I wouldn't call us a family of expert travelers, but I would say we are seasoned veterans. In 2016 alone, our baby flew on over 40 flights, visited 3 countries, and has packed up to hit the road more times than I can count. Is it always easy? Umm, no. Is it worth it? YES. yes. We basically travel for a living in this family, and I can't imagine not bringing our son along to experience everything with us! With a little planning on the front end, you can have an enjoyable travel experience with your babe in tow, I promise.
1. Get the bulkhead seat on the plane: The bulkhead seat is the one at the front of each cabin with a "wall" in front of it. I usually don't choose this seat because you can't put your personal items under the seat in front of you, but this seat is a gamechanger when you are traveling with a small child. It's a winner because there is a enough room at your feet for your baby to sit on the ground in front of you and play with a few small toys, move around, and feel "free" for a minute in-flight. The other bonus is that you don't have to worry about your baby constantly kicking the seat of the person in front of you (the struggle is real).
2. Stay at a family-friendly hotel: It helps to really research the hotels that not only welcome small kiddos, but make it easier on moms & dads before choosing where you will stay. Kid-friendly hotels go beyond providing the basics of a crib & mattress or pack n' play, but will also give you bath-time essentials like soap & baby lotion, bath toys, and baby gadgets like a diaper genie if you ask for them. These are small details, but really do make traveling with a baby easier & more thoughtful.
3. Locate the nearest kid-friendly attractions before you leave: As all moms know, preparation is the key to sanity. Before we travel anywhere, I find the nearest park, children's museum, Gymboree class, playground, and/or aquarium so that I have a list of cabin-fever busters when Ward needs to get some energy out. If you are staying in a location that isn't central much, then at least map out a place you can walk around (like a mall or even a road with sidewalks) when you need fresh air. Being cooped up with a baby in a hotel room gets old FAST.
4. Two words: Amazon Prime: I honestly don't know how moms did mom stuff before Amazon Prime. Before heading to your destination, ship bulky stuff like diapers, wipes, formula, or even small toys via Amazon Prime with free 2-day shipping and have them waiting for you when you get there. This makes packing way easier (and you can go with a smaller bag!) Any extras we have when we depart, we donate to a local women or children's charitable organization. Your hotel concierge can help you with that also.
5. Bring baby along to do "adult" stuff (REALLY!): Dinner at a restaurant that isn't McDonalds? YES, you can go! Just make it early & bring snacks & small toys while you wait for the food to arrive. Sightseeing around a gorgeous city? Bring that munchkin along in the carrier or a stroller! The more you do with them now, the more flexible they will be as they get older. Plus, the more you take kids out of their "kid" zone, the more they will appreciate the boundaries you set in real-life situations. We all want to raise curious & cultured adults, so you might as well start introducing them to new sights, sounds, & experiences when they are little.
6. Take a breath & let it go: Travel with a baby isn't going to be flawless, and that's ok. Do your best to stay on their schedule, plan ahead as much as you can, and then just let the rest go. If they don't nap exactly at the time they should (or at all), it's going to be ok. Trust me, I've endured a 14-hour travel day with a 1-year-old and about 30 minutes of nap total and I lived to talk about it. And in hindsight, it wasn't even that bad. The calmer you are, the more relaxed your kids will be. Go with the flow & enjoy the ride to a new destination with your most precious cargo!