Traveling with a baby is daunting stuff. It’s the reason a lot of us Brits decide to stick to UK “Staycations” for the first couple of years of parenthood. But as we prepare for our trip to Florida and planning all the ways in which we make it work when we fly as a family, I thought I would share with you my stress free tips for traveling with children, and why it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as you might think.
The first place we visited with our then 10-month-old was North America, traveling from Chicago down to Canada, for 6 weeks. Having travelled a lot before children the initial overwhelm of logistics was somewhat muted, however the thought of adding an unpredictable baby into the mix was still slightly nerve-wracking. However, I can honestly say that it was so easy. It really wasn’t any different to being back home, apart from adjusting to the time zones and a couple of difficult bedtimes. So, if you are in the position to be able to take your baby on a long holiday then please don’t be put off by the actual process of getting there.
I’ve previously written some tips here on how to survive the flight with a baby. During our first 9 hour flight Henry slept for 45 minutes so we certainly needed some serious distraction tools. For us snacks worked better than toys. We were able to make a box of raisins last about an hour at one point, especially if they were mixed in with a handful of Cheerios! Throughout our trip we took 6 flights in total and Henry was brilliant, so much better than I anticipated in a confined space at funny times of the day. My main tip would be to try and get the bulkhead during check in so that you have a lot more room by your feet for them to have freedom and you can get the bassinet for them to sleep in if you can get them down (these will comfortably sleep baby’s up to 9 months I would say). If you expect the worst, they will probably pleasantly surprise you!
JET LAG TIPS
I won’t lie, the first 4 days were very early starts in Chicago. He would wake at around 4am and be ready to start the day playing! And it was also tricky when we returned home. If you’re looking for tips to readjust your child I would recommend the following
Try and give them the first day to catch up on their sleep when they want to, especially if like Henry they didn’t sleep much on the plane.
Give them as much daylight during the day time hours, this adjusts their internal body clock most effectively if they are back to front.
Try and stick to your home routine as much and as quickly as possible, gradually introducing a later or earlier bedtime depending on which way they are out.
Day 1 of our return –
Henry was spot on to his pre-trip routine the day we got back – 2 naps and bath and bed at 6.30pm – talk about a false sense of security! At 9pm he woke up and would not go back to sleep despite shushing then almost an hour walk out in the pram. We concluded that he was just not ready for bed and so we allowed him to get up and play for a couple of hours before trying him back again at 11.30. At this point Stuart and I hadn’t slept for over 37 hours, so we were tired little bunnies. Luckily for us Henry slept in until 11.30am – 12 hours, just the wrong times!
Day 2 – Awake at 10am, bedtime 9pm
Day 3 – Awake at 9am, bedtime 8pm
Day 4 – Awake slight slip back to 10am, bedtime 9.15pm
Day 5 – Awake at 8am, bedtime 7.30pm
Day 6 – Awake at 7.30am, bedtime 7pm
Day 7 Onwards 6.30am wake up and 6.30pm bedtime…Hurrah!
My main advice would be, don’t book anything too intensive in for the first few days. This will help limit the stress for both you and your baby. We were lucky that we were staying with our friends in Chicago for a week, so we had loads of space for him to play in for those first few early starts, and we could limit our adventures until he was settled and because we were on holiday it didn’t matter too much that he was having later nights. I also want to point out that all babies are different, and all ages adjust differently.
We certainly didn’t travel light, and that was mainly due to the amount of time we were away for and the 2 extreme climates we had to dress for – Canada in April and California in May! If you are struggling with luggage weight limits I would recommend that you try not to bring too many of the same thing, such as sleep suits and vests as there will always be washing facilities within the hotel or nearby. You shouldn’t need towels as all hotels have them for both showering and swimming. Think about how many days you may have by the pool or on the beach as these days you won’t necessarily need a full outfit for them on top of their swimming outfits (sadly ours wasn’t such a holiday this time!). Think also about your traveling days as you could think about using a sleep suit for the aeroplane rather than an outfit (my experience is that they get utterly filthy from crawling around on the floor during the hours of waiting for planes.) Here are my top 3 products I wouldn’t go away without.
It goes without saying to time your naps around your traveling needs of course; as you would do at home. But this was key for us as a couple of days we had a lot of ground to cover. We would set off straight away after breakfast and Henry would have 1hr 20 minutes of sleep, plus another 40 mins or so of being amused looking out of the window. Then a break for lunch, a stretch and a play somewhere he could get out and explore, followed by the same during his after-lunch nap. (traveling with young children has its advantages if they still nap!) This only happened a couple of days as usually we would limit our driving to 1 sleeps worth every few days.
DAY TIME ACTIVITIES
It was important to us to make sure Henry was getting enough mental and physical activity as possible, so if you’re feeling the same I’d suggest you do some research to see where local soft play and children’s centres are. In America they have “Children’s Museums” which are fantastic, and we were given passes by our friends in Chicago to the local one there which was packed full of amazing activities for all ages of children, Henry had an amazing time exploring. We found loads of these around the States. The beach was also a huge hit for our boy who’d never felt the sand between his toes before and on cooler days he would spend hours playing with it, fascinated.
After 6 weeks, 6 flights, and 4 time zones we certainly learnt a lot as well as seeing a fantastic array of beautiful sites, and these are just a few tips, but please get in touch if you wanted any further advice for your upcoming trip. Try not to let the planning and preparation stress you out and enjoy the memories you’ll be making with your family.