Back in the summer months, we went on our first vacation as a family of three. It was really wonderful, actually. Our son was nearly 5 months old, we rented a house in the Hamptons, felt prepared with baby rentals and plans, and then upon arrival, everything was pretty perfect. We spent time at the beach, strolled around town, hung out at the park, ate at our favorite spots, and had an overall relaxing and enjoyable trip, even with a baby in tow. Fast forward a little (and now with a busy baby)… WOW, what a difference a few months can make.
We just returned on Monday from a trip to Massachusetts for a family celebration and I have to admit that although fun to see everyone and be together, it was so much more challenging than I could have imagined. I’ll spare you the details (of which I’m trying hard to forget anyway) but it was something I won’t sign up for again any time soon. Our sweet son was a great traveler and the plane rides were manageable, but if there’s anything I took away from this trip, it was how to be prepared and what to do/not do when it comes to traveling with a very mobile 8-month-old baby.
So today, instead of sharing my delicious shaved Brussels sprouts recipe (coming next week though, I promise!) I thought I’d share my lessons learned and a few tips for travel since it’s so fresh in my mind — even with this much-needed second glass of rosé in hand.
- 1.) First and foremost, make a list. I am a major list maker and I swear by them, especially when it comes to packing. I usually start making my lists a week or two in advance. And now that I’m packing for more than just myself, I have to be very thorough and thoughtful, making sure I include everything we’ll need. (Tip! I use the Evernote app on my phone for making lists. It’s so easy to use and I love the sharing option, so I can share lists with my husband and he can edit them as needed.)
2.) Don’t overpack. Seems simple but it’s so much easier said than done (especially in my case). I have a tendency to pack for every possible scenario, weather pattern and activity — and it’s totally overkill. I’ve learned to edit myself by creating effective lists and packing multi-functional pieces. This is especially true for kiddos! (Tip! Instead of packing special sheets for a pack-n-play, just use a crib sheet or stroller blankets. You’ll make it work and be glad you didn’t pack extra bedding that you just didn’t need.)
3.) Use a backpack. For this last trip, I borrowed a friend’s diaper bag backpack and it was a freakin’ lifesaver. When you’re traveling, it’s really all about ease and comfort. And with kids, you need free hands! Security lines are long and annoying, you’ll need to grab suitcases, push the stroller, carry your boarding pass, etc. Having your hands free to do those types of things makes traveling through an airport much easier. Best invention ever for traveling parents!
4.) Baby rentals, baby rentals, baby rentals. I can’t say enough about baby rental services. For our trip to Long Island and again for this Boston trip, I placed an order for baby rentals and it made all the difference. From cribs, pack-n-plays, booster seats and bathtubs to rockers, jumperoos, swings and even strollers, you can rent just about anything for your baby when you travel. Do your research ahead of time and place an order in advance. Everything will be delivered, set up and ready to go when you arrive — and when you have a cranky baby with you, having a comfy crib at your disposal right off the bat is priceless. Your baby is used to his or her home environment (and so are you!) so make things easier on everyone and try to recreate this familiar space. (Tip! If you’re heading to the Hamptons, I can’t say enough good things about Hamptons Baby Gear. They were by far the most professional service we’ve used to date. I’ve also heard good things about Baby’s Away, though I haven’t used them yet.)
5.) Scope out the area where you are staying before you arrive. We live in the era of modern conveniences, and with that comes technology — which is so amazing for planning in advance! Traveling with extra baby food, diapers, wipes, etc., can really bulk up your luggage and take up a lot of unnecessary room. Take a little time before your trip to locate the nearest grocery and drugstore so when you are in need of anything on the go, you’ve got the addresses handy and can run to get what you need easily. Yes you can Google as you go, but it will save you some time — something you have very little of when you travel with little ones!
6.) Lean on others, including your partner. Asking for help isn’t something that comes naturally to me, so when my husband and I booked separate flights to Boston due to work schedules, I was very anxious at the mere thought of traveling with my son solo. Thankfully, my family was on the same flight and I was able to lean on them and ask for help. And I’ve come to realize (and sincerely appreciate) the help that others want to and can provide. Having an extra set of hands is huge when you have a busy baby, so don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need! I’ve also found that the kindest of strangers are happy to help as well. So if you feel comfortable and you need it, accept their willingness to help.
7.) Avoid sleeping in the same room if you can help it. This is the biggest piece of advice I can give, especially after our latest travel experience. Our son has spent every night in his crib in his room since the day he came home from the hospital. I know that everyone has their own beliefs about what is best, but for us, that has worked wonders both for our sanity and his sleep routine. In the Hamptons, we were lucky to have separate rooms. However in Boston, it didn’t work out so well. We ended up sharing a room which created distractions for the baby and restless nights for all of us. And while we all survived, it was most certainly not ideal. (Tip! No matter your sleeping arrangement while traveling, it’s helpful to bring something that reminds your baby of home, like a lovie or favorite blanket. This will help them feel more comfortable and “hopefully” sleep soundly.)
8.) Make the space baby friendly early on. Whether you are at a hotel, renting a house or staying with friends or family, creating a baby-friendly space will save you so much headache throughout the trip. When you have a mobile baby, try to think of what the baby will see at his or her eye level. Use couch cushions, towels or pillows to block certain areas or pad potentially dangerous corners. Lookout for small objects that the baby could easily pick up and eat or chew on, as they could pose choking hazards. And dedicate a fun space for your kids to play! Spread out toys and books in a comfy, cozy spot where you and they will feel comfortable and safe. We did this immediately upon our arrival to Boston and it was so helpful, especially since we were in an unfamiliar location. Our baby could crawl around comfortably and I felt at ease knowing that he was safe to roam around. (Tip! I brought another bag with us that was entirely dedicated to toys and snacks on the plane. It was perfect for entertaining our little guy on a 4-hour flight. And then when we arrived, those toys were dumped in his play area!)
Bottom line — traveling is already a headache… add a baby in the mix and holy cow, it’s a migraine! But as with everything (especially as a new mom), I’m learning the dos and don’ts when it comes to parenting my son and that includes trial and error while traveling. I hope these provide a little help and insight into my travel experiences as of late, and if you have any tips of your own to share, I’d love to hear!