Have Baby, Will Travel - tips for traveling with your tiny tot.
Feature Fact Friday!
My family and I recently returned from an amazing trip to Alaska. We saw caribou, moose and bears...oh my! Our children are 9 and 10 years old, so it is definitely much easier to travel now - no diapers, fewer clothes, and none of those many baby accessories like car seats, strollers, and detachable high chairs. We don't have to worry about constantly being on a schedule, figuring out what baby is having for lunch, or if baby missed their afternoon nap. Yes, we are most certainly living the good life. But...it wasn't always this way.
My husband and I have always been avid travelers and we were adamant that we would continue traveling the world even after we had children. The amount traveling did not change, however, the way in which we traveled absolutely did. We found that if the baby was content during the voyage, we were ensured a more pleasurable vacation (as were the other vacationers in our vicinity).
In honor of the summer solstice, the Our First Year team has put together some tips for traveling with your baby.
Packing: First of all, make a list a few weeks before. It is amazing how many things you need that you don't think of instantly. Be sure to pack extra clothing, diapers, and medication in the carry on. Last summer, our luggage was lost for the entire trip - thank goodness I packed extra clothing for myself and the kids; unfortunately, my husband packed his own things and the extra clothing and medication did not make it into the backpack. Have baby wear an old onesie during travel. That way, if there is a huge explosion (from either end), you can easily throw it away, rather than letting the soiled garment fester in your bag - yuck. Have some new toys on hand for baby to play with on the airplane or in the car. You could always bring the Our First Year backpack, as the toys are easily portable and aren't too loud and annoying for the other passengers. Pack baby's clothing and diapers in at least two different suitcases. That way, if one suitcase is lost, you might have the other one :-) Be sure to pack both a stroller and a baby carrier. The stroller is convenient for trails and regular streets, but the baby carrier is great for bus rides and trains, where the aisles can be quite tight.
Travel: Whether you are driving, flying, or traveling by train, make sure that your baby is not over tired. Sometimes, parents will hold out on that nap or wake them up too early. There is nothing worse that an over-tired baby on vacation. As we all know, it is more difficult to put a baby to sleep once they get their "second wind." Engage with your baby on the flight or in the car. Talk to them, use the toys and play with them. Or, wrap the toys and have baby open them. Babies love crinkly paper! Bring a variety of snacks - some favorites and maybe some new ones to spark their interest. Have a bottle ready or be ready to nurse, especially during take offs and landings of the airplane. Baby's ears will hurt and the swallowing reflex will open up the ear canal and relieve some or most of the discomfort. If your baby is crying during a flight and it is safe to get out of your seat, feel free to walk around and sing to the baby. Trust me, all of the fellow passengers will be very thankful. Depending on which airline you are flying with, some will offer the front row and you will have some extra room for baby and the toys and accessories.
Accommodations: I highly recommend Airbnb for both short and long stays, but you need to do your homework. Look at the reviews, at least 30 excellent reviews. With Airbnb, you can customize your stay (e.g. room in a house, entire house, apartment, loft, etc.). These are private residences, and most of the time they contain a kitchen, bath tub and a washer/dryer (sorry, no dryer if you are in Europe though - worked on those line drying skills last summer too). There are other home rental companies, but I am most familiar with Airbnb. The management is also very accommodating and extremely easy to contact about various questions, getting in touch with the owner, refunds (for missed flights, etc.). Please note, that once your stay is finished, you will rate the place and the owner will also rate you (so, try to keep it tidy and don't break anything).
Excursions: It's probably best to try and stay on schedule when traveling with your baby. Don't plan any huge outings during nap time and try to eat around the same time each day. This is hard, especially when there is a time difference. Always have snacks and drinks in the diaper bag. I would also suggest using a backpack, as this permits you to have both hands free and you can usually pack more in a backpack and it is more comfortable on your shoulders. If your baby falls asleep easily in the stroller, that would be a good time to explore some museums or cathedrals. Save the outdoor exploring for when baby is wide awake.
Remember, traveling can be a bit stressful, especially with baby in tow. Lower your expectations a bit - you don't have to do everything that is on your itinerary, just enjoy the experience - after all, you are on vacation. Bringing your baby to a new destination will be a party for the senses. Baby will see novel sights - the snow-capped mountains of Denali, hear unique sounds - the trills of a macaw in Rio, taste new foods - a chocolate croissant in Paris, smell different aromas - the fish at Pike Place Market in Seattle, and touch different textures - the sand in between their toes in the Outer Banks.
Before you finalize the plans for your next vacation, be sure to purchase your Our First Year backpack and enjoy playtime wherever you go. Don't worry about baby and jet lag...it's all in the bag!