Motherhood,  Travel

Vacations with a Baby: Packing and Traveling Tips

Henry has had his fair share of adventures since he was born last July. In total, he’s been to the beach a solid 4 times and numerous weekend get-a-ways. These trips have included multiple flights and anywhere from 3 to 9 hour drives. I’ve done so much research on what to pack an infant and have learned some “do’s” and “don’ts” along the way. Every baby is different, so you will learn what your baby’s needs/wants are over time. Until then, here are a few tips to help you get ready for your babe’s first travel adventures.

Packing for Baby

When packing for Henry I think about all of the things he uses in a week’s (or weekend’s) time, and it’s honestly a bit overwhelming to me. Now that we’ve done the traveling song and dance a few times, I truly feel that I’ve mastered packing minimally for him and yet, still taking everything he needs. I’ve packed his own (tiny) suitcase when driving, but also just thrown it in with mine when we fly to have less baggage to handle. Both work great! If you don’t mind having an extra bag, go ahead and pack their own so that your things can be separate and not get mixed in together. This approach is just more organized IMO.

My basic rule of thumb when packing for a NON-beach vacation is to pack two outfits for each day. One for the day and one for night. When going on a beach vacation though, I always get away with packing much less because we spend most of our time in swim wear during the day. Henry can usually wear one pajama outfit for two nights, so I usually pack around three sets for one week. Most vacation rentals have access to a washer and dryer if you need them as well. I am a SUCKER for swimwear so I pack an excessive amount, but to be honest, Henry could have gotten away with two (maybe three) trunks/rash guards for the week.

Lastly, get packing cubes. These packing cubes made packing much more organized! I will forever be a fan. I fit all of his clothing items in one medium size cube. When we got there, I pulled the cube out, put it in a drawer and stashed away the suitcase. It’s so much easier!

Sleeping Arrangements

We have tested out multiple different approaches to sleeping, but our vacation last week won in sleeping arrangements. I’ll get to why later on in this section. For all of our travels we have taken our own pack-n-play. It’s worked well for us. In May, we went on vacation with friends that have an 18 month old and they had the genius idea of renting a crib. I would 100% recommend renting a crib if you are flying or have limited space when traveling. When we got there I was kicking myself and wondering why I hadn’t thought of it. Katie has rented a crib before, in St. John, and I think she would agree that this is the way to go. Lesson learned.

Tip number two, take a baby monitor. We have this one and love it. Taking a baby monitor has allowed us a bit more freedom, if you will. Ya know, when your at home and baby is asleep so you go out and sit on the patio with the volume up on the monitor beside you? In a pinch when we haven’t had the baby monitor we have Facetimed with our side on mute. Gotta get creative sometimes!

Now to get to why our sleeping arrangement last week was ideal. The secret? We put Henry in a closet. In his pack-n-play, of course. Hear me out. Attached to our room was a bathroom with a HUGE walk in closet. Obviously because it fit his pack-n-play. There were multiple factors that played into this that I will be sure to take advantage of wherever we go from here on out.

Because he was in an area with no windows it was super dark. He slept on average an hour later every morning! He was also right beside the bathroom so in addition to his sound machine (don’t forget it!) we kept the fan running for extra noise. You know those hanging racks for your clothes? Hello baby monitor spot! It gave us the perfect view of him and was out of the way so he couldn’t reach it. In short, put baby in another room if you can. Ideally in a room (or closet LOL) furthest away from common areas where there is the most noise. Holla!

Toys and Other Essentials

I knew I needed to take some toys and things that would occupy babe, but didn’t want a lot to keep up with or that would make a mess. We chose small toys that didn’t have a lot of pieces to them. Things like books, Fisher Price remote, a ball (the kid is obsessed with all things ball), a lovey, and a toy truck. We switched out the items throughout the week so that he wouldn’t get bored with the same ole stuff. Let’s be honest too, he was fascinated with being in a new place so he spent most of his time exploring every room. The toys really came in handy for the drive (details later). For beach toys Henry got the cutest little miniature set at his best buds birthday last month that was perfect for our trip.

First aid items included a baby thermometer, finger nails clippers, infant Tylenol and diaper rash cream. I have found that these items usually cover everything I may need in the first aid arena. A quick run to Walgreen’s does the trick when I forget something or need anything else.

