When we told people we will be traveling around the world with two young kids for 6+ months, most people could not fathom how we would be able to bring enough stuff with us for such a trip. Many assumed we would need to bring several large suitcases with us in order to hold all our clothes, toys, and other belongings. Our answer to them was that we are just bringing four backpacks, one for each person.Read More
Let me start off by saying that I have no intentions to self proclaim myself an expert in traveling with a baby. I have traveled with all 3 of my kids as babies and have some experiences that I love to share with other parents. I like to think that I have generally been pretty lucky and my children mostly behave on flights, road trips, and being in new environments. I say that while remembering, quite vividly I might add, the lollipop my daughter tossed into the beautiful hair of the nice lady sitting in front of us on a trip to Dominican Republic, or when she screamed so much while I was changing her on a flight to Denver that I needed a fresh set of clothes for MYSELF, from all the sweating, and a few more not so fond memories.
Anyhow, without further ado here are 5 of my handy tips for traveling with your precious bundle...who may or may not be joyful on his/her very first journeys.
1. Set a Routine Before You Go
I can't emphasize how important this is. I once a read a book called "Your Survival Skills Are Killing you". It was all about the human brain and how it functions and what it prefers under various circumstances. It talked about how the human brain craves routine and as an example it mentioned that this is why most people get sick right before going on vacation. Even though going on vacation is exciting, it is going to interfere with the routine. At the time I chose to respectfully disagree with that statement, because after all I know that I am not a routine type of gal. I like to be spontaneous and I love change. Fast forward to last year when I attended a talk for parents at a Montessori School and the speaker spoke about the development of babies and toddlers and said many wonderful things but what stood out to me the most was when she said that babies crave routine. Their brain needs a routine and this allows them to be calm and not constantly wonder about what is going to happen next which then allows the brain to focus more on learning and exploring.
So what does it mean to set a routine for a baby? The best example would be the eating and sleeping schedule. If your baby has a good routine for sleeping and eating, even if the time zone changes they will adapt quickly. Here is personal example from when we visited Sicily this summer with my then 9 month old. At home, his night time routine was to eat a small amount of solid food, followed by a diaper change, a nursing session, and being put in his crib. When we arrived at the house we were staying at in Marsala, this pretty much remained as his going to bed routine. Albeit, in the middle of the night he woke up sometimes and had to come snuggle with us in our bed, but bedtime routine was always the same. He followed a similar pattern with his 2 naps during the day.
Set a routine. I promise you it will be the best thing you ever did. It is way better than overpacking to make sure you have all the things!
2. Plan the Travel Time During Baby's Sleeping Hours
This is not a secret and many parents use this method already. They book an overnight flight in the hopes that the whole family will get to sleep on the flight or that the car will be quite on that long drive. If it is possible then it is a great option. Especially if the travel time matches with the night time at your destination. Baby will end up getting less hours of sleep but they are quick to adjust themselves, again if you have done a good job taking care of setting that routine for them. Also remember that night time travel is better than travel scheduled around a nap in broad day light. Unless you have a very young one, your baby will most likely want to skip that nap out of excitement and wonder. Eventually though, they all settle down...some sooner than others.
3. Forget About Getting Rest....As A Parent
Have you heard of the phrase, "permanently exhausted pigeon"? I feel like nothing resonates better with parents. Just because you have a good routine and buy your tickets for when your baby should be sleeping, it does not mean that you have guaranteed yourself a comfortable journey. The goal really is to have a calm and happy baby who is not causing you worry and stress. Everything else is an add on bonus. Truly! Sleep? Oh that 's for the weak! Forget about sleeping...unless you have a magical baby that will sleep 8+ hours in a car seat on his/her own plane seat (which by the way if you do, you are so lucky and I am not sure why you are reading this!), you will either have to hold your baby on your lap or I even saw some parents wearing their baby which is definitely safer if you happen to doze off but certainly not more comfortable for your posture.
Everything in life is about your attitude. Set your expectations right and you will have a much better attitude to handle everything. On our most recent trip, my 9 month old slept pretty much the entire flight to our destination and I even got to watch 1 movie. All fine and dandy except that my right hand fell asleep from the weight of his head on some vein in my arm responsible for taking blood to my hand! How could I complain about a hand that was asleep when I got to watch a movie on the flight though? At least a part of me was sleeping.
4. Wear That Baby
If you have a good back and your baby enjoys being worn, then think really really hard about taking a stroller with you, especially on flights. Do not take the gigantic American strollers with you to Europe! They are awful. I have first hand experience from taking the City Mini to Paris. Oh mon dieu! This stroller, which is love so dearly for how easily it folds was a nightmare to get in and out of metros. That was all me as a first time mom. What was I thinking?
On our most recent trip to Italy, I chose to forget about a stroller all together. My back could handle the weight of my 9 month old and he loved being worn. I had worn him in a wrap since he was a week old. I bought a good baby carrier with decent back support to make sure I had all the help I could get. I remembered that during our trip to Disney World when the baby was 8 weeks old, my back was starting to feel unsupported, especially because we walked a lot. I ended up choosing Lille Baby. I have had a few others and this is definitely my favorite one. It is so easy to use and you can wear the baby in so many different ways.
It was the best decision. I had no problems in airports as I could just attach the baby to myself and still use both of my hands. It was so good that we didn't have a stroller to worry about since our car was the tiniest car ever and barely fit our traveling backpacks! We would have had to gotten a bigger car just to fit the stroller! Here I am at the Colosseum with my little nugget tucked in safely and without having to worry about maneuvering a stroller around crowds or dealing with all of those stairs!!
