It is so exciting to take those two little feet to see the outside world. A world outside the house, grocery stores, hospitals and restaurants. I recently went on our first trip with my 7.5 months old baby. We planned it for days weighing pros and cons of going on a trip with him. I was nervous thinking about a lot of ‘what ifs’. What if the baby falls sick? What if he doesn’t stop crying? What if we don’t ever get to leave the hotel room? What if we have to return back home much earlier than planned? What if baby doesn’t sleep on a new bed?
We went anyway and I tell you, if you plan it well, this is the best time to go on a trip with a baby. We wanted to go when he was 4-5 months old, but I feel babies who start sitting unsupported and do not crawl yet, that age window is perfect for making travel plans. They sit in their car seat for many hours during the day, it is nice to have them sit on a highchair when you eat. It is nice to have them sit and play when you are in hotel room. You can sit them up when the car is not moving and change their clothes in car. We did. And we also changed diapers in parked car.
Here are some tips on planning your vacation well with a baby so you have a happy baby and a good and relaxed time like we did.
Picking the right vacation spot: The first important thing to do is pick a place that is not too hot if you go in summers and not too cold if you go in winters. Pick a place that is not too crowded with tourists where your baby will be irritated. Pick a place where your baby will be calm, comfortable and not cranky. Secondly, plan it in a way that you do not overdo yourselves in a day. You need your leftover stamina to do baby chores at the end of the day- feeding him, washing bottles if you use them, putting him to sleep, managing any tantrums, etc. So plan it in a way that you have space in your plan to rearrange, move things here and there, and is flexible. The reason I am saying this is because we never left hotel room at the time that we planned. Sometimes we made unplanned stops because baby pooped or cried for no reason or wanted an out from car seat.
Things to pack for the baby: This is important even though you might be able to find stuff that you forget wherever you go, so you can buy new. But you cannot miss on packing things that make your baby comfortable in his own. We had limited weight allowed by the airlines so we had to plan things in a way we take the essentials and buy things there. Think of everything you can do to plan on having the same comfort for your baby that he would have at home. Few things I wouldn’t have traveled without: his blankie he sleeps in, a travel blanket for touring, his favorite toys, his night time clothes, an absorbent sheet, his small bedsheet to go over it, his bottles, sterilizer, comb, oil (you might not find the same one in stores), his pacifier (I don’t use it at all but on trip this helped me a lot, I am glad we carried it as a just in case option), his diaper rash cream or any other creams/ lotions/ soap that you think you might not find in a store there.
Making a schedule knowing that there can be last minute changes and planning ahead of accommodating such: It’s hard sometimes to stick to the planned schedule. You might leave late or arrive late at any place. It is okay to be so. It is okay to miss seeing a tourist point or miss the morning breakfast at the hotel. Always remember the basic idea of why you are on the trip and don’t stress yourself out. We did the touring at our own pace. Planning those places first that needed more time and were more interesting to us that we didn’t want to miss out on. We would take it one at a time. Select a place, visit and then decide whether or not we are up for next spot or whatever it was we wanted to do next. We always aimed at getting back to the hotel by maximum 9 p.m. so his bedtime (10 p.m.) remained unchanged. Most of the days we took our food to our room and had dinner after putting him to bed so we could eat peacefully after all the tiredness. There are also times when baby gives you surprise poop, or a hunger or sleep cry. Don’t stress. Just figure out a way to calm him down and make quick adjustments to your plan. We went for a cave tour and he cried for no reason. That’s when the pacifier helped. And some shark do- do. And some hugging and kissing. And then he was finally calm but we missed the tour. So we hopped on the next tour. We had to wait for 20 minutes but it was worth a quiet and calm baby.
Baby gear: Such a blessing to have a baby gear. I have to say it is one of the best investments we did. It was so much better to wear him instead of holding him. Babies don’t do stroller for extended hours. They get tired of sitting in it. Besides not all places are stroller friendly. We went to a mountain where we had to climb a flight of stairs. And we went to a trail too. Best thing was he would fall asleep in it without being fussy because I was so close to him. I would recommend spending in baby gear, it is so much worth it.
Sleeping arrangement: If your baby is comfortable sleeping in a crib, all hotels usually have them. Just ask for it. My baby wasn’t ready to sleep in a different crib in a room not familiar to him. I figured that keeping him close to us will give him and us more sleep at night which we very much needed. I had to block all the open ends so he doesn’t fall. So we didn’t sleep with our head near the head board. Instead, we slept sideways. I kept pillows above his head and below his feet. Headboard on his one side and I slept on the other. This way he was blocked from falling. I also kept some pillows near the head board because I didn’t want him getting hurt from it. I carried his absorbent sheet and a bedsheet to go on top of it and of course his night time blanket. He slept over it making sure he doesn’t put hotel sheets in his mouth. And if he was to throw up or diaper leak accidents, we wouldn’t have to worry about calling the hotel reception and having them change sheets in the middle of the night.
Bathing arrangement: This was my biggest concern. I thought of this idea and it worked really well for me. We just bought a rectangular basket and a water pitcher from dollar tree. Used it on trip and trashed it there itself. We would make him sit in it in the bathtub and use the pitcher to put water on him. When we went on the trip he used to sit unsupported so he could sit comfortably in it.
Things we bought over there instead of carrying them with us: I only carried 3-4 of his baby foods with me. And water just enough for a day. So we bought more baby food and infant water from walmart. We carried just enough diapers for a day or two. We bought rest over there along with some wipes. A bottle cleaning brush and washing soap too. And we left all of this over there so we didn’t add any weight to our luggage.
Air plane journey: What worked for me was the following schedule for my baby but you should check with his pediatrician before following any of it. For us, it was pretty good and not as scary as we think. I had him eat his baby food before we boarded the flight. As soon as we started to move, I started breast feeding him. And as we took off, I closed his ears with my fingers. I believe it helped. We didn’t make him sleep before flight on the airport. So he slept most of the time during flight. When he woke up, he was full, fresh and happy. He played for a while. And then as we were landing, I again closed his ears. I suggest working out a schedule for him in a way he sleeps more in air plane instead of the airport. We carried his stroller, car seat and car seat base with us that the air plane staff collected from us right before we stepped into the plane and gave it back when we stepped out. We changed his diaper on the airport so we didn’t have to do it on the plane. The plane journey was tiring for the little soul so we didn’t plan anything else on the same day. Just went right to the hotel and took our dinner along.
Long car rides: We used to travel a lot by car during the day going to different places. So we knew he was maxed out on his car seat time. We used to take a lot of pit stops and take him out whenever possible. That’s also when baby gear helps. At restaurants we sat him in the high chair. I use this beautiful and functional high chair cover that I bought from amazon.com. He was happy to sit with us and the toys attached to it kept him busy and playful. I usually fed him with us so that made him happy too. Keeping him happy and calm was our number one goal if we had to make our day go smoothly.
Do what baby wants to do: If he is up, give his favorite toys to him, one by one, so that will keep him busy and excited. If he is hungry, feed him. If he needs to come out of car seat, make a stop. And finally if he is tired for the day, just go back to the hotel. Some of the good times we had were also in the hotel room. Just the three of us. Sharing the best times ever and making memories. Playing, clicking pictures, eating, watching TV. Because you don’t get to do such things in the busy routine life where either of the parents have to do some work.
Planning is the key when it comes to the first trip with your baby. You will get lot of surprises but no stressing out is the answer. Just go easy on yourself and your little one. keep your baby happy. Do what it takes to keep him happy. We had so much fun with him that I didn’t want to come back. So Mama’s go ahead, get ready, and have a rocking time with your baby because these first moments never come back!