With the holidays fast approaching, many new parents are nervously looking ahead to a very big ‘first’: the first big plane, train, or automobile ride with baby in tow.
If this sounds like you, never fear! You may not be able to see every bump or twist coming, but there are a lot of things you can do to make traveling as smooth as possible. Try these 5 tips to make the most of your holiday travel.
1. Pack smart
Before you even open up your suitcase, make a list of everything you think you’ll need. Clothes and diapers, books and toys, comfort items, etc., all the way down to the Band-Aids and hand sanitizer.
Now figure out which of those things can go in your luggage, and which ones absolutely have to come with you on the plane (or on hand in the train or car).
For example: your carry-on or car bag should include plenty of diapers, extra food and water, and extra clothes for your baby and you.
If you’re taking any kind of public transportation, I highly recommend you also bring earplugs for your neighbors -- especially if it’s a long trip, or if you know your baby is absolutely destined for a meltdown (it happens!). Lots and lots of Ziploc bags will also come in handy to keep the dirty diaper smell at bay.
But don’t pack just yet. First...
2. Make some calls (or send some emails)
You’d be amazed by how much you can get done before your trip. If you’re staying with family or friends, ask if they can stock up on your favorite brands of diapers or formula before you get there. If you’re going to a hotel or Airbnb, find out what’s available on the premises. You may be able to rent a crib, Pack ‘n’ Play, or stroller; you also may be able to have extra supplies shipped there in advance.
You can also check on babyproofing, and even figure out the sleeping situation ahead of time (if you’re all in the same room, do you have somewhere to go when your baby is sleeping? Or do you have somewhere for your baby to sleep when you’re still awake?).
Finally, check-in with yourself by going over your packing list one last time.
Do you really need everything on it?
3. Stick with the routine
Your routines are there for a reason, and while you probably won’t be able to do everything the way you usually do, it’s best to try as much as you can.
Two common recommendations: earlier flights can help you match your typical daily schedule and avoid stressful delays; on the other hand, if your baby is an easy sleeper, running through the bedtime routine after an evening takeoff might lull them to sleep.
You can also use well-worn routines to keep your baby calm and occupied during stressful moments. For example, feeding during takeoff and landing can help avoid the discomfort of ear “popping.”
And while you probably want to bring familiar toys or items of interest, you might consider some novel additions: a brand new thing to explore can be a great distraction when you sense your baby’s mood turning.
4. Be flexible
Unexpected things will happen, and they might come from unexpected places.
Your plane might get stuck on the tarmac, or your car might have a flat, but it’s also possible that your baby will hate something you expected them to love, or that you’re so wiped out you completely forget their favorite routine. Babies are resilient and adaptable.
Adults are, too, but it’s easy to forget in the moment. When something goes wrong, make a conscious effort to stay calm, take a deep breath, resolve what you can, and manage your emotions.
The trip will be much less stressful for everyone if you remember to be kind and patient with yourself (and, ideally, those around you).
5. Treat yourself
Remember: this is supposed to be a vacation. You can’t take a vacation from parenting while your little one is with you, but you can look for ways to make things easier on yourself.
If you’re seeing family, let Grandma and Grandpa have plenty of time with the baby and enjoy a morning in (or out). If you’re on your own, see if you have space in your budget for an extra seat on the plane, or give yourself the mental space to have a meal in your hotel room instead of wrangling the family to a restaurant (fun fact: many restaurants/delivery apps will deliver to hotel rooms, for far less than room service).
Above all else: enjoy your trip; take lots of pictures; remember the good parts; and forget the bad parts until you can laugh about them. ;)
P.S. We’d love to hear your stories! Whether you are an experienced parent traveller or would like to get your specific questions answered, let us know below!