Are you wondering how to travel with a baby? We underwent a two-month trip through Switzerland with our two sons. Mati was only 4-month-old when we left, while Darian was 3-year-and-a-half. Impossible you may think? Alright, it wasn’t easy everyday to adapt to this new situation, but all of us enjoyed this trip.
We share with you our experience traveling with a baby, as well as multiple tips for you to feel more confident the next time you are traveling with baby!
A long car ride with a baby
To carry on traveling during the pandemic, we decided to change a few things to our usual traveling style. This time, we thought it would be a great idea to stay in each place much longer than before. This is why we decided to sign up on Helpx, a popular website among travelers where you can find people to host you and feed you in exchange of a certain amount of work.
After our road trip in Spain and Portugal, and the other one in Italy, we continued our trend to visit neighboring countries with Switzerland. We found a family wiling to host us on Helpx and we drove in that direction.
We spent the first night in a mountain hut near Grenoble, it was a spontaneous decision and we clearly had not planned much but that’s the way we usually roll. The next morning we were quite tired though, and we found an AirBnb in the direction of Switzerland. We were well received by the hosts, who got along well with Darian. We rested, I could teach a couple of online lessons and we planned our next day.
Hiking and camping in the Jura mountains
Once again we wanted to hike. It was our first time in the Jura mountains, and due to my lack of knowledge I directly aimed for the highest summit in the whole range. Le Crêt de la Neige stands at just 1.720m above sea level, not much compared to our adventures in Taiwan around 4.000m but still enough to require some planning. On top of that, we decided to spend the night up there, in another mountain hut. We drove to Thoiry, a city just a few kilometers from the border with Switzerland, and bought two sleeping bags in the Decathlon shop.
The start of the hike was just 15 minutes away from the city. The parking lot “Le Tiocan” was full of cars, and offered a sumptuous panoramic view towards Geneva and the Lake Geneva. It was a nice spot to have our picnic, and we set off on the path once our bellies were full.
The hike was quite steep right off the bat, I was carrying Mati with the indispensable baby carrier, while Darian showed off his hiking skills! HiuYing and me also had to carry two rather heavy backpacks. Since we were going to camp, we had to carry a tent, three sleeping bags and enough food for everybody!
We had a pretty good rhythm and it took us just more than an hour to get to the mountain hut. All the stuffs were heavier than we had thought, and we decided to take a break at the hut, pondering whether we could get to the top or not.
The clouds slowly disappeared to give way to the sun, which gave us enough motivation to carry on. We changed our original plan and decided to hike instead to the top of the second highest mountain of the Jura, le Reculet, only 3 meters lower than the highest, le Crêt de la Neige.
After completing the hike successfully, we headed back down to the hut, where we spent the night and met a German traveler. I felt sorry for him, because Mati’s cry must have been tough to handle in the middle of the night! We went back down in the morning, and drove towards Courtelary, where Taina & Niklas were waiting for us. They were our HelpX hosts and we summarized our experiences in another article you can access right below!
Traveling around Switzerland and my first taste of its mountains!
It was time to say goodbye to the family that welcomed us for 10 days. We had a great time and especially appreciated Taina’s cooking. We were off to the city with two names : Biel in German and Bienne in French, officially a multilingual city. After an afternoon in the park, we met Yaser, our Iranian host. He had asked for asylum here about 10 years ago, and after a stay in a refugee camp, he was now living and working in Switzerland with his wife and two daughters.
Unfortunately for him, the Covid-19 and the numerous restrictions had made his employment’s situation quite complicated lately. After hitchhiking in Iran for almost 3 months, I knew quite well how hospitable Iranians were, and even being unemployed didn’t stop him from welcoming us. He and his family had just moved in to a new apartment and he still had a lease on the old apartment until the end of the month. Rather than letting the old apartment being uninhabited, he let travelers stay for free. That’s where we met a couple of young Russians, traveling in Europe and desperately looking for a way back home.
We spent a night here, and the next day we moved on to stay with another family, living between Biel/Bienne and the capital, Bern. I was attracted to their profile because they love board games, and of course they had two kids, aged 5 and 3. We stayed 3 nights with them and got the chance to play every night different board games together, soon after Darian and the kids were off to bed. It was in their home that we had the chance to try the famous Swiss Fondue for the first time. We also went for a day trip in Solothurn (or Soleure in French) as well as in a forest park with the 4 kids.
Mountains were calling me, Taina had recommended to visit the Interlaken area, and we were lucky enough to find a host in Wilderswil, right next to the mountains. We spent the first day visiting Lauterbrunnen and the surrounding valley. After being denied entrance to a waterfall due to our sons’ young age, we took a stroll around the lovely town and even climbed up a path to end up right under the Staubbach waterfall. After having a picnic, we took the car to go to Grindelwald. A bigger town, but once again with incredible views, notably of the northern face of the Eiger, an almost 4.000 m peak.
Next morning I set my alarm at 5.30am, I had a long program in front of me. At 6.30 I was parked at the Burglauenen train station, one of the few free parking lots of the whole area. I started my hike, and less than two hours later I was at Schynige Platte, another train station more than a 1.000 m higher. It was the starting point of a popular 6-hour hike, the Faulhornweg, to the Grindelwald-First cable car. The first train of the day had just arrived, I wasn’t the only one up there, but I quickly overtook all of them and continued to run while occasionally taking some pictures at some breathtaking spots.
