Over the past few weeks, I’ve done some things well and done some things poorly as far as being away with baby goes. Here are some things I’ve learned!
1. Overpack the baby clothes.
This is against every traveling tip I’ve ever seen, but our kid’s gone through a solid growth spurt here and we’ve been bargain hunting, man! We’ve used every single bit of clothing we’ve brought for him, and we’ve had to purchase more. If your baby’s on the cusp of a growth spurt go ahead and pack those clothes in the larger size!
2. Befriend the hotel staff.
If you’re staying in a hotel, this is huge! Babies are killers. Seriously, people would take one look at our kid and they’d turn to putty. He’s won over all but 2.5 members of the staff here at the hotel, and I think it’s because they had some sort of childhood trauma. I’m not just bragging on my kid, this is literally what happens. And honestly, it’s helped us out so much! I don’t mean that in a manipulative way, just that people do nice things for other people when they like those other people. So be nice! Be profusely apologetic when your kid does anything disruptively kid-like, even when you think you shouldn’t have to or whatnot. Most human beings that have experience with other human beings understand that kids, and especially babies, take a little extra everything. If they like your baby, they’ll be more likely to readily help give those extra everythings.
3. Develop some semblance of a routine.
This may or may not be possible given your activities while you’re gone, but it’s well documented that routines for babies/kids/humans are a good thing. At the very least you can strive to give meals at the same time and encourage bedtime at the same time. This will make your life infinitely easier! You’ll know what to expect, and that will make your day better when baby’s fussy and nothing seems to help, but then you realize it’s 4pm! Time for baby’s snack! Problem solved 🙂
4. Go to dinner early.
Now trust me: I’m proponent numbero uno of taking your children to restaurants, both casual and formal, and teaching them to behave so exceptionally well that they leave other patrons utterly shocked. However, at ten-months-old, my kid is still working on attaining that capacity. Once we have all of our kids and they’re a little older, I anticipate we’ll go to restaurants a bit later, but while we’ve been gone with Nolan at the age he is currently, we’ve found it better to go to dinner a little earlier. In suburban England, that meant before 7pm. We got better attention because the restaurant wasn’t busy (so the waitstaff doesn’t feel like they have more than usual to do for us, even with our little extra requests for Nolan), and if he gets excited or fussy and his volume goes up, we’re not usually bothering anybody.
5. Call ahead to restaurants to see if they have a highchair.
If you follow this traveling with baby series I’m working on, you’ll read this a few times! Did we do this every time? No. Did we end up wishing we had? Usually! We didn’t have much of an issue in England, but Belgium was much more of a challenge. If a restaurant doesn’t have a high chair, you’ll likely have a less than relaxing meal. If you’re going for lunch (or it’s a summertime dinner) and your child sits in a stroller (which I’ll pretend to not be jealous about), you could sit outside at a cafe and just pull the stroller up alongside the table and use that as your high chair, no problem. Otherwise, bring your own travel booster seat or find a different restaurant.
6. Locate playgrounds and/or play areas.
Holy smokes, I wish I’d learned this one earlier than I did. A couple weeks into our trip (because Nolan was sick at first) I looked up some local playgroups that I could walk to with him while Kyle was at work. We ended up making it to only one of the groups, but we went to that one twice and met several lovely mamas there, exchanged info with two them, and now we’re all connected on Facebook! So Nolan made some baby friends and got some great playtime, and I made some mama friends (let’s just take a minute to appreciate how brave I was, going out and meeting brand new people in a different country…okay, thanks). Then a couple days before we left England, one of the mamas and I met up at an indoor play area and had a great hour and a half with our playing babes. Both the play group and the indoor play area charged a nominal fee (one or two quid) and it was totally worth it! We should have more of those in the Seattle area!
7. Find the old people or other families and hang out with them.
Old people LOVE BABIES. Not even old people necessarily, but just older people. If it seems like there’s possibility they could be grandparents, they will likely love your baby and not mind at all if he gets fussy or sad or anything because they actually legitimately think it’s adorable. Partly because they don’t have to take your baby home, but know exactly what you’ll be dealing with once you do, so they’ll be nice to you. Also, other families. Same deal. So find the other families at restaurants and sit near them if you can manage it, or pop in across from an older person sitting alone on the train and make some new friends!
8. Clean up after yourselves.
This should go without saying, but I’ve seen too many families out somewhere who leave their table or space looking like it got hit by a small bomb of childness. Yes, it’s somebody’s job to clean it up. No, that’s not a good reason to not contribute to that yourself. Pick up some of those cheerios off the floor before they get crunched into powdery un-clean-up-able-ness. Use your napkin to wipe your baby’s drool off the table he’s been teething on. Put the safety info card and all its accoutrement back into the airplane seat pocket before you disembark. These aren’t terribly difficult things to do, and the people coming along behind you to do the real work will appreciate it!
9. Let your baby roam.
Developing babies need playtime! When you’re out and about trying to sightsee all day, baby is usually in a stroller or baby carrier, cooped up and not getting in any discovery time. Find places to take a break for half an hour or so where your baby can just crawl/walk/cruise around for a bit on his own. Otherwise you might have an angry baby on your hands by the end of the day!
10. Just go with it.
This is MOST important, dear friend. You’re traveling with a baby…after you get over jet lag and you’ve developed some sort of day-to-day normal, don’t expect anything to go differently than you’d expect it to go at home. Give yourself all of the grace! If baby is struggling with sleep and seems more adept to co-sleeping, then co-sleep. If baby completely bucks his “schedule” as much as you try to keep him on it, let him buck his schedule. If baby is super sick, it’s the end of the week, and no GP can fit him in that day, take him to the ER. If baby has messes through two outfits with with antibiotic-induced diarrhea while you’re exploring a new town for a day, find the nearest local Target equivalent and pick up a couple new outfits. All or none of these are things I may or may not have learned from experience…
Traveling with your baby definitely won’t be the easiest travel you’ve ever enjoyed, but there’s no saying it has to be the most uncomfortable! Chill out and make those awesome memories 🙂