Whether this is the first time you’re traveling with kiddos or your earliest opportunity post-pandemic, the best way to ensure you’re actually able to enjoy yourself is to be prepared. Hopping on a plane, saying yes to a road trip, or setting off on a cruise with a baby in tow can cause even the most relaxed parents to spin out. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite tips to help you ahead of potential hazards and avoid meltdowns to keep everyone smiling.
- Book a nonstop
Name one thing as stressful as having a fussy baby on a plane. We can’t think of, well, any. Whenever possible, choose a non-stop flight that suits your baby’s sleep schedule to ensure your little one snoozes in the air. Takeoff and landing can be tricky; if your baby takes a bottle, try feeding while the plane lifts off the ground to minimize the transition. The vibration of the engine might just help soothe them to sleep. And with recent events, it can’t hurt to call the airline ahead of time to confirm any feeding essentials will be allowed on board.
- Stick to a routine
If your baby maintains a steady eat-sleep-play routine, you’ll want to adhere to that as much as possible when you’re away. While you might not make every nap, some stability is good for tots on the go. Bring a lovey or small blanket from home that they can snuggle. If you’re going sightseeing, trying to arrange your itinerary around your baby’s feeding and sleeping windows (which will also give you time to rest!). You can still enjoy the beach or sample the local cuisine, but a happy baby is preferable to a tired – or hangry – one when you’re trying to unwind.
- Don’t overcommit
Working around baby’s eat-sleep-play schedule means you won’t be able to do as much, which can also be a good thing. Keep plans short and sweet so you don’t have to rush from one activity to the next. A tight timeline can be difficult to manage for adults, and exponentially harder for little ones. Try planning your day around one main activity, and then let meals and extra fun fall into place, as baby’s mood permits. Choosing one activity per day actually promotes more spontaneity when it comes to all the little adventures you could get up to. Baby’s not sleeping great? Stay close to the hotel and pack snacks (you can never have enough)!
- Choose baby-friendly fun
Unless you’ll have childcare during your trip, you’ll want to pick activities that are good for the whole family. For example, seeing a show or going to an art museum might work with older kids, but with a baby in tow you could be heading for a headache. Sightseeing and other outdoor explorations, like hiking or swimming, are great to get your little moving around. And, if you’re scheduling paid activities, make sure you check the refund policy in case your plans shift at the last minute.
Feedings (especially if you’re breastfeeding and pumping) and diaper changes will require frequent stops, so research good locations to take a break on your route. Preplanning these stops can help to ensure you’re stretching your legs in an enjoyable location, instead of a gas station bathroom. In regards to timing, stopping every 1.5 to 2 hours allows you to cover some ground, without pushing baby past their limit.
- Make a packing list
Two weeks out: It’s time to create your must-have checklist. Think about each phase of your trip: the journey there, each day (especially if you’re doing different activities along the way), meal time, bedtime, and the return. What are the essentials to keep your baby as peaceful as possible (a favorite stuffed animal, bottles, baby monitor)? What are non-essentials that just might make everyone’s trip easier (room-darkening blinds, favorite bedtime book)? Write it all down. Pack smart (we like clear pouches separated by categories, so everything is within reach when you need it). You’ll want to ensure the baby monitor is up and running beforehand so you don’t run into any glitches on vacation.
- Replicate baby’s sleep environment
While it’s impossible to create an exact replica of your little one’s nursery, bringing some key items can help create some cozy familiarity, which is conducive for snoozing. If your baby usually sleeps with a special blanket and sound machine, you should pack the blanket and sound machine (or find a white noise app on your phone). No blackout blinds at the hotel? Try hanging a blanket over the curtains so baby can nap.
Ready to upgrade your stay? Opt for a hotel room or vacation rental with a private bedroom for baby. That way you won’t have to whisper or sleep every time your little one does.
Plenty of places offer items like cribs, outlet covers, and tub toys, which will minimize the amount you need to pack. In addition, some hotels are now offering programs that let you order items like baby food or diapers that can be shipped directly to your room.
- Make bedtime a breeze
When everything around baby is new and exciting, settling them down at bedtime can be tricky. Moving through a familiar routine (e.g., bath, book, song, lights out) can help cue the cuddles and encourage sleep. Keep in mind, you might need to rock your little one or rub their back to soothe them in a new place.
- A healthy diet helps
While it’s normal – and fun! – to try new things while traveling, choosing healthy food options for your little one can help stabilize their gut, mood, and energy. Don’t overdo it with too many sweet treats; pack some snacks from home to fall back on while you’re out and about.
- Baby-wearing is a good idea
Strollers can be clunky to transport and cumbersome in new landscapes (think: cobblestones, sand, or rocky wilderness). While we still suggest bringing a lightweight set of wheels, wearing your little one in a carrier will free up your hands and keep baby close to you at all times (a calming perk!). Give your back a break, and let your partner take a turn.
- Power down and relax
Babies often feed off their parent’s energy, so the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they’ll likely be. Utilize simple relaxation techniques like deep breathing or doing a few jumping jacks when you feel your tension rising, and reap the benefits of a mellower trip for everyone involved.
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