5 weeks on a road with a 5 month old baby – here are some of our tips and findings. Some we got from other travelers, some we had to painfully learn on our own.
- Carrier and stroller: we have used both, and cannot imagine leaving one home. If you are not sure about the terrain, take a carrier to make sure you get to see everything. Especially old cities, castles, and overcrowded areas are more comfy with a carrier. Stroller is great for easy walks in the city, by the sea, or when you want to relax at cafes, bars, restaurants without a baby in your lap.
- Routines and schedules: forcing a rigorous schedule when traveling might stress both you and the baby. Feedings were roughly at the same time, but naps and playtimes varied as each day was different. We took it easy, and soon a new “travel” routine set in: leaving hotel around 9:30, and get fast to the destination while Baby takes his nap in a car/stroller. See what needs to be seen, and get an easy lunch while Baby takes his second nap. Take the afternoon easy, by now both us and Baby were quite tired – and head back to the hotel during nap number three. Sounds easier than it’s done:)
- Packing and unpacking: is a pain. Pack light for yourself, and smart for the baby. We (rightly) assumed Baby will grow out of some clothes during the trip, so we kept bigger sized clothes in a car. To save space, we improvised: instead of a kettle, we warmed Baby’s water in a cup filled with hot tap water. Instead of a portable bath, we took a bath together. Leave the “what-ifs” at home, if you can buy them on a way. And plan to do laundry at some point, staying in apartments helps. Things we could have left at home: beach blankets (one universal is enough), Mummy’s swimming goggles (check water temperature beforehand and don’t take items that make you feel guilty when not used), fancier clothes for Baby (taken just in case we would meet Queen Letizia). Things we wished we have packed: baby sunglasses and hat (you just cannot avoid hiding from sun all the time), a cutting board, a plate, and salt (for all those hotel room dinners).
- Dinners and drinks: this was the biggest change vs pre-baby traveling. Baby tends to get fussy in the evenings, and would fall asleep around our dinner time. We tried letting him sleep in a carseat/stroller and enjoy dinner out, but he always woke up when transferred to bed. So we simply had dinners earlier, or picnic style in the hotel.
- Milk and Poo: the luxury of having food ready without any hassles. Car, restaurants, petrol stations, parks, castle walls, beach, church stairs – Baby was getting his milk in the weirdest of places. Instead of elaborated breastfeeding cover, we used a scarf to be discreet and it worked perfectly. What comes in, needs to come out – bring a light portable changing mat and you can comfortably change diapers anywhere: in (or on) the car, in the stroller, on a bench. Much easier than looking for places with a changing table.
- Driving and ..driving: is unpredictable with a small baby! Most useful advice we can give is to listen to your baby – he is the boss. When Baby was sleeping, we would drive like mad without stops. Every km counts! Once Baby was awake, we were ready to stop as soon as he would get cranky – always watch out for distance to next petrol station, crying baby with nowhere to stop is no fun. Give them a break from the carseat, sometimes all they need is to stretch their bodies a bit. We preferred doing long drives (ideally not longer than 6 hours though), and staying put for couple of days. We had to do a 13 hour section once, and we had couple hotels preselected in case Baby would go on strike. Sit next to the baby, and be ready to entertain whenever they are awake! Have toys, favorite video on iPhone, or let them play with their bare feet. If driving through night, have a torch handy. Needless to say, we would not take out Baby from the seat when driving for safety reasons.
- Beds and pillows: we took a travel bed with us (light and compact, but with a good air mattress), to avoid baby getting used to different beds too often. After couple of days of trying to stay disciplined, we decided to let it go and had Baby sleep with us for part of the night. We opted for comfort versus discipline, and Baby rewarded us with adjusting back to old habits as soon as we got home.
Overall, we found traveling with Baby delightful. Yes, you will have to compromise at times. Yes, things might go wrong. Just keep a positive mind and a flexible attitude. Enjoy the time spent together, it’s a great chance to get to know yourself and your baby, just a little more.