Written by Kate @heykiddo.quiltco
In 2011 my (now) husband and I set out on our first backpacking trip. We had no cares in the world, a backpack full of clothes and a decent chunk of change we had managed to squirrel away in the year following University where we bridged student life and the real-world by living with my (now) in-laws. In 63 days we managed to set foot in 14 countries, ate, drank and blew a combined 10 grand while only planning 1-2 days ahead of ourselves and totally winging it - those were the days. Fast forward a couple of years and though we had jobs and a house we had again set aside some funds to take another shorter and slightly less frivolous trek, this time to south east Asia. Honeymooning in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand might not be everyone's cup of tea but by 2015 we were both hungry to relive the freedom and excitement backpacking had afforded us. Again we totally wung it, even arriving in Hong Kong without the proper Vietnam Visa in place and having to sort that all out in the span of a 2 hour layover. Needless to say by the time we welcomed our daughter in 2018 we knew travel was going to be a priority for our family, we were going to take advantage of ‘babies fly free’ but we were going to have to do a little more planning and a little less ‘winging it’ with a baby on board. Kind of.
May 2019 with a 10 month old in tow we booked a flight to Greece, we would leave 5 days later. Our trip would last 3 weeks and we would split our time evenly between mainland Greece and the Islands of Naxos, Santorini and Crete.
By 10.5 months most babies have some semblance of a schedule, and even if they don’t most moms know that the key to good night sleep is good day sleep. Having learned these lessons about our daughter we opted for the latest flight we could get on our way to Greece hoping that with the use of the airline bassinet that sleep might occur (it did). Having survived 4 previous but much shorter flights (to Florida and Cuba) we had employed some tricks like bringings lots of toys and snacks and nursing during drastic changes in elevation.
The first big change from our previous travels was deciding on a car rental vs local transportation. This meant we could cover land while Charlie napped which was a huge bonus. We used the same rental car company for each of the 3 rentals and selected a well known international brand knowing they would be the most likely to have contracts with reputable car seat manufacturers. We were able to get a convertible car seat with a 5 point harness, most certified installers will tell you not to rent car seats but having also watched helmetless families of 5 navigate the streets of Vietnam on a Vespa we knew that somewhere out there was a happy medium and for us this was it. If it was a travel day we drove while Charlie napped, stopping whenever / wherever she woke up for lunch and an adventure (she was on 2 naps at this point). Once we got to the islands we relied on walking and our handy umbrella stroller (we chose the Summer Infant ONE for its giant sunshade and the ability to lay flat) at 11.5lbs the stroller was light and totally manageable to navigate the narrow alleyways and tons of steps. Babywearing was also a life saver on this trip. For shorter outings, in the rare occurrence we needed a taxi, and on the flights Charlie spent a solid amount of time in a carrier. We opted for my beloved True North ring sling (a Canadian company worth checking out) and our more rugged Ergo Baby 360 for longer adventures.
The trendy and sometimes terrifying hostels of our previous travels we’re not going to work for this trip so we opted for a mix of Airbnb’s and hotels. The bonus to Airbnb was that we could have the baby sleep in a separate room so we could still hang out in the main living space after she had gone to bed. When it came to hotels our best decision was to focus on ones with balconies or ground floor walkouts. Our best find was the Ippokampos Hotel on Naxos Island which had a beautiful terrace just metres from the beach where we could enjoy a cocktail or a swim while Charlie slept within the range of the baby monitor. Being able to sit up and enjoy the evening on the terrace gave us some time to hang out sans baby and enjoy ourselves.
Greece is so family friendly and the people loved to gush over Charlie and interact with her. Many of the town squares on the mainland had play spaces surrounded by cafes where parents could hang out while their children played. No matter where we went in Greece there were no shortage of busy playgrounds completely baby and toddler friendly. The beaches on Naxos and Crete were perfect for little ones with soft sand and calm waters. The beaches on Santorini were rocky in a way that screamed choking hazard and the waters weren’t calm during our stay, overall Santorini was the least family friendly stop on the trip.
Greek food was perfect for our emerging foodie who had been enjoying the ‘infant led solids’ approach to eating which is basically baby led weaning with the realization that its sometimes more feasible to puree and/or spoon feed your baby at times (like on an airplane or when you’re not equipped with a pressure washer and laundry facilities). Gyros, a huge variety of fresh fruit and veggies and traditional dishes like Moussaka (basically an eggplant lasagna meets the potato topping of a shepherds pie) meant there were no shortage of healthy, DELICIOUS and baby friendly meals and snacks for all of us.
Backpacking is an incredible way to see the world and the lesson of ‘ less is more’ that backpacking forces you to accept stretches way beyond stuffing life's basic necessities into a bag. It’s a mode of travel that we love and I can only hope a sense of adventure and a curiosity for the unfamiliar is something we can pass on to our daughter.