When it comes to travelling with a baby (or for that matter, family travel in general), parents tend to fall into one of three camps. The first group figure, “Why not?” The second are more likely to think, “Hmmm, I’m not sure how this will go.” Then there’s a third group which thinks, “Are you kidding? No way.”
While members of the “no way” group are unlikely to even be reading this post (unless you are being forced to go to an international wedding or the like), those in “not sure” category will find a walk through the reality of a pending family holiday can make dealing with that reality a lot easier.
When travelling with a baby things can be better, worse or not too different from home. So is it worth it? Take our family travel reality check.
Things that are the same when you are travelling with a baby.
Babies are unpredictable. Sometimes they have good days, sometimes they have bad days. They’ll do this whether you are at home, at the house of their favourite grandparent, or at a destination which you forked out a large amount of hard-earned cash to bring them to. As anyone who has tried to plan a special event with a small child around will know, your baby doesn’t discriminate. Special days? Special places? Phhffft; in some ways they’re all the same to your under one.
Things that might be easier on holiday with a baby than at home.
There is something wonderful about taking a baby somewhere new. Particularly if they are over about seven or eight months old when everything is uber-interesting (yes, everything), they will likely love the new sights, smells, and experiences that come with get travelling. Perhaps it’s the first time they’ve crawled along a beach. Perhaps you scored a seat on the flight next to some homesick grandparents, and your child had built-in playmates for the two-hour journey? (It’s possible, and in fact, this has happened to Sue. It’s a fact for which she is still very grateful.) Or perhaps it’s their first time on a train, or sitting under different types of trees than they do at home? The tiny things we adults take for granted can both entertain and delight a baby on holiday.
You might also be different. On holiday, you’ll feel like there are less obligations. There’ll be no cleaning and less cooking; the change of scene in itself is relaxing, despite the fact that the day-to-day tasks involved in keeping a baby happy, healthy, fed and slept will remain everpresent.
Things that might be harder when travelling with a baby than staying home.
If you have a mobile baby, you are likely to be in a less child-proofed environment than at home. While this is manageable for a short stint, it certainly involves effort for the adults involved to keep your baby out of trouble.
If your child is already on solid food, particularly if that food is family food rather than purees, you’ll either need to become an expert at picking a baby-friendly restaurant (this post will help with ideas for choosing where to eat), or cooking in a kitchen that is less than optimal (our accommodation post will help you think through what to do here). On balance, expect that when on the road, feeding your child is probably more work than it is at home.
Lastly, it has to be said. Sometimes, babies don’t like sleeping out of their own environment. NOOOOOO! Sorry, it’s true. They may wake more often, want to be fed more during the night (particularly if they are breastfed, or it’s a comfort thing). Plus, on night one in a new location, babies over about nine or ten months may find the whole process so exciting that getting to sleep can be trickier than usual. A lot of this depends on the individual bub but you know, forewarned is forearmed. (Who are we kidding – if it happens, it still hurts.)
The solution to the harder stuff?
The key is – much lift parenting in general – is taking as much of it as possible in your stride. You’ll have a much better trip if you don’t book too many activities in advance, if you change accommodation as few times as possible, and you get the right type of accommodation to suit your family’s needs.
Remember too: a lot of the harder things about family travel with a baby can be overcome, or at least have their impact significantly reduced, with the right gear. Portable chairs, a bib that doesn’t require you to clean up floors across the globe, and a few other handy items will make the world of difference. Here are the items we recommend you don’t leave home without.
So is travelling with a baby under one worth it?
Obviously, we think so! Travel is an amazing way to feel like you’re really living.
It’s true, sometimes most amazing parts involve getting excited in advance, or reminiscing about it afterwards with your loved ones. But remember, travelling with a baby also offers the chance to show your child that the world is a bigger place than her own little domain. Do it mindfully, and you’ll probably all be better for it.
So is now the right time to spend your hard earned savings on that around the world trip of a lifetime, the one you’ll never get to do again? Maybe not.
If you really won’t be able to go away for a long time, maybe wait until your child is four or five to do that dream trip, so you have a little bit more flexibility about what sort of activities they can do. If this is you, don’t just stay home! Instead scale your plans down a little. Rather than five countries and five weeks (which, by the way, Sue did solo with her under one in tow – amazing, not easy, but amazing), maybe pick one location and set up for a few cruisier weeks. Or, go on one of those easy all inclusive family holidays where everything is taken care of. Or, after considering all of that you might think: nope. I’ve got maternity leave now, I’ve got friends and relatives across the globe busting to see this baby. I’m going! In that case – read all of our tips and go for it!
The right answer will depend on you, your budget and the temperament of your baby; all are very personal. If you’re still unsure, keep reading through the A to Z tips to gather information and you’ll probably come to your own decision.