In her short 23 months in this Earth our little Chick has done her fair share of traveling. When we got pregnant, #handsomehubbs and I made a pact to try to stay us once baby arrived, traveling included. This has meant lots of trips near and far for little miss. Although I’ve written posts on tips for the actual flight and gadgets that make traveling with baby easier before, I’ve never written about the logistics of the actual trip; you know- once you land! 😂 I think this is because for me personally, the flying part is always the most stressful.. Anyway, I figured I would write a post on the logistics of traveling with baby, answering all of your FAQs. From how we sleep to how we nap, this post will cover all the questions I’m most often asked when traveling with babe.. ready to dive in? Let’s get into it!
What’s the Sleeping Situation Normally Like?
About a month before we hit the road we usually call the hotel to confirm they have a crib/play they can set up for us and have waiting in the room. Most hotels offer this service, if yours doesn’t for any reason my recommendation is you bring along with this lightweight, portable crib. My friend’s who have it RAVE about it. We all sleep in the same room but try to put the crib as far away from our bed as possible so she can’t see us while laying down. If there’s any type of hallway in the room we often put the crib there for the same reason. At home she sleeps in her own room and in our experience having us in her line of sight results in her asking to be picked up throughout the night.
When putting her down at night, we try to mimic her routine at home as CLOSELY as we can. We give her a long bath (room with a bath is also something we ask for before we arrive), a bottle, put her in a sleep sack and turn the sound machine on, just like we do at home. After we put her down in the crib, we run into the hotel room’s bathroom and stay in there for about 15 minutes until she’s fully asleep. I suggest you bring playing cards along for your trip- it makes sitting in the bathroom floor in silence much more enjoyable, especially when you win! 😂😜🙃 We play a version of rummy known in Panama as Tatuca, you normally need 4 players but we make it work..
OK She’s Down, Now What?
When we’re traveling It always takes Chickie a night or two to fully settle in. Doing everything the same as we would at home helps, YES but she’s still in a new crib, new space, new country and that takes some getting used to. No matter where we travel to- time change or no time change- the first night always comes with some waking up and whining, particularly when she can SEE us from the crib. For this reason, we never have anything planned for the first two nights of a trip. Once she’s down we play cards, watch a movie (with headphones on the ipad 😂) or order room-service and eat it in the comfort of the bathroom floor. Yup, it’s super glamorous.
After she’s more settled in, we often venture out to the hotel bar/restaurant and bring the monitor with us. I know not everyone is comfortable with this but we are; here’s how/why: before we get to the hotel (at the same time we call for crib and bath) we ask they put us as close to the ground floor as possible. That way if we see baby crying in the monitor or having any sort of emergency – just like at home- we can rush up the stairs to see what’s up and not have to wait for the elevator to take us to the 7th floor.. it gives us peace of mind. Another thing that gives us peace of mind is the Annie Baby Monitor App. We’ve tried many monitoring apps and Annie is by far our favorite because you can SEE if baby is making sounds- the sound wave spikes red- so if you’re in a restaurant or bar you can leave your phone facing up on the table and LOOK at the monitor rather than having it at your ear the whole time. The app is around $10, you download it on two phones (your only pay once) and use one phone as a monitor and one as a camera. We love that it goes seamlessly from WiFi to 3g if the WiFi signal is running low, without disconnecting. The app has video and audio capability, although the audio is much better. What we normally do is prop the phone up to where we can see Chickie but use the audio only; if we hear something funky or she wakes up then we turn the video on to check on her. It works!
Do You Bring a Car Seat Along?
When Chickie was under 25 pounds and still fit in her newborn car seat it was SO easy to travel with it. We bought one of these bags and just checked it every time we traveled. Instead of using our travel stroller, when we flew with the car seat we used our bigger Vista stroller so we could just connect the car seat to the stroller when out and about. Once she outgrew the newborn car seat it was a whole other issue.
