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Tips for Vacationing with Baby

July 22, 2012

Ryan and I love to travel.  We get long breaks from teaching in the summer, and BL (before Lila), we’d spend much of the summer traveling to spots near and far.  When we found out that I was pregnant, many of our friends with kids told us to TRAVEL NOW, while we still could—like traveling with a baby/child was basically impossible. 

I see now why they would say that.

Before you have a baby, you naively think that traveling with a baby couldn’t be that hard.

Yes it is.

Before you have a baby, you think those other parents are just being dramatic.

No they’re not.

The truth is, traveling with a baby isn’t impossible—but it is a lot harder.  And it’s very, very different.

Now that we’ve been to the depths of hell and back taken our first vacation with baby, I thought I’d offer up a few tips on things we did, didn’t do, should have done, shouldn’t have done—the do’s and don’ts of traveling with baby.

Don’t compare trips with the baby to trips you took before you had the baby

This was a big one for us. Two years ago, we took a trip to Nantucket pretty similar to the one we just took—except that we didn’t have Lila.  We were still just a twosome (okay, a foursome if you count the dogs), and we both remember that trip as being so much fun.   We rode bikes every day, walked the beach, slept in, took long runs, strolled around town, ate out at fabulous restaurants—it was a great trip.  And it took every ounce of strength I had not to compare this Nantucket trip to the last one.  A lot has changed—we can’t just take off for a bike ride or a walk to the beach when we feel like it.  Dinners out at nice restaurants don’t really happen anymore unless we have a babysitter.  And a third glass of wine is a lot less appealing when there’s a possibility that you might be getting up at 5:30 am.

So yes, things have changed.  And our 2012 trip to Nantucket was completely different from the one we took in 2010.  But it’s important to remember that…

Different doesn’t mean worse

For everything we lost on this trip—fancy meals out, the freedom to do whatever, whenever—we gained back so much more.  Vacations with a baby are stressful, and hard, but they’re also fun—because you’re getting to see a whole slew of firsts.  Our trip to Nantucket this year included her first time “swimming” in a pool, plus her first trip to the beach, and, perhaps my favorite—her first real belly laugh, brought-on by Aunt Katherine:

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Plus, she got to spend tons of time with family.  Living so far from both of our families is tough, and we really cherish the time that Lila gets to spend with her aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.   

So no, we didn’t get to hit up some of the hottest restaurants on the island every night.  But we had cocktails at home, and we spent our evenings snuggling with the baby on the hammock:

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…and no restaurant can offer that!

Think about what you need to pack.  Like, REALLY think about it.

This is something I didn’t really do.  Lila has cute clothes—a lot of cute clothes.  And so I filled her suitcase with outfit after smocked outfit…along with enough onesies to clothe an entire army of 3 month olds.  And I might have packed 20 hair bows.  Maybe.

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The truth is, especially for where we were going and what we were doing, I could have easily packed half the amount of clothing for Lila that I did (and for myself, but that’s another story), and we would have been fine.  There were many, many dresses that she didn’t even wear.  Next time, I’m going to be a lot more restrictive in what we pack for her, clothes-wise.

That being said, if you feel like there’s something you can’t live without, and it’s feasible to pack, I say do it.  We packed Lila’s playmat, which might seem like a bit much– but I’m so glad we did.  It didn’t take up that much space, and she spent hours entertaining herself on the mat while Mom and Dad had an afternoon beer.

Think about what you can buy (or rent) there.

Because Nantucket is such a vacation destination, there are tons of baby rental companies on the island.  We were able to rent a swing (lifesaver), a stroller, a baby carrier, a crib, and a bouncy seat, all of which really helped the vacation to go smoothly.  Even if you can’t find a baby rental company where you’re going, chances are your hotel might have a few baby items that you can use during your stay.  We also waited until we got to Nantucket to buy things like formula, bath supplies, and even a few toys.

Try not to freak out about the plane ride.

Again, something I need to work on for next time.  I was so stressed out about the possibility that Lila wouldn’t fly well that I think I stressed her out, and in turn, by the time we got through security and to our first gate, she was crying pretty hard.  But, once we calmed down, took a few deep breaths, and swaddled her, she passed right out—and slept through almost the entire flight, and the entire next one as well.  Relax, and your baby might do the same.  Freak out, and your baby will probably do the same.  And remember, even if your baby is “that baby” on the plane—you’ll never see those people again. 

And a little infant Tylenol never hurt nobody.

Go with the flow.