We invested in a tent this year for the beach since we had Henry. We got a deal at Academy Sports on a great quality tent for $40. Best $40 spent. It provided so much shade for the hot June days at the beach. Henry felt so comfortable that he took a nap under the tent most days.

I researched the best compact strollers for months and finally decided on the Maxi Cosi Lara stroller. It’s small enough to fit in overhead compartments on a plane and super comfortable for Henry. It has the ability to lay back unlike umbrella strollers, has a canopy for shade and two storage areas beneath the seat. 10/10 would recommend this stroller. It’s on the more expensive side. I ordered mine through Target to get the 5% Redcard discount, but Katie actually found it at our local Bargain Hunt for 30% off! She also found an Ergo baby carrier that she snagged for me and we used it like crazy on vacation — it was great for walks on the beach and when we went to the Zoo! It’s so comfortable he fell asleep in it every time.

Flying with Baby

If you are going to fly with a baby or toddler I have found a few things to be true. 1) Children don’t understand personal space. Henry was all over our neighbors/the strangers next to us. 2) Children don’t understand that throwing a tantrum amongst hundreds of people stresses mom and dad OUT. Not only do they not understand, but even if they did, they don’t care. SO! Here are some things that could potentially (notice I didn’t guarantee!) prevent these things from happening. 🙂

Tip number one, when possible, buy a seat for baby and bring the car seat. Children under the age of two have the option of sitting in your lap. My first thought “Great! This saves me money!”, but this also gave Henry the thought of “Oh, it’s play time!”. Sit in moms lap, squirm on the floor, all the things.

Henry flew for the first time when he was three months old. Of course he wasn’t so mobile then so all was good. I would say six months and older it’s a good idea to buy the extra seat. This way you can bring their car seat and they won’t know the difference between airplane and car! I can’t say that flying super early or late in the day made a difference for us. There was so much going on that Henry wouldn’t sleep like we all hope and pray they do during the flight.

Tip number two, don’t board early. Many airlines are super gracious when it comes to flying with children so they offer those with small children the option to board the plane early. Yeah, this is a hard pass for me. Again, newborns, yes! Go for it. But being on a plane for any amount of time is hard for a baby much less 30-45 minutes longer than the flight time.

Tip three, go lite on the layover time. I thought I was doing us a favor by allowing a few hours on the ground in between flights to give Henry a break. All Henry wanted to do was crawl around though, which was just out of my comfort zone in an airport. But you do you momma! Yes, you risk missing a connecting flight if you don’t space them out but in the future I will be keeping it to only an hour-ish between flights.

Lastly, we have flown Delta nearly every time because they are the only ones that have checked other baby items for free. For example, pack-n-play is usually not on the list but they have always been great and checked it free of charge for us. Happy flying!

Driving with Baby

Last week was our first time driving a considerable amount of time with Henry. NINE hours! Whew, was I nervous. It could go one of two ways which would also determine if it was going to be a short or loooong drive.

We tested out two options. I’ve always heard driving through the night with babies/children is a good idea, but we weren’t ready for the extreme quite yet. Leaving for vacation we decided to leave around 7 am. Henry usually wakes up around 5:30 am. Eats, plays real hard and takes his first nap around 8:30 or 9 o’clock. We started out no different. Henry took an hour nap around 8:30. By 1:00 pm (hour 6 of the trip with 3 hours to go) he was over it. On our way back we decided to leave at 4 am and boy did it make a difference. Not so much as a whimper. First tip – leave early or when it’s dark outside.

Next, stop frequently. I am one that could make the entire 9 hour drive without a single bathroom break because I just want to get there already. But with Henry, I made sure we made frequent stops. About every 2 to 2.5 hours. Even if it just meant walking around with him outside.

The toys that I mentioned earlier were also ones that we played with in the car. I made sure to switch out our toy after every stop because it gave him a new interest.

The best traveling gadget? THIS on the go sheep sound machine. I’ve taken it on all the road trips and it’s awesome. Henry likes noise when he sleeps otherwise the smallest disturbances wake him. This one has a sturdy Velcro strap to attach to car seats and strollers. Perfect for your adventures.

Happy traveling y’all! Remember that babies are adaptive so don’t stress too much and have tons of fun! Traveling with your babe makes the BEST memories!

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