After a break at the top of the Faulhorn and the Bachalpsee, I arrived at the First cable car about 2 hours and a half later. Yes, it was fast. I took my time up there, enjoyed the cliff walk and the fantastic view on the platform. pack it in an article
After the hike, I met HiuYing in Interlaken, a well-known tourist town located between two lakes. With the car, we circled the Lake of Brienz, and I stopped a few times to have a swim. We also stopped for an hour at the second lake, the lake of Thun. Many people were also enjoying the sun and the water. This time around Darian joined me inside the water to practice his swimming skills. Our final destination that day was Bern, the capital of Switzerland. We found a host through Trustroots, named Beat.
Off to two more volunteering experiences!
In the meantime I was also in contact to find a place to volunteer again. Traveling was nice, but we weren’t in the mood to move every other day with two kids. We wanted more stability, and once again we reverted to Helpx. This time we found a host in the French-speaking part of the Valais, the Southern region of Switzerland. We crossed the whole country to Nax, a mountain town near Sion. On the way, we stopped by the multi-lingual city of Fribourg, as well as Montreux. No music that day, but a pretty nice walk along the lake.
If you’re interested to know more about the concept of volunteering abroad, we wrote an article on how to volunteer differently in your travels.
Once again, we talked at length about our stay in Nax in a specific article about our volunteering experience in Switzerland.
After this great week in Nax, where I had the chance to hike the Barrhorn mountain at 3.610m, we were on the move again. We drove towards our next volunteering place, while sleeping in Zugg and Zurich on the way thanks to 2 hosts we found on Couchsurfing. We also managed to stop by Luzern and St-Gallen during the day for sightseeing purpose!
We started our week-long stay with a family. After this week, we headed South, once again towards the mountains. We spent a couple of days in Chur, where we stayed with Ladina and her 3 “wild” kids as she describes them. Another place in Switzerland that looked amazing, surrounded by mountains. Following the suggestion of our host, we spent a relaxing day in Lenzerheide’s public pool, a famous fancy ski resort, with sublime views. For dinner, HiuYing once again had an apprentice, this time it was Ladina’s older son, who wish to become a cook and was quite enthusiast to learn about Chinese cooking.
Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland
After a morning spent in a playground with Darian, we drove towards Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. We were up to an adventurous stay, because we were hosted in a small summer house without electricity and roads. It was during the weekend, so thankfully I had no lessons to give. It was a great opportunity to disconnect and to enjoy an amazing view over the Lago Maggiore. Despite the tiring 40-minute-walk to the house with our luggage and 2 kids, I was ecstatic to spend time there.
During our first day there, I offered HiuYing a well-deserved break by carrying Mati and accompanying Darian for a hike all the way to… Italy ! I slightly underestimated the hike, and it took me about 5 hours to go and come back to the hut.
I wasn’t done though, and when our host mentioned the existence of the a “sunrise peak” nearby, I seized the opportunity the next morning at dawn to put my alarm and drive to the starting point of the hike. I ran all the way to the summit of Monte Tamaro at 1.962 meters. I was there a bit before 7am, right on time to enjoy the magnificent sunrise. Not everything was perfect, since I forgot the lens cap of my camera up there!
I combined the hike with the summit of the nearby Monte Gambaragno and went back to have breakfast. We headed for a stop at the beach, where we had a picnic, and we met a … Cantonese-speaking mom! Quite a rare sight on this side of the world, and it led to a short conversation before joining our host to visit a nearby valley. The visit included a waterfall, a roman bridge, a couple of ancient Swiss villages and the Contra dam, a place famous for being a popular bungee jumping spot.
The next morning we were off to visit Locarno, where we met with our next host, Andrea. She was living in Visp, in the Valais region, and since she was visiting the nearby Lugano that weekend, we offered to give her a ride back to Visp, all together. We took the shortest route, which crossed Italy. We even made a short stop in a supermarket, remembering how everything is cheaper than Switzerland, so we bought a lot of pasta, Parmigiano cheese and other specialties we had come to enjoy during our one-month trip in Italy right before the start of the pandemic.
Visiting Zermatt, and a lot of hiking!
Quickly after arriving in Visp, Andrea discussed the possibility for us to stay longer than the 2 days we had originally requested. She was going on a trip to Rimini in Italy and offered to let us stay in her apartment in the meantime. A way for her to pay it forward, and we gladly accepted. We were supposed to go back to France a few days after Visp, but we couldn’t turn down that opportunity.
We woke up early the next morning to have a full day in Zermatt and see the most photographed mountain in the world, the Matterhorn. I drove the family to Täsch, the last village before the car-free Zermatt. As always we tried to save some money, so I found a cheaper parking than the official one, then let HiuYing, Mati and Darian took the train and the cable car to Sunnegga. In the meantime, I did what I do best and ran to Sunnegga. It took me about an hour and half from Täsch, a great time for a 10-kilometer hike.
We enjoyed an amazing weather that day, and we spent the rest of the day together doing the insanely popular 5 lakes hike for some memorable landscapes! We probably ate at the nicest picnic spot we’ve ever seen. After another stop in a playground, HiuYing & kids took the cable car down, where I left them and ran as fast as possible down to Zermatt. I was pretty proud to arrive before them, although I was totally sweating. That would make a great Youtube video I thought. Anyways I had not much energy left so we took the train all together back to Täsch. I even had a French lesson after getting back to Visp. A good full day.
The next morning we just didn’t do much and rested our legs. We spent the remaining of our stay hiking nearby mountains, ending up staying in Visp for almost 2 weeks. We continued our road to Martigny, rather close to the border with France. We found our host through TrustRoots, and had the chance to stay with a couple and its 6 daughters! Quite a lot of respect I had for these parents. Before returning to France, we did another quick stop to our former host’s home in Nax, and then that was it. We had the chance to see the highest mountain in Western Europe, the Mont Blanc before safely returning “home”.