So sorry for the disappearing act, but our internet connection in Spain was not as expected… We are now back in Stockholm after a very successful week away with baby.
Alec is a great little traveler and he has actually done quite a bit of jet-setting since he was born. From trans-Atlantic flights (he’s crossed the Atlantic three times now), to trans-continental flights (that Alec and I have even managed on our own), to long road trips and train rides. Along the way, I have gathered a few tricks to make traveling with little ones go just a little more smoothly:
- Make a packing list and save it for future trips. My mum still uses a master packing list that she made when we were small children whenever she packs for a trip. There are some posts on there that she obviously ignores nowadays (coloring books, pool toys), but basically it serves as a good checklist for any trip. I make a new packing list for every trip (see the lists from this last trip to Spain here, here and here) but I keep all the old ones (in a notebook) so that I can refer back, add on and remove as needed. If you haven’t done this before, just make a list as you pack for your next trip and keep it for the next time around. I’m so happy I have our old lists from trips we did with Alec when he was just three months old so that I can use them for future trips when our second child will be small and I will need to remember all the burp cloths and pump parts etc.
- If in doubt, bring it. The one time you are not carrying a change of clothes is the time your baby will puke all over himself at the beginning of a long flight. For this trip we decided not to carry Alec’s cough medicine even though he has been so sick so often lately. And sure enough – he caught a really bad cold towards the end of our trip and we would definitely have used it had we had it with us. Although, if we had had it with us, he probably wouldn’t have caught a cold. Yes, you will end up carrying a bunch of carry-on that you will never touch, and yes, an extra checked bag and/or a bigger rental car isn’t free. But often, it’ll be worth it.
- Replicate Baby’s environment and routines as closely as you can. Nothing is as helpful with a jet-lagged baby as having a routine to lean against when you arrive in the new time zone. Babies are so sensory, so think about what you can bring along that will satisfy their senses and make them feel at home. We usually travel with Alec’s own travel cot and bedding (familiar feel and scent), and always bring along his sleep sheep (familiar sounds).
- Don’t do too much. Pre-baby, we would have liked to see several places during a one-week vacation. We would’ve taken in insider tips from everyone we know who had ever been where we were going so that we had a good list of the best restaurants, shopping, beaches etc to check out, and I would have had a list of things I wanted to get to during our stay. When traveling with children, it’s easier to limit yourself to one move every threeish days, and maybe having just one or two “must-dos” on your list.
- When possible, plan travel around sleep routines etc. If your child always sleeps 12-2pm and you know you have a two-hour drive to do that day, then what better time than to drive while he/she is napping? I know lots of families that routinely book red-eye flights because they know their kids will sleep through most of it.
- Give a little extra thought to the toys you bring. Alec is not particularly attached to any of his toys, and the ones he does give a little attention to are difficult to bring on a trip (his Brio wagon, his Sticklebricks). So my husband had the genius idea to bring along a few small pieces of his brick collection, just the ones that fit through the top of a water bottle. And then we emptied a bottle of water every day and Alec spent hours filling and emptying it of bricks (and stones, and leaves and grass and whatever else he could find). He fell asleep in the car seat and stroller with the bottle in his hand and it was a real life-saver throughout the trip.
- Re-think your ideal vacation. Pre-baby we were obsessed with authentic experiences, rarely choosing international chain hotels and looking to be in areas and accommodation that had real local flavor. Our priorities are a little different right now. For the second half of our stay my husband vetoed the boutique hotel in the old town that I thought sounded great and instead booked us in a 2-bedroom beach villa at an international resort. It was the type of place we would have been allergic to a few years ago since you couldn’t really tell if you were in Florida or Spain once you were on the property. But now that we are traveling with children, this was the PERFECT concept for us. It was well-built and super quiet. There were only seniors and families there. Of the five pools, two were heated family pools and one of them was indoors (no sunscreen, no worrying about catching a chill, no college kids playing volleyball, no disturbing honeymooners). There was a grocery store where we could buy pretty much everything we ever could have needed (diapers, baby food, all our meals). Everyone spoke great English. Meals were so easy to navigate, even though Alec doesn’t exactly eat on a Spanish (dinner at 9pm) schedule. It was absolutely perfect and so relaxing.
- Re-prioritize your travel budget. Pre-baby it was all about getting where you were going as cheaply as possible (saving on flights and cars) so that you had as much of your budget as possible to enjoy once you got where you were going. Hotels were also a good place to save since you were never spending that much awake-time in your room anyways. The money went mostly to shopping and great dining experiences. Traveling as a family, we spend more money finding flights with good timings and fewer connections and from good easy-access airports. We also spend more on extra luggage allowances so that we can bring whatever we want. We rent our cars from reputable international companies where we can count on a good safe car seat, and we go for a much bigger family model car even at a price. On this trip we stayed in two-bedroom suites with kitchen facilities to make sleep and mealtimes easier.