We’re going on a trip, a great fantastic trip. With a baby. Shit.
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The very first time we went on vacation with our son, he was about 5 months old and I swear to god I packed the entire household, even though we were going to Florida and could literally buy anything our hearts could need or desire at the local Walmart. I was so overwhelmed by the prospect of not having all of my baby essentials that I packed a giant suitcase and two carry-ons worth of crap for my infant. Now, had I been going on vacation to an all-inclusive resort, in a country that did not have Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens, all within a 3-block radius of where I was staying, then sure, maybe my overpacking and over planning would have been warranted… but probably not.
My child is now 2.5 years old and we are actually headed back to Florida this coming Monday. By this point we’ve been on quite a few trips and I’m like a seasoned professional; which basically means I’m going to forget half the shit I wanted to pack, but I won’t panic because *experience*.
Entertainment. For the love of all that is holy, if your child is old enough to complain about sitting still for long periods of time, bring entertainment with you. I bust out the iPad like my life depends on it, full of downloaded Netflix episodes of Paw Patrol when we travel. I bring the stickers, colouring books, matchbox cars, anything that’ll fit in a baby bag worth of entertainment.
There is literally nothing worse than a complaining, whining, toddler when you’re stuck on an airplane with no escape for 4 hours.
If you’re on a flight for any amount of time with a baby younger than 18 months, then your go-to necessities are a carrier and either your boob (if you’re breastfeeding) or a bottle of milk if you’re formula/milk feeding.
Security will allow you to go through with a bottle of water or milk if you’re traveling with a baby – it’s important to have that bottle if you’re bottle feeding because it’ll make takeoff and landing exponentially easier. Just like the up and down of a flight will affect the pressure in your ears, it can affect the pressure in your baby’s ears, having something to drink/suck on will help them cope with the pressure change.
My carrier saved me. I was able to strap my baby to me after take-off, and he soundly slept there for the majority of the flight. If he was fussy then I could walk up and down the aisles with him without having my arms fall off.
On our last trip my son was 18 months old and both of these necessities were still saving my ass on our 4 hours flight.
Necessities on Vacation
There are certain things that are small enough to pack, and don’t make sense for you to rent or purchase while on vacation. For our family those are mostly sleep aids – like our small sound machine, baby monitor, and my son’s favourite stuffy which he can’t sleep without. I’m definitely not going to run out to Walmart to buy these items, they’re small and fit in his baby bag or under the clothing in his suitcase.
If your baby’s skin is sensitive like my son’s is, then I’d recommend bringing your own sunscreen, lotions, diaper creams, soaps, etc. There are no guarantees that a different country will sell the same brand of lotion as you use on your child. Most of these can be bought in smaller size bottles, or you can always purchase travel containers and divvy up the stuff you’ve got at home into them so you can take smaller bottles with you. Just don’t forget to label them, you definitely don’t want to end up washing your kids’ hair with diaper cream by accident.
You’re going to clearly need to dress your child – but don’t over pack! If you’re going somewhere hot, chances are your kid is going to spend the majority of their time in the swimming pool, and in minimal layers (just enough to shield from sun) to prevent them from overheating. My son basically lived in his rash guard and sunhat the entire time. It’s better to check if the location you’ll be staying at has a washing machine than to over-pack a suitcase worth of clothing.
That being said, don’t forget that amongst the few things you DO pack, be sure to bring at least one pair of warmer items of clothing in case of chillier nights or rainy days. Don’t want your little babe getting unexpectedly cold either. My solution for this was usually just packing one or two swaddling blankets that I could tuck in and around my son while he was in his stroller (easier to remove that than to start peeling off layers of clothing), and an emergency zip up sweater that I could have with us in case it was so cold the blankets wouldn’t be enough (but lets be honest if its that cold, then you’ve probably chosen the wrong local for a warm holiday).
My son is heavy. Or rather, I’m really small and don’t work out so I have ZERO upper body strength. My son also likes to be carried around. He’s 2.5 years old, it’s not an easy feat. Our stroller has saved us countless times. I bought the Summer Infant 3D One stroller, its light weight, has a huge canopy to block out the sun, and has a full recline which allows my son to take naps at the airport when flights are inconveniently placed in and around nap time. This is an item I would totally be down to rent while on location if it wasn’t for the convenience of having it in the airport going to vacation and coming back from vacation.
One important thing to remember, however, is that luggage workers at the airport don’t care about the state of your belongings. Strollers don’t generally pack up into a hard-shell suitcase, they get tossed around a lot and end up breaking and scratching. I got our Summer Infant 3D One stroller for around 130$, it has a full reclining seat, and it didn’t break the bank, so I wasn’t immensely pissed off when it was lost on one occasion (we got it back), and when the latch that holds it closed was broken by airport workers on another occasion. It’s just a convenience that I can’t give up.
Somewhere to Sleep
Now this isn’t something that I’ve had to ‘pack’ until recently. Many all-inclusive resorts and many hotels will have cribs or play-pens available upon request, just be sure to reserve them beforehand. I recently even found out that many places in Canada and the US have companies that do baby equipment rentals! We went to Minnesota for a wedding last year and stayed at an airbnb rather than a hotel, so I contacted a local baby rental company and had a crib brought in! It was fantastic, they delivered it, set it up, and picked it up once we were done.
Companies like these rent everything out – they will rent out car seats, beds, strollers, bottle warmers, etc. Contact them and see what pricing is like, if you’re going for a short trip it may be worth your while to rent the necessities rather than pack them all. It’ll make flying with a baby that much easier – the less you have to carry, the shorter amount of time you have to wait to pick up all your luggage, the better.
Now that my toddler no longer sleeps in a crib, I actually have a blow-up toddler bed that has a raised edge all the way around to prevent him from rolling off and onto the floor. If I’m going somewhere where I’m not sure that a designated bed will be available for him, I just bring the mattress with us. It folds to a fairly compact size when deflated and saves us quite a bit of money in rental fees on our longer trips.
Diapers and Wipes
The first time we went on vacation I packed almost an entire carry-on full of diapers. WHY?! You can literally buy diapers anywhere. I’ve even been able to find diapers at multiple all-inclusive resorts, so if you’re heading somewhere where a Walmart isn’t readily accessible, then call ahead of time and ask if the resort has a shop that has diapers available for sale. Pack enough to get you through the flight there, and maybe a few extra to tide you over until you get access to a store that sells diapers.
Traveling with kids can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just remember that at the end of all the packing and planning, and the annoying flight, is a wonderful holiday just waiting for you!