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The 5 Questions to Ask Before Travel with Baby

Posted by: Kate Published on: November 14, 2017

Tips for Traveling with Kids

‘Tis the season! It’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: Travel with baby.

Just kidding. Traveling with a baby is kind of the worst. The planning alone is enough to make me put the suitcases back in the attic. Then there’s the trip itself. It’s like driving with tiny time bombs strapped to your back seat.

Bottle is empty sooner than baby would like? Tick.

Lose a paci in the recesses of the carseat? Tick.

Drop the lovey onto the floor and can’t reach it? BOOM.

You can quickly find yourself at the roadside rest area, bouncing a baby (now clad only in a diaper because she cried so hard about that lovey that she puked), and wondering how you’ll ever reach grandma’s now that you’re only 15 minutes into your trip and already stopped. Not that I would know, of course. My daughter is an angel who loves nothing more than riding backwards in the car for hours on end.

That’s just the ROAD part of travel with baby. Assuming you ever reach your destination, you have a whole new set of “what do I do with that?” to manage. It’s completely unreasonable to expect hosts to baby-proof the house, stock the fridge with your favorite nursing snacks, and setup a pristine baby room featuring crib, white noise machine, and blackout curtains. Instead, you must bring most of these things with you. Or MacGyver something on site.

It only took one poorly planned trip to realize I had to up my travel game. Now, I prepare by asking myself five questions before we hit the road:

Where will baby sleep?

My favorite choice was… SURPRISE… a Smitten – the greatest portable bassinet. I could ship it ahead to my mom’s house, saving valuable trunk and brain space. My mom could either keep it in a closet for future visits or recycle it when we left. Plus, it served as a safe play space during the day – no matter where we were. The ship-ahead method was particularly helpful if we needed to fly.

More often, for road travel, we would fill the Smitten with all of my kiddo’s stuff and just pop it all in the trunk. It acted like a suitcase-turned-sleep-space. This is where Smitten’s ability to carry up to 100lbs came in handy. I could pack that puppy full without worry about its structural integrity. Once we arrived, I unpacked the baby box and the bed was ready to go. Easy peasy.

Other safe sleep options? A dresser drawer with a towel (NOT a soft, fluffy pillow! Not safe!) in the bottom, a pack ‘n’ play (if you have the trunk space and patience), or a sleeping bag + pillow for older kiddos.

Travel Bassinet for Babies

Smitten makes hotel travel a snap

Can we drive during nap time?

This isn’t always possible, but if we can pull it off, we hit the road during nap time. That gets us a long stretch of driving while sweetie sleeps. At this point, we’re down to one nap in the afternoon. That means that if we need to arrive at grandma’s in the morning, we’ll actually leave the day before. Just so we can drive during nap time. Those uninterrupted stretches of easy drive time are that important to me.

What will baby eat?

Traveling while nursing was kind of great because the food automatically comes along for the ride. For the non-breastfeeding munchkins, it’s important to OVERPACK food. That means twice as much formula as you think you’ll need. Or, double the goldfish and applesauce for older eaters. If I pack only what I think we’ll need, I run out halfway through the trip and then we’re really stuck.

Those fancy looking insulated thermoses can be lifesavers here. I fill one with hot water and one with either cold water or milk. The hot water can be used to mix formula, cereal, or oatmeal and keep it at the temperature to which baby has become accustomed. The cold water or milk is for drinking – but you can dole it out in smaller portions than a bottle or sippy cup full. That helps lower the risk of all baby’s water going into her lap in the first three minutes. (Again, not that this has ever happened to me. My child is perfect.)

What will baby wear?

Just like food, I pack twice as many outfits as I think we’ll need. I always bring a sweater (because all grandmas worry about the kid catching a chill). And, I pack clothes specifically for our time on the road. These are the clothes that will get covered in drool, milk, and who-knows-what-else during the trip. They aren’t cute. They are meant to be extremely comfortable (NO tags) and easy for baby to wear. When I get to grandma’s, I just pop into the bathroom with baby and swap into her adorable, photo-friendly outfit before anyone notices. This also saves “helpful” feedback from family about baby’s cleanliness.

How will baby be entertained?

When my daughter was still using a pacifier (side note: I miss it every day), I would pack one paci per hour of trip. Then I could just hand them back to her as she lost them. That meant fewer stops to retrieve lost soothers. Now that she’s older, we fill a wallet with business cards, monopoly money, and other such treasures. The wallet has a little mirror in it (be sure it’s not detachable or easily broken) and lots of zippers. Unpacking the wallet will keep my kid busy for an hour or more. Hopefully long enough for her to fall asleep.

What about the toys once we arrive at grandma’s? We also bring a few items that are fresh – meaning I hid them for a week before our trip. The goal is to make the play feel special, even though we’re dealing with a limited number of toys.

Travel with baby

Happy baby means better travel

Bonus tip: If grandma kept her Smitten, she can store a few special toys in the baby box. These toys live at grandma’s house. This means you don’t have to pack toys AND the toys are exciting for baby. Plus, Smitten acts as a toy in and of itself (every kid loves a box). My daughter pretends her Smitten is a car and “drives” her babies around in it. Win-win-win.

Will all of this guarantee a smooth, trouble-free road trip? No. Probably not. Not unless you’ve made some deal with the travel gods (in which case, please comment below and let us know how to do the same). These questions are more about trying to be prepared for the stuff that I know will come up. That means I have more sanity and brainpower left to manage the unexpected.

Wishing you tear-free travel with baby this holiday season!