Here are some of the things we learned when taking 11 month old T to Ireland, some things that may help you if you’re considering going abroad with your baby, especially your high intensity, “spirited” child.
Walk, Don’t Crawl. While we had read that taking your kid before they walk is the best time to go on a big trip, that wasn’t the case for us. We were very glad T was no longer crawling. For a while she’s been pretty unhappy about being in her stroller but crawling around the dirty ground, or needing to hold someone’s hands while walking, wouldn’t have been so good. And having T be able to walk around, chase pigeons, play in the rocks was a lot of fun.
Give up on meals. Don’t even try to eat at restaurants with your high-spirited toddler. Switch off with other people in your group. Even early meals were a lost cause. Baby wanted to get down and explore and the days were so exhausting that anything after 5 pm was difficult to manage.
Three, four, five. I don’t think we would have made it without a ratio of 5:1. My sister and parents made it possible for J and I to do some things on our own, to eat a few meals, and to keep the baby entertained. Bringing grandparents on the first trip is great for everyone.
Respect the nap. Think about nap times and work them into every day. Even if it’s “stroller time around Temple Bar” or “drive from Galway to Dingle” be strategic in planning naps. Don’t assume that high-intensity baby is going to sleep just because she’s exhausted. With so much going on, it’s going to be a challenge. Prepare for the fight.
Sleep baby friendly. A great way to tell if a B & B is baby-friendly is to ask if they have a crib (or “cot”) for you to use. Something else we found really important was having a suite where baby could sleep in a separate room, something we wouldn’t have thought about before we left.
Bring your own sheet. None of the places we stayed had a fitted sheet for the crib. We were given a king size sheet to wrap around the mattress, something very unsafe for babies. Bring a fitted sheet and sleep easy.
Don’t go out of your way. We didn’t do any specifically child-friendly events while we were there. No children’s museums, no animal parks. Toddlers are basically excited about everything so let them explore the things you enjoy. Your vacation isn’t that long. There are pigeons and gravel everywhere.
Embrace the breast. I wouldn’t have gone on this trip if I wasn’t breastfeeding. Having your baby’s primary food supply always accessible made everything easier. It was also extremely helpful to have a way to calm the baby down instantly. Breastfeeding also kept T quiet during educational/intro films at sites. We also managed to survive the flight both directions with the help of nursing.
Some specific Ireland info:
Places/tours that are best for toddlers
Kilmainham Gaol – Lots of open spaces at this Dublin jail tour. The panopticon central prison does echo a lot but not enough to be a problem.
Dingle Peninsula – There’s a lot to see on this loop, and lots of sleeping time in between. There’s also sheep and donkeys at some of the stops and plenty of open areas to roam.
Dingle Pub Music – There are no age restrictions on pubs in Ireland and plenty of music to keep babies occupied. Music doesn’t start until 9 pm, but if you’re kid can stay up that late, this is a great atmosphere. A few pubs in Dublin have earlier music.
Galway streets – Fun, open streets that are easy to walk.
St Stephen’s Green – Dublin’s largest green space. Other babies! Pigeons! Ducks! Music in the park!
National Museum, Dublin – Great place for baby to roam around. Not a quiet museum so it’s okay to babble loudly.
Trinity College Dublin tour – All outside so it’s easy to slip away when necessary.
Temple Bar – Great street music, plenty to see. Not a good walking area because it’s pretty busy.
Rock of Cashel
Not so good for toddler.
In this category goes anything where the tour is inescapable, in a tight space, too long to hold baby’s attention, or requires silence (usually all four).
Dublin Castle, Number Twenty-Nine House tour, Rick Steve’s guide O’Connell Street tour (too long), Book of Kells (crowded!), restaurants.