Take it from me, I was dreading my first major travel experience with my son. At four months, we took him to Scotland to see his extended family. You can read more about those adventures here, here and here, but it actually ended up being a magical trip for us. Despite him having colic and his sleep being a challenge, I wouldn’t take back a minute of it. For me, traveling with my son was a joy, but I certainly picked up a few tips and tricks along the way.
I consider myself a fairly well seasoned traveler, but I still had plenty to learn about the intricacies of traveling with an infant. For instance… do I need to travel with the car seat base? How would I fit everything in my bag? What did I actually need to bring with me? How would I sanitize his bottles en route? How should I manage his days? This post answers all of those questions.
Now… while not all of my readers have kids of this age (0-2 is what this post is geared towards), if you have someone in mind that has a little one (or is currently growing a little one), please consider sharing this post with them. I guarantee I’ll save them some trouble!
Manage Your Expectations
Our first travel experience with J as a toddler was… not what I was expecting. I had these beautiful visions of building an album of picture-perfect family memories.
Realistically… that was naive. In the same way that J would melt down at home, he’d melt down on holiday, and then some if we didn’t keep his routine pretty on track. Remember, it’s a lot of change for a child, and they typically are cautious of new experiences, new food, new sleeping arrangements. It takes time. So, manage your expectations. Don’t expect to travel the way you did in your single days. Plan for many trips to green spaces, opportunities to run their energy down a bit (!) and for much needed nap and recovery times.
Travel has changed, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, provided you keep your expectations in check.
Taxi. Cars. Car seat? What???
Here’s the deal – it sucks traveling with infants and car seats. Once upon a time to get to the airport you just buckled yourself into a taxi. But what about your infant? Option 1) have a friend drop you off at the airport, then rent a car seat with your car on the other side. Fun fact – if you’re traveling for more than a week, you’ve probably paid for a brand new car seat in rental fees.
Instead, we decided to bring ours with us. So… did we need to bring the base? NOPE. Turns out we lugged that bad boy with us for no reason. Now, you have to look up the local laws for where you’re traveling to, but we found out that as long as we were in taxis or rental cars for less than 30 days, we could just strap his car seat in using the seat belt.
Is that secure? Use the video below to teach yourself how to secure a car seat with only a seat belt. I actually felt like this method was MORE secure than the car seat base.
The Right Gear Makes All The Difference
With Baby J, we’ve traveled from Canada to Scotland, road tripped around the UK, overnighted at family and friends’ homes, driven to Kelowna, and had a few nights here and there in the Rockies. Over those various trips, at his various stages of growth, we learned how important it was to have baby gear that works efficiently. I’m sharing some of my favourites here.
As soon as your baby is ready for a high chair, being able to travel to any accommodation with a compact high chair is a relief. The Mountain Buggy Clip On High Chair fits almost any table or breakfast bar, and we found it quick and easy to attach each time. Even at about 25lbs, I have zero concerns for J’s safety when he sits in it – and he’s a wriggler.
Okay… to be honest, this was my favourite even when we weren’t traveling. Until about four months, Baby J slept in this Travel Bassinet by Summer Infant. It was easy to carry from room to room if I didn’t want to wake him (but wanted him near) and when we traveled to Scotland, I ALWAYS knew that he had a safe place to sleep. Yes, it took up about 1/5th of my suitcase, but it was worth it. Zero doubts.
I hiked everywhere in Scotland with Baby J strapped into the Baby Bjorn Carrier One. It provided great support for my back, especially with the little fiddly bit that goes between your shoulder blades. As he grew, we’d turn him to the back (Carrier One goes both forward and back!), so it has held up in value. Additionally, this way you can carry your baby from airport gate to gate easily, if you want to check your stroller.
Why, you might ask, am I including a stroller? I am including a stroller, because airlines are super restrictive on what you can bring with you. Where our original stroller was too large to fly, the Britax B-Agile was lean, yet sturdy enough for mud, hills and British cobblestones. We took it internationally with adapators for J’s carseat, but he still goes in it today and I have no problems wheeling it about or making it compact. I also suggest getting a bag to cover your stroller, as they can get pretty gross when put in the cargo hold.
Or Rent Your Gear…
Alternatively… or additionally, if you’re wanting to rent some gear as you go, there are sites around the world to rent cots, toys, high chairs, etc. Here’s the best compiled list I could find online.
Plan Your Green Spaces
Playgrounds and/or green spaces are your new best friend. Embrace them. Love them. Plan for them. Your little one is much more likely to chill out (maybe even nap) in their stroller if you’ve given them an hour at a playground or running around a park!
Bottle Cleaning Made Easy
I was DREADING travelling with bottles for J. Not being able to breastfeed, I really didn’t have any alternatives. Turns out… there was a simple solution: Milton Sterilising Tablets. Essentially, you fill a plastic tub, or a clean sink, with water, a tablet, and let the bottles soak for the specified amount of time. We brought our bottle rack and brush from home as they were compact and easy to pack.
Given that we were traveling for a month to Scotland, we picked up a little basin for one or two pounds at the pound-store (think dollarama), and used it not only for sterilising bottles, but for bathing J when there wasn’t a tub or big enough sink. Win. Win. Win.
Eating Out At Lunch Instead Of At Dinner
Dinnertime can be the witching hour for littles, and it’s the most popular meal for dates. I always hated the idea of Baby J’s screeching ruining a first date. Lunch time… people are a bit more relaxed, and prices are typically a little cheaper as well. We’d buy ingredients in for dinner instead.
AirBnB Is The Way To Go
I don’t just say this because I’m an AirBnB host, I say it because having a kitchen and extra space at your disposal is key when you’ve got children and their various needs on board! Being able to make our own meals, sanitize bottles, do laundry and have your baby sleep in a separate room (the horror of hotel rooms where you have to hide in the dark to avoid waking your sleeping babe!) makes vacation all the more simple.
And… my gift to you is $50 free AirBnB Travel Credit if you’ve never signed up before.
Check and Recheck The Diaper Bag
If you want the maximum amount of flexibility in your travel day, make sure you have EVERYTHING before you leave your accommodation. Diapers, wipes, sunscreen, snacks, toys, what have you. It’s going to be different at different ages and with different kids, but whatever your child needs, make sure you have it.
Give Yourself Wiggle Room
Blowouts. Tantrums. Forgetting the sunscreen. Losing a shoe. You name it, there are a zillion reasons that you can run behind schedule with little ones in tow. Rather than stress yourself out with tight timelines, always plan for a little wiggle room.
Start Adjusting Sleep Schedules Before You Leave
I kid you not, we went ONE time zone west, one hour time change, and it completely threw J’s schedule out of whack. Turns out you want to start adjusting their sleep schedule a few days in advance, especially for bigger time changes. Give yourself at least three days to gradually change their sleep schedule and you’ll thank yourself on the other side of your vacation.
Routine Is Still Important!
If I’m grumpy without a nap, imagine what my toddler is like. Right? And do I really want an angry toddler wreaking havoc on my best laid plans? I mean… he’ll wreak havoc in so many other ways, so best to keep some normalcy, right?
Let Them Get Dirty
Unless you’re going to five-star restaurants (with a toddler, are you crazy?), there’s no need to stress about your kiddos getting dirty. That’s what vacation is about! Let them explore, get dirty and make some epic memories.
If you’ve found this post helpful, please consider sharing it with a friend who will benefit. And… tell me your tips in the comments below. What have I missed? What’s worked for you?
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