Traveling with a baby soon?
We have taken our baby on more weekend trips then I can count and we love having him with us wherever we go! I am certainly no expert, but I do feel like I’ve collected some tips that works for us and maybe they will be helpful to you!
This is focusing on traveling via car, short distance that takes less then a day and hotel life vs. apartment renting.
Use a map when booking. I always check expedia.com first for the locations of nearby hotels; all the options show up and you can view the map with the little pin drops for hotels to pick your location. Sometimes looking at it on a map makes all the difference because you can stay at a hotel next to the water, or on the water, next to a golf course or a museum; it all depends on what you like to do at your destination.
Book via the hotel’s website. Like I mentioned earlier, I always check expedia.com first to compare prices and find the location on the map where we want to stay. After having to pay for a room and not being able to cancel our reservation I learned to always book the hotel using their website. The price is usually the same on the website as it is on sites like Expedia, if there is a difference I would recommend calling the hotel directly (call front desk not the reservations number if they give you a hard time) 99% of the time they will match the price you see online if its a different then what their website is. Domestically we prefer to use Holiday Inn vs Hilton because of better accommodations and Holiday Inn always had breakfast included where we have stayed so far, so its a bonus and a cost saver!
Walking distance. If I can find it, I will always try to book a hotel or Homeaway or Air BnB with walking distance to sites and venues we plan to visit. It doesn’t always work out, but when it’s a city big enough it’s worth paying the extra $50-100 a night to be able to walk to dinner, shopping, diaper run, pharmacy (I needed it one time when we were in a different state), and groceries (especially if you have a kitchen where you are staying). Having accommodations with the ability to walk almost anywhere is how we booked all of our stays since having the baby. We take the car if we are not flying or the trip is shorter distance, but even then, it’s just easier to get essentials and be able to transport a stroller at all times. This comes in handy when your baby is still small and naps several times a day.
Hotel room cancelations. If you book with the hotel directly, they may offer a generous cancelation policy, but when you book via expedia.com, trivago.com or priceline.com you will most likely have to pay extra for “flexibility.” Flexibility is the state of mind for parents of infants and toddlers. Because you just never know!!! What if you have to cancel your entire trip, which has happened to us, and what if you make a reservation for the wrong day by accident? (also happened to us). Being able to call the hotel directly to sort it out is much easier to make changes than dealing with Expedia, trust me!
Upgrade to a bigger room for free. Yes, for FREE! What I learned from staying at many different hotels, is that each hotel has 2-3 (or depending on the size of the hotel sometimes more) handicap-accessible rooms. These rooms have extra space, bigger bathrooms, and often a walk in closet, and a couch or a separate seating area. It’s so much easier to have space for a crib and not sit in the dark after the baby is tucked in for the night, because the room is so small that you cannot turn any lights on! Rather than booking these rooms with all the others, hotels keep some of them reserved in case someone comes in who needs those accommodations. These will typically be the last rooms they assign on a given night. My tip is: when you check in (not when you book) ask for a handicap accessible room. They will decide if they can let you have the room or if they should keep it for individuals who will actually need it. What do you have to lose?
Ask for a crib. Every hotel domestically and internationally will provide portable cribs, aka pack and play. Even Airbnb places where we stayed, not all of them, but most will have a crib they can provide. Some will list it as an option on their page so you can know if it’s an option before you make the reservation.
Or bring a crib. If you absolutely love your pack and play or another version of a baby bed at home and invested good money in it, AND if you have space for it in your travels I would say bring it with you! I had to request a different crib once because the first one was so wobbly and I could tell my baby wasn’t comfortable there.
Travel insurance. When applicable, buy it! We had an issue once and sometimes the airline or the hotel will not even talk to you about the issue you have if you don’t have travel insurance, or insurance for your flights. With a baby, again, you just don’t know what to expect and it’s worth it to be prepared to cancel or reschedule the trip if you needed to.
Bring a toy box. What’s amazing to me is how our baby loves to take toys out of a box! If you’re traveling light, bring a folding box and put the toys that you choose to bring with you in it so your baby can take them out and spread out on the floor playing. If you don’t have a box, you can use a plastic shopping bag, like the reusable kind they offer for $1 at most grocery stores, the bag makes crinkly noise and the handles will add extra fun to play with. When you have a crawling or just a very busy baby it helps to entertain them and keep them out of your arms while in the hotel room. When we travel via car I will often bring a reusable shopping bag from Wegmans and keep the toys in there, the bag is easy to clean with baby wipes too!
Save money. When ever possible, stay with friends or family. We found out that if we make a goal to spend only a certain amount the entire weekend and do not go out to shop for anything other then groceries, our trips are much cheaper and we eat healthier because we cook our own food. This is especially the case if you are like us and have to travel to visit family and old friends. Every time we go back to visit we stay with parents or in-laws and that’s a great way to save on lodging alone!
