Getting back into traveling when you’ve just had a baby can seem like a daunting task. There are just so many things to think about! My hubs and I used to be a “carry-on and backpack” only type of travel crew, but the addition of our baby, Harper, turned us into the “checked-bags / arrive two hours early” family. Such a different travel experience! Good news for you is that, it really isn’t bad at all (even if you find out mid flight that your diaper bag does not, in fact, have any diapers in it…yikes!) You just need to be prepared. To help my fellow travel-mommas, the following post will go over booking, hotels, plane flights, and more based on our first few trips!
The first important thing to discuss is mindset. It can get very stressful planning a trip with a baby. Our first vacay was supposed to be stress free, but 2 weeks out from our Florida trip, 2 additional trips popped up. We had a work/ family road trip to Houston, a solo mom work trip to Minneapolis, and our first flight trip to Florida all within 1 week, while pumping! Talk about the need to plan ahead. We made it through all of that because, at the end of the day, what was the worst thing that could happen? Yes, Harper could have cried in the car or on the plane. We did, in fact, forget diapers on the plane which we realized when she had a poop, but we made it and no one on the plane complained. We could have forgotten something but there are always Targets, Walmarts, or other stores close to pickup anything we forgot. If we ran out of bottled milk, I was on tap. At the end of the day, just know that “the worst thing that could happen” is not THAT bad and you will still enjoy yourself. As moms, we have so much to juggle, so take a breath and don’t be hard on yourself!
The second part is your expectations. If you haven’t read about my other trips, in summary, I pack A LOT of activities into a little time. I almost killed Ryan in Rome with trying to see the city in one day! Traveling with a baby is a completely different pace than what we are used too – but that is OK! The vacation will be slower, but honestly, you probably need it to be that way to get rest, take naps (Naps on vacation? What?! But yes, naps are good!), and not stress yourself out. For Florida, I told myself I wanted a restful vacation. We had no places we HAD to be, no time frames, and just a very rough outline of things we could do if we were up for it. Honestly, that was perfect. It gave us so much flexibility to do things based on Harper’s pace and our energy levels. This is your time to get some R&R, so give your self some grace. Your trip will be what you make of it and mindset is a huge part of that!
Considerations For Planning Your Trip With Baby:
- Where To Go: You have so much stuff to bring with a baby. A trip that has multiple hotels, locations, and un-packs / pack-ups is going to be tough. We opted to go to Florida and stay on the beach in the same hotel for 5 nights which made it so much less stressful. Also, consider places with lots of outdoor places for you to enjoy with your little one. Just make sure to check the weather for the time of year you are going.
- Distance to the Airport: Babies should not be in carseats for hours on end. Pick a spot within an hour or so of the airport because you will be exhausted after the flight. Also, if you choose an early flight like we did at 7:10 AM to Florida, expect a VERY early wake up (aka 4 AM) since you will want lots of time at the airport. The further your drive to the airport, the earlier the wake up. Also, if you have a rental car, you will need to add more time for getting gas, dropping the car off, and getting to the gate.
- Activities: We usually book so many excursions on our trip, but with a baby, most of the usual suspects (long tours, adventure activities, etc.) are off the table. However, that does not mean you can’t have fun! Beaches, pools, areas to hike, zoos, gardens, water-taxi / larger boat rides, and National Parks, areas with town squares or walkable shopping districts are great places to go with kids as they usually don’t require a certain time to go, are paved for strollers, are cheap to get in, and give you areas for down time if needed. Indoor places like museums, aquariums, art galleries, malls, restaurants with a great view so you can camp out, etc. are great for rainy or hot day options as well.
- Renting a Car/ Ubering: Ubers ARE doable with a carseat (even without the base). We did Uber to the airport and then we rented a car in Florida to get around. It was just easier to keep our stuff in and have our own, flexible schedule. Also, I could pump in the rental car while Ryan drove if we were out longer than expected. That would be AWK in an Uber.
Baby Friendly Hotels:
- Location: Hotels close or walkable to the main areas you want to explore are super helpful. We booked our Florida hotel right on the beach, so it was a 2 second walk to the huge pool or beach. Also, the hotel was right next to the beach walk with tons of restaurants so we went for a stroll every morning and walked to almost all of our lunch and dinner spots.
- Amenities in Order of Importance:
- Baby Crib: Many hotels offer cribs, you just need to ask or check their website! This will provide a safe sleep space for your little one so you don’t have to lug one with you. So helpful! Just make sure to call a few days in advance and confirm you have one set aside for your room.
- Kitchenette Area: To me, washing bottles and pump parts in the bathroom just does not feel sanitary. We had a little kitchen area in FL with a sink and it was a game changer. Also, having a freezer instead of just a mini-fridge for any extra pumping milk for those breastfeeding mommas out there is a nice-to-have as well.
- Double Queen Beds: We got a King in FL and had double Queen beds in Houston. It was so nice to have an extra bed to use for Harper and her stuff in Houston. She played on it, we changed her on it, and if she spit up or had a blow out, we were NOT sleeping on it. The extra play space was so nice.
- Elevators: If you are staying in a motel, get a 1st floor room. You do not want to lug all of your stuff up and down those stairs.
- Balcony with a View: Getting up so early with a baby, we spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and enjoying nap time on our hotel’s balcony in Florida. Having a way to enjoy your new environment from the hotel room is an big added benefit.
