Everything You Need to Know About Planning a Trip to Italy with a Baby or Toddler
Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Tips for Planning, Packing and Traveling for an International trip with a baby or toddler
Italians love children and are very accommodating to them, making Italy an excellent location to visit with babies and toddlers. In Italy, the family is very important, and you will find Italian families taking their children most everywhere with them. Casual restaurants will be delighted to see you with your baby or toddler. The food is a toddler’s dream with gelato, pasta, and pizza available around every corner. Historic piazzas are a beautiful place for rambunctious toddlers to blow off some steam. Italy offers so much for the whole family to enjoy.
Before planning your trip to Italy with a baby or toddler, read through my essential tips on planning, packing, and travel advice below. Then, download your Free Travel Planner that walks you through a checklist by the month of how to plan your trip starting with when to buy your tickets to what to do to prep for the night before. Included is a Travel Gear Checklist and Checklists for your carry-on and checked bags by age: Baby & Toddler, Preschooler, School Aged Kid, Tween & Teens, and Adults. You will also find discounts codes and free offer for kid friendly tours and services in Italy such as baby gear rentals.
Apply for a Passport
A child under 16 who has never had a passport before cannot get one through the mail. Both parents must be present with the child at the time of application, which must occur at a passport agency or authorized passport acceptance facility like a post office. (If both parents cannot be present the non-applying party would have had to fill out a notarized statement of consent, Form DS-3053). Here is a checklist of what you will need:
- DS-11 passport application: Fill out the DS-11, which you can get from the U.S. Department of State site. The two sheets that make up the form must be printed single-sided for processing.
Baby’s birth certificate: Get the ORIGINAL birth certificate as proof of U.S. citizenship. Other acceptable forms that establish citizenship include a consular report of birth abroad, certificate of citizenship, or certificate of naturalization. If you adopted your child, you must bring an adoption decree. If the child only has one parent, he/she must show evidence of sole authority. (The original birth certificate gets mailed in with the application; check that it gets sent back to you via the mail.)
Parents’ IDs: Make a copy of both parents’ driver’s license, front and back. One-sided printing on 8 1/2 x 11" standard paper.
Color 2-by-2 photo: The child must have their eyes open with a white background. You can get a photo taken at places like a Costco Photo Center or Walgreens. Make sure no other person is seen in the photo. Do not attach your photo to the form before submitting it to the acceptance agent.
$80 application fee + $35 Execution Fee: These fees are paid separately. (Fees cost at the time this was published.) There is an extra fee if you need it expedited.
To find your nearest passport agency or local post office that accepts passport applications contact The National Passport Information Center at 1-877-487-2778. Both parents and the child must go to apply. Once there, they will staple the photo to the form and compare the photo to your child to ensure this is your child. You sign the DS-11 form in from of them and pay. Under normal circumstances, the passport should arrive within 4 to 6 weeks. However, I always recommend applying 4 to 6 months out, as soon as you are planning the trip. You don't want to run the risk of forgetting about it or something like a government shutdown.
When possible, book a direct flight
People sometimes ask me if it’s better to book multiple flights to get a “break” rather than one long flight. My answer is always a resounding “NO”! First, you will always minimize your overall travel time when flying direct. Flying direct lowers the possibility of delayed flights, missed flights and the hassle of getting off a plane, across an airport and onto another plane with all your luggage and kids in tow.
When flying direct is not possible, do what you can to at least get a connecting flight to anywhere in Europe instead of connecting in the United States. Once you are in Europe, if your connecting flight were to be canceled, you have many more options of getting to your final destination in Italy than you would if you were stuck in a snowstorm at New York's JFK airport.
Book flights leaving in the evening
Book a flight in the evening to increase the odds everyone will get some sleep. You can board the plane, eat, do a version of your nighttime routine, and sleep. Or, if your child is like mine who falls asleep during take-off, make sure they are feed before.
“A city is more than the tourist sights. Enjoy the atmosphere, people, food and see it up close.”
When planning your itinerary, minimize the amount of traveling you do by not going to a lot of different cities. A city is more than the tourist sights. Enjoy the atmosphere, people, food, and see it up close. Choose one or two “home bases” to explore from so you do not spend your time schlepping all your luggage and baby from one hotel to the other.
Let the hotel know you are traveling with a baby
Even if you do not need an extra bed for the child, be sure to let the hotel know how many people will be sleeping in a room. Hotels in Italy are strict about the occupancy rates due to fire laws. Don’t try to sneak a baby in, you don't want any surprises upon arrival or be refused a room.
