A few months back I remember Googling "traveling with a baby" and wasn't really satisfied with what I found. Now that I have a few trips under my belt, I wanted to share what I've learned.
My credentials? One cute baby (see evidence below) who has visited 10 states on 5 trips (which included 21 take-offs and landings) between the ages of 6 and 13 months.
Successful traveling with a baby takes some ingenuity, lots of flexibility, and a laid back vacation style. The biggest challenges in my opinion are the plane ride(s), transporting the little one, and nap time.
The plane ride
First off, how are you going to get from your car to the plane? Do you have an infant carrier? If so, it's worth bringing it. Your baby will be distracted by the sights and you'll have your hands free to cart luggage and check-in. If you have a cloth carrier, you can walk right through security with your baby strapped on. (Did you know babies have to take off their shoes too?)
Take a copy of the birth certificate if she is under 2 - you might have to show proof of age if you didn't buy a seat.
If your baby can move, give him a chance to do so at the airport so he can burn off some energy before you board.
Take your car seat. Advantages: you'll have one for when you arrive and if you are lucky and there is any empty seat on the plane, your baby will have their own secure spot.
Hold on to your car seat until the last minute. Check with the gate agent. Are there any empty seats? If so, your partner can go sit in the free seat, allowing you to bring your car seat on and letting your baby sit in his designated seat. (or vice versa - moms are allowed breaks too!) Another idea is to book the two of you in the window and aisle seat, hoping that the middle seat remains free.
Gate check your car seat - don't let it get sent to baggage claim (who knows how careful the handlers will be.)
Wondering how to get the car seat through the airport? 2 bungee cords and a rolling bag will do the trick.
Transporting the little one
The question in my mind is "Stroller or no stroller?" I never wanted to be "that family" with the large, laden stroller and many bags. (Oh well, we are now.)
For our first few trips we didn't take the stroller and instead took our Ergo carrier. That can be a good option but it really depends on whether you want the stroller on the other end.
When we traveled to New England for 10 days, we knew we wanted our BOB stroller. We gate checked it at each flight and used it in the airport. It was awesome! Now I know why "that family" has the laden stroller - why carry anything when you can just hang it on the stroller?
In one particularly inventive moment we strapped the car seat to the stroller :)
I halfway want to advise you to not travel with a baby who still needs two naps. Nap time has definitely been the most difficult part of our travels. Jack doesn't do well in new surroundings. He's stimulated and/or unnerved and has a hard time settling down. There were several 45 minute marathons that were NOT what I consider a good time.
Here are some tricks we learned:
-have a plan for the plane. Your travel day will be a lot calmer if your baby can still get his rest. Try to mimic their normal nap routine as much as possible. And DO NOT forget or lose their paci if they take one. I did and it was very, very bad.
- does your baby nap in your stroller? If so, take it. You can sightsee or get exercise while your baby naps, thus enabling you to still be out and about. We even took Jack to a nice dinner with him in the BOB with a blanket over top.
- take turns on nap duty. One day Jake watched a football game in the room, while I went to the gym. Another day, I read quietly (by the light of a crack in the bathroom door) while Jake hung out in the lobby.
- does your baby need darkness? If so, be creative. In one hotel, we put the crib by the door and then opened the closet door to separate it from the rest of the room. In another hotel, we put the crib by the window and draped the curtains (and jackets) around the crib to give Jack his very own canopy bed.
Our favorite option was the hotel where we were able to fit Jack's crib in the bathroom. This gave him his own room! (And also had both Jake and I making repeat trips to the lobby to pee.)
- bedtime is also hard. It felt like being at camp - quiet time after 8:30. On the flip side, Jake and I get a lot of reading in and our trips felt much more relaxing overall.
I think the hassles are worth it. We've had a great time on all of our trips and are making awesome family memories. The only thing I'd do differently going forward is to try to figure out a way to have one date night on a trip - maybe fly in Grandma?