International travel with a baby

by | Jun 17, 2019 | Infant, Travel

Travel. What a fun thing to do with your baby! But sometimes it can be a little tricky.

We just got back from a vacation to Italy. Wow, what a wonderful experience! Not sure I’ve ever seen so much beauty and history (and so many people from all over the world) in one place!

 Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. 

                                                                                                  – Ibn Battuda

After 11 full days of sightseeing, we boarded a plane for the long flight from Rome to Houston, happily tired and ready to be home. About 3 rows behind us was a family of four – 2 parents, 1 toddler and 1 baby.  First off, I admired their tenacity for traveling with two littles on such a long flight. Secondly, there was a lot of crying involved.

I felt for them. The bottom line is, no one likes a crying baby on a plane—not the baby, not the parents, not the passengers!  The parents did a wonderful job attending to their kiddos, helping them find (very limited!) play space and move through the aisles when their bodies needed more movement. By the end of the flight, those parents deserved some serious credit for all the energy they put into that flight!

Megan and her husband love traveling, too.

When they got married, they agreed they’d take an international trip before their first baby turned one. They wanted to prove to themselves they could travel with kiddos and figured if they did it right from the get go, it would be less of an excuse not to travel later on. So that’s what they did. They took a trip to Austria and the Czech Republic when Cadence was 9 months old.

Here’s how she describes what that experience was like…

“We were a little nervous about the trip, mainly about two things: the flight and nighttime sleep. And for sure, the flight and nighttime sleep were not the highlights of the trip. Not by a long shot. But we got through them. And every hour of incredible daytime well made up for the challenging nights.”

There were definitely benefits to traveling with a baby!

“You talk to people WAY more. Who doesn’t love talking with babies? We engaged in so many conversations and made more connections because of Cadence than we would have had it been just me and Josh. 

And people are nice to you. Because everyone loves babies!”

Here are her most valuable travel tips… 👍🏼

1. Your child will cry on the plane.  This is quite likely to be true, especially if it’s a long flight. When it happens, remind yourself to take a deep breath and focus on helping your child. Try not to pay attention to the other passengers. If your seat mates are annoyed, that’s fine! It’s not your job to attend to their feelings in that moment. Remember, your child has a right to travel too and the calmer you can stay, the more it will help your baby feel comfortable. If you feel particularly anxious about this situation, try preparing a response so you will feel ready for the obnoxious flight neighbor. You could say, “I’m doing my best to help my baby. I appreciate your patience.” Just remember, the flight is almost never the best part of a trip and this experience will be over (relatively) shortly! You got this!
 
2. Practice the naps beforehand. Unless you’re planning on spending multiple hours a day in your hotel room, a lot of your baby’s naps will most likely take place out and about. Weeks ahead of your trip, think about how you will want your baby to fall asleep and practice. Are you bringing your stroller? Then practice having your baby nap in her stroller. Will you be wearing your baby in a carrier? Then practice having your baby nap in there. We brought our Ergo and tried to have one Ergo nap a day starting a few weeks before our trip. This made naps a breeze for Cadence while we were there.

3. Think twice about the stroller. Strollers can be super convenient, but they can also be super inconvenient. Depending on where you are going, that convenient stroller can really just make things more complicated. Many destinations were built long before universal accessibility was a priority and include lots of steps and narrow doorways. Also, if you’ll be doing much public transport (think trains, buses, etc.), it is SO nice to not lug your stroller.

We LOVE Ergobaby (a bonus about this carrier is that it’s been mainstream for a while so they are easy to find cheaply on craigslist and children’s consignment shops). If you can’t live without a stroller, consider bringing a lightweight umbrella strollerinstead of your ultra-deluxe mega stroller.

4. Pack light on the baby supplies. Unless you’re traveling to a very remote part of the world, most cities will have today’s modern day baby conveniences available to purchase. Pack enough diapers and baby food to make it through the flight and maybe a day or two extra. Other than that, save yourself the suitcase space and restock once you’re there. Plus, it’ll be fun to see the difference among baby products.

5. Channel your inner boy scout and BE PREPARED. And by be prepared, I mean be prepared for sickness. So skimp on packing daily baby supplies like diapers and food, but bring a small sickness arsenal in case your baby winds up sick in a foreign country. Unfortunately Cadence ended up coming down with a cold and her first fever while on our trip. Thankfully I had packed enough that everything we needed was there. Yes, you can go out and buy most stuff there, but do you really want to have to buy your baby medicine in a foreign language or buy a Celsius-reading thermometer when you may or may not already be in a mild state of panic? (Hi. Me. Thank you Fahrenheit for the comfort you brought me) We packed Tylenol, a thermometer, nasal aspirator, and travel tissues.

6. Stay in a place with a separate living room if possible. Your baby’s bedtime is most likely earlier than yours. If you wind up in a single room hotel or studio apartment, that will mean you will have to stay silent until it is your own bedtime. Fun, no? If possible, find a place that has a bedroom and living area that are separated by a wall and a door. That way, you can put the baby to bed, then relax and enjoy yourself without being paranoid about noise. We had great success finding wonderful apartments to stay in using Airbnb. (<if you use this link, you’ll get $40 off your first stay. You’re welcome.)

7. Plan minimally. Babies have different traveling priorities than adults. Visiting museums and castles tend to not be on the top of baby’s must-see list. Keep this in mind when planning your schedule for the day. Josh and I planned one activity for each day. This turned out to be a perfect schedule for us because we know how much stimulation our baby needs. And it gave us plenty of flexibility and still left the tourist in us satisfied. We spent the majority of each day walking around and just hanging out at parks and cafes.

8. White noise it up. If your baby doesn’t already sleep with white noise, consider starting this practice during your vacation. We all know how precious every minute of baby sleep is and you don’t want it interrupted by uncontrollable noises (I’m looking at you  5am Viennese construction crew.) We brought an iPod with a white noise download that plays on a continuous loop and these portable speakers. Worked like a charm.

9. Carry an extra outfit. We all know the tip to carry your baby an extra outfit, but don’t forget an extra outfit for yourself (especially on the plane!) Twice Cadence puked on us during the trip, and it was handy to pull out a spare shirt for ourselves from the diaper bag.

10. Relax! Flexibility is the name of the game when traveling with a baby. Be ready to change the plan the morning after a sleepless night, even if you’ve purchased tickets or made reservations for something fun. You may or may not be able to do everything you’ve got on the agenda, but hey, who cares? You are on vacation!!

Enjoy traveling with your baby this summer! Whether you take a local day trip or venture across the world, your both learning new things, growing together and creating stories that will be told and re-told in the years to come.

And remember, YOU are equipped with all you need to give your baby everything they need. You guys were made for each other.

You’ve got this parenting thing. 😍

Until next time,

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We’re a mother-daughter duo sharing developmentally appropriate ideas for teaching little noggins and nurturing new parents.

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