If traveling to Rome, read this article to find Stylish family friendly hotels.
Get travel insurance that covers the whole family
Travel insurance is a good investment and can help you recover costs incurred due to an unexpected storm from closing the airport, an accident, or other unforeseen events that may disrupt your Italy vacation. Make sure it covers health-medical and emergency medical evacuation.
Check with the credit card you used to purchase the trip; it may cover you.
Consult with a pediatrician before traveling
Book an appointment with the pediatrician to confirm your child is well enough for travel. Ask your doctor to offer suggestions for keeping your baby healthy on the trip, including medications to pack such as use and dosage of melatonin for your child. (Melatonin is a natural hormone made by the body, often taken as a supplement to help aid sleep. Many people take this when traveling to a different time zone.)
Be wary of people who advise giving Benadryl to a child to sleep. First, it's not recommended for children under the age of 2. When my daughter was under two, I did travel with it though in case of an emergency allergic reaction.
Ask your doctor what they recommend. To help keep your child healthy while traveling, you can also ask your doctor about probiotics, vitamin C & D.
Book a private transfer or take a taxi to your hotel
Unless you plan on renting a car, the easiest way after your long flight to get to your family & luggage to your hotel is to book a private transfer or take a taxi.
A private transfer is the easiest option. If you are arriving in Rome or Milan, I recommend pre-booking with Welcome. It’s a flat fee, the same cost as taking a taxi. While booking, you have the option of requesting a car seat. Four days before your trip, Welcome sends you your drivers details (name, photo, and phone number). Upon arrival, your English speaking driver will greet you with your name on a sign inside the airport in the designated area. You’ll receive 24/7 customer support and a welcome bag with any pre-ordered essentials like an SMS card plus some freebies to help you get acquainted with the area. (You can edit or cancel transfers up to 6 hours before.) Click on the image below to learn more about this awesome service!
Wait until kids can carry their luggage for train travel
Unless it's for a day trip, I would not recommend train travel. There is no checking luggage on a train. You have to carry everything with you up and down the train steps on your own. Unless you are incredibly minimalist, it is just not practical with a baby or toddler.
If you are planning on doing travel throughout Italy or staying in the countryside, I recommend renting a car. Many rental companies will allow you to rent a car seat, but quality can be an issue. I recommend bringing your own. An international driver's license is required for driving in Italy. Go to my Instagram page, click on the FAQ highlight and click through to read more about International Driver’s licenses and how to get one.
Visit your airline's website for information on children & infant baggage guidelines
The airline we usually use allows complimentary checked strollers, car seats, and other baby & toddler items regardless if you bought a seat for your child. However, if you don't buy a seat for your child any OTHER baggage you bring for your baby or toddler will count as a part of the adult’s baggage allowance.
Bring a sturdy travel stroller
I've seen conflicting advice on this, but I always recommend a stroller. I have a friend whose husband wanted to pack light on an overseas trip and told her not to pack a stroller. They ended up buying one there.
I recommend the one we use, the Baby Jogger City Mini GT with durable wheels for the bumpy cobblestone streets. The Baby Jogger City Tour 2 is a good option for something a little smaller but does not have as durable wheels, so consider yourself warned. You'll want one that reclines for your baby or toddler to take naps.
Taking naps on the go is one of the best things about traveling with a baby or toddler that can sleep while in a stroller. You can continue your sightseeing, enjoy a relaxing lunch or Aperitivo while they take a nap. We would place a light swaddle blanket over the stroller during nap times to keep some of the light out and to let people know not to disturb her. Have I mentioned Italians love babies?
Another great advantage of a stroller is storing everything you want with you like diapers, wipes, water, snacks, purse, etc. under the seat. Instead of feeling bogged down with extra weight, it felt freeing to have the stroller carry everything for me.
Public changing tables are hard to come by in Italy and your stroller may be the only place you want to lay your child down for a diaper change. Bring a changing pad with you and find a discreet place to change diapers using your stroller. This is what many Italian moms do.
The stroller also worked wonders for us when our daughter was having trouble sleeping. We would place her in the stroller walk around the block or even back and forth in our hotel room, and she would fall asleep. It saved us many times from sleepless nights!
Make sure it is one that is collapsible. I also recommend using a travel bag to protect it during air travel. Use the stroller to help you get through the airport with baby & luggage. Gate check before boarding the flight.
