Before our little one was 6 months old, we had taken 1 big trip (5 weeks to the Philippines and Thailand) with her, 2 long-weekend trips (to visit friends and family) and 1 weekend getaway to Chicago (thanks to a bet I won about Ruby’s birth). We’ve had a lot of questions about why and where and how, so here are a few lessons learned from planning.
First, you may be thinking, why would anyone in their right mind want to travel with a baby? Being a new parent is overwhelming enough at home, right? Sleep deprivation, figuring out breastfeeding, and trying to understand what your baby wants when they can only communicate by crying is challenging. Well, this is exactly why you should travel with a baby. Look, you are going to be sleep deprived wherever you are, so you may as well have a change of scenery. Plus, traveling with your baby can actually help you to relax as a parent. Every culture has its own “right” way of parenting. When you go elsewhere and see how other cultures parent, it will help you realize that there really is more than one way to do things. We found it particularly relaxing to be eating out and sleeping at hotels – where we didn’t have to make the bed or do the dishes and so we were able to spend more time just being together.
A few tips:
Start planning your trip before baby is born. Again, you will be sleep deprived and traveling will likely seem overwhelming unless you’ve already been looking forward to a trip. (Bonus: This also gives you time to stockpile airline miles with credit card deals) We actually had our trip to the Philippines/Thailand booked before Ruby was born, knowing that if she wasn’t healthy, we would just cancel our tickets.
Get a good baby carrier and start using it. You will need to feel comfortable using it with your baby before your trip. There are lots of baby carriers out there and they all serve different purposes. For travel, we found a soft-structured carrier to be the best as they are easy on and off and can be worn on the front or the back. We like our Boba, but have also heard good things about the Beco Gemini. Both of these you can use starting at 7 lbs (without a separate infant insert like the Ergo requires) and you can still use it when they are 35+ pounds. Both also offer great support for mom/dad. They are pricey, but look around on ebay or craigslist and you will be able to find one for less.
Go before baby is 6 months. I’m not saying don’t ever travel after your baby is 6 months. But there are 2 huge advantages to earlier travel, particularly if you are breastfeeding:
- Where Mama goes, baby’s food goes, and you don’t have to worry about baby’s food being clean, safe, and sanitary.
- Baby will be less mobile and therefore more content to be in your arms or baby carrier
Location, Location, Location. Perhaps most importantly, pick a baby-friendly destination. This might mean traveling to see family and friends who love babies. Or picking “family-friendly” hotels.
We loved being in a culture that adored babies, which seems to be most other countries in the world. In most restaurants in the US, you get a look when you bring a baby in. And if your baby cries, well, you will get an even grumpier look from other customers. In Thailand and the Philippines it was quite the opposite. Servers and restaurant goers alike were delighted when we showed up with a baby, they’d hold her, smile at her – and if she started fussing they would actually try to help us, rather than give us the evil eye.
From talking to other travelers, I’ve heard this is true in most places in Latin America, Asia, and in Southern Europe. If you’re wondering more about a specific country, pick up a guidebook at the library and go to the section on “Traveling with Kids.” Also, for a longer trip, we thought it was worthwhile to pick a destination where you can leave the car seat at home. Trains, planes, buses, subways, boats – there are lots of ways to get from here to there without a car seat.
What other tips do you have for planning a trip?