One thing we’re still struggling with a little is accepting the fact that a baby can throw a wrench in the schedule like nothing else.  Luckily, Ryan and I are pretty laid-back and non-scheduled people for the most part.  Still, when you have it in your mind that you’re going to do something, and then the baby changes those plans, it can be disappointing.  You just have to learn to roll with the punches.  On one night of our vacation, we’d been invited to see a friend’s mom’s art opening, and we also had plans to visit the island carnival.  Well, Lila was fussy all day and then she fell asleep around 5:00.  Not wanting to wake her, Ryan and I ended up just staying home, letting Lila sleep, and making sandwiches for dinner—not exactly an art gallery or a carnival! Still, it is what it is, and the more you learn to just go with the flow and move on, the happier you’ll be as a parent.

Take advantage of help.

Ryan and I live far from both our families.  We have an awesome nanny who has been taking care of Lila for a few hours a day, a few times a week—she’ll continue to do so when we go back to work in the fall.  But, other than that—it’s pretty much just us, taking care of Lila around the clock.  And that’s really tough.  I’m very, very jealous of parents who get to raise their children with family nearby—it would be awesome to be able to drop Lila off at my mom’s house so that I could hit the gym for an hour.  But, we live far away, and we deal with it.  Still, you better believe that when we do have family around, we take advantage of it!  My mom was really, really helpful on this trip—taking Lila a few times a day so that we could slip away for a bike ride, or a swim, or even just a nap.  Being able to pass Lila off to other hands every once in a while made this trip a lot more relaxing for us.

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Understand that meltdowns might happen.

Lila had one *very* fussy night early on in the vacation, and I spent about ten minutes sitting on my bed in our room, having a good cry.  Listen, babies are frustrating in everyday life, so there’s no reason to think that they wouldn’t have a few frustrating moments on vacation as well.  In fact, I think meltdowns are more likely to happen on vacation, when the baby is in a totally new setting and is usually at least a little off schedule. 

Let the meltdown happen.  Do what you need to do to deal with it.  But don’t let it ruin the whole vacation—the baby will get over it, and so should you.

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Cherish the little moments.

Your first vacation with a baby only happens once, and babies grow up all too quickly.  When we go on vacation next summer, Lila will be completely and utterly different—she’ll be walking, talking, and probably giving us attitude.  There were some very stressful moments on our trip— but I’m not going to let those moments overwhelm my memories of our first vacation with Lila.  Instead, I want to remember the little moments—the ones that won’t ever come again.  The stroller rides at dusk, the early morning snuggles…

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…that’s what I want to remember about our trip when we look back on it in five, ten…twenty years.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. hsdisarro permalink
    July 22, 2012 3:33 pm

    Can I just second everything you said? Because its all 100% true!

  2. July 22, 2012 4:22 pm

    Love reading your blog — its really helped me plan for the near future of having my own kids! You’re so honest and don’t pretend like its all sunshine and flowers, which is awesome

  3. July 22, 2012 5:37 pm

    perfect post and I am nodding in agreement with absolutely everything you said!!

  4. July 22, 2012 6:59 pm

    Agree with Averie! I think every person thinking of having a baby should have to read this (and endure a week long trial …but thats another story ;)). I never would have pictured you as a head bow kind of gal!! Your peanut looks SO cute in them. Glad you had a nice trip filled with firsts

    • July 22, 2012 8:37 pm

      Hahaha…it just seems like a shame to waste all that HAIR, right?!? 🙂

  5. July 23, 2012 1:24 am

    Yes, it was a great trip – exactly what I was hoping for. It is hard being a grandparent,and not have your sweet granddaughter in the same town, so this trip was especially satisfying for both Dad and me. We are so fortunate to be able to share these times with you!

  6. Patti permalink
    July 23, 2012 2:13 am

    What a great blog. Yes, children really change your routine but the joys are worth it. You made some great suggestions for travel with babies. We look forward to times with you in the future and being able to help out more now that she is getting older. Glad you enjoyed your first vacation with her.

  7. July 23, 2012 5:59 am

    Another thing to consider is “What can I ship?” Formula, diapers, and stuff that doesn’t have to come back is a definite. Also consider shipping a pack and play if she won’t sleep in hotel cribs (or you don’t co-sleep), We learned that one pretty early on.

  8. July 23, 2012 11:07 am

    What a cutie. No, I don’t have kids, but I can only imagine how hard it would be to travel with them! Heck, traveling is hard enough as it is, with all the things you have to remember to do…..add another child and BAM, really tough! I’m glad you had fun on your first trip AL (after Lila) haha Great tips!

  9. July 23, 2012 1:05 pm

    So MANY great Lila pictures!!! She is really warming to the camera!!! I love your honesty….I love the real mom you are! 🙂

  10. July 23, 2012 6:41 pm

    Such a great post! I’m so glad you got to enjoy the trip even if it wasn’t what it used to be. The memories are forever and it sounds like you made some pretty incredible ones!

  11. January 17, 2013 12:59 am

    We are contemplating taking our 1 year old on his first trip this summer. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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