Anytime we rent a car, we just ask the rental company to provide one and it’s easy enough. The issue comes when we don’t rent a car which is the majority of the time. What we typically do with no rental is pre-book all of our big transfers- airport to city, city to city, etc.. online and tell the transportation company we’re traveling with a baby. They’ve never charged us more and have always had a car seat available. We often use this site to book but there’s about a million out there. My recommendation is to read online reviews before you book. Once in the city, we try to take the metro as much as can and walk, walk, walk around. As a last resource, we do a taxi with babe sitting on our lap which is obviously not ideal and a little nerve wracking but in most countries taxis are exempt from the car seat requirement so they won’t give you too much grief. If your kiddos are four years old and over you might want to check out these inflatable booster seats for traveling.
How Do You Deal With Time Changes?
There’s no sugar coating this- time changes can be ROUGH on you AND baby. We’ve tried dealing with them in every which way and what’s worked best for us is this: sleep as much as you can on the plane and once you get to where you’re going, change your watch and IMMEDIATELY pretend your head is in that time zone- if baby usually goes down for a nap at 12:30, put baby down at 12:30 destination time; if baby usually goes to bed at 8PM, keep that baby up until destination time’s 8PM. The same goes for you! No little nap at 4PM because we’re all tired- push through, keep baby entertained however you can and put him down as close to normal bedtime as you can. This strategy has worked the best for us and usually within 36 hours Chickie is fully in destination time- it takes longer for us adults to catch up. Note that babe might need some help napping at the “new” time- even though at home Chickie only has bottles in the AM when she wakes up and before bed at night, we don’t skimp on bottles when we travel- get that baby down whatever it takes!
How Do You Handle Naps?
Lots of people say you need to be flexible with baby’s schedule in order to successfully travel with baby; have a “relax,we’re on vacation” approach to missed nap times and later bedtimes they say. I agree with this but absolutely not until later on during your trip. For the first two or so days my recommendation is STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE AT HOME even if this means being locked in a hotel for three hours in the middle of the ONE sunny day during your entire stay in London… 🙋🏽😅 Yes, in the moment it’ll suck but your baby will be much better adjusted to the time change and overall change in environment if she’s not over-tired and ALSO getting used to a big change in her schedule. Once adapted, she can take ALL the stroller naps and you can have ALL the #naptimehoneymoons while out and about, but not before.
If you’re not into putting baby down at normal bedtime and using a monitor to go grab some dinner downstairs, my suggestion (which we often do, too) is to play around with nap time so you can accommodate early dinners-again, only AFTER baby is adapted to the time/scene change. For example, Chickie normally goes down for a nap at 12:30 PM. On days where we want to do something at night with her we put her down closer to 2:30-3, that way she’s waking UP from nap around 5:30-6 and we have a much better chance of having a pleasant baby until 10PM when we get back to the hotel.. Basically we trade in terrible behavior from 12:30 to 2:30 for good behavior past 8pm 😂😂😂 #Toddlerproblems at it’s finest!
What’s Your Packing Strategy?
I have one packing master list that has everything we need for baby, excluding numbers/types of outfits as that varies by trip. I use the same list each time we travel- I print it out and just check things off it as I pack them. I also have the list on a note on my cell so I can add things that I’m missing as the trip goes on. The list has morphed through the years as it was about a MILE long in the newborn days- I exclusively pumped for 11 months so you can imagine the amount of sanitizing equipment and pump parts that came everywhere with me! My recommendation is you take a stab and making your own, it’s good mental prep for the trip! Just take a half hour one day to sit down and go through baby’s daily routine writing down any “stuff” you need for it, once you’re done tape it to the fridge and add whatever you find yourself using/needing throughout the next couple of days. Before you know it you’ll have a complete packing list that would make Mary Poppins proud and a little jealous.
For clothes, I pack every outfit in a different ziplock. It takes longer to pack but it makes getting dressed on-the-go a BREEZE. When we’re traveling and we’re rushing to get out of the hotel I often ask #handsomehubbs to dress Chickie, the ziplock pre-made outfits makes it so he CAN! 😂😂 I pack EVERYTHING in the ziplock back- socks, bows, undershirt- EVERYTHING. It makes keeping track of how many outfits you’ve packed a breeze.
Are Date Nights Abroad a Thing?
