Baby on the Go: 5 Family Travel Tips

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I have this feeling that Xaviana is going to be a jet-setter… Before she was even born, she’d been to more places than I had in the first twenty-four years of my life! Check out the blog post I wrote about the many voyages of Baby C here.

Since her birth, we’ve taken Xaviana on road trips to Big Bear, Baja California, Ojai, and Laguna Beach. We’ve also flown to Mexico City, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and soon London and Lebanon.

Here's Xaviana reading a map during our recent trip to Seattle.

Here’s Xaviana reading a map during our recent trip to Seattle.

Traveling with kids is often looked upon as a nightmare. People with kids tend to avoid it because they see it as annoying and inconvenient, while people without kids dread sitting anywhere near a baby on the plane and fix little ones with a death-stare that seems to say, “Cry if you dare.”

But staying home is not the answer. Antonio and I love to travel, and we weren’t ready to give it up. Furthermore, we wanted to give Xaviana the privilege of seeing the world, and learning about different cultures and locales. We were convinced that she would be a good traveler if we made it a familiar and fun occurrence.

It turns out that Xaviana loves traveling as much as we do! I’m not sure whether it’s genetic, or whether it’s the way we exposed her to it. (Her first road trip was at one month, and her first flight was at 3 and 1/2 months.) My theory is that it’s a little of both. Regardless, here are my 5 tips for traveling with babies!

  1. Don’t stress – I listed this one first because mommy and daddy’s attitudes set the tone for the entire trip. If the parents are (relatively) relaxed and smiling, baby will think traveling is fun. But if mommy and daddy seem stressed and miserable, baby will be fussy and irritable. Antonio and I find that the best way to avoid that hissy-fit feeling is to plan ahead. We check in for our flights the night before, and make sure that everything is packed and ready to go in advance. We also leave enough time to get to the airport, and make sure to stay well-fed and caffeinated. 🙂 This ensures that we will be happy, and so will Xaviana.
  2. Pack the minimum – It’s so easy to overpack when there are babies involved, but I’ve found that it’s best to resist the urge. Sure, you have to bring enough diapers and clothes, but you can go light on everything else. We leave the big books and toys at home in favor of the little ones. Xaviana’s favorite travel toys are her Very Hungry Caterpillar teether, her rattle, and her P and Q chewy tubes. Xaviana is still breast feeding every two hours, which makes packing food a breeze, since I don’t need to bring bottles. Also, we leave her homemade baby food at home, and buy her the Gerber kind when we’re on the road. We bring her car seat and a folding travel stroller, which we check at the gate, and we fit all of our clothes and other necessities in two mid-sized roller bags. This makes schlepping through the airport pretty easy.
  3. Anticipate baby’s needs – It’s easy to lose track of time on vacation, but it’s crucial to keep an eye on the clock, so that feedings and naps stay relatively consistent. An overtired or hungry baby will make you–and everyone else–want to hide away in the tiny plane bathroom and never come out. Another concern is the discomfort that many babies have on flights, due to the buildup of air pressure in their little ears. I’ve found that giving Xaviana her pacifier helps her to stay comfortable throughout the flight. Sucking the pacifier at high altitudes works for babies much the same way that chewing gum helps adults to alleviate that uncomfortable air pressure.
  4. Plan for rest periods between activities – It’s tempting to over-plan your vacay to get the most out of every minute, but babies do not respond well to this! Antonio and I keep our daily itineraries pretty relaxed. Sure, we have destinations and activities in mind, but we stay flexible and keep in touch with Xaviana’s moods. For example, we might go out for brunch, but then take Xaviana back to the hotel room for her feeding and nap. Then, we’ll go sightseeing for a few hours in the afternoon, return to the room for another leisurely nap, and go out for dinner in the evening. That way, Xaviana has time to recharge between activities, and the chance of a meltdown is significantly reduced. 😉
  5. Keep baby entertained – A bored baby is a recipe for disaster. Especially as kids pass the six-month mark, they need something to do. So, how do you keep baby entertained if you’re packing light? Introduce fun new items! On our last flight, Xaviana played with a small bag of peanuts for about an hour, passing them back and forth between her hands and shaking them. Look for random (and safe, of course) new objects to introduce to baby. Also, be prepared to bounce, sing, tell stories, and talk to baby–constantly if need be. Most kids will fall asleep on planes, but some are pretty hyper, and that means you have to be, too. I used to enjoy catching a nap on a plane; this is a pretty rare occurrence nowadays, but traveling with Xaviana is so rewarding that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Parents out there, what tips do you have for traveling with kids? What is your favorite tip that I listed? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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