First off I want to apologize to all my readers for not writing any posts over the last two months. On May 23rd we welcomed the arrival of our baby girl, Sadie, so I have spent the last 10 weeks learning how to be a mom, along with planning our We Are Travel Girls Bali Retreats. Let me just say I have a whole new appreciation for all the mothers out there! It is the most rewarding, but also most demanding job on the planet!
Of course, one of the first things we did for my little travel girl was apply for her British passport. And it arrived just in time! Last month I went on my first trip with a baby – a five day trip with my then six-week-old daughter to France for a friend’s wedding. I soon realized, only minutes into the trip, that I had no clue how to travel with a baby. So, I decided I should create this list of 12 things you should know before traveling with a baby to share my experiences and help new moms make their first trip with a little one easier!
1) Babies Require A Ridiculous Amount Of Stuff To Travel
I have to admit I use to see parents traveling with kids and feel bad for them. I knew parents had to bring a crazy amount of stuff with them because I could see them lugging it around the airport and onto the airplane like a Sherpa. But I really had no clue just how much stuff one small baby would require until my husband and I started packing for our trip to France.
As a parent, you need to take however much stuff you would normally pack and then remove half of it. Your suitcase is no longer just for you. You’re going to need to make room for lots of baby clothes, swaddles, diapers, formula, and bottles because there is no way you can carry a stroller, car seat, a carry cot and multiple suitcases. So my first piece of advice is figure out how to pack lighter for yourself to help offset how much you have to bring for your baby! I was surprised by how little I actually needed to bring for myself for a 5-day trip when I was forced to take unnecessary stuff out.
2) Call Ahead To See If Your Hotel Provides Baby Cots
Many hotels have sleeping cots for babies and will provide them free of charge. Call ahead and ask your hotel if they offer these. I also suggest asking the hotel to email you a picture of the cot so you can make sure the style is something you feel comfortable letting your baby sleep in. I wish I would have thought of this before our trip. It turned out that the hotel we stayed at in Paris, and the château in the countryside, both had baby cots available so we could have left ours at home.
3) Let Your Baby Suck Anxiety & Pain Away
Most adults experience anxiety when traveling and it is the same for babies. You might drink a couple cocktails when you get on a flight to ease your fear of flying. But what can a baby do to ease anxiety? We took the Eurostar from London to Paris, so I have not yet flown with my daughter, but even on the train, my baby girl felt anxious being in an unfamiliar place with tons of people around. She cried for the first five minutes we were on the train so I let her nurse (even though it wasn’t time for her to eat). She was instantly comforted by nursing, promptly fell asleep, and then slept for the whole train ride to Paris. I am sure everyone sitting around us was just as relieved as I was!
I haven’t flown with my daughter yet but parents suggest offering a bottle, boob, or pacifier during the times when pressure changes in the cabin are likely to be greatest – during takeoff and initial descent – which will ease your baby’s ear pain. I use Parent Directed Feeding Method and I have never given my daughter a pacifier, but I plan to let her nurse or have a pacifier anytime she wants throughout the flight to try to keep her anxiety and crying to a minimum. It is inevitable that your baby is going to cry while traveling, but the same way you are more relaxed with a couple cocktails, your baby will likely be more relaxed with a full belly and something to suck on.
4) People Will Be Offended If You Breastfeed In Public
Some people are going to be offended when you breastfeed in public so you’ll have to get use to this fact. Breastfeeding is perfectly natural and a beautiful thing but some people aren’t going to like it, and that’s OK. Use a swaddle to cover your breast and baby so you aren’t flashing people in public, and then decide right then and there – ZERO FU%&$ GIVEN! Having a baby will help you stop caring about what other people think, and in a world where we spend too much time on appearances, this is a beautiful gift.
