Most of us don’t want to take the “family” out of family vacations by leaving baby behind—even if these tiniest of travelers refuse to help carry any luggage…
Babies are not quite as fragile as their reputations would suggest. They can certainly handle accompanying you on your vacation. Sure, traveling with a baby presents some unique challenges that didn’t exist when you were child-free, but with some preparation, a fun-filled, memory-packed trip is possible.
Prescription for a Relaxing Vacation
Kara Williams, an infant-toting contributor at FamilyVacationCritic.com, recommends a pre-travel doctor trip. “Infants are more vulnerable to germs than adults and vacations are often filled with them.” Make sure your baby is healthy before leaving town. Also, prepare for this joke: “When you get back, you’ll probably need a vacation from your vacation.” Doctors like that one.
Write the Itinerary in Pencil
Let’s put it this way: your baby is probably going to have more say in the vacation schedule than you are. Just like back home! Detailed schedules with appointed start and end times are a thing of the past.
Embrace your new flexible outlook on vacation by only attempting one “must-do” activity a day. After a few days traveling with an infant, you probably won’t mind missing a house of wax here or a scenic overlook there.
Sleep is (Even Harder) to Come By
Yes, you might need to prepare for getting even less sleep on vacation. And yes, that is a bitter pill to swallow. If only tropical breezes could magically rock your baby to sleep. But Tara Cannon, Editor of PintSizePilot.com, has a few tips to share to better balance the sleep/wake ratio in your favor:
- Spring for the suite. If your baby needs close to total quiet and darkness to sleep, you’d probably rather not have to spend all night under your covers with a flashlight and a stack of hotel lobby brochures.
- Jet lag is a drag. And it ruins rigid sleep schedules. Try to remember to put baby down for naps and bed at the same times of day you would back home. Use heavy curtains or blackout blinds to fake nighttime.
- Bring comforts from home. Try to make the away bed feel as much like the home bed as you can. If your baby needs a stuffed walrus in a tuxedo to fall asleep, don’t leave Walter Whisker behind.
Pack with the Right Mentality
There are two mistakes to make when packing for a trip—not packing enough and packing too much. Parents on their first vacation with a new baby tend to make the latter. Try your best to pack light!
Unless you’re planning on a sojourn into the wilderness, you can buy food, formula, diapers and other baby needs at your destination. Err on the side of fewer outfits vs. more; you can always do laundry. Or, if you’re staying with their grandparents, you might acquire a new wardrobe.
And don’t just pack light—pack small! Have you seen that family trooping through the airport with a portable crib, playpen and stroller? You don’t have to be them. Most decent-sized cities have businesses that will happily rent you larger infant necessities, and hotels will often have cribs (ask when you book the reservation).
Car seats can also be left at home. When you rent a car from Alamo, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of child safety seats to fit any child who needs one.
Leaving larger items at home will be a load off your mind (and your back).
Set Up Shop
Babies do not understand the attraction of living out of a suitcase. (Silly babies.) They like routine. A little organization will help everyone’s mood. Recreate your home’s baby-centric areas as much as you can. Identify and cordon off the play area wherever you are staying. Designate locations for both feeding and changing. And rocking, swaying, fussing, cooing, puking…
Find a Family
Guess who will be most sympathetic to the harried, disheveled family with the cranky baby? Other harried, disheveled families with cranky babies!
Whether on an airplane, shuttle bus, restaurant or patch of beach, try to find other families with kids close in age to yours and even a little older. Everyone will understand what everyone is going through and can lend support, advice, and deep, deep signs of exhaustion.
Finally - Embrace the Differences
Having a baby changed your entire life – don’t you want it to change your vacation, too?
Sure, lengthy, adult-only brunches might be off the menu. Or even being out of the hotel past 7:30 PM. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have a blast discovering all the ways your vacation lifestyle has changed with baby on board.
And those differences will fill your trip with memories to cherish for years to come.