Bring a Baby Carrier
As much as I love strollers, I also like the option of having a baby carrier like an Ergobaby carrier. When we traveled with our daughter as a baby through the airport, I would wear her in a baby carrier and push the stroller with the car seat sitting inside the stroller. It's also helpful to have on a quick outing when you don't plan on being gone long and don't want to take much with you.
Pending your sleeping situation, bring a travel crib
Unless your baby or toddler sleeps with you, you may want to consider bringing a travel crib. You can ask for cribs at some hotels, but I've heard stories of "cribs" actually turning out to be toddler beds. If it is important to you that your baby is sleeping in a crib that you know is safe and familiar to them than I recommend traveling with a lightweight easy to set up travel crib like the one we use, Baby Bjorn, or the Lotus Travel Crib, or Phil & Teds Traveler crib.
Before traveling to Italy, have your baby take a few naps in the crib. Get them accustom to it, so it's not new to them when traveling.
Now, if you plan on moving around a lot or doing any train travel, I would not take a travel crib. Even though it is light, it’s one more thing to carry in addition to your baby or toddler.
Travel with a car seat and buy a seat for your baby on the plane
This is going to be another controversial one but hear me out. If this triggers you, move on to the next bullet point, I don’t mind 😊. I know everyone loves the idea of being able to travel with a baby and not have to pay for a plane seat (including me), but experts in car seat safety and the FAA agree the safest way for a baby or toddler to travel is in a car seat on a plane. The most dangerous time for a flight is during take-off and landing. These are survivable crashes, but you will not be able to safely hold a baby in your lap if there was a crash on the ground while the plane is going 150+ miles during take-off, because… physics. We wouldn't do it in a car, so why on a plane? If you’re interested to learn more about this from the experts, I’ll refer you to the website csftl.org and look up the article, Leaving on a Jet Plane – The CSFTL Guide to Safe Air Travel with Children.
Also, a baby or toddler in a car seat is so much more comfortable for everyone. They don't need to be strapped in tightly the whole time. When it's safe to get up & walk around do so. Everyone, including yourself, will be much better rested having their own seat. Calculate how long the plane ride is and imagine having your baby or toddler in your lap the whole time.
We've received compliments from people sitting around us about how quite our baby was during the flights. I feel this has always been due to a little luck, being well prepared, and her sitting and sleeping comfortably in her own seat.
You do need to do a little research about what the rules are for your airline about car seat travel. Many of the flight attendants are unaware of their airline’s own rules. I always have the rules printed out directly from their airline's website to show them if they question you. You also need to measure to make sure the car seat fits the width size of the seats on your flight. We have traveled with and LOVE the small, lightweight Combi Compact Convertible Car Seat.
For a short video showing how I travel through an airport with a car seat, visit my Instagram page and click on the FAQ story highlights. Click through until you get to the video about traveling with a car seat.
Bring an inflatable bathtub
Most hotels in Italy are not going to have a bathtub. An inflatable bathtub does not take up much room while packing and will make bath time more manageable.
A travel potty for potty training toddlers is a must
The Potette Plus Portable Potty is one of my all-time favorite products. I don't use it for just traveling; it is always in the back of my car. It is light & fold-able, so when we were in the midst of potty training, I could keep it in my backpack. It has two functions. It can lay flat sitting on top of a toilet, making it more comfortable for your child to sit and giving a barrier between the child and the toilet seat. If you are at the park or somewhere where there is no toilet available you attach a plastic bag underneath, and it becomes a little training potty.
Consider a travel portable highchair
I have found many restaurants in Italy do not have high chairs or booster seats because a lot of Italians eat with younger children on their laps. When they did have one, they were old fashioned and not safe for a mobile toddler. I like to sit and relax as much as I can during eating, so bringing a highchair with me is entirely worth it on vacation.
Pack outfits in plastic bags
Pack outfits (tops, pants, socks, accessories) together in separate bags. Squeeze the air out while closing bag to save space and prevent wrinkles.
“If you do need to search for diapers in Italy, they are called "pannolini” (pannolino for singular). If you need to find a store to buy diapers, you could ask "Dove posso comprare pannolini? ”
Pack more diapers than you think you need for the flight
Be prepared for anything such as a sudden case of diarrhea or delays. Carry on one diaper for every hour of the flight plus possibly 3 to 6 more.
I have always packed enough diapers in my checked bag for the whole trip and flight back. Diapers can obviously be found there but if you are staying in city centers chances are they will be overpriced (we once paid the equivalent of $7 for floss). If you are particular to the brand you use, make sure you pack enough. The great thing about packing diapers is all the extra room you will have left for things you might buy when you come back home from Italy.
