So I have an 8-month old and already I can confidently say she’s going to be the most well traveled baby this side of the Mississippi.
I made myself many a vow while pregnant. Like I wouldn’t lose my edge (too late, my black soul is now softened), I wouldn’t give up my beautiful two-door Dodge Challenger (weep with me for the loss), I wouldn’t post photos of my daughter online (ugh, sorry guys), but there is one vow I can happily say that I have kept. I have not stopped traveling. Travel is in my blood and as my daughter’s maker I will command her to travel as well.
I kid, I kid. Well…only slightly.
In all honesty, I really only need my daughter to do three things for me:
- Enjoy traveling
- Love a good book
- Know who the goddamn Grateful Dead are
Ok, sure there are other things, like not being a serial killer and having manners and not taking shit from men, but those top three will make me, her mama, very excited and pleased.
Check it. This teeny tiny 8-month old has already been to:
- Flagstaff, AZ (twice)
- Carlsbad, CA
- Billings, MT
- Monument Valley, UT
And the upcoming months are bringing even more travel opportunities, including a flight to the east coast.
I tell you all this to give you hope that you too can travel with a wee one. Don’t get me wrong, I was scared AF. It seemed like so much work — especially when it came to flying. I’d have to go it alone our first time flying and the thought of not having my husband along to help out with a wiggly 6-month old was slightly terrifying.
But after debating the pros and cons of flying, I realized I didn’t want to be afraid — I was doing what I promised myself I wouldn’t do — and I wouldn’t want my daughter to be afraid so I sucked it up and just did it.
And it went great. The flight was amazing and she slept the entire way. Lucky, right?
So with more than a few trips under my belt, there have been many a lesson learned on how travel changes with a wee one.
You Will Pack a Shitton of Shit
Traveling with a baby requires a caravan of crap. Like holy hell, baggage overload Batman. Give yourself a week to prep and pack. Seriously. Make lists.
Get Intimately Acquainted With Your Hotel Room
If you like going out with a happy baby, plan to leave the hotel ASAP after baby’s nap. This means, you’ll spend a bit more time in the hotel room than you’d probably do back in your younger baby-free days. Baby wakes, baby plays, baby eats, baby naps, then OMG IT’S AWAKE LET’S GO WE HAVE A THREE HOUR WINDOW.
Double the Amount of Time it Takes to Get Ready to Go Out
By the time you repack the diaper bag, find your camera, nurse for the second time in ten minutes, baby will have another dirty diaper to change. An hour and a half has passed since you started getting ready and you’re already eyeing your hotel room’s mini bar.
Slow Down There, Turbo
Vacation will move slower. No more powering through museum after museum. Have an itinerary, but don’t be glued to it. And to be serious, it is relaxing to just chill. Your type A personality will take some bruising but it’s kind of nice to unclench for once.
Every Meal is a Threesome
Yes, baby is a third wheel. But don’t get me wrong – 90% of the time she is not. But if you know me, you know I like delicious cuisine. And you know I like my husband.
Er, it’s okay. This isn’t leading to a chapter on cannibalism.
I’m talking about enjoying a fine meal with my husband sans baby.
This was probably the most difficult change to adjust to. There are no fine dining date nights. I mean, you can’t get dolled up, go out and leave the baby in the hotel room. I mean, you could, but then CPS would be on your ass. I literally had the phrase “But can’t we just leave–” coming out of my mouth before I realized that HOLY SHIT I AM A PARENT NOW AND HAVE RESPONSIBILITY.
Travel means you don’t have a babysitter, no grandma or grandpa available to watch junior, while you have a cocktail and stuff your face and hold hands while candlelight flickers. Evenings will most likely be spent in the hotel room while baby sleeps.
But you know what, every other meal is A-OK and she does great in a high chair now that she’s older, so this mama is pretty damn happy.
- Bring a Pack ‘n’ Play
I pack minimalist as possible, but having THIS SPACE where baby can chill out and sleep is a necessity. I tried to use a laundry basket for naps on my trip to Montana and let’s just say it did not go as planned.
Renting or borrowing items like a car seat or stroller makes travel easy AF. Ship diapers, wipes and anything else direct to your destination. Recruit family members to help out tracking down borrowable items.
- If You Fly and You Nurse, Get a Window Seat
Nurse mostly on your left side? Get a seat on the left side of the plane. And vice versa.
- Road Trip During Baby’s Bedtime
We try to minimize the time baby’s in the car during a road trip because hell, I’d hate to be belted down in a small space for hours at a time. For our last road trip we left at 7pm (her bedtime) and she slept the entire drive. Coming home, we left at her first nap (10am) stopped for a few hours when she woke and then resumed the trip on her second nap (3pm).
- Get a Hotel Room with a Balcony or Patio
This is sanctuary. Seriously. When baby naps, retreat to your balcony with your beer or wine or book or significant other and enjoy the view and/or the quiet. Baby sleeps and mama gets a glass of wine. If money and weather allow for it, make this a priority.
Ok, got all that? This was probably the squarest post I’ve ever written (I mean, my god, NAP TIMES ANYONE?). Anyway, I don’t tell you all this to scare you. I’m sure there are child-free readers who are smugly having their status reaffirmed right now, and others considering children who are like SWEET JESUS CHRIST ABORT THIS MISSION TO EVER PROCREATE.
Really, the title of this blog says it all. You can have a baby and you can still travel. My girl won’t be little forever. How we travel will change as she grows, getting easier and easier (hopefully) as she gets more independent.
But for right now, for as little as she is, we’re pros at traveling. Hell, I’m proud of her. And every time we take a trip, I think, with an almost bated breath, that I am so goddamn lucky to have her. I get to take her with me. I get to show her — and share with her — this world and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.