The first trip with a baby can be completely overwhelming whether it’s a few hours’ drive to visit family or a flight across the country. Below are some of the biggest things I’ve learned from traveling with a baby, regardless of where we’re going or how we’re getting there. While my personal experience to date has been traveling with kids from a few weeks old to 5 years old, this could really apply when traveling with children of all ages.
1. Research Before Traveling
This is one of the reasons I started a blog- because I love reading other blogs and want to help others with the information I have. While I have a tendency to over-research because a.) I’m obsessive about all things travel and b.) Having information helps me feel in control of any situation, I still think it’s the best way to prepare for something that can feel a little terrifying before you do it.
Aside from reading blogs posts online, I usually consult TripAdvisor for reviews and search specific to kids, leverage Facebook groups and go directly to a company’s website to understand their policies for infants, whether it’s an airline, cruise line, or hotel. I also think that nothing beats talking to family or friends you trust to get a review or advice.
2. Be flexible when traveling with a baby
To me, flexibility is more about the parents being flexible than expecting the baby to be. (Although let’s be real, having a baby who’s flexible enough to adapt to new situations is something many parents hope for!) You can do all the research in the world, but there are some things you just can’t prepare for, whether it’s a delayed flight, a sick baby or terrible weather. I always think babies can sense when you’re stressed or upset or angry, and a tough situation can be made even tougher if your reactions start to stress them out. If we ever have to deal with an issue while traveling, I try to divide and conquer if possible, so one person can focus on keeping the baby happy and someone else can make that phone call to the travel agent or deal with an issue at the airline desk.
Flexibility also means recognizing that what worked one trip may not work the next. You know from being with your baby day in and day out that they are constantly evolving and changing, so one day they may fall asleep in the stroller, and then all the sudden the next time you take them somewhere they might not sleep anywhere but a crib. As they continue to learn and grow, us parents need to as well.
3. Try to stay close to your baby’s schedule
There’s nothing more stressful than a baby screaming uncontrollably when you’re out sightseeing because you’ve tried to do too much and they’re either hungry, tired, or overstimulated. The key word here is “try” since it may not always be feasible, but ideally you want to stick close to their nap time and feeding schedule to make sure their basic needs are met.
Even if your baby is perfectly fine taking a few naps in the go in his/her stroller or car seat, it’s always good to head back to their room or somewhere familiar to rest at some point during the day. (Whether that’s to take a nap or just have a quiet break away from the excitement of the activities for the day.) This totally goes against my nature of always wanting to be moving, but fortunately being married to someone who enjoys his rest has prepared me for this over time.
4. Bring reinforcements
Traveling with a little one can be as exhausting as it is rewarding, and sometimes parents just need a break from the baby carrying, stroller pushing and dinner-time entertaining. We’re fortunate enough to have a huge immediate family and no shortage of grandparents, aunts and uncles who want to spend time with our kids. We also love sharing the memories with family, whether on a Disney Cruise, Disney World or elsewhere.
If that’s not an option for you and you want a night out while you’re away, consider finding a local trusted babysitter. You can do this through the hotel/rental you’re staying at or via local services like Care.com. And if that’s out of your comfort zone or budget, just enjoy the early nights and don’t push yourselves too much during the day.
5. Accept when you start traveling with with a baby that it’s no longer about you
When you’re traveling with a baby, you may not be able to do everything you would have pre-baby. Whether it’s going to that late late show, laying out in the sun all day or sky diving over the ocean. (Okay, maybe that sky diving part is just me!) I think it’s important to prioritize which trips may be best suited for your baby at that point in time. For example, it can much easier to do certain things with an infant who isn’t moving yet than an older, mobile baby.
That said, traveling with a baby or toddler doesn’t meant the entire trip needs to be about them. We’ve had plenty of trips where we didn’t do a single kid focused thing and our kids were totally content. (Like going to Phoenix with a baby for a college bowl game, or driving through Northern Ireland with a toddler!)
And while we’re primarily focused on traveling with kids, I’m also a huge proponent of taking kid-free trips periodically. It’s important to time for yourself, your friends and your partner. (And also do the things you may not be able to with a little one!)
These tips have worked for us, but every family and every baby is different. Ultimately, do what’s best for your family! Also know that, like many things, it really does get easier every time. And all that hard work planning and preparing is totally worth seeing their happy and excited little faces when they experience something new with you for the first time.
Have you traveled with littles yet? We’d love to hear your best tips for traveling with a baby or any questions you might have in the comments!