Traveling with a baby is like giving a cat a bath. Some people think you shouldn’t even attempt it. However, if you can start while they’re young and do it frequently, it’s pretty painless. Since most of us can’t swing traveling alone that often, let alone with our kids, preparation is our greatest ally. I have five kids now, and honestly, travel with a baby is relatively simple when you follow a few simple guidelines. And, if you are lucky enough to be able to travel often, this can serve as a simple formula so you won’t need to put nearly as much thought into the planning as you did the first time.
1. Accept that babies need (kind of) a lot of stuff.
But…you won’t need as much as you might think. I’m a pretty light packer so for my trip to England for the World Fantasy Convention with my mom, I had initially intended to only bring a school-sized backpack. Then when I found out I was pregnant and would be bringing along a 6-month-old, I knew I was going to need to bring something bigger. I ended up choosing a rolling carry-on suitcase. This had the added bonus of leaving me some room for books and a couple of small souvenirs for my older kids on the way back.
2. Take into account your baby’s temperament, age, and daily schedule.
One thing you’ll need to remember is that babies basically dictate your itinerary. This sounds a bit worse than it is – younger babies can actually handle a lot, and taking breaks to feed them or something can even help remind you to slow down, rest a little, and maybe eat something yourself. But to really see how much we could actually do in a day, in the month or so before we left, I wrote down when my daughter slept, ate, and needed diaper and outfit changes. I knew from having traveled with her three older siblings at various ages that she was at a pretty easy age for traveling (around 6 or 7 months old) but that I would also need to plan for her food since she would be starting solids a little before we left. Once you understand the finer points to your baby’s schedule and what they actually need on an average day, you won’t feel that burning need to bring a bunch of stuff “just in case”. Besides, there are people giving birth all over the world. If you forget something, chances are they’ll be selling it somewhere. I didn’t bring many baby toys, by the way. Just a rattle and some plastic links. Most of the time she was stimulated well enough by the scenery or by my talking to her.
3. Consider both your itinerary and the weather.
Check weather averages and the forecast before you go. You want to understand what typical weather is like at your destination as well as being prepared for any unusual meteorological predictions.
4. Where will your baby sleep?
Some hotels will provide a cot or bassinet for little to no charge. You can e-mail or call ahead to make sure. If you or your baby is a light sleeper, or you’re staying on the floor downstairs from an elephant, or sleeping in the same neighborhood everyone and their brother commutes through, download a white noise app for your phone (I use a free one called White Noise) – and remember to plug your phone into the charger at night! If you have extra space or don’t like using your phone, there are plenty of small white noise machines available online. (side note, I don’t use these apps or devices regularly, just in noisier environments.) For naps she just slept in the stroller or while I carried her.
5. You’re going to have to do laundry.
This is an unavoidable fact of life, especially with babies, but there are ways to make it cheaper than having a hotel service do it for you. It doesn’t have to be a huge chore. The cheapest way is to do it in your sink, but this can be difficult if the sink is tiny. Try checking out the Scrubba, which makes doing small amounts of laundry far easier and less messy. I wish I’d had one when I took my daughter to England! You can also use local laundromats, depending on your location, and use the downtime to sort through pictures on your phone or set your baby free for a few minutes. In addition, I’ve heard that some cities – New York, for instance – have pickup laundry service that costs very little more than using a laundromat.
6. To carry or not to carry your baby?
If your itinerary includes a lot of walking, you’re going to want something to carry your baby in so your arms don’t get exhausted. If I’m going to be in a crowd, I prefer to wear a baby carrier of some kind. It’s more convenient than a stroller. However, if there’s a lot of walking in your itinerary, you may want some additional options. I found baby wearing convenient, but it made me a little sore if I did it for more than a few hours. So a few months before we left, I looked into stroller rentals. London has several pram or pushchair (and other baby equipment, such as car seats, if you rent a car) rentals. I decided to just wear my daughter in an ergo while we were in Brighton for the few days we were at the convention, and rented a pram for while we were in London looking for book shops and sightseeing, since we did a lot more walking. The rental service brought the pram in a box by courier to our hotel and picked it up for us as well at the end of our trip. This cost a little extra but the convenience was definitely worth it. You can also look for other add-ons or upgrades. I added a rain cover for a few pounds. I do want to add that strollers can be problematic in places like the underground in London. There are lots of stairs and escalators and not many elevators. I was pleasantly surprised to find, however, that strangers came to my aid when they occasionally saw me struggling with the pram. They may have been rolling their eyes to themselves (not that I could see) but their kindness was especially noted in a city where people supposedly keep to themselves.
7. Feed your baby.
If your kid isn’t eating solid food yet, then rejoice! That’s way more convenient. If you do need to worry about that however, it’s really not a huge deal. I brought along some finger foods for the plane and didn’t buy any baby food until we arrived in England. After we got to Brighton, they happened to be having a baby sale at Boots so I bought some packets of baby food, a package of spoons, some diapers, and wipes. If you bottle feed, just bring enough formula for a day or two before stocking up once you arrive. Now I think there are packets of baby food with attachable spoon tops, but at the time I just squeezed a little onto the spoon for each bite. I breastfed my daughter so I did a little research to see what attitudes to breastfeeding were like where we were going. It was pretty much like the states though, so I didn’t worry too much about it.
8. Be flexible.
You know what they say about best laid plans. At one point we lost my daughter’s pacifier clip (but not the pacifier somehow!) so my mom quickly made her a new one out of duct tape. It worked quite well for the rest of the trip. When (not if) things go wrong, just try to think quickly and have a positive attitude and you’ll still have an amazing trip.
That’s all for now!