Happy Sunday, friends! Since we're in the heart of summer travel season, I have a fun guest post to share with you today. You probably remember my life-long friend, Caryn, who has visited us on the blog in the past to share her stories of raising babies in New York City, as well as her family's Hanukkah traditions.
Well, Caryn and her husband Brett also happen to be world travelers! It's a passion that they have shared ever since they met, and they haven't let their children slow down their globe trotting one bit. That's why I thought that Caryn would be the perfect person to share a bit of advice with the rest of us this season on the topic of Vacationing with Babies and Toddlers. I know that with an upcoming family trip to Florida on our calendar, I will take any tips that I can get! Without further ado, here's Caryn...
My mother used to joke about the difference between a vacation and a trip. A trip is when you take the kids with you, and a vacation is when you don't. Har har. I never really understood what she meant until recently…
My husband, Brett, and I used to travel a lot pre-kids. We were fortunate (or not, depending on how you look at it) that Brett racked up a lot of miles as a consultant so we were able to travel to fun and exotic places like Guatemala, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, and Australia to name a few. #travelbrag
However, 2 young kids later… we clearly can't jet around the world like we used to (e.g. backpacking or late night dinners...) or could we...?
The answer? Yes. Our first international trip was with an 8 month old.
Everyone has their tips and tricks, so here are mine.*
(*and some from my travelin' friends)
At the airport
- I typically wear my baby in a carrier through the security checkpoint
- Don't be fearful of the airport! It's a great open space to let your child run around! (under close supervision, of course)
- Don't underestimate the "fun" in moving walk ways
- Looking for airplanes out of the windows is a great (time consuming!) activity!
- You CAN (and SHOULD) bring water in sippy cups and/or formula/breast milk with you through security. Let the TSA Agents know ahead of time (as you’re waiting to walk through the x-ray/scanner) and they’ll test it- yes, leaving it in the bottles.
On the airplane
- Try to get the bulkhead seat - we had it on a 5-hour flight home once and Reid played in front of our seats (so much legroom!)
- Have an extra set of clothes for your baby (and a shirt for you, depending on their spit up patterns)
- When our firstborn was a baby we put a pillow down on the floor and he slept while Brett and I high-fived our "yes-our-kid-is-sleeping" success over wine.
- Snacks. Snacks. Snacks. Be prepared with a variety. When in doubt, feed 'em.
- Toys/games - I like to bring a new toy(s) on a long flight to keep the kids entertained. Stickers, coloring book, new reading book... or download/buy more games on the iPad or Leap Pad. Bless you, Mr. Jobs. PS - here's where the $2.99 you pay for those “add-ons” to the app you’ve already downloaded is well worth it.
- Kid headphones - totally optional, but then other passengers aren’t forced to listen to the Cars movie or "Let it Go" 10,000x on the plane...
- If your kid is over the age of 2 you need to buy them a seat. A friend of mine uses this airplane seat belt when she flies back and forth to Hawaii (Uhh, I know. She’s from there). Great way to keep them contained for long periods of time without them being able to kick the seat in front! Note: my son sees the regular seat belt as a big toy.
- I've heard others say lollipops work well for ear poppin' with toddlers or feeding babies a bottle/nursing them when you take off and land. The first time we flew, I freaked about it, but really, I've never encountered this problem. Just like ear popping doesn't (usually) hurt you-- it won't (usually) affect your kids. Do note, that if your child is sleeping, no need to wake them to avoid ear pressure!
Reid sleeping on the floor on the airplane
Checked bags vs. Carry On
- It sounds crazy but since I’m married to a former consultant, I think it has been a total of 4 times that we have ever checked luggage. And none of them were with our kids. That's right. It's almost a strategic game of “how can we take x, y, z without checking luggage.” And because we’re anti airline fees. Remember, you can likely do laundry wherever you go (especially if you're visiting family!).
- See if you can borrow some crucial items from family members when you visit. We’re very lucky when we visit family in Cleveland because everything from a car seat to a Pack N Play is already accounted for!
Buy while you're there
- Remember, you don't need to take every last thing with you. I usually buy diapers, formula, or food when we get there. "They have stores in [fill in location]" is a constant mantra we say before traveling. We went to Costa Rica and drove around looking for a supermarket -- and voila! We found what felt like a Costco (without the membership) and bought all our baby food and formula there. They sold Enfamil (and plenty of other name brands) in Costa Rica.
- On a different trip, we went to Target and bought a $40 Pack N Play and donated it to the boutique B&B instead of schlepping it home with us. With increasing airline fees- it would have been more money!
It doesn't have to always be an "All-inclusive"
- Brett and I aren't typically the "all-inclusive" resort type. However, there are plenty of benefits to staying at a place where everything is all there- some of the places even have babysitting and "kids clubs" on hand!
- We also like to experience some of the culture and food when we travel. It's a great way to expose your child to new foods too - Reid tried new foods like jack fruit and dragon fruit while we were in Costa Rica.
- We went to Orcas Island off of Washington state and we stayed at a specialty hotel - a farm! Talk about entertainment... We were able to eat food from their garden, pet their horses and feed the pigs. Breakfast was fresh eggs that Brett and Reid picked from the coop! A little different than getting our groceries delivered in Manhattan!
Plan activities around nap time
- Doing a lot of driving one day? Go during naptime while your kid(s) can sleep. Our road trip up the northwest was built around Reid's naptime.
- It's definitely nice to have a night out (or three) without the kids while you are on vacation. I've gotten a sitter through care.com and sitter.com while we were away. For Portland, I signed up and got around 75 replies finally narrowing it down to one girl that was wonderful. And yes, they babysat in our hotel room. Like anything else, call them beforehand, and check references.
- References are wonderful and ultimately the way to go. I posted on Facebook and had a friend of a friend email me about her sitter that I used in Seattle. Score!
- Note- if you are getting a sitter for a hotel, make sure they bring their computer/headphones, etc or arrange the crib so it's conducive for babysitting. When I used Care.com, there were many, many sitters who had experience babysitting in hotel rooms!
- Another friend calls the nearest Ritz Carlton/Four Seasons in the city she’s visiting (she stays elsewhere) and asks them what babysitting agency they use and then calls them directly.
Overall, only you know your own comfort level. Is it worth it to save the money for a connecting flight or have the anxiety of a possible delay? Hotels are great but you also have to think about where are the kids are going to sleep. Other resources like airbnb or boutique B&Bs might be better living accommodations… Or get creative—I have friends that have put Pack ‘N Plays in the bathroom or opened up closet doors to create barriers. If you can afford some extra space, now might be the time to get that connecting room! Remember, what are you going to do when the kids go to sleep at 8pm?...
Most importantly, try to RELAX. You’re on vacation remember?? Or is it a trip…? You decide 😉
This makes it all worth it.