Traveling with a baby
Being stationed overseas offers military members and their families the opportunity to travel the world with more ease and less expense than if they were living in the States. When my husband and I arrived in Germany, we set out to travel as much of Europe as we could during our four-year tour. Our plans were altered, but not thrown out the window, when we discovered that we were expecting our first child together. Traveling with a baby, while not always as convenient, is absolutely still possible. It just requires a bit of planning and flexibility. Here are a few tips to keep you globe-trotting with a little one in tow.
1. Plan longer trips
While my husband and I favored quick day trips in the surrounding area while it was just the two of us, they just don’t work for our family anymore. When a baby is along for the ride, everything takes a bit longer. We have to leave room in our schedule for naps and diaper changes, potential fits of crying that temporarily keep us out of museums and restaurants, and a medley of other interruptions that require a little more time. Our daughter also hates to be in the car seat, so we try to spread out driving time on road trips to give her a break. Rather than pop over to surrounding cities early in the morning and driving back in the evening, we have started allowing for a night in a hotel to give everyone a little more wiggle room.
2. Pack in advance and pack smart
I was the queen of last minute packing and would often find myself in a foreign country with a suitcase full of socks and underwear and not much else. And while I can get by in the same outfit for a few days and live without some of my “essentials,” like a phone charger and a jacket, the same cannot be said for a baby. Outfit changes, plenty of diapers and wipes, and the many other baby “must haves” are sorely missed. Rather than try to throw things together the morning of a trip, packing ahead of time will save you a lot of stress in the long run.
3. Know your baby
As I said, our baby is miserable in the car seat and screams virtually nonstop. Knowing this, we tend to avoid long amounts of time in the car and opt for train or plane travel whenever possible. She also needs a long nap in the afternoon, so we leave room for that in our daily itinerary. When she was a newborn, she could sleep anytime, anywhere. During that time, we had no trouble taking her on a Rhine River cruise and letting her snooze the day away on the boat. Four months later, we would not try to do the same. Being aware of your baby’s needs and temperament before a trip can help you plan accordingly.
4. Be familiar with the airline if flying
Despite being a budget airline, Ryanair allows passengers to check a surprising amount of “baby luggage” free of cost. A car seat, travel crib, and other needs can be included in the price of your ticket and easily brought along with many airlines. Knowing what you can bring for free can help you avoid extra costs and have everything on hand that you need. Additionally, airlines often have their own requirements for items like breast pumps and water and formula. Knowing your rights and specific airline regulations can take away a lot of the stress of feeding a baby in transit.
5. Consider traveling in the offseason
This has made all of the difference for my family. Visiting beach towns in the winter and avoiding popular locations over the holidays has allowed us to stay in hotels and resorts that we may not have been able to afford during peak travel season. Having an extra bit of space for a travel crib and room for the baby to crawl around keeps us from feeling cramped and we don’t have to navigate around large crowds.
6. Baby-wear if you can
Of all of our travel accessories purchased since having a baby, our carrier has been the most beneficial. By opting to wear our baby, we don’t have to lug around a stroller. Babywearing also makes breastfeeding on the go easier and allows our daughter to nap happily on our chests while we make our way around town. While not everyone is as passionate about babywearing as we are, I recommend that traveling families at least try it out.
7. Don’t try to do it all
Many travel destinations have a lot to offer and it can be tempting to try to jam it all in. But rushing from spot to spot and overscheduling is no fun. Instead, pick a couple of “must sees” and take it slow. If there is time left over, you can always add another stop or two.
Not every recommendation is going to work for every family and there are certainly more ways to customize your own travel experience. But these seven changes have allowed us to make our way around Europe with a baby. Overall, making an effort to plan ahead and remain flexible can ease a lot of pain in the long run.