There’s a proverb that reads that the journey of a thousand miles always begins with a first step – traveling with a baby is no different. At some point, you have to take a first step in one direction or another. Which hopefully is good news to moms and dads out there. Sometimes when people say “traveling”, it conjures up these images of caravans and backpacks and packages of food rations… it doesn’t have to be so complicated at all. The most important thing is just to open up the door to the world, and get out there and see something.
Prior to having kids, I traveled all the time without giving it much thought – I could nearly pack in my sleep. With children, and especially with a baby, that automation went out the door with the diaper pail, and I lost a bit of confidence. All of the sudden I started to question whether our chosen destination was a good idea, or if we were prepared, or nearly any one of a list of a million different worries. But once we were in the saddle though, that confidence came back and it gets higher with each trip.
Now that we have been doing it all over again with our second tot, I’ve had to remind myself of the tips we learned about getting started on traveling with a baby:
1. Go Local
Traveling with a baby will be different, no question about that so choosing a smaller trip, like a day trip or weekend trip, for the first few runs helps you acclimate to those differences with the safety net of going home at any time if you need to. You’re on the move with a baby, so it’s perfectly okay to take “baby steps” to get started (pun intended!).
2. Get Started with the Car
Traveling by airplane these days in an exercise in keeping your sanity, so if you can, start out your travels by car. We found that once we looked on the map, there were lots of towns or outings that were worth doing that we never considered before. So we got the benefit of having a less stressful outing with the car, the freedom of knowing we could turn around and come home if needed, and the added bonus of exploring the area around us much more. Once you get a little more comfortable, add things like airplanes, trains and boats (i.e. modes of transportation that operate on their own schedule – in a car, you are still on yours).
3. Work with lists and refine them:
Smaller trips closer to home let you practice packing – while babies don’t need all that much, we seem to think that they do. A few trips closer to home will help you define the list of what your baby actually needs in order to be comfortable while out and about. As you find things that work, and figure out the things that don’t, refine your lists so that packing for a trip develops that same level of automation you once had when packing for yourself.
Travel is supposed to be fun after all! The biggest thing you can do to make your baby comfortable in a new environment is to be comfortable yourself. Babies will be able to sense anxiety and worry from you so even when things don’t go according to plan and you find yourself out of diapers and out of a change of clothes for baby, fashioning a wrap and sling out of your expensive scarf that you received as a gift (true story), just let it roll off your shoulders. If you know what your own stress points are (for me, it was being out of milk or food), you can always manage around them (and so I always pack extra milk, more than I think we will really need because I need to know we’re covered). If things aren’t going as planned, a couple of deep breaths or humming a favorite song might help diffuse the tension. Basically, your baby will take cues from you always so keeping calm helps keep the peace. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?
5. Know when to declare victory and head home:
When you travel with a baby, you might find that your plans change for a number of different reasons. And that will be okay. If you keep flexible, you’ll know that if you have to make an earlier return, or take a longer lunch break, or head for a calm day to the pool instead of that extra museum are all okay if that’s what’s best for right now. Go with your gut. The point of travel is not to check off every item on your itinerary but rather to broaden the experience of everyone on the trip, and that includes baby…and you…and whoever else is with you. It’s okay to redefine what victory is on the trip and adjust accordingly.
What have been your tips for exploring outside of the house with baby?
Parts of the Traveling with a Baby series first appeared on Valentina Fussel’s Traveling Mama (who is now over at the very fab House of Valentina), but I wanted to share our few tips and tricks in the full set of posts here on the blog. This isn’t so much about the gear because the truth is, you don’t need much of it (although a few things can definitely be helpful!). It’s not about traveling with kids in general (although happy to talk about that too separately). This is a little more on on how to get started on traveling with a baby from a personal perspective, what to look out for, and above all, how to enjoy this new lens on seeing the world around you, both near and far! We keep our littles on the road a fair amount but we also like to keep things fun. And we’re always looking to learn from other parents so please feel free to share your travel tips and adventures below here too!
PS – Photo above from the old town centre of Manama, Bahrain.