Absolutely they are! Most people are surprised to hear that most hotels offer babysitting services but it’s true. In my experience, even hotels who don’t offer babysitting can at least point you in the right direction to find one- a reputable, local nanny service. We’ve gotten nannies for a night out or two in many cities around the world. Is it a little nerve wracking leaving Chick with someone new? It is..but I do my research on the service before hand and read as many online reviews as I can. I also have my phone on my always and turn the roaming on, in case of any emergencies. Oh, and we always try to have the sitter come after Chickie is asleep, which helps with my #momguilt.
What Do You Do For Snacks/Food?
It’s pretty common for parents to bring a ton of snacks for traveling day- we do this, just like everyone else. However, we ALSO bring snacks in our checked luggage to last us the whole trip! We pack stuff like raisins, yogurt melts, fruit bars and even some pouches! The reason for this is that we encourage (read: make) Chickie eat whatever we’re eating and whatever is traditional to where we’re visiting- no Parisian Mac and Cheese for our little bird, I refuse! This often results in little food eaten at lunch and lots of snacking through out the day at least for the first couple of days. It’s nice to know for SURE that she’ll eat the snacks, when the food itself is a maybe. I also think it helps her to have a little taste of home when we’re so far away.
Another thing we do which I can’t recommend enough is bring milk along in your bags to last you the first couple of days, I promise the last thing your post-flight zombie-self will want to be doing when you land is scouring the grocery store aisles for milk. If your baby is over one, having a tetra-pac carton in your bag (which doesn’t need refrigeration!) will spare you from the milk search. I also bring little packets like this for flight day since much like a juice box, you just pop it and go! Lifesaver.. If your babe is under one and drinking formula, a can of it in your checked luggage will do. If you’re breastfeeding, I used to wrap frozen milk packets in tinfoil and bring some along in our checked luggage using this cooler. It gave me a little breathing room once we got there in case the time change messed up my production or the flight made me NEED WINE.
Any Tips for Planning Your Days Abroad?
As a rule of thumb, for any one adult activity we plan to do we try to also schedule a kid-friendly one. Whether its a children’s museum or just running around in a park, kids need space to be kids, especially when expected to also be quiet and behave in grown-up settings like museums and dinners. We always come prepared with a list of playgrounds located near our hotel where we can take Chick to burn some energy before we embark her on a boring adult expedition. There’s always stuff that’s for adult and kids too- that’s the sweet spot! My advice is to look for any pedestrian zones were kiddos can run around a bit more freely in between more structured, stroller-bound adventures.
Also, quick confession- Chickie never gets as much screen time as she does when we’re traveling 🙈🙈🙈 If she’s being overly fussy or is bored while we’re at dinner or lunch, I give her the phone and try not to feel too guilty about it- it’s vacation for mom and dad too and although at home we wouldn’t give a phone well.. vacation Mama is much more chill (or at least she tries to be)!
A Note on Expectations
Traveling with kids if different than traveling alone- its more complicated, there’s more moving parts and you’re at the mercy of a tiny dictator at all times. Shake off the expectations of the perfect trip right as you check in for your flight, I promise you’ll be better off for it! There will be AMAZING parts and there will be AWFUL parts, just like on any Saturday or Sunday at home. The perfect trip- much like the perfect kid or the perfect family- doesn’t exist; unfortunately tantrums don’t stop happening just because youre in a dreamy location. One thing you can keep your expectations nice and high on though- seeing the world through your tiny explorer’s eyes will be EVERYTHING! Kids have a way of spreading joy wherever they go (when they’re in a good mood 😂) and that will not be lost on those you encounter along the way, it makes for bigger smiles and welcomes wherever your little family goes!
If there’s anything you’re curious about that I didn’t cover, please feel free to shoot me a DM and I’ll answer as thoroughly and honestly as I can. No sugar coating allowed here at LTL! Traveling with kiddos is nerve-wracking enough when you don’t know what to expect. The idea is for this post to ease your nerves so you feel empowered to get out there with your littles! You can it do it, and I’m here to help every step of the way. Happy traveling, mama!