Booking tips. Similar to when looking for a hotel, use a map to decide where exactly you wish to stay, neighborhood, street, corner. If you are in a big city, you will have a lot of options to choose from! We used airbnb.com in NYC, Dublin, Ireland, Paris, France, and have a couple more places booked where we plan to travel in the next few months.
I will be talking about our experience with Airbnb on the blog tomorrow, so make sure to subscribe and get an email notification when it goes live! I will have full details on what we did well and where we learned from mistakes. I will include pictures from the fabulous apartments we rented in Europe, so make sure to check back in tomorrow!
Traveling by car
Walking naps. Health goals do not need to change when you travel. We started taking our Bob Jogging stroller on short trips that we take by car. It allows us to take a walk together as a family when baby needs a nap. As he got older he was so much more alert of everything (after 7/8 months) it became very difficult to get him down for a nap. Walking or even running while he naps once a day is a great way we are able to stick to our health goals.
Stroller accessories. When you are short on space or simply don’t have the space in your trunk, consider this guy! Scout is a great accessory to keep around when you are traveling and need to have your space in the trunk for luggage. This is an attachment to the back of your car that will allow you to safely and efficiently transport your jogging stroller without taking the extra space inside the vehicle. This carrier works on jogging strollers only.
Sleeping in the car and timing. After more weekend road trips that we can count in the last 9 months with our baby one thing we make sure to do that makes our life SO much easier while on the road! When we choose the time to leave, either to get on the road to our destination or to come back home, we always plan it around baby’s sleep schedule. If the drive is 5 hours or less, we plan our leave at 6:30-7 pm, which is baby’s bed time. It allows us to drive straight to the destination without stopping to take breaks. If it is unavoidable to drive during his night sleep, we still plan it around nap time and usually he will sleep the entire way or at least most of it in the car seat. We’ve had some trips when poor baby was not happy in the car ride, had 2 blow outs in a row and cried for an hour before falling asleep. I recommend a routine for baby to make sure that they sleep well – more on that below.
Car music. Every time we are in the car and expect baby to sleep we play the same lullaby melody on a cd, there are also apps available and a couple options on Pandora to create a play list that works for your baby. I sometimes play the same music at home at bedtime so my baby knows it as sleep time. He is usually asleep before the end of the first lullaby in the car. After he is sound asleep we change the music to our liking with of course considering a sleeping baby in the car. Use your own discretion, you know how your baby sleeps best.
Tucking in. A sleeping baby while you are driving is the absolute best!! Even as I am writing this blog, we are coming back home from a weekend trip and baby boy is sound asleep. At home you probably have a very specific routine that you follow exactly in the same steps every night, I think it’s similar that your baby needs a tucking in routine when you travel by car and you are signaling to them that this is night night time. Make sure that it’s the same every time you expect baby to sleep in the car for a long time, and make sure that awake time in the car seat is different so they know what they are expected to do. My baby likes to have his face half covered as he is falling asleep. I usually use a swaddle blanket because its so breathable. I cover half his face so he has some light but also has that comfort like when his face is shoved into my arm; he would usually pull up the blanket to cover his face completely if he is comforting himself as he’s falling asleep on his own in the crib or in the stroller. So I do the same thing for him in the car seat. I tuck him in, with the blanket on one side of his so he can hold on to it or just lean his face into it and sleep. It works every time!
Car seat cover. I wish there was a car seat cover like the ones they make for infant car seats! It would come in so handy while traveling when you need your baby to sleep but the sun is too bright. I use an old black scarf of mine, tie it around the arm holder (the one above the window of the car, I don’t know the official name of it), and then I drape it around the car seat to block out the sun and create a cocoon type of environment with light that’s not too bright for sleep. I’ve tried a few different window coverings to block out the sun and none of them work for us! If you find a better way to have a car seat cover for a regular car seat, please let me know!!!
Car seat Canopy. This thing is genius! Maxi Cosi car seat canopy (obviously only works with Maxi cosi car seats) If you are still in search of a car seat for your growing baby, this is a good one to consider! It’s so convenient to have a canopy to shade from the sun, it’s my favorite feature of this car seat!
Nursing while driving. If you traveled by car with an infant and you are exclusively breastfeeding, you’ve done it! I know every mom thinks that their baby is super particular to what they like and don’t like, and it’s true, no one know your baby like you do! Mine hate bottles. Since birth he still has not taken to a bottle, so when we drive on a longer trip and he’s fussy due to hunger I’ve done the most uncomfortable thing you can do in a car – hunch over and breastfeed while he’s in the car seat. Sometimes you have to. (if you’ve done it you know the pain in my lower back and the tingling in the leg after being in the most awkward set up) Thank God for tinted windows in our car!
Sleep accessories. I always bring the sound machine and the baby monitor with us. Especially on weekend trips where we would stay in a place with more then 1 bedroom, it allows us to have time to ourselves and have the baby monitor to keep an eye on the sleeping baby. The sound machine is always with us at home and during travels. I turn it on when we start our night routine and it tells him to start relaxing and prepare for night sleeps. If your baby is a light sleeper it may be a good idea to have the sound machine on in the car as well. I often use it in the stroller when we are in public because then he’s less likely to be startled by random bursts of noises. If you can have a hotel room with a separate sleeping bedroom you’re going to love having the baby monitor and enjoy an evening to yourself without worrying about waking the baby with noises or lights.
