In my ‘20s I traveled for 6 weeks through Europe with one backpack that I carried myself. For our week-long honeymoon, my husband and I took one large suitcase between us. Just over 2 years later, my husband, 11-month-old daughter, and I had an overflowing luggage cart that held 2 large suitcases (overweight), 2 stuffed-to-the-brim carry-ons, and a car seat. In hindsight, we should have added our playpen to the pile, since the hotel-issued crib for that trip was pretty wobbly.
My husband was mortified, but he soon realized that this wasn’t just me bringing along 10 pairs of shoes I’d never wear… we NEEDED this stuff! We were traveling to Cuba, where baby items that we deem necessities are difficult to come by, so the bags were stuffed with diapers, lotions, potions, baby food, bottles, food, etc. I’ll grant that I do tend to over-prepare and over-think things, but the point of getting away is to have a break, so with these things taken care of you can start to relax once you’re there.
In our subsequent travels with our daughter, I’ve learned that there are some things that can make your life a whole lot easier while you’re away with baby – for eating, sleeping, and getting around…
I’m not talking bottles and baby food here – I’m guessing you’ll have that covered. But depending on where you’ll be staying, you’ll need to make sure there’s a safe place for baby to sit to eat (or at least allow you to eat!) Most larger hotels and resorts have high chairs, but not all local restaurants do. If there are high chairs, there may not be enough to go around. Your lap is always an option, but one-handed meals for any length of time are bound to become annoying, so if you’re not sure about the availability of high chairs, there are a number of lightweight travel booster seats on the market that can attach to most tables and/or chairs. Don’t forget to pack a couple of wipeable bibs as well, unless your tot has better table manners than mine!
Co-sleeping/bed sharing never really worked for us (more like co-thrashing-around/bed hogging), so a safe place to sleep away from home was important for us. Our first experience with a hotel crib was not a good one, so from then on we’ve always brought something with us. Not all playpens are as lightweight as ours, though, so it may be worth it to invest in one of the really portable ‘tent-like’ travel cots. Many of them have a high UV protection rate in their fabric as well, making them ideal to bring to the beach for naps!
On our latest trip our daughter was too big for a playpen, so be bought what can be described as a sleeping bag with a built-in air mattress. She thought it was fun, but it was not a suitable bed for anything more than the occasional nap. We ended up putting her in a regular bed with an assortment of furniture and pillows for makeshift bedrails, but upon our return I’ve learned of a number of travel bedrail options, so we’ll give one of those a try on our next jaunt.
For walks and daytrips, depending on the age of your little one, you’ll want both a carrier and a stroller. Some will argue the case for just one or the other but having both gives you the most options. Plus, carriers or slings – for the most part – don’t take up a lot of room in your luggage, so it’s not a big deal to take it along.
Even if the sidewalks or trails aren’t the most stroller-friendly, having even a lightweight one with you means you have a safe place for both eating and sleeping while you’re out and about. Carriers or slings can become hot and uncomfortable for you both in warmer weather. Our daughter hated her carrier (and so did my back), and we’ve always brought along our big, bulky jogging stroller. It does fold so we’ve been able to gate-check it (even on the cheapest charter) and it has sailed over sand, cobblestones, steep curbs and any terrain our destination has presented. We’ve never regretted bringing it on any of our trips.
Of course, all of these things are not necessities. But, if they make your life easier while you’re away, it’s well worth the effort to lug them along.
Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel – your online guide to traveling with babies and toddlers. For more information please visit www.havebabywilltravel.com.