As we we have prepared for various trips with Sloane, I tried to research and ready myself on what to expect from our experience. Unfortunately I had a hard time finding someone who would tell me exactly what Sloane was going to do (weird right?) so, as with everything else in her little life, we had prepare as best we could and then wait and see.
(I will say Have Baby Will Travel is the best website for a ton of good tips and extensive resources for prepping!)
I am not a planner in most other areas of my life, but when it comes to travel, I REALLY like to plan in hopes of having the best trip ever. I thought I would pass along what I've learned in the travel we've done in Sloane's first 11 months! We have a week long multi-province road trip, short weekend road-trips, and a few flights under our belt, so hopefully this will help you get a little more ready for whatever type of trip you're taking.
Two key points are of the utmost importance as you prepare:
- Your experience is going to be completely unique to your child. GAHHH I know right, SO unhelpful. Seriously I really wanted someone to just tell me exactly what was going to happen on our 5+3 hour flights to Hawaii, but couldn't find one person who would, damnit. Only after travelling first hand did I realize that we probably would have had a completely different experience depending on a number of factors. If she had been a couple months older or younger, if we had travelled to a climate hotter or colder than Hawaii, if she had an entirely different temperament, if we had different circumstances, all of these things play into how your baby experiences everything. A lot of the suggestions you receive might not work for your baby, like I downloaded 20 iPad apps before we left and Sloane played with them for approximately 3 minutes before getting bored. In the same way you might discover things that work uniquely well for your baby.
You know your child, so you can make some guesses on what they might be like. Then, continue to point number two...
- Set your expectations low, and prepare from there. We had a red-eye flight coming home, and I know Sloane *generally* sleeps pretty well when it's dark and she has ambient noise, her bunny and soother. But I brought Graval just in case she went loopy at 2 AM and steeled myself for getting absolutely no sleep if I had to walk the aisle for 5 hours.
The same goes for packing. I had to get over my dislike of bringing a giant suitcase because you just don't want to run into the issue of not having the right clothing for babe. We ended up getting stuck in San Francisco for a night on our way out to Hawaii, so the extra PJ's, clothes, ton of diapers, and baby food ended up all being used. We had everything that we needed to comfortably stay in a random part of SanFran (not the cool part) for a night which was super fortunate.
The low-expectation thing helps if you're travelling with a partner as well. We spent 7 more hours in the airport than we would have liked on our way out, and having low expectations for what was going to happen next helped us keep calm and not end up getting upset with each other out of stress.
So, after those two big tips, I only have a few things that I have found to be pretty indispensable in our travels, so much so that I think it could be transferable advice to others. These are those things!
1. Stick to the nap schedule as best as possible. Travelling is so different after having a baby right?? Pff who am I kidding, I love napping on vacation. Honestly, while it's not so sexy to fit your activities in to 3 hour chunks and to have 1 or 2 breaks every day, it makes a difference in a big way. Rested baby=happy life. The periods they are awake are so much better, night sleep is so much better, the adjustment to getting back to schedule once they come home is so much better. Colin and I took advantage of these times to either rest/relax, or would take turns doing some solo adventuring. At one of the places we stayed, the rental was steps from the beach, so we just set up the monitor and went swimming together!
2. If you're staying in a hotel or rental, look for a place where there is a separate living and sleeping area. We realized this when we went to Winnipeg in the summer and were staying in single hotel room, and ate every dinner on the floor by romantic bathroom light. Even having a room divider made a big difference and gave us a little autonomy in the evenings and during naps.
3. Have more food than you think necessary. Snacks! So many snacks. It was especially hard to go out for dinner this time around as Sloane wanted all the things we had, even if we had fed her beforehand (and I wouldn't say Hawaiian fare is the healthiest for sharing). So always having some extra crackers, a squeeze pack or fruit allowed for us to be able to (sort of) eat as well.
4. Baby carrier! Even if you are thinking of bringing a stroller as well, I would recommend having a carrier, especially if you are flying. It is indispensable in the airport when you need both hands to carry multiple bags, get your passport in and out, go through security, etc. If you like to go on hikes, walks along the beach, or to very crowded shopping areas, it is necessary to carry baby rather than push. This is something that will vary from baby to baby but I also find that Sloane is much more likely to fall asleep in the carrier rather than the stroller, and if she gets upset I like having her as close to me as possible to try to calm her; having both hands free when that happens is great.
And that's it! The rest is up to you, your baby, and the type of trip you are going on.
After all that, I would say that travel with Sloane has been SO fun! Despite having to think more, revolve our schedule around naps, and eat a lot of dinners in the dark, it's also so great to continue adventuring with our little buddy in tow. As I mentioned earlier, we spent about 7 additional hours in the airport on our way to Hawaii. In SFO we had been delayed for our connecting flight and waited 5 hours to fly standby on the next one, which ended up not having enough room for us by a couple seats. As we sat on the hotel bathroom floor that night watching War & Peace and eating (really good) Mexican, I said to Colin: "I can't even be upset, I am spending time with the two people I wanted to spend time with, and that's all I really wanted" And that truly is the most important thing about the whole experience!
That, and Mexican food.