Stroller. Picking the right stroller for your travel is so important! Is there anyone else like me who has an obsession with strollers? I want them all! Ok, it’s bad, and I will be doing a review on a couple of strollers in the next few weeks as I am still testing out one I got recently. P.s. some of my recommendations I have not personally tried, but I have heard amazing reviews and some of these are on my wish list. (feel free to send it to me for my honest opinion)
It depends on where you are going.
Outdoors like beach, hiking, hills, fields, and running trails – BOB All terrain Stroller
Disney, amusement parks, water parks, zoo and state fairs – Austlen Stroller : the most compact stroller with the absolute most storage space for all the stuff your family will need for all day outings.
City life and short distance travels – Quinny x Rachel Zoe Moodd Jet Stroller: perfect for kids who need to be occupied and feel like they’re running the show! I love the front handle bar for babies to hold on to!
City life, subways, lots of walking and exploring – Musty NEXO: Compact, easy to fold and carry but allows decent amount of storage.
The smallest stroller, for the family with very little storage in the car and a need for a stroller that’s better then a cheap umbrella stroller – GB Pockit.
I know that there are crazy long lists of strollers to pick from, these are just some of the options that work great for travel. For every day life we use Mutsy Evo, it also comes with us very often on vacations and trips because its compact compared to others I looked at, it offers good storage space and it reclines fully.
Car Seat. There are so many options for car seats! I know you moms do your research on what fits best for safety, style, price and functionality of a car seat, so this is just my opinion on what we use. When I researched for an infant car seat to me it was important that it was gender neutral and lightweight. This Maxi Cosi car seat is only 9 pounds and worked for us amazingly! I have a big baby boy and we transitioned into a Forever Graco car seat when he was 7 months old, even though he still fit into it weight and height per recommendation of the company, he would get really hot and sweat a lot because it’s super breathable (great for winter since he was born in October it was perfect) and my baby is a heat machine!
Activities in the car
Scavenger hunt. This is a print out game that’s perfect for the bigger kids and will be a lot of fun!
Printable road games. I am a very creative person and I love making art, but I also believe that you shouldn’t recreate the wheel. This blog post has 25 printable road games that are fantastic and I am sure your kids will love them!
Coloring travel game. For bigger kids this is perfect to create a competition, I am saving it for the future when I will need for our trips! Click here to print this License Plate Coloring Map.
Lego Tic-tac-toe to go. Seriously, mamas, you are so creative! I am so inspired and can’t wait to try these games with our family in the future! This lego game is super when you have more then one kid to keep up with in the back seat.
Do me a huge favor, when you try these games with your family, let me know what you think of them and most importantly, let me know what your kids think of them! Check out my Pinterest wall to get more ideas for traveling with kids, games and other ideas.
And then some
Packing light. Our first trip to visit family after the baby was born we packed the entire car, and the trunk, then realized that our dog was supposed to come with us and had to take a second car to fit all of us. (We have a great dane) We learned how to pack light. My tip for you is to pick out an outfit for yourself that you will wear each day you will be out of town. Then bring an extra shirt just in case you get spit on, or worse – a diaper situation.
For baby clothes I recommend packing:
- 2 outfits per day, if you have a situation of blow outs or food spills, you have options. Perhaps bring 1 sweater if you are worried about weather changes, depending on the climate of course.
- 1 pair of shoes for the baby, which you will probably not even put on them unless its winter time or if you have a toddler.
- Enough diapers for 2 days, if you are staying longer then that, you can always buy more.
- 2 blankets and 2 swaddle blankets, a black out curtain because it helps baby sleep better in a blackout place when everything is so exciting in the new environment.
- We always end up shopping for baby clothes or for ourselves when we travel and it’s great when we plan properly and have enough space in our luggage to come back home with new stuff.
Usually between my husband, myself and our baby we have 1 carry on luggage, 1 diaper bag (I use this one) and my purse, if I expect us to go out without a baby I will sometimes bring a clutch. If we are traveling and staying with family/friends/ or airbnb we will often bring a “kitchen” bag with our french press, some ground coffee, some food for us when we get in and snacks for the road.
I talked about traveling with an infant by car in a different post you can read here.
Chinese food. After a couple of trips that made our arrival very stressful (mostly because we were too hungry and tired to decide on food choices) we decided to make a new family tradition. When we arrive at our destination we order Chinese takeout. When it’s daytime, which is rare because of how we schedule our drive time, we go to our favorite coffee shops for lattes and pastry. Chinese take out in Danbury, CT is still our favorite out of all we’ve had. We ended up eating Chinese take out 3 times that weekend.
Do you have any family traditions when you travel? Perhaps a special take out or hang out spot or a favorite movie to watch? Comment below, I’d love to hear what you do!