- Kid’s Clubs / Activities: We traveled with Harper at 5 months old. Most Kids Clubs / hotel babysitting services have age minimums (starting at 6 months) in order to use them. Check that when booking if you want to take advantage for a date night or two.
- AirBNB / VRBOs: These are always an option and having a bathroom / kitchen would be so helpful. The biggest thing to call out with rentals is a safe sleep space for the baby. Check in advance if they offer cribs or if you have to bring your own.
- Darkness: Hotels are full of natural light during the day. While I love light and windows, it is not conducive to nap time! Our Houston hotel was way too bright and we had to put Harpers crib in the closet and use our cloth wrap on top to try and block the light. We bought this crib cover for our Florida trip and it made nap time so much easier!
Flying With Baby:
- Booking Your Flight: If you have a baby under 1, they can fly free as a lap child! Doing so for a 3 hour flight to Florida was easy. Just consider how comfy you would be having a baby on your lap for longer international flights of 5+ hours. That might be the time to book a second seat, even if you have to pay. When you do book, just make sure to indicate you are flying with a lap child in the booking. Try and get seats to the front of the plan for a quick exit and an isle seat for easy trips to the bathroom if needed.
- Airport Arrival Time / Check-In: Give yourself at least 1.5 hours (2 if this is your first time traveling with baby) to check in. Our first flight needed all of that time since we hit a few snags. Even if you check in online, most airlines require check in at the desk for the lap infant. You will also likely have to check a bag with all of your stuff. MAKE SURE THEY PRINT A BABY BOARDING PASS. You will need this to get on the plane. Even though I booked the tickets with a lap infant and all of Harper’s details, they did not print a boarding pass for her upon checkin and we had to recheck in at the gate as we could not board the plane without one. We lost our original seats in that process too. Talk about stress. You will also need to check your stroller and carseat at the gate and get a tag so you can bring it down the jet bridge.
- Getting Through Security: Wear your baby! We went through TSA Pre (which is so nice since you don’t have to take your shoes off and the lines are so much shorter) and Ryan’s ticket did not say TSA Pre so he had to go recheck in. I went through security while carrying Harper in my arms and getting the stroller / car seat broken down and the milk out was so hard. A nice man had to help me out. On the way back from that trip, I carried Harper in the Ergobaby carrier and it was so much easier! If you are brining milk, just have it in a cooler that you can easily take in and out of your bag. We used this Skip Hop cooler that fits 3 Dr. Brown’s bottles. I also bought these long lasting, sandwich-size icepacks to keep things extra cold.
- Flying & Pumping: Being on a pumping schedule is hard. You will likely have to do so at some point during your flight experience. It is not that bad! Airports have lactation rooms or pods in each terminal. I used those on my work trip to Minnesota and trip to Florida. Just check the terminal maps for their locations. I used my Momcozy pumps which are perfect for travel to do so and brought a cooler for the milk / Ziplock freezer bags for the pump parts. I also pumped mid-flight twice as well. I brought a scarf to wrap around while I was in my seat using the Momcozys and it was super easy. If you are traveling solo with baby, make sure to pump in the airport as doing so on the plane without someone with you will be very challenging.
- Stroller / Car Seat: Most airlines (even Spirit!) let you check your stroller and car seat for free at the gate. You will need to get a tag at the gate agent and carry these things down the jet bridge. I highly recommend getting a case or protective bag for your carseat. If you buy it from the carseat brand, they usually will replace your carseat if it gets damaged in transit if in the case. Checking at the gate will reduce the risk of damage in transit and you will get them back as soon as you get off the flight on the bridge.
- Baggage: You can also bring an extra bag for your kiddo onto the plane for no extra charge. Pack your bags for flights strategically and have Bags 1 & 2 for under the seat/ easy access and Bag 3 in the overhead bin.
- Bag 1: Baby stuff. Toys on the bottom, food, pacifiers, and changing stuff on top of the bag for easiest access. Wipes / hand sanitizer.
- Bag 2: Your entertainment, pumping stuff if needed, snacks, purse, water, and wallet.
- Bag 3: Additional stuff you need mid-flight or cannot fit in your checked bag. Since it is overhead, it will be harder to access. Try to put anything you need during the flight in bags 1 & 2.
Baby Packing List Must Haves:
- Baby: Diapers / wipes, changing pad, bottles, ice packs for milk if needed, cooler for bottles, cleaning supplies for bottles, light blanket or towel (we used one for the beach), toys / books, pacifiers, moisturizer / shampoo / baby wash / diaper cream / baby sunscreen, hats, baby bug spay, stroller fan, stroller rain or bug covers, stroller cup holder for walks, bathing suits that cover arms with UV protection / swim diapers / swim hats, swim inflatable for the pool, baby ear protection (you never know when it will be loud like on a water Taxi), small packable umbrella for the beach or other random times there is sun, bows (because they are cute, duh), baby carrier, crib cover, PJs and outfits plus lots of backup outfits, and bags for bringing dirty clothes home. We used packing bags and put swimwear, pjs, day clothes, and accessories all in different bags for easy access and neater packing.
- Momma: Pumping parts / chargers / cleaning supplies, pumping bras or shirts, swimsuits that can’t be pulled off easily, water bottle to keep hydrated, a fully charged phone with lots of space for new photos / videos, and excitement for the trip!
Overall, making your baby into your travel buddy is so easy and absolutely worth it! They will be so engaged with their new environments and you will get some needed rest and quality time with your baby. Talk about making core memories! Just take it slow, listen to your babies cues / don’t push too hard, and enjoy every second of it!