If you do need to search for diapers in Italy, they are called "pannolini” (pannolino for singular, pronounced similar to panini). If you need to find a store to buy diapers, you could ask "Dove posso comprare pannolini?”.
Carry on an extra set of clothes
This is always good advice in case your luggage gets lost but also in case of spit-up or another mess you may encounter while traveling with a baby or toddler.
Rushing through an airport feeling like you are going to miss your flight is extremely stressful. Adding babies or toddlers to the mix adds to the stress. Your child will sense your pressure and possibly become irritable too.
Check with the airport or airline on how early they recommend arriving for an international flight and don’t arrive any later than they suggest.
“set realistic expectations for what you expect from them. No one likes standing in long lines or waiting around to board an airplane. Even adults have a hard time managing their anger and being on their best behavior while traveling through airports. ”
Set realistic expectations
I teach two-year old’s so I know while traveling through the airport or on the plane you need to set realistic expectations for what you expect from them. No one likes standing in long lines or waiting around to board an airplane. Even adults have a hard time managing their anger and being on their best behavior while traveling through airports.
Be ready to try to make everything a game, for example, while weaving through the security check line, you could make it a scavenger hunt. Look for different colors of bags, shirts, or airplane signs. Be sneaky and pack a couple of mini figures in your pocket like trolls and go on a "troll hunt." When they are not looking put one on the ground or bag near you for them to find it.
If they start to get irritable instead of reprimanding them try acknowledging how they are feeling then distract them with something else. You could say, “Looks like you’re feeling frustrated, sometimes it’s hard to wait. Let’s try reading this book together”.
If you are out of toys, sometimes just picking them up to point something out to them can help. If your toddler is walking, their view of legs and shoes can get boring, being picked up gives them another point of view.
Carry-on food and snacks you know they will eat
On the plane is not the time to take a chance on expanding their culinary horizons. Keep everyone fed and in a good mood by bringing food you know your child likes.
You are allowed to bring on liquid and food for babies and toddlers. The TSA website says, "Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.”
I am usually not a fan of over disinfecting everything, I know our babies and toddlers need exposure to germs to help grow a healthy immune system, but most of my parenting norms go out the window when stepping onto an airplane. To help avoid getting sick, take the following precautions:
Wipe down your family’s armrest and tray table with safe sanitizing wipes such as Babyganics.
Use a tissue to open & close the bathroom doors
When you can't get to the bathroom to wash your hands, use a safe hand sanitizer like Babyganics.
Keep the air vents above your seat open & pointing away from you to improve ventilation.
Push back bedtime & sleep in later
If you are somewhere in the US, Italy’s timezone is 6 to 9 hours ahead of you. If your baby or toddler's bedtime is 7 pm don't push to put them down at 7. Take advantage of the time difference and plan on your baby or toddler staying up later and sleeping in later than your schedule at home.
For us, at home in the US, our daughter's bedtime is 7 pm. Our family in Italy thinks we are crazy; kids there stay up late! Many restaurants don’t even open for dinner until 7:30 pm, so plan accordingly.
All the hotels and apartments I’ve stayed in Italy have had had blackout curtains or heavy shutters that do a great job of blocking out the sun in the morning.
Don’t ask for a kids menu
Most restaurants in Italy do not have kids menus. This doesn’t mean they are not kid-friendly, especially the casual trattorias and osterie. Most restaurants will custom make items like pasta on request. When our daughter was going through a tomato faze, every restaurant we went to was happy to serve her a plate of freshly cut tomatoes drizzled with just a little olive oil.
I find babies who are eating solids and young toddlers are often the most open to eating almost anything, so take advantage of it and expose them to the delicious tastes found in Italy!
Stock up on essentials on Saturdays
Most shops are closed on Sundays. If you find your self needing to buy more formula, baby food, diapers you can find these in Pharmacies and supermarkets. Look for a green neon cross out front of the store for pharmacies. Milk can be found in supermarkets and bars with a “Latteria” sign.
If you heed my warning in the planning section about not trying to visit too many cities, it will be easier not to over-schedule your days. Leave time for exploring, gelato breaks, and play!
Your next step in planning your trip to Italy with a baby or toddler is downloading my Free Travel Planner! Included in the planner is:
Travel Planner Timeline
Suggested Travel Gear
Carry-on Checklist by Age
Packing Checklist by Age
Discount Codes for Tours, Rentals, Babysitters & More
Sign up to download the planner here:
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