Growing up my parents were really big into traveling, and I got the “bug”. Travelling definitely tops my list of “hobbies”. When we had my oldest son, Kyle, I was excited to continue traveling like we always had, plus baby! We’ve been very fortunate to travel a bunch since his birth.
The first “trip” the 3 of us took was when Kyle was 3 weeks old when we drove up north to the cottage for thanksgiving weekend. Not a “real” trip, but it was definitely a haul. When Kyle was 5 months old, we drove 8 hours (yes, you read that right, 8 hours) to Tremblant, Quebec. Let’s just say, lesson learned, and we’ll never do that drive again! When Kyle was 6 months, we took a 24 hour trip (time of travel from leaving our house to arriving at the hotel) to Hawaii. At 9 months, we flew to New York for 4 days and every summer, we spend a week’s vacation up at the cottage. And around Kyle’s first birthday, we flew to Edmonton to spend a week with my brother and his family and we flew to the Bahamas for 4 days. In fact, before Kyle turned two, he’s been on 20 flights!
Based on my experience of traveling with an infant and receiving tips from other frequent flyer parents, I’ve compiled a list of things to do and bring to make the trip more enjoyable for you and your little travel partners.
1. If flying, request a bulk head seat from the airline and if baby is around 6 months or younger, ask for a bassinet. Some airlines charge extra for the bulk head seat, while others provide it for free. Either way, we found that it is well worth the extra cost. We had this for our flight to Hawaii and it was GREAT! Kyle slept for 6 hours on one of our 3 flights and it was amazing for all of us. The extra space was also very enjoyable. I also brought a pillow with us so if your child doesn’t want to sleep in the bassinet or is too big for it, they can fall asleep on the pillow that you’re holding. Much more comfortable for both of you!
2. If at all possible, avoid long drives (i.e. drives over 3 hours) with babies / toddlers and fly instead. Kids are much more calm and entertained if they’re being held by you or are able to crawl / walk. If you still have to drive, I recommend planning for a break every 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Babies need to “stretch” as well.
3. Whether traveling by plane or car, bring lots of toys to keep them occupied. I would recommend bringing a few “old” favourite toys and a few new toys that the baby hasn’t seen before. A lot of people recommend brining portable DVD’s with headsets.
4. Bring lots of diapers and baby wipes and change of clothes (for you as well if traveling for longer than 6 hours). Bring formula, water and milk. There are no limits on quantities when it comes to babies. They may just ask you to drink the water at security to show that it’s “legit”. Also, on some flights / airlines, they don’t serve milk, so buy at the airport before boarding. Bring plenty of snacks for babies eating solids. A baby blanket is also a good idea since it tends to cool down on planes, especially if you have a window seat.
5. If baby is still in “bucket” seat, the “snap n’ go” is probably best for travel. Otherwise, investing in a GOOD QUALITY umbrella stroller would be well worth your money. We have a Maclaren stroller and I bought it used but in great condition. I love it! We keep it in our trunk at all times and is great for travel / bringing on the plane.
6. Always bring a baby carrier with you. If baby is fussy in his stroller and can’t walk yet, they will love going anywhere you go if they’re in the carrier. Also makes for a great “bed on the go” for them.
7. Most places will provide a playpen / pack-n-play. Just ask for it when you make the reservations. If they don’t have it, they can probably refer you to a local store that rents them out. They usually provide delivery and set-up as well. Well worth the extra cost versus schlepping it with you. They’re pretty heavy and you will already have enough to carry.
8. Car-seats. If you plan on doing a lot of driving on your-own while traveling, it is worthwhile to bring your own car-seat. Otherwise, if you will be traveling by bus or larger shuttle cars, you can hold your baby in your lap. Always remember to check the local laws of wherever you’re traveling to.
9. If you’re traveling somewhere warm and will spend most of your time in the same place, I recommend getting a beach tent. We got one for Hawaii and it was the best purchase we ever made. It helped keep Kyle out of the sun and protected him from flying sand.
Of course, if he was a good napper, it would have also been great to put him in there for his naps. The tent folds small and almost daily, we had someone offer us money for it. They were all a bit disappointed to hear that we bought it in Canada. On the same note, a blow-up float is also great as it folds small and makes a great raft for the babies while in the pool (supervised of course).
I would also recommend purchasing a few water toys from the dollar-store. We usually leave these behind but are great to take for the pool / beach.
10. Bring camera to capture the memories. Your baby / toddler will most likely not remember the vacation, so take tons of pictures to show them where they’ve been once they’re older. We even went the extra mile and got professional pictures done in Hawaii.
11. HAVE FUN! Babies / Toddlers react and read off your cues. The more fun you’re having and the more relaxed you are, the more they will be as well.
P.S. Don’t forget to pack: Baby Advil / Tylenol, thermometer, bottle brush, hat and sunscreen.