that would turn one and a half during the trip. We knew that our little one was a great sleeper, (naps and night), and that we would have to find a way to take advantage of that. That meant daily naps in her crib or in a stroller because she was too big for daily naps in a carrier over a 3 months period. As a result we needed a full service stroller to execute our travel plan because we didn’t think we could travel by train for 3 months; and we were not willing to do the 3 months without a stroller.
Planning Phase 1 – Figuring out how to drive a loop trough Europe that started and ended with a ferry from and to Morocco. Figuring out how to get to Turkey and then travel such a large country. Goals – First, not to spend too many full days in a car, 4 hours or less would have been perfect but was unrealistic. Second, to try to spend at least 2 nights at as many locations as possible and limit stops that were required just to split up a long drive.
Months of initial planning ended with one frenzied week of intense planning to map out our route.
Results – There was no easy loop, and driving times would be long and require occasional nightly stops between two desired locations; though we did end up with a working itinerary. In order to get to Turkey and not spend a week or more driving each way we would take a car train at least one way from Western Europe to Turkey and then do a combination of driving and car ferries to make our way back. It wasn’t that we wouldn’t have loved to travel through Eastern Europe it was that 3 months isn’t actually as long as it sounds. – Final result, the cost was looking scary! With gas prices alone we knew it would be pricey but once we started adding in other means of transportation (rail and car ferry) costs grew exponentially.
Thinking & Talking – Was traveling by car our only option? The easiest way to take the train was without a stroller which would put our little one in a backpack carrier and one backpack for all our things; that didn’t seem ideal. Could we really avoid using a stroller while backpacking through Europe? We knew day-to-day activities and sightseeing would be made far better with a stroller, but we tried to picture the logistics of our travel days with backpacks and trains and a stroller. Maybe it wasn’t so impossible…
Since we didn’t currently have the stroller we would be traveling with (at the time we only had a jogging stroller), I started researching strollers. Our plan had been to get a McClaren umbrella stroller once our little one outgrew the stroller her infant car seat clipped to but we hadn’t yet found a need for anything beyond our jogging stroller, so I started research from scratch and came up with the Baby Jogger City Mini . There were several key reasons, unlike an umbrella stroller it had real storage under it, a nearly flat recline, and a massive canopy. The strongest selling factor though was the way it folded. While many strollers advertise a “one-hand fold,” this one has a true “one-hand fold.” In one movement you can fold, pickup and be moving the stroller; sometimes without even breaking stride. Anyhow, enough about the stroller for now.
The important part was we found a stroller that we thought was easy and fast enough to fold and unfolded for trains. Though when the stroller was folded we then had a toddler to manage. Part 2, what to do with her? Using a carrier was the easy answer since we used a baby carrier for all our other travel. This girl was sledding the Swiss Alps from an Ergo Carrier zipped inside my jacket. So we tried it. We did a mockup of my fully loaded backpack, (40 lbs), on my back and our little one in the Ergo on my front. Not only did it work but I could get her into the Ergo by myself without having to take my pack off. As a result we had a true folding stroller and our little one in the Ergo; we could go up and down stairs, on and off trains, and had 3 free hands between us.
We had a new plan – Eurail Passes it is!