I love to travel and did so often before having W. I’ve been to six continents, ridden on planes, trains, and automobiles. Travel? I’ve got this. That is, before I had a baby. Take it from this seasoned traveler: taking a little one on a plane and to a hotel takes a lot more planning than it did B.B. (before baby). Here are some tips and tricks to make travel with a baby easier.
1. Bring (Lots of) Food for the Plane
If you plan to fly with a baby, definitely look at my 14 tips for traveling on a plane. They come from experience gained on dozens of trips, starting when W was two months old. I won’t repeat everything here, but I’d say the top tip I have is to make sure you’ve got plenty of food. When they’re this age, you can’t just pop by a restaurant to get backups, so bring extra.
My baby drank much more on a plane than he would have at home. He had to drink during takeoff and landings to make his ears pop. It also occupied him and helped him fall asleep–two big pluses. Take more than you think you’ll need, even if it’s a short flight. I’ve been on planes that were grounded for an extra hour or more due to air traffic or mechanical problems. I’ve been on a plane when they ran out of bottled water. Having extra was crucial, since babies don’t exactly excel at patience. Of course, all that drinking means lots of diaper changes, so make sure that’s covered too.
2. Request a Refrigerator
It’s easy to go to grandma and grandpa’s house because they probably can’t wait to see the baby and might even have “baby stuff,” so you don’t have to drag it with you. If you’re staying in a hotel, however, things are different.
If your baby is less than a year old, still drinking formula or breast milk, and eating mushy food, you need a fridge. Most hotels will accommodate this request (sometimes for an extra fee, sometimes not). You should ask when you make reservations.
Mini-fridges in hotels—the kind that are stocked with drinks and snacks—often don’t get as cold as a regular one. Keep that in mind if you have anything that spoils easily, like breast milk. The last thing you need is your baby getting sick.
3. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bedding)
Most hotels these days have Pack ‘n Plays instead of regular cribs (though I’ve gotten a small crib too). This is nice because the size is standard. If you haven’t already done so, you should run out and get a “real” mattress for the Pack ‘n Play, like this:
The standard mattress that comes with it is a hard mat. My child sleeps so much better on the real mattress that we take it with us if the hotel is just a car ride away.
Don’t forget a fitted crib sheet. I’ve been to hotels that had a Pack ‘n Play but no crib sheet. Your own bedding will smell like your house and be more comfortable. Creating that “homey” feeling is important. I also brings W’s favorite blankets and “friends” (stuffed animals).
If you use Airbnb or VRBO (or any home renting option), keep in mind that most of these places will not automatically have a Pack ‘n Play. Make sure you ask before you go. You can easily put yours in a suitcase and take it with you. If your child doesn’t sleep in bed with you, definitely do not forget to BYOB!
4. Think About Bath Time
Whatever you use to give baby a bath at home needs to come with you on the road. You could put some towels in the bottom of the tub to make it cushy if you forget, but if you have a bath mat baby normally lays on, I strongly recommend bringing it. That cold ceramic is not going to be comfortable for baby, and he’s probably nervous about being in a strange bathroom anyway. Make it as familiar as possible.
In addition to bringing travel-sized soap, don’t forget tiny washcloths. Adult-sized ones are huge and unmanageable on a little person, and I think they’re often scratchy at hotels anyway. Another factor is rinsing. We have a cup and a little tug boat to rinse W, and I’m sure you have something similar—and plastic. If you think ahead, you can probably snag a cup from a restaurant, but don’t get caught flatfooted.
On a trip to Portland last year, I had a sudsy baby on my hands before I realized I had nothing to rinse him with. I did a mad search of the room, and the only vessel I could find was a glass (!) bear-shaped container that once held gummies. It was sticky and dangerous, but it was that or a wine glass….
W thought it was hilarious, but don’t be me.
5. Get a Balcony…Or Catch Up on Sleep
Does your sweet little baby go to bed at 7 pm? Do you have a hotel “room,” not a suite or a condo or a house? Well guess when you’re going to be sitting in the dark, mama?
This is the part about travel to a hotel with a baby that sucks the worst. You and your husband can take turns, or as it happens when we tag along on business trips, I’m stuck in with lights out at 7. There’s no way around it (unless you rent something with a door), so the key to is to mitigate the boredom.
If you can, get a balcony. It has two benefits: one, you can enjoy the sunset (it’s probably still light outside when your kid goes to bed, let’s face it). Two, you can make your baby think you left the room after you put her down. W sleeps in his own room at our house, so when we shut his door, it’s his cue that the day is done and it’s time for bed. But in a hotel, he knows I’m right there. He’s like, “I can still see you. Is it bedtime or not?” Being able to walk away is crucial, especially for getting an older baby to fall asleep.
If you are able to get a balcony, make sure you stock it with snacks, wine, and entertainment (like a book or iPad) before you put baby down. You won’t want to go in and out until you know she’s deep in slumber-land. (Make sure you go to the bathroom and grab a jacket too.)
No balcony? Prepare to get creative. I’ve turned off the lights and hid on the floor on the other side of the bed (seriously) to make W think I left. One time I did leave the room, but because we didn’t have a balcony, I had to sit on the floor in the hallway until he went to sleep. By the time I crawled back in, I gave up on staying up past 7:30 and just passed out. Which is good because in my experience, babies wake up extra early in hotels….
Q: What advice do you have about travel with babies?