It’s summertime--the wonderful season of sun, sand, water, barbecues, fireworks and family vacations! If this is your first summer as a parent, you may be used to jetting off to fun destinations with your honey without too much forethought. Pick a week, book tickets and hotel, pack flip flops and go, right? Enter baby. Vacationing takes on a whole new dimension when you are toting your tot along for the trip. Here’s all you need to know about planning, preparation and executing a successful vacation with your new baby.
Packing and Preparation:
Lots of preparation goes into planning a great vacation with your baby. Most importantly, don’t save planning for the last minute or you will end up frazzled and unprepared. Once you’ve decided where you are going and have booked your tickets and accommodations, determine what you will need to pack for yourself and for baby. Make a list that covers all the essential baby items such as:
- baby sunscreen (if needed)
- swim diapers
- formula (if needed)
- breast pump (if needed)
Before you leave, make sure baby is healthy and has had any vaccinations that are recommended before travel. It’s always a good idea to discuss any upcoming travel plans with your pediatrician in case there are any extra precautions that need to be taken for baby due to the season or destination. If you are traveling internationally, baby will need a passport just like you. Allow plenty of time for the processing of the passport before your trip.
If you will be bringing a travel crib for baby to sleep in, consider doing a trial run at home to help him adjust to the new sleep arrangements in a familiar environment. And finally, once you’ve got everything prepared for your tiny traveler, don’t forget to pack for yourself! Put some of baby’s belongings in your luggage as well so in the event that a bag is lost, you will have the important items you need.
Flying with Baby:
If you’ll be flying to your vacation destination, there are several factors to consider when planning for baby. First, will he ride on your lap or will he have his own seat on the plane? Though having a child under the age of two, ride on your lap is free for domestic flights, the FAA strongly recommends that all children from birth to 40 pounds are secured in an airplane compatible car seat in their own seat. Car Seats For The Littles is a great resource that offers tons of valuable information regarding airplane safety for babies and car seat safety in general.
“Remember, on the flight the only things not restrained during taxi, takeoff, and landing, are children under two. Children and adults over two, the flight attendants, all carry-on baggage, books, computers, soap in the lavatory, coffee pots, and snacks are secured. But a lap baby is not. For some reason they’re not given the same priority as the peanuts.” – Car Seats for the Littles
In addition to ensuring baby’s safety on the plane, here are a few other tips to make air travel a success:
- Wait to check your stroller until you’ve reached the gate so that you have it for navigating the airport on both ends of your trip and in the event that you have connections.
- If you do decide to check your car seat, make sure to package it in the original box with sufficient padding to prevent any damage from occurring in cargo. Check the seat over thoroughly upon your arrival and do not use it if there are any visible signs of damage.
- The 3-ounce-rule does not apply to formula or breastmilk when passing through airport security.
- Bring whatever you need to feed your baby on the plane with you.
- Be sure to pack an accessible change of clothes for both you and baby in case there are any accidents during the flight.
- Pack your party tricks to entertain baby in the event of fussiness. Include a few new toys, books, and anything else that will help pass the time for your little one.
- Board early and deplane last. This will allow you time before takeoff to get situated and time after landing to pack up your belongings.
- Although most airlines do not have restrictions on the age at which an infant can fly, it’s safest to wait at least until your baby has had their first round of immunizations at 2 months of age. Remember that your new baby’s immune system is still developing and he is going to be more susceptible to germs and illness on a flight than you are.
- Offer your baby a bottle or pacifier at takeoff to lessen the effects of the pressure change on his ears.
- Double check that the car seat you are bringing is air travel compatible. If your car seat at home is too bulky or cumbersome, consider buying an additional inexpensive, travel friendly car seat.
Another major factor to consider when preparing for a family vacation is where you will stay. If you are going to visit family and will be staying in a home, you will probably face fewer challenges in regards to setting up a baby friendly space than if you stay in a hotel room with just mini fridge. If you plan to stay in a hotel room, be sure to confirm that the room has a refrigerator if you will need to store breastmilk, formula or baby food and find out if it’s possible to get a suite with a kitchenette to make your stay more comfortable. Another great option for traveling with a baby is to consider renting a vacation condo instead of a hotel room where you will likely have more space, more than one bedroom, a kitchen and possibly EVEN a washer/dryer to accommodate your family of three.
Upon arriving to your destination, get things set up right away so that you can handle baby’s needs as they arise. This may involve putting up a portable crib, setting up your sound machine, creating a changing station, laying down the play mat with toys, setting up the bottles and other dishes by the sink and taking measures to baby proof any areas where baby will have access. Consider packing some outlet covers in your luggage to take care of exposed outlets and some tape to conceal exposed wires in the room. Obviously these last suggestions are only relevant if you have a baby that is on the move. Making your vacation living space as baby friendly and convenient as possible from the get-go will save everyone time and hassles so that you can focus on having fun.
Schedule and Activities:
While you may not be able to hit the latest night clubs in town on your trip, there are plenty of fun activities to be had with your baby. Take some time to do research about your destination before your trip to determine family friendly activities and restaurants that you might want to try. As much as possible, you want to try to adjust your vacation schedule to your baby’s existing schedule rather than the reverse. If you have a happy well-rested baby, the activities will be more enjoyable for all.
Speaking of rest, you’re probably wondering how naps will work on your trip. That really depends on the age of the baby but there are many options for making naps work while traveling. Consider wearing your baby in a sling or carrier for naps on the go or pack a comfortable stroller that reclines instead of a basic umbrella stroller. A carrier or a stroller is truly a must have for vacations regardless if you will use them for naps. If your baby needs to nap in a quiet, dark room (which many babies do), you and your partner can take turns staying back with baby while the other partakes in some R&R or vacation activities.
In addition to family friendly activities like the beach, pool, or sightseeing, you will likely want to have at least a few meals out while vacationing. If your baby is still tiny, you may get lucky and have them sleep through most of your restaurant experiences but if you have an older baby, bringing entertainment is a must. Bring a couple books, a few toys, snacks (if old enough) to ward off any meltdowns due to boredom. Try to eat dinner early if your baby is used to going to bed early as it’s important to stick to their schedule as much as possible.
Once you return to your room for the evening, follow bed time protocol just as you would at home. If baby takes a nightly bath to unwind, do a bath. If you usually read three books and sing two songs, read three books and sing two songs. Follow everything exactly as you would if you were home to make baby feel comfortable and secure in his new setting. Once baby is asleep, if you and your partner are itching to get out for some adult time, some hotels do offer sitter services if a friend or family member is not an option. As you can see, traveling with your baby requires lots of planning and forethought to have a successful family vacation. The more prepared you are, the more smoothly things should go for you and your baby. So, pick a destination, drag those suitcases out of storage and start planning your first family vacation.