Traveling with a baby is something that gets a lot of attention. For the good and the bad. People are always watching, waiting for something to happen. And then if it doesn’t, they are quick to share their surprise. Almost as if they know you and what your child is like.
However, in reality, you can’t really blame them. Children can be so unpredictable. Add traveling, jet lag, disrupted schedules, and overstimulation on top of that, and it only heightens it. Unfortunately though, because of this, I feel like there is an unspoken rule that kids, especially babies, just really shouldn’t travel. Or not necessarily that they shouldn’t, but that they can’t.
In my little bit of experience with children, I am continually surprised at the capabilities of my daughter. Everyday she does things that show me how often I underestimate her, and how much she is really able to do if I will only let her.
The more children experience, the more they can do. The more that is expected of them, the more they rise to the occasion.
The fear of inconvenience and disruption for a parent is so real though, and unfortunately keeps so many people from experiencing new things with their children. It paralyzes us as parents as opposed to challenging us. But just like most good things in life, why wouldn’t it be a bit of work?
Think about this. How many things in life can you say that you and your child have experienced it for the FIRST time together? Probably not many. So much of parenting is showing and guiding our children through things that we have done before them. When you travel to a new place together, you both are experiencing something together for the first time. You are equals for that moment, and that is really such a beautiful thing.
Last week our family got the chance to go to Europe for about 10 days with my sister and brother in law. I can say, without a doubt, that it was the best trip we have ever been on, with or without children. Being honest, I was kind of nervous before it, even though we have done trips with my daughter before. We had a 9 hour flight, both ways, and being gone for 10 days, off a schedule, in a different time zone, just seemed like a recipe for disaster. However, the disaster seemed worth it if there were going to be incredible experiences in between, so we did it.
Well, here we are, home, and all alive and well. She did so incredibly well. Yes, I will give credit to the fact that she is pretty flexible and adaptable, but a lot of that credit also has to go to being properly prepared and having realistic expectations. Just like ourselves, children need certain things and products in order to deal with specific situations. Having the proper necessities, and making small arrangements really made this trip so enjoyable and even possible.
This is the list that made this trip possible. It is not only products that we used and loved, but also specific tricks or things that we did that just helped make the trip and traveling that much smoother. Without a doubt, these are the things I highly recommend to anyone. Especially when traveling, but even when not. These are all things that make going out, and being flexible just a little bit easier for a child.
- Wildbird Sling: This was by far the most important and helpful thing that we brought. There were a lot of times that we were out walking around during her nap time. Between this sling and her stroller, she took 90% of her naps on the go. The amazing thing about this sling is how incredibly comfortable it is.
Even though Shiloh is almost 2, it was so easy and comfortable to carry her. It was especially helpful when we were in areas that were too tight for the stroller, but we didn’t really want her walking. Another amazing thing about this sling is what “baby-wearing” does to the child. Shiloh is not a snuggly child, and hates being constrained. However, whenever she was having a hard time (whether it was fatigue or overstimulation), if we put her in the sling, she immediately calmed down. The even pressure on her body was an instant source of comfort.
- Colorform Stickers : Everyone needs to buy these immediately. This is a small sticker book, and reusable stickers. The beauty of these is that they fold up small, so they can be easily tucked in a purse or bag. They also can be used over and over again. We used them at EVERY SINGLE meal, and even on the train and metro on the widows.
- Headphones: Because we had such a long flight, we definitely watched a lot of movies. These headphones were perfect for her. She was able to lay down with them on, because they are flat and so soft. They also served as a noise barrier while she was sleeping and the announcements happened on the plane.
- Stroller: Invest in a good umbrella stroller. This one was perfect. We wanted one that was compact, light, had a canopy, under basket, and laid down. This stroller has 4 seat settings, and lays almost completely flat. It was perfect for naps on the go. It also is very reasonable. We have a BOB jogging stroller, but because it is fairly large, we chose something smaller and better for the city streets and on the metro.
- Lollipops: These are just always a good idea to have on hand. Whether its for a museum, waiting for your table at a restaurant, or on the plane. Also, these organic ones don’t stain their mouths.
- Playground: Over the course of the trip, we went to 3 different playgrounds. We didn’t do many “kid focused” activities, but instead found ways to interest her in whatever it was that we were doing. It was amazing how even if we were just at a museum if we walked with her and explained what we were looking at, how intrigued she would be. However, we did find opportunities for her to run around, play, and just be a kid throughout the trip.
- Realistic Expectations: My goal over the course of the trip was to have an enjoyable vacation full of wonder, learning, and intentional time with family, all while keeping my 2 year old’s needs in mind. As stated above, we don’t plan our trips around “kid’s activities” and more expect her to do with us what we are doing. With that being said though, there were times that we chose a restaurant, a park, or a carousel solely for her enjoyment. Just like anytime you go on a trip with someone, there has to be compromise. No one person calls the shots, but everyone is viewed as equally important, and their needs and wants are kept in mind throughout the planning process. She played that same role throughout it as well.
- Passport: I wrote an entire post about this, because it is quite the process. But my biggest tip in this is to get it before you need it. It’s easier to get it before you are in a time crunch.
Next time you are planning a trip, and just for the sake of convenience want to do it sans baby, reconsider. I’m all for alone time or a weekend getaway with your spouse, but if it is solely to avoid traveling with a baby, don’t avoid it. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. If we let them, they can show up and enjoy it just as we do, it just takes time and some effort to be prepared, but it is beyond worth it.
I would love to hear any other tips for travel. These things worked for us this time, but as said before, children are unpredictable and always changing. Always a good idea to have a few extra in the back pocket.
So, what has worked for you/where have you traveled with your little one?