As promised, here is a wrap up of my experience with vacationing “plus one”. (Sorry, it’s another long one!). I fully acknowledge that I am NOT an expert on this topic, so what follows is just a recap of my planning, packing, and traveling notes, along with some small suggestions I have for readers planning their own family trip. Our trip to South Carolina over Memorial Day weekend was really a treat, and travelling with A went so smoothly (other than car rentals and alarm clocks, that is). Of course most of the enjoyment came from being with my fab husband and superb little munchkin, but adequate upfront planning definitely contributed to our successful first family trip.
And for the record, while I like to do a ridiculous decent amount of planning and list-making before we travel, I always try to leave my Type A half behind. Being crazy organized has it’s time and place. At home.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts on keeping baby travel neat and (relatively) stress free. And yes, that is A above snoozing on B just as we touched down at CHS.
TRIP PLANNING (Things to Consider Before You Book)
Choosing Your Destination:
1. Mode and Length of Travel. Will you be flying? How long is the trip? What time of day will you be travelling? Our criteria were as follows: destinations with nonstop flights only, keep flight time to under 4 hours, and preferably travel during morning hours when A was more likely to be alert, curious, and excited, vs. tired, scared, and cranky.
2. Location. How remote is your destination? Will you have access to common baby necessities and/or medical care if needed? We toyed with the idea of traveling to Bermuda, but we decided staying in the continental US made the most sense for our first try at this baby travel thing. We liked the idea of being able to hit up a Target or Walgreen’s if we really needed something!
3. Cost. Stating the obvious here, but traveling with a baby is a lot different than when just the two of you jetted off to Hawaii a few years ago. I wouldn’t recommend an expensive or fancy trip for your first vacation with your little one.
4. Accomodations. Practical or Cushy? We decided against staying at a hotel and instead rented a one bedroom condo for 5 nights for a few reasons:
- Kitchen – we had breakfast and lunch at our condo to save some money and take a break from the heat during our beach days.
- Separate Living/Sleeping Areas – it was nice to be able to relax and watch TV in the living room while A was peacefully sleeping in the bedroom.
- Washer/Dryer – nice to have in case you need it. Babies are messy!
- Cost – renting a place is usually a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. We did spring for an ocean view condo with a balcony though since we were spending our evenings hanging out at the condo. Having drinks on the porch was a nice way to relax.
When To Travel:
5. Baby’s Age. Many people have told me that it’s “so much easier” to travel with smaller babies (6 months and under). While I agree that baby’s milk-only diet and lack of mobility at this age greatly reduces the amount of time and energy exerted planning meal times and chasing after a little tyke on your “vacation”, I do think there are a few benefits we found for traveling when A was a little older (6-10 month range):
- Still Relatively Immobile – our little girl can roll over and creep a bit, but she doesn’t get far so we were still able to fully take advantage of that whole “baby stays where you put them” thing while travelling.
- Longer Attention Span/Ability to Self-Entertain (at least for a few minutes!) – helped us out a lot en route, at the beach, and while exploring Charleston. The fact that A was happy to explore things in her own way allowed us both some time to be off “baby entertainment duty” during our vacation.
- Capable of Sitting Up – made it a lot easier for A to play on the beach, and to join us at the dinner table in restaurant-provided highchairs.
- Capable of Self Feeding – also made dining out a lot more relaxing. A was thrilled to be stuffing herself with her favorite ‘Puffs’ and other small bits from our plates while we enjoyed our meals.
- Sleeping Through The Night (hopefully!) – being able to sleep a bit extra is a MUST for me on vacation. I was very glad not to be in newborn zombie mode during our trip.
6. Time of Year. This really depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation, but I think for most locations, traveling during warmer spring and fall months would be ideal, unless of course you’re heading to the beach, in which case summer is an excellent choice. The reason I bring this up is that there is undoubtedly a direct correlation between inclement weather and excess baby gear…and an increase in overall vacation crankiness.
AIR TRAVEL (Things to Know, Things to Bring)
7. Security Checkpoints with Baby. If you will be flying with baby food and bottles (which I recommend you do in case of delays, etc.), you will have to go through the “Family Line” at security, which can really slow you down. So although this is completely obvious, be sure to get to the airport as early as you can. The Family Line may be shorter, but it moves a heck of a lot slower.
8. Baggage/Packing List. If it’s just the three of you, you’ll want to make sure you pack bags that can be easily carried or wheeled behind you, while one of you is also carrying/pushing baby. Here’s how we played the baggage game:
- 2 Roller Bags– beach supplies took up half of B’s, A and I shared the other; we checked these bags. Under all other circumstances I am an “In and Out” traveler and despise checking bags. However, when traveling with baby you have to through that out the window. Being careful and patient pays off way more than attempting speedy travel.
