The ultimate survival guide for traveling with baby
Since we went to South Africa this January people keep asking me how we managed such a long trip with a small child. It seems there are a lot of fears and doubts about this topic, so I felt I needed to write this post and share my experiences with it.
Somehow a lot of people think if you have a small child it is not appropriate to travel long distance or it would be to stressful for both child and parents. Of course this is a very personal choice and you have to follow your gut with this. But I believe that having (small) children doesn’t mean you have to postpone your dream vacation for the next years.
We have been to South Africa on our honeymoon in 2010 and we fell in love with this country head over heels and have been dreaming to go back since. So as our son was born we kept thinking if it would be a possibility to travel with him. Of course there were second thoughts if it was to stressful, to dangerous, to selfish of us, we worried that the 12 hour flight could be a disaster, and so on.
But as I googled my butt off this topic, I found great examples of people who travel the world with their children and enjoy it. One of my favorite couples on the internet, David and Luise from Green Kitchen Stories, travelled to California and Asia when their little daughter Elsa was six months old and Ka Sundance and his wife Katie from the Rawfoodfamily travel all over the world with their five kids all the time.
So we just stopped worrying, booked our flights and went off to South Africa in January for three awesome weeks. I wouldn’t want to miss it in the world and I can happily say that all of us had a blast.
So, if you have kids and are thinking about a big trip, here are my essential travel tips.
1. Travel smart on the plane
Book a separate seat: When a child is under the age of 2 he or she is allowed to sit on the parents lap for the flight. Although this is a big money saver we decided to book an extra seat for our son. BEST DECISION EVER! We had our Maxi Cosi with us that was placed on the actual seat and our son was so relaxed that he slept for almost the entire time whereas some other kids his age where crying for hours because they couldn’t sleep comfortably on their Mum’s lap. It is also much saver for the baby. You will have to check the airlines rules for booking an extra seat for an under 2 year old and you will have to bring a car seat that is certified for aircraft use.
Bring food and water: If you travel with a small child you are allowed to bring foods and liquids for him or her on the plane. As airline food is mostly rubbish I bring my own stuff anyway. For children any type of fruit is great, instant oat porridge, smoothies in little squeeze bags, some quinoa or rice salad with veggies. Hungry children are cranky children, so bring enough healthy and yummy stuff to please the little traveller. I wrote more about food and travel in this post.
2. Don’t bring too much stuff
Traveling with a child is never light traveling. We had a stroller with us, this baby bed which is the best ever by the way and a car seat. Besides that, we didn’t bring too much stuff. I suggest to packed two books, two or three small toys like wooden blocks and a little ball and something to play in the sand when you are having a beach trip. Keep it simple. Traveling is always fun and adventurous and your kid will be happy to experience new things, meet new people and spent time with you. The best things are not material and don’t cost a thing, so don’t block important suitcase space…
3. Travel with friends
On our trip we were joined by our friends Christina and Maria which was just awesome. Bringing friends along is so much fun and brings a natural relaxed vibe. Everyone will also be happy to give you a little break and play with the small travel buddy for an hour so you can take a nap, read a book and chill. Our lovely friends even jumped in two nights to babysit so my husband and I could go on a good old romantic dinner. It would also be great to travel with a couple with a kid the same age. Kids just love to be around other kids and when they are two years old and up, they can play together, which means more chillaxing for you. Just make sure you really get along with the travel buddies you take and be very clear in advance what your expectations are from your trip so there is no room for misunderstandings or bad vibes.
4. Let it go!
It is time to relax and have fun so don’t flip out and stress about things that are not going according to your normal routine. So your child might stay up longer or eat at different times than at home. So what? Go with the flow and don’t hold on to your strict regime just for the sake of it. We actually never had problems to adjust to our routine once back home.
5. Don’t compare!
At the beginning it was quite challenging for me to except that traveling with a child is just not the same as traveling as a couple or with friends alone. No lying around at the beach all day, reading tons of books, no long naps, no late, fancy five-course dinners. Your child will have other plans for you. But if you already are a parent yet, you will be familiar with this concept. The best thing you can do is to surrender to the moment and accept what is and find new ways to make your vacation fun and adventurous. Because if you don’t stand in your own way, traveling with kids can be the best thing ever. Because, let’s face it, they open our eyes and hearts even more and give us new perspective. And what can be better for traveling?
So, these are my essentials. If you have any questions please be free to ask.