This is a guest post by Corinne McDermott of Have Baby Will Travel.
Whether you’ve newly welcomed a new life into this world or your bump resembles a watermelon, if you’ve always loved travel you may be thinking, “Can you travel with a baby?” Of course, you can travel with a baby, but once part of the parent club, the question seems to become “Should you travel with a baby?”
“It’s too dangerous!” “It’s irresponsible!” and “It’ll be too difficult!” are few exclamations you’ll have thrown your way. And then there’s my particular favorite: “It’s very selfish. Babies need routine; they don’t want to be traipsing all over the globe.”
I can attest that babies do like routines — so it is important to create new ones when you travel. But I think the occasional break from the norm ultimately makes infants more adaptable. Babies just want to be with their parents, if it makes mama and dada happy to have a change of scenery, so be it.
As a new parent, chances are you’re not going to be choosing a war zone as your destination, and you’ll hopefully decide on a place with good access to healthcare. Small babies are more susceptible to illness, but when they’re really little you have more control over what and who they come in contact with.
And is traveling with a baby difficult? Yes — but so is travel without a baby sometimes, and we still love doing that. There is definitely more work involved than tossing a handful of diapers into your backpack, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
Babies need things, and you’ll need to carry those things. Babies need to eat, and you’ll need to have food. Babies need to sleep, and you’ll need to ensure a safe place for that. (Hostels might be great for single travelers but aren’t always the best for babies.) You’ll need to adjust your pace — trying to cram as much into your days as possible will make you all cranky and tired. You’ll need to adjust your expectations — your life has changed, and if you think the way you travel won’t, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Before my daughter arrived, I was certain I had this motherhood thing down pat. I’d read the books, I’d done the research, I was ready. But from the moment she arrived, I was completely thrown for a loop and didn’t feel anywhere close to normal for almost nine months. In hindsight, she was the kind of easy, adaptable baby that would have been a dream tiny traveler. However, I wasn’t ready to make that leap until she was nearly one. The occasional “smug daddy” or “sancti-mommy” would tut-tut about how they simply popped their babe in a sling and off they went to hike the Inca Trail/trek for Rwandan gorillas/summit Mt. Everest and the baby just fit into their life and that was that. Well that was not my experience, nor anyone else’s I know.
Here are a few key tips to get you started:
Breastfeed. The best food for baby is also the easiest to “prepare” when you’re on the road. Breastfeeding not only eliminates lugging bottles, nipples, sterilizing, equipment, formula, etc. but also baby will be getting valuable antibodies that will protect against illness when you’re away from home.
Bring a sling. Or a baby carrier. Slings can help you carry the baby, but they can also substitute as a blanket, change pad, or nursing cover. If slings aren’t your thing, many lightweight cloth baby carriers offer excellent support, keep your hands free, and don’t take up too much room when stored.
Bring a stroller. When you’re traveling, a stroller is not just a stroller, it is a highchair, a bed, and an all-around stuff-lugger. The type of travel you prefer will dictate whether a lightweight or an all-terrain stroller would be more appropriate, but don’t cheap-out here. Good strollers are easy to push, and most are easy to fold up when needed. In warmer climes, slings and carriers can become uncomfortable, so a stroller can offer some shade as well.
Pack or buy wipes. Lots of them. Diaper wipes are a traveling parent’s best friend. Not only do they serve their intended purpose, they mop up spit-up, sticky hands, and faces; serve as toilet paper (don’t flush!); and can clean any number of gross surfaces that you or baby may need to touch. Diaper wipes and hand sanitizer (for you) can make sometimes-icky public bathroom scenarios a little more bearable.
Don’t overschedule. If you try to cram too much into your days and into your trip, you’ll all end up feeling exhausted and frazzled. Use your destination’s local parenting websites to find parks and other baby-friendly outings that will be easy and comfortable for everyone. That climbable monument/jungle trek/coral reef has been there for a long time already and will still be there when your child is old enough to enjoy it with you.
My children are living proof that starting travel at an early age makes them easier and easier to travel with and instills an early love of travel. And as they grow up, we’re looking forward to taking more adventurous trips with them. For us it’s not “Are we there yet?” — it’s “When are we going?”
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel, your guide to family travel with babies, toddlers and young children. Connect with her at www.havebabywilltravel.com or www.twitter.com/hvbabywilltrvl