Friday, July 8, 2011

Traveling with a Babe.

I wasn't going to post about the 'how tos' traveling with Gabe, because I feel like I'm too often spouting Opinions and Advice, but then I got emails, messages, and comments asking me for advice - so, here I am with Lists! And Advice! And Opinions!

This summer, we've traveled to the beach, the mountains, New York City, an amusement park, and several places in between. We've stayed at hotels, a beach house, and our families' homes. We spent every night for nearly three weeks away from home at the end of May/beginning of June. And we still have nine days at a cabin in Western Massachusetts and stopping to visit our friends along the way. And three weddings. We hibernate all winter, so it's time to get OUT all the time in the summer.

Disclaimer: This is reflective of our baby and what works for us. Results may vary. 

On to the How Tos!

Have low expectations. Expect your baby to cry constantly. Expect to have no downtime. Expect the hotel to be loud. By setting the bar low (not being pessimistic, that's another matter), you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it all is. How much you can still do, even with a wee one.

Just do it. Yes, it's a little scary to think about changing your routine with a baby. I was nervous before we took our first trip that involved a hotel (thankfully, my husband talked me out of it).  I get it. The fear of it not going well is almost enough to not go. But it's totally worth it. Don't let your fears stop you. If you are super anxious about it, try just one night in a hotel a few hours from home to test things out. If it's awful, you can drive home. Chances are, your baby is probably more flexible than you give him credit for! Let him surprise you.

:: Bringing Stuff ::
Less is More: You're going to be bringing a lot more stuff when you start traveling with a baby. But try to restrain your inclination to bring EVERYTHING WHO KNOWS WHAT COULD HAPPEN!? If you won't definitely need it and you can easily buy it where you're going, leave it at home. Sure, your baby might start teething while you're gone - but can't you just buy some baby medicine if that happens? The first time we traveled, we brought tons of his toys, the second time? A small tote full.

Think it Out:  What do you need for each part of his day at home? To sleep, we bring Gabe his seahorse, his sound machine, and a Boppy pillow. Sure, it seems like a lot, but it makes bedtime SO MUCH EASIER when his familiar things are there. When we went to the beach, I thought ahead and brought our little camping tent to corral Gabe in on the beach (and off the beach, as it turned out). Thinking through what you'll be doing helps you narrow down what to bring, instead of bringing tons of stuff that you won't end up needing (liiike, lots of fancy clothes on a beach vacation where you live in shorts and tank tops 24/7) (Want more inspiration for packing lightly? This.)
:: Sleeping ::
Flexible Sleeping Arrangements: Sometimes we all shared a bed. Sometimes Gabe and I shared a bed while Mike slept in the other. Sometimes Gabe slept on the floor. Sometimes Gabe slept in a Pack-n-Play.  Many times Gabe slept in his stroller. Lots of times Gabe slept in his car seat while we drove.

In a Hotel: Sleeping all in room (with nowhere else to go) poses a challenge. We went to bed at the same time - around 9:30 or 10, a little earlier than we're used to, a little later than Gabe is used to. Otherwise, we'd have had to get an extra room and put Gabe in it ($$!) or sit awake in the dark after he goes to bed. Not so much.

Naps: Depending on the nature of your travel, your baby may get normal naps or may nap in his stroller. At the beach house, Gabe was able to take a solid nap or two a day in his Pack-n-Play. In NYC, he napped in his stroller off and on. He was fine either way - as long as he got roughly the same amount of sleep each day. We did not really plan around naps, because Gabe is flexible and usually naps whenever and where ever. You might not know till you try!

:: Eating ::
Nursing: I finally conquered my fear of nursing in public in Central Park - I just...had to nurse Gabe and had nowhere to do it. I also nursed in a tea shop, on park benches, lots of times in the front seat of the car, and in more bathrooms than I care to admit. He's at an exceptionally distractible stage, now, so he pretty much needs to not see or hear anything to be able to nurse.

Solids: We brought a jar or two of baby food for while driving, and some baby snacks (these are Gabe's favorite of all time), but we largely fed Gabe what we ate, in slightly mashed form. It is far easier than packing along a dozen jars of baby food. 

Eating Out: We do this fairly regularly at home, so eating out while traveling is really no different. In fact, I'm not sure what to even say about it,'s like eating out alone, just your baby is in a highchair next to you. Move everything so he can't grab it off the table. Ask for a spoon or some chopsticks for the baby to play with. You can bring toys if you want to, but I usually forget to and just give him a menu or keys or something to play with. Babies aren't picky. Give the baby some of your food. C'est tout.

:: Pooping ::

Cloth Diapering: If we'll have access to a washer and dryer, we cloth diaper while traveling. Gabe has only blessed us with blow outs when he's in disposables, so that's incentive enough! As is saving money. We love to not have to buy diapers. Cloth swim diapers are also the way to go!

Diaper Changes: Again, prepare to be flexible. Many, many bathrooms in New York City did not have changing tables. Many, many bathrooms in other places we went did not having changing tables. At one restaurant, the waitress told me I could change him on a bench where other customers were waiting. I was afraid of getting Looks, but I just did it and avoided their gazes. We also did our fair share of diaper changes on top of the trunk or in the front seat. Not easy to navigate in such tight quarters, but it works. Parks are where it's at when changing diapers in a public space.

:: Traveling ::
Road trip! 99% of the time, one of us sat in the back with Gabe while the other drove - it made Gabe far happier when we could meet his needs and keep him company during trips. We could play with him, feed him some snacks, and help him fall asleep if he was overtired.

Public Transit: Gabe has been on buses in our city, as well as lots of subways in NYC. I mentioned before that he absolutely loved it.  And we did, too! It was easy to travel on public transportation with a baby and we got to play with him instead of worry about driving. Plus, people were REALLY NICE to us because we had a baby. Sometimes we brought his stroller on (this is what most locals seemed to do), but most of the time we held him and packed up his stroller until we got downtown and wanted to walk around.

:: And, ALSO ::
Time Alone:  If you're traveling with lots of family members, it's awesome because they'll want to play with your baby. But it can also be tiring to have no alone time with your little family. Be sure to get out a few times for a walk, a trip to the grocery store, or out to dinner with just your little family. For your own sanity. And your baby will probably appreciate it, too. 

Baby-Proofing=Your Eyes: Chances are, you won't be able to make your hotel room/beach house/in-laws' house completely baby-proof. This will require lots of watching your baby, then taking a photo when he does this:
Seriously, though, I completely underestimated how hanging out with a baby in a hotel room would involve not wanting him to crawl on the floor ew gross. I did let him crawl in the tub a little when I was going to the bathroom, though. You gotta get creative, am I right?  

Sand Ahoy! It will happen. Gabe would put some in his mouth, then try to wipe the taste off his tongue, getting more sand in his mouth, resulting in this face: 
Keeping him in a tent some of the time helped, so he could be in the shade and out of reach of shells and driftwood, which he liked to try and eat. Or, you know, crawl with: 
You'll note that our child has not been on a plane and is not a toddler. Both of those things terrify me. Of course, my friend Kelly took her daughter all the way to SOUTH AFRICA when she was, like, seven months old. She is basically Super Mom. Also, check out Ginger's helpful post about traveling with little ones!

Anything to add, traveling mamas? Any questions?
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