My husband and I have always loved to travel, whether that means a weekend road trip, flying to a more distant destination, or a Sunday drive to find adventure in our local area. That did not change when we had a baby (or two, three or four kids!). Here are some things we’ve learned along the way:
Set your expectations. Traveling with a baby, toddler, or child is different than when you could decide at the last minute, throw some clothes in a bag, and go, but it can still be fun! You’ll need to plan ahead about where you are going and where you will stay when you arrive. Gone are the days of crashing with a former college roommate, but by staying in a hotel, you’ll get to have some peace and quiet, a comfortable bed, and hopefully, someone serving you breakfast in the morning!
Start small. Instead of flying out of the country for baby’s first trip, try a weekend trip to Grandpa and Grandma’s instead. After that, you’ll have a better idea of how things go and then you can plan a longer trip.
Make a packing list. You’ll want to make sure you have enough diapers and wipes, extra clothes, and anything else you need for your baby. Allow for delays by packing a breast pump, extra formula, bottles, and baby food if necessary. You’ll want to have an extra outfit for yourself as well, either in the diaper bag or in a carry-on bag if you are flying. The worst blow-out diapers or baby spit-up tend to happen when we aren’t prepared!
Always plan for extra time. If Google Maps says it takes 5 hours to get there, plan for at least 3 “potty/feeding/playtime” breaks and time to get out of the car and move. That 5-hour trip will probably take 6 ½-7 hours by the time you arrive, but everyone will arrive in better spirits than if you tried to drive straight through to save time. Those road trips are a great time to introduce your baby or toddler to the music you love! Bring snacks for all!
Stick to a routine but be flexible. If you have a bedtime routine of bath, book, breastfeeding, or something similar, keeping that routine will help your baby sleep better in an unfamiliar place. For the rest of the day, instead of feeling like you have to be at the hotel for nap times, consider a baby carrier or a stroller that your baby can nap in while you are out and about. Another thought about being flexible—you can still eat out at a nice restaurant but may need to eat a little earlier than you used to.
Travel with babies and kids will never be quite the same experience you had when traveling alone or with friends, but the laughter and memories you make are priceless! There’s something special about discovering who you are as a family and what you enjoy doing together. Sometimes the mishaps that happen when traveling become the best memories!
~Becky Franzen, MA, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant