"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position where almost nothing seems familiar.
If I were to tell you that traveling long distances with a baby is a breeze, I’d be lying. Is it worth it though? If you value seeing the world as much as I do, absolutely!
Our daughter Valentina is 11 months old, and she just got back from a 16 day trip exploring Italy with my husband and I. She’s now been on 7 flights all together in her short lifetime. Our first trip was with my hubby's family when she was 7 months old to Punta Cana. At that age, she wasn’t quite crawling yet and was a lot less mobile so I’d say that trip was much easier. Our most recent trip to Italy was an international flight with two layovers to get to our first destination. At this age, they’re moving around a lot more and are very curious. That alone plus the fact that travel time was much longer (the flight home was 9 hours - 15 hours total travel time with layovers) made things a bit trickier! However, it was worth the trek. We visited 11 cities in 16 days, what an adventure! You know when people say they need a vacation after their vacation? I get that now! Here are a few tips that may help you and your family if you plan on traveling with a baby.
1. Take the red eye flight: If you have the option, fly at night. Especially if you’re traveling a long way. There’s a much better chance your baby will sleep through the flight or for a good portion of it anyway.
2. Request the bassinet: Most airlines require that your baby is under 25-30lbs and is unable to sit up on their own. You can call ahead and request the bassinet, however it’s usually still a first come first serve basis so arrive at the airport nice and early! You may have to pay extra for your seat or your partners seat as the bassinet clips on in the first row where there is more leg room. In my case, the seat upgrade was free with the baby. Every airline and country is different though. If the bassinet isn’t an option for you, you can ask the airline staff if their is a row of seats open or an extra seat available so baby can have some room to move around a bit. I had requested the bassinet so my hubby and I got to sit in the first row coming back from Italy on our 9 hour flight (thank goodness). However, when it came time to bring the bassinet over after take off, they realized that Valentina was too mobile even though she met the weight requirement. Luckily, I found a row of empty seats that we walked over to several times throughout the flight to go play.
3. Bring distractions: It’s definitely a good idea to invest in a few new toys for the plane as well as for your travels to keep the baby occupied and distracted. Simple things usually do the trick so visit the dollar store or bring some different coloured/shaped sensory balls or small board books. Your baby may be happier just playing with an empty water bottle or the string from your sweater anyway. The best way to divert a tantrum is to bust out something new and shiny, even if it’s just a map (which our Valentina loved during car rides abroad). Make sure they don’t eat them though!! If all else fails, start singing their favourite song or play a game to diffuse the situation.
4. Food and snacks: You’re going to need TONS of snacks on hand for the plane as well as your travels. I always tried to get fresh fruit at local markets to keep on hand but you can’t go wrong with baby crackers or good ol’ rice cakes. If your baby is eating solids they’ll likely be eating meals with you but I highly recommend bringing pouched foods with you as well as a backup. I don’t typically use these much anymore but they’re very convenient when traveling if your baby refuses to eat something you offer at a restaurant. Also, delays happen so it’s important to have food available for your baby in these cases. If you're breastfeeding, that's obviously going to be very convenient when traveling because you can do it anywhere and you don't need to worry about bottles etc. If you are feeding your baby formula, a mini kettle can work at a bottle warmer and sanitizer.
5. Book a hotel over Air BnB: We have tried both the hotel living arrangements and Air BnB while on vacation and I must say hotel is a lot more convenient with a baby. Why? They're a lot more likely to have necessities such a crib, clean towels daily and a restaurant on site where you can order room service (we had to do that a few times when V was exhausted and we couldn’t make it out to dinner). When we were staying at hotels that didn’t have a restaurant the hotel staff were able to give us recommendations to close by restaurants or even call and order food for us.
6. Stroller and baby wearing: I recommend having both a stroller and baby carrier or sling. Having both options when you’re out and about, especially for long periods of time is key!
7. Pack light: Easier said than done! I brought two outfits for each day, which was a bit excessive! I know my daughter though and she gets messy pretty quickly. That’s why I made sure to bring clothing that she could wear twice that go well with anything such as jeans, sweaters and a few good pairs of pants. PJs I made sure she would wear 2 nights. I also brought lots of bibs. Don’t forget a plastic washable bib or two for meals as well. It’s important to pack for any climate. It ended being a little chillier on our trip, so I’m glad I had a a few sweaters and pants even though I mainly anticipated warm weather. I also ended up buying some clothing when we were down there so if you know you’re going to be doing some shopping, keep that in consideration when packing. Also, bring a few different hats to match all of your chosen outfits to protect baby from the sun no matter what the temperature is.
8. Diapers and baby essentials: The great things about diapers and wipes is that you can buy them pretty much anywhere. So, if stuffing your suitcase with 2-3 weeks worth of wipes and diapers is going to make you go over and have to pay a fee for your luggage, you're much better off bringing less and buying some more wherever you'll be staying. We brought a double sleeve and two packs of wipes for just over two weeks. We ended up having to buy an extra pack of each for the last few days. As for other baby essentials like lotions, soap/shampoo, and sunscreens, I put my preferred brand of baby products from The Green Beaver Company into travel size bottles (from the dollar store) as I don't believe that brand is sold in Europe and it can get pretty heavy in your luggage if you bring the full size bottles. I love their products because they're organic and chemical free. I'm pretty picky about this kind of stuff and would rather not have to look for a different brand if I don't know what's in the product and will likely not be able to read labels as easily in a different language.
9. Routine. Let’s be honest. When you’re on vacation, you are completely disrupting babies' schedule.. and babies like routine! So, my best suggestion is try your best to follow somewhat of a similar schedule in terms of naps, meals and bedtime routine. Naps may have to happen in a stroller, car or perhaps you’ll all take advantage of a nice afternoon siesta like we often did. Your schedule will obviously sway to some degree especially if there’s time change involved but if your baby can know what to expect throughout the day and be well rested, you’ll most definitely reduce crankiness and the risk of meltdowns.
9. Patience: When your baby throws a fit (it’s bound to happen at some point) be patient with them. They’re schedules and usual predictable routines are all out of whack. They’re likely not sleeping quite as long and have busy days exploring outdoors getting plenty of fresh air and fun in the sun which tucker’s them out even more. So, you can't blame them if they are tired and cranky. Keep in mind, if you stress out or react to their tantrums, you are only adding fuel or the fire. Stay calm and use the distraction strategy such as a their favourite toy or games like peekaboo or hide and seek to avoid making the situation worse.
In conclusion, traveling with an extra human in tow is definitely more challenging. However, the adventures you will have are worth the extra work.
It is never too early to start exploring the world.
Until next time! ✌️