5) Request A Hotel Room On The Ground Floor
For my friend’s wedding, we stayed at Château de Villiers, a castle in the French countryside. Castles obviously do not have elevators and we were assigned to a room on the second floor, which would have been fine normally, but with a baby it proved very challenging. You do not want to spend your vacation lugging your stroller, diaper bag, and baby up and down the stairs every time you want to go outside. And you also don’t want to worry about falling down the stairs with your little one in your arms. So be sure you contact your hotel ahead of time and let them know you have a baby and you need a room on the ground floor.
6) Make Sure Your Hotel Has AC
Babies aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures like adults so if you are heading to a warm weather destination call ahead and make sure your hotel has proper AC. The château we stayed at in France also did not have AC, which was hard on my daughter because it was 90+ degrees every day. Luckily, we did have a fan and were able to use this to help keep her cool. A baby will feel like it can’t breathe if there is wind blowing on its face though, so point the fan to the side so it blows along their back and feet.
7) Babies Do Not Like Wind
My daughter does not like wind and I think this is the same for all babies. As I said above, your baby will feel like it can’t breathe in windy conditions. The few times I have taken my daughter outside when it is windy she makes gasping sounds like she can’t breathe and then starts crying. Obviously, your baby can still breath but this is traumatizing for both of you, so I suggest avoiding windy travel destinations! And if you do find yourself outside in the wind, try to shield your baby’s face.
8) Always Bring A Change Of Clothes In Your Carry-On For Baby And For You
That diaper blow out that happened at your house, the one where you gave up trying to clean and just threw the swaddle and baby clothes away, is going to happen at some point on a train, plane, or in a car. And it will probably happen when you are holding your baby so that you are now both covered in poo. ALWAYS bring a spare change of clothes in your carry on for your baby and for you. The last thing you want to do is sit on a plane in an outfit covered in smelling baby poo for 15 hours!
9) Bring A Nanny On Your Trip Or Hire Help When You Arrive
I appreciate that not everyone can afford to bring a nanny traveling with them, but if you can, I highly recommend it. We brought my daughter’s nanny with us to France and she allowed my husband and I to be able to go out to dinner each night and attend wedding events without worrying about our daughter. If you can’t afford to bring a nanny with you, splurge on a babysitter for at least a few hours a couple times during your trip so you can have some much-needed adult time. Or bring a relative along. They will surely appreciate a free trip in exchange for babysitting duties!
10) Stay Close To What You Want To See
One of the best tips I can give you for traveling with a baby is to stay close to what you want to see and do, and plan multiple, short outings. If you are a parent, then you already know young babies can do great on adventures, but only for a short period of time. We stayed at Hôtel La Bourdonnais in Paris, which is only about a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. This allowed me to take my baby girl there and capture the photos I wanted with her without the stress of dragging her across the city.
11) Babies Get Priority
Traveling with a baby can be very challenging but there are a couple of perks. One of them is that babies get priority! That’s right, step aside people, there is a newborn coming through being pushed by an exhausted mommy who will not think twice about cutting the line. When we arrived at Gare du Nord train station in Paris, there was an exceptionally long taxi line, but the man organizing it took one look at us and then escorted us to the front, shooing people out of the way, saying baby and pointing to my daughter. Sitting down in a taxi only minutes later, I felt like I had found a golden ticket!
12) It Will Be Worth It
Before I had a child, I would look at parents and feel bad for them. I thought there was no way they could be as happy as they looked and thought they were just faking it to get through it. Wow was I wrong. Becoming a mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Having a baby makes every day mundane things fun. I actually enjoy changing my daughter’s poopy diapers because she laughs and smiles, and it melts my heart.
The truth is being a parent is the greatest feeling in the world and so even if you have to lug a crazy amount of stuff around, endure dirty looks when you’re nursing or when your baby is crying, it will all be worth it for the special moments you share with your child on your trip. And while it’s nice to have a beautiful photo for Instagram, it’s not about the picture or what people think, it’s about that beautiful moment with your baby that will be a part of your soul forever. So, don’t be scared to travel with your new baby. You’ve got this!
Do you travel with children? Please share your stories and travel tips below!