5. Ignore the Judging Eyes
"Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Bernard Baruch.
Traveling with a baby is hard. Really hard. You should get a gold medal for having the courage to pack your bags and take your tiny bean on an adventure. Kudos to you and your wandering feet. This last tip, I think, maybe especially hard for first time parents who not long ago where on the other side of the line and freely judged those parents in airports, on airplanes, on trains, etc for what they should be doing. We have all been there. I have loved children all my life and always knew I would want to have kids of my own one day but that definitely didn't stop me from judging parents wherever, because I thought I knew better (HA! HA!). Ahem! Reality check was handed to me in 2009, then a second one in 2011, and a third and final one in 2016.
Don't worry about those judging eyes. Wether they don't have kids or it has been a really long time since they were around babies, they often dread a long flight for the fear of ending up nearing a crying baby. You do your best for your baby to keep him/her calm and happy. Chances are, even if they say nothing to you, most of those onlookers have been in your shoes and know exactly what you are going through. In fact, most of them, myself included would love to give you a hand, if my own wasn't asleep under my 9 month old's head. :)
So go forth and keep on adventuring with your little one. It maybe hard but all those memories you will be making together are worth everything.
Tell me about your travels with your baby. I love to hear your best tips.
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Whenever we tell people that we went traveling for 7 months, they have 2 burning questions:
1. Did we take our kids with us? (which at the time we had 2)
2. How did we ever afford to do it?
Here is the easy answer for number 1. YES. We generally don't like to travel without our kids. Unless we are just going on a 1-2 night(s) getaway.
Now for the longer answer.
How Did We Ever Afford To Travel for 7 months
1. We Planned.
We like to call ourselves spontaneous people but I doubt we could pull off 7 months of traveling around the world with 2 very young kids without any planning. The planning process started about a year - a year and a half before we actually headed out of the country. At least that's when the idea was born. Each phase required a lot of patience (this was the hardest part for me). Phase 1 was waiting for our au-pair's term to be over.
2. We Saved $.
We decided not to sell our town house before leaving. Unfortunately for us, we had bought our house during the height of the market and selling it meant losing money. Instead we decided to see if we could rent it out. If you have ever rented a property you know that being a landlord is not all rainbows and butterflies. We had some interesting situations but we knew that the end goal was more important to us than the obstacles we were encountering. Renting our house meant that someone else was paying our mortgage. We moved in with my parents for a few months, right before we left and saved up the monthly mortgage amount. While we were gone, we asked a friend to act as our property manager. There were some crazy stories with our tenant but honestly we would not do it any differently.
I am not saying that this is possible for everyone. How monthly mortgage was quite high and thankfully both my husband and I were employed with good salaries at the time. Not paying mortgage in New Jersey is a big deal, even if just for a few months! This was our way of making the travel affordable without touching much of our existing savings account.
3. We Prepared.
We did a lot of research on destinations we were interested in. Our preparation included but was not limited to investigating the following:
- The best credit card to use abroad to avoid transaction fees
- The best bank, so that we could access our money without having to pay ATM Fees
- The vaccines required for us and our kids (who were 2.5 and 4.5 at the time)
- How to Pack Light but bring enough so we didn't have to buy much on the road
- Most affordable transportation while in Europe
4. We Chose to Travel Slowly
Surprisingly, traveling slowly, long term is cheaper than traveling short term. By traveling slowly I mean staying in each destination for at least a month. Many Airbnb hosts give an amazing discount to people who want to stay in their properly for a month. While we were in the South of Spain, we stayed at a beautiful house in the mountains, amongst olive trees. The house had a pool and a tree house, as well as a small swing set, great wifi and the the hosts were available to stop by and help us if we needed anything. This house cost us a little over $700 for the entire month! This is now our favorite way of traveling whenever possible. Not only is this more affordable but it also gives us a chance to not be tourists. We can actually learn a bit about the culture, the language and get to know some wonderful people.
5. We Remained Flexible
The best way to ensure affordability while traveling is to be flexible. This is so important that if I was writing this list in the order of importance I would choose this as #1. If you want to be successful as a traveling family AND have fun you must be flexible. Flexible with what you might ask. With Everything. Be flexible with your flight dates. Be flexible with the number of lay overs (be smart but be flexible). For example, we were able to fly from Chiang Mai to Christchurch for free (using our United Miles). This meant flying from Chiang Mai to Bangkok to Auckland to Christchurch. It was a lot for the kids but they did amazing and truly if we didn't choose to be flexible, this would have cost approximately $4000 which meant we would have never made it to New Zealand. I can't even imagine! We had such an amazing time in our RV exploring the South Island.
Be flexible with your types of accommodations. Giving up some of your comforts at home, will only add to the experiences and your memories that you will all build together. Here is another example, when we went on our little road trip in Ireland, we stayed at a hostel one night, because it was cheap and affordable. It sure wasn't my favorite place but our kids loved the fact that we all had to sleep in bunkbeds!
I promise that being flexible will come with some incredible surprises you wouldn't want to miss.
The only other item I would mention is that it is important to set a budget. This falls under a few of the categories mentioned above. To set a realistic budget we needed to research the best ticket prices, the best accommodation prices, etc. We had to learn a bit about each of our destinations and figure out how much it would cost for us to eat each day, visit certain places, etc. We set a lose budget before we left but tightened it as our plans finalized.
Have you traveled slowly? Do you plan to? Do you have any tips for us or for our readers? We love to hear from other traveling families about how they fund their nomadic journeys.
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