It’s a common myth that traveling with babies is impossible. In fact, this falsehood is one of the main reasons my wife and I waited nine years before finally starting a family. We were afraid kids would end our travel lifestyle. However, at 10 months old, our son Deacon has already visited Florida, New York City, the North Carolina Coast, and Phoenix. He’s flown across the country and accompanied us on day-long road trips, all with no problem. How? We utilized these 10 tips for traveling with baby.
1. Honor sleep schedules when traveling with baby.
A well-rested baby is a happy baby. Maintain your baby's napping and bedtime schedules, starting with the journey itself. This doesn’t mean driving all night when the baby is sleeping, because then mom and dad will not be happy. Instead, my wife and I drive during the day without throwing off our baby's schedule. When he should be awake, we make sure he has plenty of toys to play with. When he should be napping, we take those toys away and put on soothing music or turn the radio off altogether until he falls asleep.
2. Pack multiple toys to dole out slowly.
In the previous tip, I mentioned keeping the baby occupied with travel toys. Be sure to pack multiple handheld toys, including a few new ones. We only give Deacon a single toy at a time, switching it out on a regular basis when he starts to get bored or fussy.
3. Book a one-bedroom suite or condo.
Our first two nights in New York City were a disaster. We booked a typical, small NYC hotel room. At night, we tried to go about our business, praying that Deacon would fall asleep while we stayed up reading or watching TV. Instead, he cried so loud that we were convinced the hotel would boot us out the next morning. Thus, when he slept, we slept, even if that meant going to bed at 8 pm.
After two nights, we switched to a suite in a different hotel. Having a separate room for the baby helped him to fall asleep as easily as he would at home. Meanwhile my wife and I stayed up with a bottle of wine and a movie. Now, whenever we travel, we look for affordable suites or condos to rent where the baby and his parents have more room and can get a better night's sleep.
4. Take it slow.
Traveling with a young child is very different from traveling pre-parenthood. Sure, you can bring a baby almost anywhere, but you need to slow down to a baby's pace. When traveling with baby, you need to account for feedings, diaper changes, temper tantrums, naps and more. I suggest you visit less attractions, rather than go-go-going from one site to the next. You might find you actually enjoy slow travel more.
5. Enjoy the early bird special.
Many new parents are frightened to eat out when traveling with baby for fear of disturbing other diners. So they stay in, surviving on a rotation of take-out Chinese and pizza. If they do venture out, it’s to someplace kid-friendly but cheesy. That’s no way to enjoy the culinary scene of a new city. My wife and I still enjoy dinners at nice restaurants with our son. We just aim for an earlier dinnertime so that we can be finished before the sleep monster arrives.
6. Squeeze in naps wherever you can.
We are blessed that our son can fall asleep almost anywhere. So on our trip to New York, we figured he could take both his morning and afternoon naps in his stroller while we explored the city. WRONG! He may have caught a quarter of his typical napping time, which resulted in misery that first night in the hotel room. He was overtired. On our beach vacation, we made a commitment to make sure one nap a day was in our rental unit and we had no outbursts like we did in NYC.
Other babies may refuse to nap in their hotel room cribs. If that's the case for your child, you may want to plan long drives to coincide with nap time. Some do better napping in an infant carrier, like a sling or an ERGOBaby. Or, maybe your child actually digs stroller naps. If that's the case, purchase a stroller shade or infant carrier canopy to make the ride more peaceful for your little one.
7. Don’t be afraid to be a Papa Bear.
We learned so much from that first experience in NYC. One of the worst and most frightening incidents took place on the subway. A passenger tried to cram in behind us on an already overcrowded train and started pushing me into the stroller to the point where I worried the stroller would collapse. I explained that I couldn’t move any further because I had a baby in a stroller. He became belligerent and kept pushing me, stating that he didn’t care. I turned to face him and commanded him to stop, which totally goes against my generally passive attitude. My actions caused other passengers to confront him as well and calm him down. Later, my wife thanked me for being a Papa Bear. (Of course, you need to gauge each situation and act accordingly for the safety of your family.)
While this is an extreme example, the same principals will apply to strangers wanting to touch and hold your baby. Stand firm as a Papa Bear (or Mama Bear!) if you don’t want them touching your baby. I had to protect my baby from the outstretched arms of the intoxicated lady in the pool during our beach vacation.
8. Rent a crib for traveling with baby.
Yes, that Pack ‘n Play is foldable and portable, but it takes up a crazy amount of space and can lead to baggage fees when flying. Instead, I recommend leaving it at home. Most hotels have cribs available free of charge or at affordable rates. The same applies to property management services like VRBO and Airbnb. Be sure to inquire about a crib ahead of time. If a crib isn’t available, baby gear rental services exist in many cities. Most babies will sleep more soundly in a full-sized crib, too.
9. Ship diapers to your destination.
Like the Pack ‘n Play, diapers take up A LOT of space. We pack what we need for the journey (plus a day or two) and ship the rest for free to our destination via Amazon Prime. This is so much more convenient than taking precious vacation time to shop for diapers at the vacation destination, too.
10. Use a packing list.
A packing list is essential when traveling with baby. With so many things to remember and pack, a handy checklist makes the process so much easier and less stressful. Check out the Travel Mamas Packing List for Babies and Toddlers and Airplane Kit for Babies and Toddlers before leaving home.
For more tips on traveling with baby, check out The Travel Mamas' Guide, a fun and informative book on how to vacation with babies and children…and stay sane!
Do you have any questions or additional tips for traveling with baby? Let us know in the comments below!
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