- One small duffel (think gym bag)– for A’s food and bottles, and beloved stuffed puppy (being cuddled in the pic above). We also packed valuables like our camera and my Medela pump in here, and our Baby Bjorn just in case A freaked on the plane, we could walk/bounce her in the aisles.
- B’s backpack – we put books and magazines for the trip in here, along with adult snacks and any travel paperwork we had.
- A’s Diaper Bag – diapers, wipes, snacks, 2 changes of clothes, and a few small, QUIET toys. We also packed extra pacifiers since it’s highly recommended to keep your baby sucking/swallowing during take off and landing.
- City Mini Stroller – all airlines let you check a stroller at the gate, and it’s right there waiting for you when you exit the plan at your destination. The one thing airlines seem to get right these days.
Now I know that sounds like a lot of luggage, but actually it was really easy to maneuver, and for traveling for 5+ days to the beach it was pretty efficient. At the airport B was in charge of roller bags while wearing his backpack. I pushed A in the stroller with the diaper bag on the handles, so all I had to carry was the one duffel. Once the rollers were checked it was even easier.
9. Rental Cars. A little pricier than using public transportation, but the freedom that comes along with having your own set of wheels is priceless. No coordinating baby schedules and bus/train schedules, no worrying about a cranky baby bothering other passengers, and minimal disruption to your little one, who is probably beyond exhausted. Also remember you will need to rent a car seat. Most rental car companies are able to accommodate this but be sure to indicate Infant seat vs. Toddler (depending on what you need). They don’t always have both on hand.
AMENITIES & SUPPLIES (Bring It or Rent It?)
10. Diapers.com is Amazing. ‘Nuff said. Don’t lug it with you – send it to your destination for free. (I swear I was NOT paid to say that). We ordered as much stuff as we could directly to our condo from Diapers.com and the package was in our living room waiting for us when we arrived (I coordinated this with our management company in advance). Our D dot C list:
- 30 pack of diapers
- 1 big pack of wipes
- 1 12-pack of mixed fruit/veggie stage 2 foods (so we could use for all meals)
- 1 pack disposable/reusable spoons
- 1 pack disposable bibs
The spoons and bibs weren’t a necessity, but I was about $6 short to get free shipping. They were actually great – it was super easy to toss them our beach bag and diaper bag and not have to worry about needing bibs or spoons while out and about. And we definitely intend to reuse some of the spoons that didn’t get too dirty, so as to not be completely wasteful.
11. Gear. Navigating the airport was manageable with our luggage – a portable crib would have completely offset our nice little equilibrium! So we rented a Pack N Play through a company called Tots On The Go, along with a booster seat highchair like this one. Both were in excellent condition, the PnP came with 2 clean sheets, and everything was waiting for us there when we arrived. They also picked up after we left. Highly recommend going this route. Candice in the Charleston office was the bomb.
BONUS: A Day At The Beach With Baby
12. Beach Packing List. Going to the beach with a little one can be daunting, but we found it was a great place to take a baby. I planned ahead a lot for this to make sure it went as smooth as possible. Here was our beach packing list:
- 5 Beach Towels (weren’t included in our condo) – one for each of us, one to use as a blanket in A’s beach tent, and one to spread out for her to play on
- Baby Beach Tent – we borrowed this one from a coworker and it was aweomse. Highly recommend for a baby under one year. It folds up into itself and comes with backpack carrying case making it super portable.
- Baby Blow Up Pool – bought this one for $8 at our local Toys R Us and it was also awesome. It folded up flat so we slipped it in with the tent and carried those together to/from the beach.
- Fridge To Go – you may recall that I used this in Miami a few months ago for a much different purpose, but our Fridge To Go was perfect for bringing water and bottles to/from the beach each day. Comfortable carrying strap made it extra portable.
- Sunscreen and Hats all around!
- Entertainment – magazines for the adults, squirty bath toys and stacking cups for A. These were great because she could play with them on the beach, in her pool, in the tub, and in the condo. The cups nest into one another and everything fit into a small pouch.
- Baby Bjorn – for beach walks and carrying A to/from beach on my solo beach day.
Here is a shot of our daily beach set up. Everything mentioned above (except cooler) fit into one of our two large boat totes. So B carried A and one bag, while I carried the other bag and cooler the 100 yards from our condo to the beach every day. It was very manageable.
Ah, vacation. I wanna go back.
Please free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions, or tips to add. Happy travelling!