As many young parents may already know, travelling with a baby is quite different than travelling alone or with your spouse or friends. This post is for those of you out there that may be expecting a little one, already have one but have yet to travel, or if you have tons of experience travelling with babies and just like to laugh at us 'first-timers'.
First things first, planning and preparation. This is the second most important step for travelling with a baby (travelling safely would be the most important). I definitely should have taken an extra day off work just to plan, prepare, and pack for our week-long family beach trip. My wife and I scrambled to get everything together the night before. I had to work the day we left and she met me with the baby when I got off so we could be on our way. Needless to say there were a few things we forgot. Nothing too important, but the egg-crusted frying pan left in the sink for a week was a rather scurvy smell to come home to (oops!).
Tip #1: In addition to making sure you pack everything you'll need on your vacation, make sure you tidy up the house a bit before you leave. Don't leave anything on the counter or in the fridge that you would normally clean up or throw away in a day or so.
Packing for your first 'family' vacation can be daunting. Babies nowadays seem to 'need' a ton of stuff. On top of all the cool games to play at the beach that you want to bring, and all the swimsuits and sundresses, babies have all sorts of fold-able, inflatable, and pop-up gizmos and gadgets that have to come along. I started ditching the beach games in order to fit the baby hammock, playpen, suitcase (the baby's suitcase was about as big as mine. He is currently smaller than my thigh...).
Tip #2: If you can't think of three situations in which you will need a particular baby item, do not bring it. This may depend on how long your vacation is but if you're only packing one car without a trailer you probably are not going to be gone for more than 7-10 days. Focus on what you plan on doing while on vacation and try to find at least three different times you may need a particular item, if you can't, toss it.
My son is a breast-fed baby. That being said, timing has become an essential element to all of our activity planning. When did he eat last? Do you want to bring a bottle? Will you be able to feed him while we are out? Luckily, my boy is pretty laid back and goes with the flow most of the time. However, his necessity to eat every couple of hours definitely dictates when we can do certain things. My mom, sister, and step-father were also at our family vacation. My mom likes to plan things. No, she HAS to plan things. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just gets a little overwhelming sometimes. I also like to mess her plans up sometimes just to see the reaction (shame on me but I get to have fun too right?). These plans usually involve way more activities per day than the standard 24 hours can accommodate. Add a new baby to the mix and you get some interesting situations. Kind of hard for Momma to ride the Teacups at Funland when Daddy doesn't have a bottle to feed the screaming baby. Despite the challenges we managed to keep everything together and have some fun while we were at it.
Tip #3: ALWAYS plan activities around when your baby needs to eat and/or nap. A baby that stays awake all day while you are at the beach will normally be way too tired to go to sleep later and make for a pretty cranky night. It's also hard to get through a round of putt-putt at the Sea Shore Sea Shell Shop with a screaming baby strapped to your back, and no where to sit down and feed him. Bottles are nice to have but can be a pain to keep cool and even harder to warm up if you are out and about. Just remember to try and plan your activities in 2-4 hour increments with time in between to feed the baby. This will eliminate the need for any emergency feedings in the out-of-order bumper car.
As always, when it comes to babies, safety should be your number one priority. I strongly suggest you do your research and decide for yourself what is safe for you and your new miracle to be doing. Younger babies shouldn't wear sunscreen, so make sure you plan your beach outings accordingly and try to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Babies have a higher body temperature than adults so traveling around town all day on buses with no air conditioning might need to be avoided. Babies don't have the ability to tell you when they are hot. They might cry, but feeding or changing him/her won't cool them off. These are just a few observations that I made on my recent family vacation. You may want to browse your local book store for more advice on what to plan for and expect when taking your little one on his/her first trip. Have fun and be safe!
Feel free to email me with questions, or leave a comment and I can respond as soon as possible.